Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Route 66 - The Mother Road
No American road trip is more iconic than a cruise down Route 66. Nicknamed “The Mother Road,” this ribbon of highway originally stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. It served as a major path west during the Dust Bowl and inspired a new era of roadside attractions to serve the travelers passing through.
Though the official Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, many stretches of the original road remain drivable today. Road trippers can still get their kicks following sections like the windswept Mojave Desert in California, the funky art galleries of Tucson, and the neon-lit streets of downtown Albuquerque.
The nostalgia of Route 66 lies in its connection to America’s car culture and the romance of the open road. For decades, families would load up their wood-paneled station wagons and cruise west in search of new opportunities. The small towns along Route 66 relied on these travelers for income, leading to the rise of iconic stops like the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino and the Cadillac Ranch art installation in Amarillo.
Many travelers choose to experience Route 66 in sections, focusing on the key highlights based on their interests and time constraints. Some seek out the retro diners and motels from the 1950s heyday, while others pursue the musical connections to legends like Nat King Cole. Road tripping the route end-to-end still remains a rite of passage for dedicated drivers up for the challenge.
What else is in this post?
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Route 66 - The Mother Road
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Pacific Coast Highway - Hugging the West Coast
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Blue Ridge Parkway - Through the Appalachians
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Extraterrestrial Highway - Searching for Aliens
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Going Over the Edge - Driving to Key West
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Maui's Road to Hana - A Hawaiian Adventure
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Tracing Lewis and Clark - Expedition Through History
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - The Loneliest Road - Across Nevada's Deserts
- Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Rolling Through Amish Country - Pennsylvania's Backroads
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Pacific Coast Highway - Hugging the West Coast
Stretching nearly 1,700 miles from northern California to San Diego, the Pacific Coast Highway is a dream drive for ocean lovers and adventure seekers. This scenic route takes road trippers past beaches, sea cliffs, redwood forests and charming coastal towns.
The southern section of the PCH through Malibu and Big Sur offers some of the most stunning vistas. As the road curves along sheer cliffs and isolated beaches, you’ll feel like you’re floating on the very edge of the continent. Stop frequently to take in the dramatic scenery, walk along the tide pools, or watch for California grey whales migrating offshore.
Further north, the PCH winds through the towering redwoods and jagged sea stacks of Redwood National Park. The small towns of Eureka and Newport offer delicious seafood, local breweries, and motels with a retro vibe. No trip along the PCH is complete without seeing the magical redwood forests and wild Pacific coastline.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Blue Ridge Parkway - Through the Appalachians
Stretching 469 miles through the Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides a peaceful drive through forests, valleys, and historic small towns. As part of the National Park System, the Parkway offers plenty of places to stop for scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and educational exhibits along the way.
One of the most popular segments is the 26 miles through Asheville, North Carolina. This vibrant mountain town offers a mix of hip breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and artistic flair. Top stops include the Folk Art Center to peruse traditional Appalachian arts and crafts and the lively Grey Eagle music venue.
Further south, the college town of Boone serves as a gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hit one of the local outfitters to pick up camping gear or book a guided rock climbing trip in the nearby Linville Gorge. Be sure to stop at Grandfather Mountain to traverse the famous swinging bridge and get panoramic views.
Car buffs will love the Blue Ridge Music Center, which explores the roots of old-time mountain music. You can even book a lesson to learn the banjo or mountain dulcimer. Kids will get a kick out of the Blue Ridge Music Trails, with interactive exhibits about regional instruments and musical styles.
To immerse yourself in the past, spend some time at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Interactive exhibits showcase traditional Appalachian musical instruments like the dulcimer and banjo. Visitors can even take lessons to pick up mountain tunes.
