Pack up the Car and Head out on the Best Road Trip Routes in America
A Classic, All-American Vacation
Road trips are a great American tradition. Many a family vacation has been spent in the car, playing 20 Questions or staring out the window at the passing scenery.
Planning a road trip starts with picking the perfect route — and while you could spend days cobbling together one of your own, why not let tradition do the work for you? Some road trip routes have become the stuff of legends, must-dos that are checked off countless bucket lists.
Whether sprinkled with roadside attractions, full of history or surrounded by natural wonders, the best American road trips will knock the socks off your next family vacation.
1. Route 66
For a history lesson on America’s car culture you might consider a road trip down Route 66. A popular route across the western United States since 1926, Route 66 is full of kitschy roadside attractions, historic museums, gas stations, diners and motels.
Although some parts of it have been paved over by other roads and freeways, many businesses still remain, catering to the nostalgia. The route starts in Santa Monica, California and ends in Chicago, Illinois — spanning over 2,000 miles and taking upwards of four days, depending on how many stops you make.
Using a mid-sized car, you’ll spend at least $250 on gas alone in addition to motel rooms averaging $50 per night.
2. Utah National Parks
Although this road trip only spans the state of Utah, it includes what’s called the Mighty 5 National Parks. Condensed into about 350 miles, or the equivalent of a six hour drive, there are five different parks — Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands — each with their own unique draw.
Explore cliffs and canyons, natural attractions like the world’s largest stone arch, hoodoo pillars, hiking trails, and ancient petroglyphs. With the “America the Beautiful” National Parks Service pass you can gain admission to all five parks, and any others you decide to visit during the year, for only $80.
With plenty of camping options available at $20 per night, this road trip is potentially one of the most budget friendly of the bunch.
3. Pacific Coast Highway
Another feature on the list of best American road trip routes is the Pacific Coast Highway, which stretches from San Francisco to San Diego, along California’s coast.
One of the most spectacularly scenic drives, the PCH (as it’s known to Californians) goes by many famous coastal landmarks like the Queen Mary, Santa Monica Pier, Zuma Beach in Malibu, Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Big Sur and Redwoods national parks — to name just a few.
Driving the entire route takes about eight hours, but you’ll likely want to stop every few hours along the way, so plan for a couple of days total. California can get expensive, but your biggest expense will likely be lodging, especially during the summer. Feeling really adventurous? You can even give luxury camping a try — Terra Glamping provides luxury tents with ocean views along the PCH.
Plan for a $600+ trip not including airfare or car rental.