10 Best USA Road Trips – Drive These Before you DIE

Welcome to our list of the 10 Best USA Road trips. The US Road trip is an iconic tradition steeped in decades of nostalgia and Popular Culture. A right of passage for some getting out and hitting the road is something we all aspire towards and there is simply no place better than the BIG country in the USA. Decades of road movies, TV shows, and Music have many lusting after the big, open empty highway. But which are the best us Road trips?

10 Best USA Road Trips

Our list is intended to be diverse to give something for anyone to lust after, They are all Epic road trips in their own way, but starkly different each over. We have rated for Scenery, Epicness and Difficulty With the overall score, not an average but our rating of the trip in general. A low difficulty means it’s easy to follow and not too taxing, you decide if that’s a good or bad thing? Starting from 10 to 1 Here we go, these are the USA roads trips you need to add to your bucket list.

10 – Route 66

route 66

Distance – 2448 + Miles  2 Weeks+

Map

  • Scenery 4/10
  • Epicness 9/10
  • Difficulty 10/10
  • Overall 4/20

The Classic iconic road trip that instantly jumps to mind whenever a US Road Trip is mentioned. Honestly its not our favourite route. The Shear iconic nature of this route means it has to make the list. It is certainly Diverse and in parts beautiful. But in other parts its desolate and dull. And it’s REALLY long 2448 miles long to be precise. Following the Route can be tricky as the route doesn’t technically exist anymore.

Starting in Chicago, Illinois and crossing the Country through Missouri Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and terminating in Los Angeles California. The route passes through a large array of differing small town and rural America. Superseded in large parts by the I-40 and other interstate routes.

Part of the Charm is the Epic Nature of the route, as it winds its way almost entirely across America. A road trip taking two weeks minimum is one hell of a trip. For large parts, the route misses almost everything of interest and this is part of its charm as you travel across one of the most populous countries in the world without encountering that population

 

9 – LA-Las Vegas Via Death Valley

death_valley

Distance – 450+ Miles 7-8 Hours

Google Map

  • Scenery 7/10
  • Epicness 7/10
  • Difficulty 5/10
  • Overall 7.5/20

The I-15 Between LA and Las Vegas is a miserable, busy, dull, drudge of a drive. It’s quite quick and you can be in Sin City before you know it downing free martini’s while you drown the misery of the drive, while pouring your life savings into a slot machine. Alternatively, You could Stay at home and play online, Fly there in under an hour or, our personal Choice, Take an Epic drive over mountain passes, Remote Desert wastelands, Scorching dried up lake beds, ghost towns, and much much more. Yes, the Alternate route to Vegas is a long, hot drive, but it’s incredibly rewarding and an epic USA Road trip all by itself.

The route we offer takes you out of LA on the CA-14 through Palmdale and Lancaster (Plane geeks (me) might like to stop at the Blackbird viewing park for some SR-71 action, there is also a Plane graveyard after Lancaster!) Before heading off deep into the Mojave Desert, As you head up the barren valleys huge mountains loom either side as the tarmac rolls endlessly ahead. At Olancha you are in real cowboy western no man’s land as you head right and start for the mountain passes. A side trip here to Darwin will see you in a real ghost town, population <50 and an eerie step back in time.

After two huge mountain passes you drop down into Death Valley. The barren Salt flats lie well below sea level and temperatures here soar. Winding down your window is like turning a hair dryer on your face…only hotter. From Furnace Creek, we take the Detour to Bad water to visit the lowest (282ft below sea level) and hottest (56DegC 134DegF+) part of the United States. Take the main road to Badwater but opt for the one way Artists drive on the way back.

Then we head up into the mountains again, A detour to Dantes view gives an incredible overview of the valley and the ever popular Zabriskie point for fantastic photo opportunities. After here the road becomes a little less interesting as you head through Pahrump. Until you pass Mountain Springs and you get your first glimpse of Sin City. Your Whirlpool Bath and Champagne await!

 

8 – Florida – Orlando – Miami – Florida Keys

Florida road trip

Distance – 925 + Miles 3+ days 

Google Map leg 1 – Miami –  230 miles 4 hours

Google Map Leg 2 – Florida Keys 168 Miles 4 hours

Google Map Leg 3 – Everglades – Sarasota 523 Miles10 hours

  • Scenery 7/10
  • Epicness 6/10
  • Difficulty 3/10
  • Overall 7/20

Once you have had your fill with the Disney Magic in Orlando there is a whole heap to see and do in the Sunshine State of Florida. From the White powder sands of Sarasota, the vast wilderness of the Everglades teaming with wildlife, the Vast ocean side metropolis that is Miami and finally jaw-dropping overseas highway through the magnificent Florida Keys. There is enough to see and don in Florida you need never go near Orlando’s theme parks if you can resist.