For outdoor adventure, detour just off the Parkway to hit the best area hiking trails. Rough Ridge rewards trekkers with spectacular 360° views. Crabtree Falls is one of the highest cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi. For overnight trips, campers rave about Julian Price Park and its lakeside sites.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Extraterrestrial Highway - Searching for Aliens
Driving down Nevada's Extraterrestrial Highway, you'll swear you've landed on another planet. This unique 140-mile route cuts right through the Nevada Test and Training Range, where the U.S. Air Force has developed and tested aircraft ranging from the U-2 to the F-117 Nighthawk. Leaving Las Vegas heading north on Route 93, you'll cruise past the neon lights of sin city, seemingly worlds away from the remote desert awaiting you.
As the glitz and glamour fade, the landscape morphs into barren plains, jagged mountains, and Joshua trees dotting the horizon. Rest stops become few and far between. Cell service cuts in and out. At night, the cloudless desert sky opens up to showcase the Milky Way in all its glory. This is quintessential scenic driving through the ruggedly beautiful American West.
About an hour north of Vegas, you'll pass by the town of Rachel, home to the quirky Little A'Le'Inn. Part alien memorabilia shop, part diner, it offers the only food and lodging for miles. Tourists drop in to browse the extraterrestrial kitsch between bites of burgers and fries. Be sure to snap a photo out front with the metal alien sculpture.
Just up the road lies the infamous Area 51, a highly classified Air Force facility rumored to harbor evidence of aliens and UFOs. While waltzing onto the base itself will get you firmly escorted away, you can stop at the Area 51 Alien Center in Amargosa Valley. Here, enthusiasts peruse alien souvenirs and chat with fellow UFO hunters. Late night, scan the skies for strange lights hovering over this top-secret complex.
The atmosphere grows even more intense further north around Goldfield, dubbed Nevada’s Ghost Town. Driving down the deserted streets feels like traveling back to the Wild West, with tumbleweeds blowing past weathered wooden storefronts. Visitors can tour the creepy Goldfield Hotel, rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of long-dead guests. Nearby Gold Point also offers an eerie peek into an authentic Old West mining town.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Going Over the Edge - Driving to Key West
At the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys archipelago sits Key West, a historic island city known for its pastel Victorian homes, literary legends like Ernest Hemingway, and a come-as-you-are, party-all-night atmosphere. Reaching "The Conch Republic" requires traversing 42 bridges over island-dotted turquoise waters along the 113-mile Overseas Highway. While flying may be faster, driving lets you fully immerse in the tropical, carefree vibe that defines Key West.
As you head south out of Miami, the freeway gives way to the two-lane Overseas Highway, immediately shifting gears from hurried city traffic to laidback island time. Vibrant blue waters surround you, with fishing boats bobbing on the horizon. Quaint beach towns like Islamorada and Marathon tempt you to stop for fresh seafood, waterfront tiki bars, or a hike through mangrove forests to spot crocodiles and rare birds.
The iconic Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight's Key to Little Duck Key, offering seven straight miles of breathtaking views. Sun-faded historic markers note the efforts to build the ambitious roadway over the shallow waters, replacing the treacherous ferry system that claimed several lives. Traversing the bridge makes you feel like you're gliding atop the ocean itself.
As you near Key West, the water transforms to a brighter aqua, signaling the islands' proximity to the Florida Straits and Gulf Stream beyond. The laidback vibes crescendo as you reach your island paradise destination. Street names like Duval, Petronia, and Simonton reflect Key West's cultural blend of Cuban, Caribbean, and American influences.
Wandering the side streets reveals pastel Victorian homes and secret gardens tucked behind high walls. Restaurants serve up baskets of spicy fish tacos and muddled rum cocktails. And the nightlife sizzles, from drag shows on Duval Street to late-night pool parties and pub crawls. Literature lovers can pay homage with a visit to Hemingway's House to spy the colony of six-toed cats that inspired a short story. Nothing encapsulates the tropical fantasy dreamscape of Key West quite like slowly driving the Overseas Highway to the mythical end-of-the-road paradise.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Maui's Road to Hana - A Hawaiian Adventure
With its twisting curves, towering waterfalls, and meditative bamboo forests, Maui's Road to Hana epitomizes the allure of Hawaiian exploration. This storied 64 mile route winds along Maui's lush northeastern coast through untamed tropical valleys, past cascading waterfalls, and along seaside cliffs. Most visitors opt to experience Hana as a hurried day trip, cramming in quick photo stops between breakneck hairpin turns. But truly unlocking the magic of this mythical road calls for lingering - taking it slow and stopping frequently to let the tranquil energy of Hana wash over you.
