In a world that moves at breakneck speed, sometimes the best way to slow down and soak in life is through a scenic road trip. There’s something inherently liberating about hitting the open road – the sense of adventure, the endless possibilities, and the opportunity to discover both the world and yourself. Whether it’s the rugged coastlines, serene mountain landscapes, or the vast, starlit deserts, each road trip offers a unique tapestry of experiences. This guide is your ticket to escape the mundane and explore the beauty that lies in the journey itself.
Why Choose a Road Trip?
Imagine having the freedom to chart your own course, with the flexibility to stop wherever and whenever you want. Road trips offer this unparalleled sense of liberty, allowing you to tailor your journey to your personal tastes and interests. As you drive through varying landscapes, each turn brings a new vista, a new perspective. It’s not just about the destination; it’s about the ever-changing views through your window – from coastal cliffs and misty forests to rolling hills and urban cityscapes.
Moreover, road trips can be surprisingly cost-effective. Without the constraints of flight schedules and the hassle of airport security, you’re free to plan a trip that suits your budget. Rent a camper van, pack a tent, or book quaint B&Bs along the route – the choice is yours. This flexibility extends to your itinerary as well; whether it’s a weekend getaway or a month-long exploration, the road is yours to command.
Top Scenic Road Trips in the U.S.
Embark on a journey through the diverse landscapes of the United States. From coastal drives to mountain passes, each region offers unique and breathtaking road trips.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia/North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a breathtaking road that stretches for 469 miles, weaving its way through the Appalachian Highlands in Virginia and North Carolina. As you embark on this journey, you’ll find yourself immersed in an ever-changing landscape of stunning mountain scenery. The Parkway is like a ribbon that connects the rolling hills, lush forests, and majestic peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s famous for its scenic beauty, especially in the fall when the foliage transforms into a vibrant tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows.
Highlights: Lush forests, Appalachian culture, and picturesque overlooks.
2. Overseas Highway, Florida
The Overseas Highway in Florida is a unique and enchanting road that takes you on a 113-mile journey through the beautiful Florida Keys. Imagine starting in Key Largo and driving all the way to Key West, with the sparkling ocean beside you. This road is famous for making you feel like you’re hopping from one island to another, which is a thrilling experience. As you drive, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the clear blue ocean that stretches out as far as the eye can see. The sky above is usually bright and sunny, adding to the joy of the drive. The journey is dotted with charming little towns, each with its own character, where you can stop and explore.
Highlights: Unique bridges, crystal clear waters, and island culture.
3. Acadia All-American Road, Maine
The Acadia All-American Road in Maine offers a remarkable 40-mile journey through the stunning Acadia National Park. As you embark on this drive, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world where the rugged beauty of nature is on full display. The road guides you along breathtaking coastlines, where the powerful Atlantic Ocean meets the rocky shores of Maine. It’s a place where you can see the waves crash against the cliffs, creating a symphony of nature’s sounds. As you continue, the road takes you through dense forests where the mountains are covered with a rich tapestry of trees. The green of the forests contrasts beautifully with the blue of the ocean, creating a scenic masterpiece that changes with every turn.
Highlights: Rocky beaches, Cadillac Mountain, and ocean vistas.
4. Skyline Drive, Virginia
Skyline Drive in Virginia is a breathtaking route that takes you on a 105-mile adventure along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. Imagine yourself driving on a road that feels like it’s on top of the world, with the mountains stretching out on either side of you. This drive is famous for its absolutely stunning views that change with every season. In spring and summer, you’ll see green forests and wildflowers, while fall brings a spectacular display of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Besides the gorgeous scenery, Skyline Drive is also a great place to spot wildlife. You might catch glimpses of deer, black bears, and a variety of birds as you travel. The road offers many spots to stop and take in the views, making it perfect for a leisurely drive where you can really appreciate the beauty of nature.
Highlights: Fall colors, deer and bird watching, and numerous hiking trails.