As most people like to visit the parks we will start and finish our Road trip in Orlando and suggest a round trip but you don’t have to follow exactly. we have a 3-day trip but stay longer in any of the overnight destinations for further exploration, or add a stop in the gorgeous Sarasota. Get ready for some toll routes, they are hard to bypass in Florida and doing so can mean a long slow trip around them.

The first leg takes us on a quick dash straight to Miami. The Florida Turnpike is a toll road but it’s so much faster than any other route it’s not worth diverting. It lacks any real interest but the BIG sky’s and Florida’s amazing cloud formations make it interesting enough. As you hit Miami the skyline is suitably impressive. Stay in Miami Beach, and enjoy the cosmopolitan beach life.

From here we head to the Meat of the Road Trip the Overseas Highway that stretches out over the Florida Keys. This is a road like no other as the bridges stretch over the endless blue intersected by jewel-like islands. One of the most unique stretches of road in the world. Consider heading into the Everglades on the way down as you pass homestead, the Anhinga trail should provide amazing alligator and other wildlife sightings …depending on the season.

After Spending as many nights as required in the keys it’s time for the long slog back up State. This is the longest and most gruelling leg. As you pass through the Everglades keep an eye on the many dykes that line the roads at times these are teaming with gators too many to count at times. Stop in Everglades City for the best Airboat rides before heading north stopping at the incredible white sand powder beaches of Sarasota and grabbing dinner before the final push back to Orlando. It’s a long day but well worth it.

The beauty of this road trip is its diversity you get to see a lot of what Florida has to offer on this drive. don’t expect to see and hills though!

7 – San Francisco – Yosemite and Beyond

Yosemite roadtrip

Distance – + 205 Miles 4-5 Hours

Google Map

  • Scenery 8/10
  • Epicness 6/10
  • Difficulty3/10
  • Overall 7/20

San Francisco is one of the US’s great cities but it lies close to one of the best wilderness areas in the country. The Yosemite National Park lies just a couple of hundred miles to the East in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just a short few hours drive away.

While most people consider the Park to be an attraction rather than a road trip, the drive is scenic enough in itself to be considered as such and you can easily extend it to take in the wider area which is packed with things to see.

From San Francisco, the route starts out fairly routine (apart from the decidedly impressive San Mateo Bridge) as you leave the bay area and head into rural America. Stockton is your last port of call for civilisation so stock up as you head into the wilderness. From here you are on the 120 and the scenery really opens up. Past Chinese camp that is almost deserted and a quick stop at the old gold mining saloon at Groveland, before entering the Park ($30.00).

Once in the park prepare for the most incredible scenery imaginable. The Granite rock formations of the Park along with the numerous waterfalls makes such a stunning backdrop. Photo’s fail to do it any real justice. We do suggest staying in the Valley however it is very expensive and the limited accommodation fills very early (the best hotels have waiting lists in the Years). Hiking and general outdoor activities are the order of the day when in the Park, however some relatively easy “hikes”, suitable for anyone have unbelievable payoffs in terms of vista points and views. Combine this with multiple pull outs as you enter and exit the park make it a must not miss destination.

The Parks valley is not the only attraction and the road trip can easily be extended to take in many of the surrounding locations such as Mono Lake or the incredible Giant RedwoodSequoiaa trees. The Park is best visited in the summer as the altitude during the winter can lead to multiple closed roads and adverse conditions best avoided unless you know what you are doing.

Brown Bear and many species of deer inhabit the park along with racoons and numerous birds and other small mammals it’s a great place for wildlife spotting.

6 – Road to Hana

road to hana

Distance – 60 Miles (one way) Miles 2-3 hours

Google Map

  • Scenery 10/10
  • Epicness 6/10
  • Difficulty 8/10
  • Overall 8/20

Hana is a small remote town on the back side of Maui, Hawaii. The only road is a loop road that circumnavigates the island. The “good” road twists and turns its way for 60 miles through dense rainforest, spectacular waterfalls, stunning coastline and over 59 Bridges many only single track one-way affairs.

The Hana Highway offers something very different to anything elsewhere in the US. The remote rugged nature really takes you back to the Jurassic era. Steven Speilberg agreed, so much so he shot scenes from Jurrasic park on the Hana Coastline!

