Top 10 Best U.S. Road Trips for Epic Drives

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Whether you’re looking for sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean or a multiday adventure through national parks, these road trips provide plenty of opportunities ... read more...

  1. California Road Trip ranks 1st on the list of the best U.S. road trips for epic drives. Fulfill your California dreams with this ultimate west coast road trip, taking in everything from wine regions to surf towns to the big cities of LA and San Francisco. Start your journey in Sonoma wine country, enjoying the farm-to-table dining and small, independent wineries. Then next up is the creative hub of San Francisco where you could spend days exploring its neighborhoods, restaurants, and museums. Santa Cruz is the place to go for surfing or a walk along the famous boardwalk. And don’t miss the steam train through the redwoods. Monterey and its 17-mile drive are one the most scenic spots on the route and you’ll want to pay a visit to the world-famous Monterey Aquarium and the idyllic village of Carmel.

    Big Sur is the most iconic part of the Pacific Coast Highway and an absolute must for any California Road Trip. Stop at Nepenthe for a meal along the way with some of the best lunch views you’ll ever have. Many overlook Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo, but this quaint wine town is well worth a visit, and after that head to Santa Barbara, known as the ‘American Riviera’ and the perfect place to soak up that laid-back California lifestyle. On your way to LA, stop off at Malibu and Topanga before spending some time in the beach towns of Venice and Santa Monica. Also, try one of the famous theme parks such as Universal Studios. Heading on down the coast, your next stop is Laguna Beach followed by San Diego where it’s worth staying around La Jolla for beach vibes and the beautiful Torrey Pines. Finally, head inland to the desert town of Palm Springs, a playground for Angelenos. And finish it all off with a visit to the magical, other-worldly landscapes of Joshua Tree before looping back to LA. To extend this road trip, you could head to Las Vegas from Joshua Tree and then up through Death Valley National Park, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe, before looping back to San Francisco.

    Distance: 1234km

    Duration: 2 weeks – 1 month

    Things to do:

    • Discovering the laid-back lifestyle in Sonoma wine country
    • Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway at Big Sur
    • Soaking up the creativity of San Francisco
    • Relaxing in Palm Springs
    • The other-worldly landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park
    • Enjoying the California lifestyle in places like Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, and San Diego

  2. South Dakota Adventure ranks 2nd on the list of the best U.S. road trips for epic drives. A wild trip through South Dakota, taking in Badlands National Park and the famed Mount Rushmore. Start this tour of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and visit the beautiful Falls Park before making your way to DeSmet, the former home of Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame. Stop along I90 to see the famous Corn Palace, then spend the day hiking in the striking Badlands National Park. Visit the Minuteman Missile Museum, where you can learn about the Cold War missiles once residing there. You may want to see the locally renowned Wall Drug megaplex as well which has almost everything you can imagine for sale. Rapid City is a great central location to stay in for the rest of your trip. Spend a day in Deadwood, where outlaws “Wild Bill” Hicock and “Calamity” Jane once roamed. Visit Devils Tower in Wyoming where a scene in Close Encounters of the Second Kind was filmed. Of course, you’ll want to visit the monument at Mount Rushmore, then enjoy the beautiful pine-topped peaks of the Black Hills Forest.

    Next, head south to admire the gorgeous landscapes at Custer State Park including beautiful lakes, pine-topped forests, and the Needles area with “hoodoo” spire rock formations. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see wild animals including bison, sheep, elk, coyote, and more. Nearby Wind Cave has some spectacular rock formations to explore. Check out the Mammoth Site, a giant partially-excavated sinkhole with the remains of more than 60 Colombian and woolly mammoths dating back more than 100,000 years. If time permits, take a stroll through downtown Rapid City among the statues of the American presidents and influential men. There’s also a great alley with some interesting murals to check out nearby. South Dakota has something for everyone and it’s a great place to visit.