5. Route 66, Illinois to Missouri
Route 66, stretching from Illinois to Missouri, is much more than just a road; it’s a journey through American history and culture. Spanning about 300 miles, this historic path starts in the bustling city of Chicago and ends in the vibrant streets of St. Louis. As you travel along this famous route, you’ll experience a sense of nostalgia and adventure. It’s like taking a trip back in time, where each mile tells a story of the past. The road is lined with quirky diners, old-fashioned gas stations, and unique attractions that capture the spirit of old America. You’ll pass through small towns and see landmarks that have stood the test of time, each with its own tale to tell.
Highlights: Classic diners, quirky roadside attractions, and historic landmarks.
6. Great River Road, Minnesota to Louisiana
The Great River Road is an extraordinary journey that runs alongside the Mississippi River for over 3,000 miles, stretching all the way from the northern state of Minnesota down to Louisiana in the deep south. As you travel along this route, you’ll be following the path of one of America’s greatest rivers, a path that’s steeped in rich history and breathtaking natural beauty. This road is more than just a way to get from one place to another; it’s a journey through the heart of America
Highlights: River landscapes, historic towns, and diverse wildlife.
7. Door County Coastal Byway, Wisconsin
The Door County Coastal Byway in Wisconsin is a magical 66-mile loop that takes you around the beautiful Door Peninsula. As you embark on this journey, you’ll find yourself enchanted by the charming scenery that unfolds along the way. The route is famous for its lovely lighthouses, standing like silent guardians along the coastline, each with its own story and character. These iconic structures are not just picturesque; they’re a glimpse into the area’s maritime history. The drive also takes you through quaint waterfront towns, where you can feel the warmth and hospitality of local communities.
Highlights: Waterfront views, quaint villages, and cherry orchards.
8. Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, Ohio
The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway in Ohio offers a captivating drive that stretches for 26 miles through the enchanting Hocking Hills region. This route is like a journey through a green wonderland, where lush forests create a canopy of tranquility overhead. As you travel along this byway, you’ll be greeted by the natural beauty of dense woodlands and the fascinating shapes of rock formations that have stood the test of time. The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway is more than just a road; it’s a serene escape into nature’s embrace, offering a peaceful retreat and a chance to reconnect with the great outdoors in Ohio.
Highlights: Caves, waterfalls, and hiking trails.
9. Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi to Tennessee
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a road full of history and natural beauty that stretches over 444 miles from Mississippi to Tennessee. As you travel this long, peaceful route, you’ll feel like you’re taking a journey through time and nature. The parkway follows a path that has been used for thousands of years, and as you drive, you’ll see a variety of beautiful landscapes. Imagine rolling hills, lush green forests, and open fields that seem to stretch on forever. The road also takes you past rivers and lakes, where the water sparkles under the sun. Along the way, you’ll find many places to stop and learn about the history of the area, from ancient Native American sites to important spots from early American history.
Highlights: Ancient mounds, historic sites, and picturesque nature.
10. Bluebonnet Trail, Texas
The Bluebonnet Trail in Texas is a wonderful journey, especially beautiful in the springtime. This route takes you through the heart of Central Texas, an area famous for its breathtaking display of wildflowers. As you travel along the trail, the landscape comes alive with vibrant colors, thanks to the blooming bluebonnets that Texas is known for. Along the way, you can stop to take in the views, capture photos, and enjoy the natural beauty that makes the Bluebonnet Trail a special and unforgettable experience in Texas.
Highlights: Fields of bluebonnets, small Texas towns, and wineries.
11. Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina/Tennessee
The Cherohala Skyway is a stunning drive that stretches for 43 miles, cutting through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina and Tennessee. This route is like a magical journey through some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the region. As you embark on this drive, you’ll be treated to amazing views of rolling mountains that seem to stretch on forever. The road meanders through lush forests, where the trees change colors with the seasons, creating a tapestry of greens, yellows, oranges, and reds. Along the way, there are plenty of spots where you can stop, take a breath of fresh mountain air, and soak in the tranquility and beauty of nature.
Highlights: High-elevation vistas, thick forests, and serene beauty.
12. Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee/North Carolina
The Tail of the Dragon is a legendary stretch of road that straddles the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Famous for its thrilling drive, this road boasts an incredible 318 curves over just 11 miles. It’s a road that has become a must-visit for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts from all over. The Tail of the Dragon isn’t just about the drive, it’s about the experience – the adrenaline, the skill, and the sheer joy of navigating one of the most challenging and exhilarating roads you’ll ever encounter. It’s a place where drivers and riders come to test their abilities and experience the thrill of a road like no other.
Highlights: Thrilling curves, forested landscape, and mountain views.
13. Pacific Coast Highway, California
The Pacific Coast Highway in California is a truly amazing road that stretches a long way along most of the state’s coastline. As you drive along this road, you’ll see some of the most breathtaking views of the ocean. It’s like the endless blue water is right there beside you. Along the way, there are many beautiful beaches where you can stop, relax, and maybe even dip your toes in the water.
But that’s not all. This highway also takes you through wonderful redwood forests. These forests are home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world. Imagine driving with these giant trees standing tall around you! This journey is not just a simple drive; it’s a chance to see some of nature’s most incredible creations, from vast ocean views to ancient, towering trees. Whether you’re someone who loves the beach or the forest, this road has something special for you.
Highlights: Big Sur, Hearst Castle, and Golden Gate Bridge.
14. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana is a truly remarkable journey that stretches for 50 miles through the heart of Glacier National Park. This road is like a gateway into a world of incredible natural beauty. As you drive along, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most stunning alpine scenery you can imagine. The road winds its way through towering mountains and past sparkling lakes, offering breathtaking views at every turn. Along the way, you might see waterfalls cascading down cliffs and wildflowers dotting the landscape. It’s a place where nature’s grandeur is on full display, and you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder as you travel through this beautiful part of Montana
Highlights: Glaciers, high peaks, and pristine lakes.
15. Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington
The Olympic Peninsula Loop in Washington is an extraordinary 330-mile journey that takes you through a wide range of stunning landscapes. As you embark on this loop, you’ll be amazed by the diversity of nature’s beauty that unfolds before you. The route starts with breathtaking coastal beaches, where the sound of waves and the smell of the ocean fill the air. As you continue, you’ll enter lush rainforests, a world where towering trees and thick greenery create a canopy overhead, and everything seems to be bursting with life. The adventure doesn’t stop there. The loop also takes you up to high mountain vistas, where you can gaze out over incredible views that stretch for miles. These mountains are a place of peace and grandeur, where you can truly appreciate the vastness and beauty of the natural world.
Highlights: Olympic National Park, Hoh Rainforest, and rugged coastline.
16. Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado is a spectacular road that forms part of the San Juan Skyway. It’s famous for being an exciting drive, thanks to its many sharp turns and twists. These curves make the journey adventurous and thrilling. As you drive along this road, you’re treated to some of the most amazing mountain views in the state. The road takes you through the heart of Colorado’s rugged mountains, and every new turn brings a stunning new vista. You’ll see towering peaks, deep valleys, and perhaps even some wildlife. The views are so incredible, it’s like driving through a postcard.
Highlights: Red Mountain Pass, historic mining towns, and panoramic views.
17. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington
The Columbia River Gorge, straddling the border between Oregon and Washington, offers an 80-mile stretch of road that is nothing short of magical. This area is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, which includes some of the most impressive waterfalls you could ever see. As you drive along this route, the Columbia River will be your constant companion, flowing majestically alongside you. The gorge itself is a sight to behold, with steep, towering cliffs that rise dramatically on either side of the river. These cliffs create a stunning backdrop and are often dotted with greenery, adding to the picturesque scenery. The route is also famous for its wide, sweeping views that let you take in the vastness and beauty of the landscape.
Highlights: Multnomah Falls, windsurfing spots, and vineyards.
18. Beartooth Highway, Montana/Wyoming
The Beartooth Highway is a spectacular road that takes you on a 68-mile adventure through the magnificent Beartooth Mountains, which straddle the border between Montana and Wyoming. As you embark on this journey, you’ll find yourself winding through a landscape that’s rugged and wildly beautiful. The road climbs to high elevations, where you can see vast, open skies and the peaks of towering mountains around you. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning alpine lakes that sparkle like jewels nestled in the mountains. These lakes are so clear and serene, they look like something out of a fairy tale.