The twisting narrow nature scares a lot of drivers off tackling the road themselves, however, it’s fierce reputation is largely unwarranted. There are many pullouts and most of the narrowest sections are well sighted and the poor sighted sections wide enough. Van tours offer the chance for those who don’t want to drive the chance to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

As a thing to Do the Road to Hana rates Right up there as a 10 out of  10. As a road trip, the shortness of the road just means it lacks the Epic open road needed for a truly great Road Trip. Still, if you are in Maui, DRIVE THE ROAD TO HANA!!!

More adventurous drivers can continue the loop road around the Un-paved “backside of Hana” through wild barren volcanic desert. Most people turn round at Oheo Gulch and head back the way they came. As most hire companies forbid their cars to continue on the back road this may be a good idea as you will be without insurance and probably phone signal. A night spent in Hana allows a much more sedate pace and more exploring along with experiencing the dark skies and peaceful remoteness of the Hana area.

5 – Yellowstone to Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Distance – 400+ Miles 6 – 7 hours

Google Map

Yellow Stone is one of Americas great natural attractions, this volatile hotspot literally boils over with the Earths internal power. Hot Springs Geysers and abundant wildlife make it one of the country’s most visited natural wonders. But when you are done admiring this incredible spectacle what better way to extend the trip than heading by road to another spectacular National Park.

Around 3-400 miles to the northwest of Yellowstone is the Glacier National Park. This Massive and almost entirely pristine chunk of natural America is a breathtaking collection of mountains lakes and wildlife. Oddly you will probably not see any glaciers as the park gets its name from the fact the mountains and valleys were carved from glaciers in the past not from the abundance of them currently. The few that remain are small and in decline.

Covering over 1 million acres the park is not small and simply getting about is a road trip in itself. The only real way to get around the parks many valleys mountains and lakes is by car.

A trip to both parks makes perfect sense as the two natural monuments are, by continental standards very close. The amount of natural wonder available in such a short space of time is quite staggering. The drive between the two is far from dull also. The boom towns of the area still possess their old town charm and the Roads themselves wind through towering forests, lush valleys and ominous mountains. It really is the stuff of legends.

If 400 + miles of tough driving is more than you can manage in one sitting it pays to take a stop halfway. This also allows a slower pace and more exploration. with so much to see and do and photograph along the way, it may take you A LOT longer than the 6-7 hours google suggests.

 

4 – Interstate – 10 Coast to Coast

coast to coast

Distance – 2448+ Miles 2 weeks

Google Map

  • Scenery 6/10
  • Epicness 8/10
  • Difficulty 3/10
  • Overall 8/20

For many Road trips the phrase the Road is the destination is very apt. You are often not really going anywhere, the trip is the draw. The things you see along the way are add-ons. Well with the concept of the I-10 road trip that is FAR from the idea. The road itself is pretty dull. A full US interstate with multiple lanes and little to see from the road. Here the draw is the fact you can cross the entire length of the states in a pretty short amount of time. It’s only 2-3 days of actual driving so the rest of the trip is spent exploring the huge array of cultural delights available as you charge across the States. Coast to Coast.

You can do this trip any direction you like but we prefer the West to East version but there is little in it and we would suggest you decide based on flight logistics. There are other interstates that cross the country in the middle and north and you can consider those as a coast to coast concept. Our preferred route in the southern Coastal route though as it’s warmer and we find the available stops and locations more appealing.

Starting in LA you Head east first though the sprawling urban landscape then into the desert. First stop is Pheonix Arizona. Pushing on through the barren landscape you hit the Border town of El Paso. Then you pass through the BIG sky state of Texas and the cities of Houston and San Antonio. You then head into Louisiana and through the swamps and Bayous to New Orleans. Finally, we end our journey in Florida where we advise leaving the Interstate and cruise up the Gulf coast taking in the incredible cities and beaches.

The concept of this road trip is not to follow the I-10 religiously but to use it as a vein to get you to the best parts of the country use it where you want and leave to explore where you don’t. We also recommend exploring Florida a little once you finally reach the Atlantic coast.