    Distance: 725km
    Duration: 7-10 days

    Things to do:

    • Tour the places in DeSmet where Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived
    • Visit the famous Corn Palace
    • Stop at the Minuteman Missile Museum
    • Hike Badlands National Park
    • Trace the steps of “Wild Bill” Hicock and “Calamity” Jane in Deadwood
    • Have a Close Encounter of the Third Kind at Devils Tower
    • Visit the famed monument at Mount Rushmore or the lesser-known Crazy Horse Monument near Custer

  3. Driving the Going to the Sun Road is considered one of the best national park experiences and rightfully so. As the road climbs up the mountains you can see almost every type of terrain – from glacial lakes and forests in the lower elevations to alpine tundra in the higher elevations. The drive takes you on a paved two-lane highway that seems like it is carved into the mountains. The road is pretty narrow and you need to be careful when driving it. Going to the Sun Road runs across the Glacier National Park from east to west. The road is only 50 miles but driving it offers some of the best views of the Glacier National Park.

    There are many scenic viewpoints along the road that you can’t miss. Watch out for wildlife – it is easy to spot bears and longhorn sheep if you bring some binoculars. Pullouts can be found along the drive if you want to stop for photos and take in the views. Glacier National Park's scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road had one of its latest seasonal openings on record Wednesday. Park officials said late winter weather and continued avalanche danger hampered crews from clearing the road sooner. The alpine highway also opened on July 13 in 2011 due to a late snowpack and in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only later date was when the road first opened to the public on July 15, 1933. While Going to the Sun Road is now open for the 2022 season, most visitors will need vehicle reservations to travel along the famed roadway during peak hours this summer.

    Distance: 80km

    Duration: 2 hours

    Things to do:

    • Stop to dip your toes in the clear cold waters of Lake McDonald where you can see the rocks all the way to the bottom.
    • Go hiking at Logan Pass. The Hidden Lake overlook trail is an easy three-mile round trip hike along meadows and beautiful boulders on a boarded walk

  4. Southern USA ranks 4th on the list of the best U.S. road trips for epic drives. Explore that famous Southern Charm, from the mountains of North Carolina to the famed hospitality of Charleston and Savannah, plus the magic of New Orleans. Start your Deep South road trip in Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King, and many African American political and cultural movements. It’s a place to educate yourself on the area’s history while also diving into the food scene. Next head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at the Smoky Mountains along the way. Try to time your trip with the fall, so you can experience the majesty of the parkway’s fall colors.

    Creative Asheville is the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the parkway, and enjoying a slice of mountain life before you head south to well-to-do Charleston. The history of slavery casts a shadow over the area, so be sure to pay your respects and learn more at one of the more responsible plantation tours such as Magnolia Plantation. Next is arty and charming Savannah where you’ll be happy wandering its attractive streets. From there, head along the Gulf Coast to Tallahassee and Mobile before finally reaching New Orleans, a truly one-of-a-kind city and somewhere you could several weeks.

    Distance: 2716km

    Duration: 2-3 weeks

    Things to do:

    • Driving the epic Blue Ridge Parkway, especially in the Fall
    • Enjoying the creative vibes of laid-back Asheville
    • Choosing your favorite home in charming Charleston
    • Experiencing the one-of-kind city of New Orleans

  5. One of the most scenic road trips you can take is without any doubt driving from Tomahawk to Bayfield near the Apostle Islands since it takes you to the best-hidden gems of Northern Wisconsin. Indeed, it’s the best way to explore the mesmerizing charm of Northern Wisconsin’s natural wonders. Start your road trip in Tomahawk and drive along plenty of small lakes until you reach Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The National Forest is a paradise for hikers and outdoor lovers. Hike through groves of maple and oaks and get a chance to see white-tailed deer, foxes, and countless bird species.

