Blue roadside sign for Route 66 motel in front of curve of road with mountain rising up on left side.
If you love kitschy attractions and historic museums, this is the road trip for you.

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.

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, CA and ends in Chicago, IL — spanning over 2,000 miles and taking upward 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 USD per night.

Road cutting through craggy mountains with sage brush.Each of these five parks has its own unique draw.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / theoccasion

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. Zion National Park hikes are some of the best around, and you’ll be able to take in incredible sights even if you are short on time (…and cardio).

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 USD.

With plenty of camping options available at $20 per night, this road trip is potentially one of the most budget-friendly of the bunch.

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Curve of road along the ocean with hill on left.This stretch of road goes by many famous landmarks such as the Queen Mark, Santa Monica Pier and Zuma Beach.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / pgiam

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 National Park and Redwoods National Park — 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.

Four faces of presidents carved into rock face.Highlights on this route include Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Niagara Falls.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / kubrak78

Oregon Trail

Any list of USA road trip ideas would be incomplete without this next route. A historic route used by early pioneers traveling west across the country, the Oregon Trail is a great way to introduce America’s natural wonders, big cities and national monuments to your family. From the coast of Oregon to the tip of Cape Cod, you’ll drive through the Great Plains and cross the Mississippi River.

Highlights of this route include Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Niagara Falls for nature enthusiasts, as well as Cleveland’s Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame for those interested in pop culture history.

All in all it’s about a week’s drive or more if you intend on stopping every eight hours or so. Obviously, traveling 3,300 miles will be costly, so plan on spending around $2,000 USD or so for a family of four.

Taken from middle of street with old west buildings on either side lit up with neon lights.In the early 20th century, blues musicians traveled this route to find audiences to play for.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / denistangneyjr

The Blues Highway

Music fans will enjoy a trip down Route 61, which was nicknamed the Blues Highway when early 20th-century blues musicians traveled along it to find audiences to play for in populated areas.

Your trip will take you through Nashville, TN, home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music; Memphis, TN where you can hear authentic blues played at Wild Bill’s; Tunica, MS where you can visit the Gateway to the Blues Museum; and New Orleans, LA where jazz and blues are still very much alive in The French Quarter.

You can easily spend a few days in each city, especially New Orleans, but the whole trip spans about 600 miles or nine to 10 hours. Lodging averages around $100 USD per night around the attractions mentioned, with New Orleans on the pricier side of things.

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Overhead view of street along river with high rises to the left and strip of beach to the left of those beside the ocean.This isn't one of the more scenic routes, but there are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained on the way.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / franckreporter

Florida via US-1

Some of the stretches of US-1 go through populated areas so this won’t be the fastest route — and it won’t offer much in the way of scenery (except the seven-mile bridge in the Keys) — but there are plenty of attractions en route that’ll make the long trip worthwhile.

Florida’s full of kitschy roadside oddities like the mermaid shows in Fort Lauderdale, pirate and treasure museums in Sebastian and Key West, or the unfinished castle made of coral in Homestead. You can even visit the oldest city in the country that predates the formation of the United States, St. Augustine.

Aspiring astronauts will have a memorable experience at Kennedy Space Center and see where the space shuttles used to launch from. If you mostly stay in roadside motels outside of the major cities, you can find affordable lodging for around $70 USD per night.

Valley covered in trees, overlapping into the sunset on the horizon.They journey is the ultimate attraction as you journey through the Great Smoky Mountains.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / seanpavonephoto

Appalachian Trail

A road trip through the Appalachian Trail will take you through the Great Smoky Mountains and from Maine to Georgia. Here, the journey is the ultimate attraction as scenic two-lane roads twist through incredible natural beauty.

You’ll drive through state parks, alongside rivers and through forests. Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy stopping along the way to enjoy the trail itself, the longest and most famous in the world.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s plenty of whitewater rafting along the way as well. Since most of this route is about enjoying nature, camping is a must, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which means your biggest cost will be gas and supplies.

Tent reservations start around $30 USD per night, but cabins are also available at some sites too.

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Winding road with forest of yellow, red and green trees on left hand side.September and October are the best times to take this road trip.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / deberarr

Route 100

Best taken during September or October, Vermont’s Route 100 offers a chance to see the most beautiful fall foliage while enjoying the luxury of New England hospitality. It’s best taken as a lover’s getaway rather than a family road trip, but if you have to bring the kids along, there’s plenty for them to enjoy too.

Sample the state’s famous maple syrup, craft beer and tasty apple cider. Explore the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, which culminates in a free scoop for all visitors.

Enjoy the scenery from your picture window during a stay in a cute B&B or chalet like The Trapp Family Lodge owned by the real Von Trapp family from “The Sound of Music.” Despite the tiny size of the state, and a distance of only 200 miles or so, expect to spend upwards of $500 USD between gas, lodging and food for a two to three day trip.

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