 

3 – Skyline Drive & Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Skyline drive

Distance – + 569 Miles 2-3 days

Google Map – Smokey Mountains to Fancy Gap (Blue Ridge Parkway)

Google Map – Fancy Gap to Waynesboro, Charlottesville (Blue Ridge Parkway)

Google Map – Waynesboro, Charlottesville to Front Royal (Skyline Drive)

  • Scenery 10/10
  • Epicness 8/10
  • Difficulty 7/10
  • Overall 9/20

Starting (or ending) at the edge of the Smokey Mountains, which are also worth exploring the Parkway traverses the length of the National park as it passes through North Carolina and into Virginia Following the Appalachian  Mountain range. At Waynesboro, the Parkway terminates, but at this point starts Skyline Drive as it continues onwards through the mountains terminating near Washington DC at Front Royal.

The Drive is endlessly scenic and spends almost its entirety inside national parks (of Sorts). The roads wind tirelessly through forested mountain terrain with constant pull outs for stunning Photo opportunities.

While the trip could be easily completed in a day it would be a long slog and pretty rushed it’s much better to break it up with a stop midway or even 3-4 days to more completely explore the area.

The Skyline Drive has a $25.00 fee for entering the park but the Blue Ridge Parkway is free of charge, so you are getting a lot of road for your $25. Unfortunately, during winter there can be sections of the road closed to adverse weather conditions so make sure you keep up to date with the state of the road by checking the NPS website. Fall offers the best views along the route. As the entire length is wooded Fall offers some stunning colours as the leaves change golden brown.

The area is abound with wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for Black Bear, Deer, Elk, beavers and Moose amongst many others.

 

2 – Great River Road

Great River Road

Distance – 2,340 Miles 2 Weeks +

Map

  • Scenery 7/10
  • Epicness 10/10
  • Difficulty 9/10
  • Overall 9.5/20

The mighty Mississippi is a true American Icon and following the river from source to ocean an epic adventure like no other. Fortunately, the Great River Road allows you to drive the entire length of this mighty river as it cuts its way down almost the entire country.

Not a trip to be taken lightly the 2340 miles will easily take you two weeks and with stops and fully taking in the sights and locations along the way could take a whole lot longer.

The Mississippi has it’s share of heavy industry and built up areas along the way so don’t expect scenic beauty the entire length some of it is certainly less pretty than you might imagine. But even these sections have their own special charm. After all, America is an industrial powerhouse so seeing some of that heavy industry can be enlightening. For large parts, the river lazily flows through the large mud flat areas of land it has created. Huge big skies are the order of the day and a lot is quite “samey” mainly as the river has formed its own landscape.

Only in the north does the river have a distinctly different character as it winds through hills valleys and forest. As you make your way through the ten States the river flows through the sights along the way include New Orleans, Memphis Tennesse and a myriad of smaller American Cities, along with endless bridges and locks and museums relating to life along the great river.

 

1 – Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast highway

Distance – 450 + Miles 3 days (Min)

Google Map

  • Scenery 9/10
  • Epicness 8/10
  • Difficulty 4/10
  • Overall 10/10

Finally our personal favourite the Pacific Coast Highway. Crammed with iconic places and stunning natural beauty this coastal road runs the length of America’s Pacific Seaboard. as either Route 1 or Route 101. We will focus on the California Portion of Route 1 Starting in San Francisco and ending at Santa Monica, Los Angeles. But it can be extended northwards, through wine country or southwards as far as San Diego.

Our journey begins at the Golden Gate Bridge, which could not be a more fitting and dramatic start to a journey. We recommend a few days exploring San Francisco first. To start head to the Marin Highlands for some incredible bridge shots then head back across the bridge and continue to follow Route 1. First stop is Santa Cruz, Then Monterrey, both with enough to see and to warrent a trip by themselves. You then head into Big Sur form some of the most dramatic coastal scenery imaginable. The Santa Lucia Mountain range plunges into the Pacific Ocean. Prepare to be blown away following every turn as another picture perfect scene comes into view.

Your next stopover will be in one of the coastal towns outside Big Sur. Cambria, Morro Bay or Pismo Beach. We prefer Morro Bay but all three are charming. The final leg sees the terrain flatten as you chase the sun into Malibu and finally L.A. If you keep going to San Diego the road loses some charm but the City is well worth a trip.

The Coast is alive with Wildlife, Sea otters, Sea lions, Seals, Elephant seals, Condors, Vultures, even the very reclusive mountain lions. And don’t miss Whale Watching in Monterey Bay with the chance to see the Mighty Blue Whale, along with other Whale Species, Orca and Dolphins.