Just past Pa'ia, the bustling beach town's vibes shift to pastoral valleys of guava, coconut palms, and vibrant heliconia flowers. Grazing cattle and wild chickens roam open pastures, descendants of livestock left generations ago by paniolo cowboys. One-lane bridges cross gurgling streams shaded by mango trees, inviting a quick dip.
Secret pockets tempt you to stop and explore – Ke'anae Peninsula's seaside taro fields, Wai'anapanapa State Park’s lava caves and striking black sand beach, the Garden of Eden’s dramatic cliffs. Further in, the road narrows, sunlight barely penetrating the dense rainforest canopy. This is the Hawaii that time forgot, far from high-rise resorts and packed beaches.
The Road's crescendo is its myriad waterfalls – cascading and tranquil, tucked within the folds of velvety green valleys. Pull over before the Seven Sacred Pools to meditate beside the ethereal 400 foot falls. Take the plunge into the natural stone pool at Puohokamoa Falls. Or stroll through the bamboo forest behind Waimoku Falls, wandering through intermittent sunlight and listening to droplets hit enormous heart-shaped leaves.
And then there's secret Hana itself, an untouched Hawaiian village seemingly frozen in the 1950s, where time moves to the gentle rhythms of nature. Grabbing a hand-pressed sugarcane juice or banana bread from Hasegawa General Store, you’ll hear locals chatting in Hawaiian, sharing news and catching up after church services. Kids splash in gentle waves as their parents cast fishing nets from the igneous shoreline.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Tracing Lewis and Clark - Expedition Through History
Relive one of the greatest adventures in American history by tracing the trail of Lewis and Clark across the continental United States. This epic journey traces the 8,000 mile route of the famed 1804 expedition sent by President Thomas Jefferson to chart the newly acquired lands of the Louisiana Purchase and find a potential water route to the Pacific.
Traveling from St. Louis to the Oregon Coast and back took Lewis and Clark over two years, requiring great courage and perseverance. While much has changed in the past two centuries, road trippers can still get a sense of the raw natural beauty and frontier spirit that awed the original expedition.
Begin your journey in St. Louis, where the Mississippi River flows under the iconic Gateway Arch. Lewis and Clark pushed off from Wood River, Illinois just across the river in 1804. Grab a paddleboat river cruise or simply stroll along the riverwalk to imagine St. Louis as the bustling frontier gateway to the west.
Heading north, retrace their steps through North Dakota following the Missouri River, once called the “River of the West.” Stop at attractions like Fort Mandan, where the corps spent their first winter with the Mandan tribe. The Knife River Indian Villages highlight the three tribes that helped the expedition survive with supplies and directions through this unfamiliar territory.
Cross the Continental Divide along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, either by car or hiking part of the extensive Nez Perce Trail system. Rugged Bitterroot Mountains and the Lolo Trail challenged the expedition, testing their endurance through difficult terrain and starvation. Stop at Traveler’s Rest near Missoula, Montana to see preserved artifacts left behind when Lewis and Clark had to camp here for four days recuperating on their return voyage.
Follow the Clearwater River through Idaho, admiring the same abundant forests and rapids described in the expedition journals. Near the Oregon coast, explore Fort Clatsop, a replica of the tiny log encampment where the explorers spent the rainy winter of 1805-1806. Walk the lush coastal trails they traversed hunting elk and gathering salt from the Pacific Ocean.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - The Loneliest Road - Across Nevada's Deserts
The remote expanse of central Nevada holds a certain allure for road trippers seeking wide open spaces far from crowded freeways. Nicknamed "The Loneliest Road in America," Highway 50 traverses these high desert basins and mountain ranges for over 400 miles. While the landscape may seem barren at first glance, venturing down this isolated highway reveals quirky mining towns, geologic oddities, and awe-inspiring night skies free of light pollution.