    Continue your road trip north and drive along the scenic Wisconsin River until you reach Minocqua on Lake Tomahawk. Here, you can try different water activities, such as water skiing, fishing, wakeboarding, tubing, and raking a relaxing sunset pontoon ride. From here continue your ride until you reach Bayfield, one of the prettiest towns in Northern Wisconsin. It’s the best departure point to explore the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The best way to explore the natural wonders of this area is by kayaking.

    Distance: 258km

    Duration: 4 days

    Things to do:

    • Visiting Lake Tomahawk
    • Hiking in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
    • Kayaking in Apostle Islands

  6. The best way to see the Centennial State is to head out on a Colorado road trip. With four national parks, incredible mountain scenery, and plenty of places to get lost in, you’ll want to spend anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks exploring this stunning landscape. Most travelers will start in Denver, the Mile High City. Home to the incredible food and craft beer scene, there’s plenty of entertainment in the state’s capital. Try to time your road trip up with a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of only four naturally occurring amphitheaters in the world. Next, stop at the famous Rocky Mountain National Park. Located just two hours from Denver, this beautiful landscape hosts a variety of activities from wildlife viewing to world-class rock climbing.

    After you’ve had your fill at the park, head out towards Grand Junction, on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies. Don’t forget to stop at the famous Hanging Lake Hike along the way, one of Colorado’s best hikes. Here you can explore the Colorado National Monument. World’s away from Colorado’s mountains, these sandstone spires and canyons are reminiscent of the famous landmarks of Southern Utah and speak volumes about the diversity of this state. For your next stop, dip back into the mountains and head south towards Gunnison and Crested Butte. You can opt to stay in the cute mountain town of Crested Butte, where you can enjoy mountainous wildflower hikes and top-notch mountain biking. Or continue towards Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This steep canyon boasts 1,000-plus-foot walls and has plenty of incredible camping and rafting opportunities. If you have spare time, swing down towards the Four Corners for a stop at Mesa Verde. Otherwise, continue onwards towards the mighty Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where you’ll find the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Nestled up against towering peaks, you’ll be treated to an endless sea of sand dunes – the largest in North America.

    Distance: 1600km

    Duration: 4-14 days

    Things to do:

    • Denver’s food and craft beer scene
    • Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater
    • Hanging Lake Hike
    • Passing through four National Parks.
    • Colorado National Monument
    • Star gazing at Great San Dune National Park
  7. Rent a bike and tour the San Antonio Missions, the first World Heritage Site in Texas. After enjoying lunch at the River Walk, take the river cruise and end the day by exploring the Alamo. Next morning, drive to Fredericksburg, the third biggest city. Go underworld in Boerne to enjoy the Hill Country’s gem, a Cave Without A Name. Indulge in German food downtown and explore this quaint little town before you climb into your bed in Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg will be your base for the next two days. Embrace yourself in this rich German heritage town. Stroll downtown; hike the Enchanted Rock; hop on the 290 Wine Shuttle, and visit the National Museum of the Pacific War. Take a day trip to Bandera and become a cowboy at a dude ranch. Don’t forget tubing in the Pedernales or Guadalupe.

    On the way to Austin, stop at Luckenbach and visit the Texas White House at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Then cool off in the Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs before you spend the next two nights in Austin. When in Austin, swim at Barton Springs, find street art, indulge in BBQ, visit the Capitol, and watch the bats emerge from Congress Avenue Bridge, just like the locals do. Austin is the first biggest city in the region and is also the capital of Texas. On your way back to San Antonio, make several stops at these unique small towns: Wimberley, San Marcos, Gruene, and New Braunfels. Then end your road trip by learning more about Mexican heritage in San Antonio. It’s the perfect road trip for hitting lots of Texas bucket list destinations!