While a lot of our drives the directions is not particularly important, with the PCH the drive os significantly enhanced with a North to South direction. The views are better, the pullouts easier, and you won’t have a buy lane of traffic blocking your view of the ocean the entire way. We see some many people suggesting travelling the road northward, any who recommends this has clearly never driven it! Travelling up the road is still a fantastic drive and if that’s all your itinerary allows you will still have a great drive on an incredible road, It just isn’t as good as head down the road.

Overall the iconic nature, the spectacular scenery along with the accessibility makes this the perfect all American drive for us!

 

Bonus – Be Original

There is no necessity to follow any set route such as the 66. Most people are very individual in what they want to see on their USA road trip. As such we only Advise using the above as a starting guide and plan in what areas in that region you really want to see.

No one plan should be taken literally, detours, stopovers and simply out and back legs to somewhere you always wanted visit should all be added in. The joy if the open road is YOU are in control. Don’t just follow in the footstep of others, Forge your own path. Our suggestions are just to get you started. Only you know what you have always dreamed of seeing and doing use your road trip to realise that dream. If you don’t you will only have to come back and do it all over again.

 

Have you been on a US Road trip? where did you enjoy the most? Let us know your highs … and your lows. Maybe you are planning your own adventure? hopefully out guide is a good start. Let us know if you have any questions. We would love to help you plan your trip. And remember to like us on FaceBook or share our post to help out fellow travellers. Hope you enjoyed reading.

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9 comments

  1. I went to the United States when I was a teenager (I had cousins living here). That was fantastic! I hope I can come again someday and bring my daughters with me. I have to say your photos are incredible! Beautiful with fantastic colors, I absolutely love them, especially those of Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Makes me want to take the next flight right away!

    1. Hi David…Whats stopping you?

      Hope you get back to the states really soon It’s an incredible place to visit with so much diversity. We are sure your Daughters would love it too, and it doesn’t have to cost as much as people think. Flights can be bought really quite cheaply right now with a lot of cross Atlantic competition.

      Thanks for reading

  2. You know this is just perfect! I and my husband are planning to go on the big trip adventure, and I was looking for some recommendations and ideas. I love how you put everything together – the milage, timing, and some useful info! Thank you! All 10 are added to my list of “must sees”

    1. Hi Soby,

      Glad you found this useful for putting together your big trip! Remember to check our City pages for places to visit on your road Trip. We hope you get to see some of our list but to fit it all into one trip would take some doing it’s a good few months of adventuring, would be an incredible trip though.

      Thanks for reading

  3. Thank you for recommending these 10 Best USA Road Trips. Definitely worth looking into.

    I like road trips in general no matter what. I like all the ones here but the my favorites are: 8 – Florida – Orlando – Miami – Florida Keys, 7 – San Francisco – Yosemite and Beyond, 5 – Yellowstone to Glacier National Park, & 1 – Pacific Coast Highway. Will add these to the bucket list.

    Thank you for the info!

    1. Hi Daniel,

      You seem drawn to the shorter trips that pack loads in. We tend to prefer these over the huge Epic cross country trips that seem to spend a lot of the time just crunching miles. While they are amazing it’s hard to find the time to schedule such an epic adventure in.

      Hope you manage to hit the road soon.

      Thanks for reading

  4. I completely agree with you! The Pacific Coast Highway is absolutely stunning! I did it starting from L.A. to San Francisco, spending 3 days and stopping in Pismo Beach and Santa Cruz. I will probably say that going from San Francisco to L.A. might be even nicer, because I have been to L.A. twice and the second time I went to Santa Monica again, and going back to L.A. I enjoyed the view even more.
    But I enjoyed even going through the Death Valley, was the beginning of November and the weather was just perfect, not hell like I was expecting.
    About Route 66, I really would like to do it, just to say “I did it!”, but it’s really so difficult to follow the original route? Because how you said, the original Route 66 doesn’t exist anymore!
    By the way, Usa on the road as always been one of my favourite travels, so if any of you have never done it, rent your convertible car and enjoy it!
    Thanks for this post, I really enjoy it and I took many ideas for my next trips!

    1. Hi Fabio,

      Yes the South to North trip is still amazing it’s just a touch better North to South. Like a Sundae is still great, it’s just a bit better with sprinkles and cherry! Death Valley isn’t always scorching, last time we were there it was 120DegF! That was a June heatwave though!

      Route 66 is tough to follow but really is a once in a lifetime bucket list drive. It’s not the best drive in the USA but just SO Iconic.

      Hope you enjoy your next road trip. We can’t wait to hit the road again, top-down just cruising along!

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

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