Back in 1986, Life Magazine highlighted the remoteness of Highway 50 through Nevada, dubbing it "America's Loneliest Road." The nickname stuck, but what was intended as a warning became a siren call for intrepid explorers and wanderers drawn to the road less traveled. Three decades later, the moniker holds true, as Highway 50 remains a peaceful, scenic route far from major tourist hubs.
The sparseness of The Loneliest Road lets you focus on the subtle beauty of Nevada's desert landscape. Long straight stretches through broad basins lead to rumpled mountain ranges shimmering purple in the distance. Joshua trees and hardy shrubs dot the arid terrain. Sudden snowcapped peaks jut up from the valley floors. Side trips reveal stunning spots like Sand Mountain's golden dunes, the geologic wonder of Fly Geyser's psychedelic mineral mounds, and the ethereal turquoise waters of Spencer Hot Springs.
Nearly 200 miles pass between Fallon and Austin with only a few blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns. But those who take the time to stop and chat with locals gain insights into Nevada's rugged past. Austin's International Hotel has served up hearty meals since it opened in Virginia City in 1859 before moving to its current home. The tiny town of Eureka charms visitors with its lovingly preserved 1880s architecture. And quirky attractions like the E.T. Fresh Jerky stand and 50-foot-tall Singer sculpture rising from the desert add roadside allure.
Under the unpolluted night skies, the Milky Way dazzles, shooting stars crisscross overhead, and satellites drift into view. Locals swap alien stories in the after-dark quiet, lending a sci-fi vibe. The lack of light also makes Highway 50 one of the best spots in the country for stargazing. Just grab a blanket and some hot cocoa and enjoy the stellar show.
Hit the Open Road: 10 Epic Road Trips to Take Across the USA This Year - Rolling Through Amish Country - Pennsylvania's Backroads
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania holds a certain mystique for curious travelers seeking to experience the unique charms of Amish culture. This pastoral landscape of rolling farmland, quaint country stores, and horse-drawn buggies transports visitors back to a simpler time. Venturing down the winding backroads reveals a community that proudly maintains its traditional ways even as modern life presses in from all sides.
Gliding through the countryside, you’ll feel the hurried pace of daily life slip away. Instead of busy freeways, one-lane roads meander past neat homesteads and gardens bursting with produce. White-apron clad farmers work the fertile fields using traditional techniques passed down for generations, eschewing modern machinery. The clip-clop of horses pulling black buggies and carts travels on the wind as you explore.
Around each bend waits a new discovery, whether it’s clambering up into a treehouse perch at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, browsing hand-crafted quilts trotting out from the Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, or sampling shoofly pie at an Amish bakery. A detour down a lane dappled with sunlight may lead you to jars of fresh-churned ice cream or children laughing as they chase chickens across a yard. Roadside stands tempt with just-picked fruits and vegetables at prices that haven’t seemed to change in decades.
Venturing through the countryside immerses you in the unrushed rhythms of Amish life. Conversations happen in the silences between shared chores rather than hasty texts. Sundays center around family, faith and rest. And work resolves around community, with barn raisings, canning parties and crafting circles binding generations together. While English and Dutch lilt on the air, a smile and friendly wave open doors between cultures.
Beyond the edenic countryside await historic river towns brimming with art galleries, cafes, and quirky boutiques. Downtown Lancaster charms with its diverse mix of cuisines, spirited nightlife and performing arts scene. Lititz’s charming Main Street transports you back to the 1920s, lined with shops, eateries, and the original Wilbur Chocolate retail store and museum.
Foodies flock to sample regional specialties like pot pie, chow-chow, and shoofly pie, plus local craft beer, spirits and Pennsylvania Dutch wines. Music lovers can experience anything from indie rock concerts in Lancaster to traditional bluegrass jams in Hershey. And architecture buffs will delight in touring the stately homes and meetinghouses of 18th century religious communities like the Harmonists and Ephrata Cloister.