    Distance: 420km

    Duration: 1 week

    Things to do:

    • Visit the world-famous Alamo
    • Explore San Antonio Missions, the first world Heritage Site in Texas
    • Get enchanted by Cave Without A Name
    • Hike the pink granite dome Enchanted Rock
    • Winery hopping in Fredericksburg
    • Cooling off in Hamilton Poo
    • Watch the bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge

  8. Get your kicks on Route 66 is one of the best U.S. road trips for epic drives. See America’s most famous road trip route from Midwestern parries through the deserts of the Southwest and all the way to the Calfornia coast. Start in Chicago, the first of the major cities on Route 66, at the official Route 66 “Begin” sign. Your voyage down the Mother Road begins in the capital of America’s Midwest. Depending on how long you have, you can immerse yourself in every roadside attraction and kitschy diner, or you can continue on and head to St. Louis for a stop at the Gateway Arch. Kansas’s stretch of the Mother Road is short but sweet.

      Next is Oklahoma, where you’ll find the famous Catoosa Whale, the Arcadia Round Barn, and the Gold Dome. Don’t skip a night in Oklahoma City, enjoying the nightlife in Bricktown before snapping a pic of the Milk Bottle Building in the morning. When you’ve left Oklahoma, you’ll find Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch a delight. New Mexico and Arizona are bursting with natural beauty and fun stops like the Twin Arrows. If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, take a day to visit it as it’s close enough to Route 66 for a great day trip.

      Distance: 3940km

      Duration: 2-4 weeks

      Things to do:

      • Discover favorite diners, service stations, and kitschy roadside stops
      • Make sure to stop to see the Catoosa Whale, the Arcadia Round Barn, Cadillac Ranch, the Grand Canyon, and Santa Monica Pier.

    • Alaska Highlights is one of the best U.S. road trips for epic drives. Start in Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city before heading up to cute Talkeetna, a laid-back base for those climbing Mount Denali. Consider taking a flight over Denali where you’ll have the chance to land on a glacier. Then head to Denali National Park where the towns of Healy, McKinley Park, and Cantwell are good bases with plenty of amenities. Spend some days exploring the park, including hiking, river rafting, kayaking, and spotting wildlife. For many, this is the highlight of an Alaska trip. The Denali Highway is a particularly scenic drive but is only open in summer.

      From here, head to the village of McCarthy and the mining ruins at Kennecott before going to Valdez where you can take a glacier boat tour. A fun detour is to go on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Cordova where you can explore Prince William Sound’s most pretty town and do some spectacular bird watching around the Copper River Delta. From there, take a ferry to Whittier and drive to Seward via the scenic Turnagain Pass. While in Seward, visit Resurrection Bay and take a tour of Kenai Fjords National Park to see the sea lions, sea otters, and whales.

      Distance: 1698km

      Duration: 8 days

      Things to do:

      • Hiking in Denali National Park
      • Taking a boat trip or helicopter ride to explore a glacier
      • Seeing whales and other wildlife at Kenai Fjords National Park
      • Exploring the scenery and wildlife of the Prince William Sound

    • One of the most impressive roads on the Hawaiian island, Maui is definitely the Hana Road. It is one of the most exciting and romantic things to do in Maui. The route leads from the main town of Kahului along the north coast over 103 kilometers to the small town of Hana. Officially called Hawaii State Route 36 and 360, you pass 54 bridges, almost 600 hairpin bends on the two-lane country road, and pass numerous natural highlights, which has rightly earned the Road to Hana the title of one of the most beautiful panoramic roads in the world.

      Once on the road, make sure to plan some beautiful stops along the way such as the Twin Falls, the Kaumahina State Wayside Park, which is perfect for a picnic, and the Ke’aenae Arboretum, which is a beautiful garden showcasing the nature surrounding you. And there’s also the Maui bamboo forest which has great hiking. Aside from that, the Road to Hana is just stunning – you’ll never get sick of the endless lush green landscape around you, the winding street, and of course the numerous bridges that are somewhat perfectly carved into nature.

      Distance: 103km

      Duration: 1 day

      Things to do:

      • Watching the surfers from the Ho’okipa Lookout
      • Visiting the Ke’aenae Arboretum
      • Stopping to enjoy the countless sensational views

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