Highlights: High elevation vistas, wildlife sightings, and access to Yellowstone.
19. Cascade Loop, Washington
The Cascade Loop in Washington is an amazing road trip that takes you on a 440-mile adventure through a variety of breathtaking landscapes. This journey is like a grand tour of Washington’s natural wonders. Starting from the scenic coastal areas, the route leads you into the heart of the state’s diverse ecosystems. You’ll travel through lush green valleys, pass by serene lakes, and see orchards and vineyards along the way. The road then takes you up into the mountains, where you can marvel at the towering peaks and enjoy the crisp, fresh air of the highlands. Each turn on the road brings a new and exciting view, from dense forests to open meadows filled with wildflowers.
Highlights: Deception Pass, Leavenworth, and North Cascades National Park.
20. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, Oregon
This unique route is famous because it lets you see the deepest river gorge in all of North America. As you drive on this road, you’ll find yourself in awe of the towering cliffs and the deep canyon carved by the Snake River. The views are truly spectacular, with the river winding its way far below and the rugged landscape stretching as far as the eye can see. The byway offers a chance to experience the raw beauty of Oregon’s wilderness. It’s a road that not only leads to stunning viewpoints but also takes you through charming small towns and past fields and forests, making the journey just as enjoyable as the destination.
Highlights: Rugged landscapes, historical sites, and recreational activities.
21. Route 66, Arizona
Route 66 in Arizona is a road that takes you on a journey through classic American culture and stunning natural landscapes. This famous stretch of highway is like traveling through a living history book, filled with stories and sights from the past. As you drive, you’ll see wide-open desert landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see, painting a picture of serene beauty and rugged wilderness. The route is dotted with quirky roadside attractions and small towns that seem to have frozen in time, offering a glimpse into the Americana of yesteryear. But perhaps the most breathtaking part of this journey is when the road brings you near the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders.
Highlights: Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater, and the Painted Desert.
22. Big Sur Coast Highway, California
The Big Sur Coast Highway in California is a journey that’s as breathtaking as it is unforgettable. This dramatic coastal route stretches along a rugged and beautiful part of the California coastline, offering some of the most amazing ocean views you’ll find anywhere in the world. As you drive along this highway, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and majestic mountains on the other. The road meanders along cliffs and through lush forests, revealing new and spectacular vistas around every bend.
Highlights: Bixby Creek Bridge, McWay Falls, and Point Sur Lighthouse.
23. Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah
Monument Valley, located on the border of Arizona and Utah, offers a journey through a landscape that seems like it’s from another world. This area is famous for its vast desert that stretches as far as the eye can see, covered in a blanket of red sand that glows under the sun. The most striking features of Monument Valley are the towering sandstone buttes that rise dramatically from the desert floor.
These giant rock formations, some of which reach over a thousand feet high, stand like ancient skyscrapers, creating a scene that is both majestic and mysterious. It’s a landscape that has been featured in many movies, but seeing it in person is an experience that stays with you forever, leaving you in awe of the power and splendor of nature.
Highlights: Navajo Tribal Park, John Ford’s Point, and iconic rock formations.
24. Red Rock Scenic Byway, Arizona
The Red Rock Scenic Byway in Arizona is a magnificent short drive, stretching just 7.5 miles, but it’s packed with breathtaking views. This route takes you through the heart of Sedona, a place famous for its striking red rock formations. As you drive along this byway, you’ll be amazed by the towering red rocks that rise up around you, creating a landscape that looks almost otherworldly. These rocks have unique shapes and glow warmly under the sun, changing colors as the day goes by. Despite its short distance, the Red Rock Scenic Byway offers a memorable experience filled with natural beauty and peaceful moments.
Highlights: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and hiking trails.
Planning Your Road Trip
Choosing the right vehicle, packing essentials, and navigating effectively are key to a successful road trip. Embrace spontaneity, but also plan for contingencies. Remember, the journey is as important as the destination.
Road trips are a canvas for creating unforgettable memories. They offer a blend of freedom, discovery, and connection to the world around us. So, pack your bags, set your sights on the horizon, and embark on a journey that promises both adventure and tranquility.