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9 of the Top Road Trips in the US—For Every Type of Traveler

Because the great American road trip never goes out of style.

person on motorcycle pointing at bison
Hi, I'm Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Kehoe is a freelance writer and photographer with work seen in National Geographic, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, and more. Find her out on the trails or at jacquelinekehoe.com.

Wait a sec. It takes how many miles to cross the US? Well, that depends on the direction you’re going, but east to west, it’s approximately 2,742 miles (4,412 kilometers); north to south, it’s about 1,650 miles (2,660 kilometers). Either way, cross-country road trips are a way of life when it comes to the best US scenic drives.

The good news? The best road trips in the US (all but one, that is) are much shorter than that, offering anywhere from hour-long zips to week-long historic routes full of views, cuisine, and adventure. From epic East Coast road trips to Route 66, here are the best American road trips for every type of traveler.

1. For the vintage road tripper: Route 66

stretch of highway emblazoned with route 66
Get your kicks...Photo Credit: trekandshoot / Shutterstock

Drive from Illinois to California.

America’s “Mother Road,” Historic Route 66, is the country’s original highway, running from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California—a whopping 2,400 miles (3,862 kilometers) that crosses over three time zones. To do the whole thing right, you’d want weeks.

If you don’t have that kind of time, one of the most beloved sections stretches from Tucumcari, New Mexico, to Kingman, Arizona. Spot American delights like Tucumcari’s Blue Swallow Motel, go “Standin’ on the Corner” in Winslow, Arizona, and soak up the vast Sonoran Desert landscapes in between. And if you only have a day or two to spare, make the most of your short time with a guided tour of this historic road.

2. For the family: Black Hills to Badlands

mount rushmore
If you've never been to South Dakota, here's how to check it off your list.Photo Credit: JohnDSmith / Shutterstock

Cruise through South Dakota.

South Dakota doesn’t get the credit it’s due—the Mount Rushmore State is gorgeous, particularly from the Black Hills to Badlands National Park.

Here’s what this road trip offers: a roughly 100-mile (160-kilometer) trek from pine-clad mountains, granite needles, and twisting canyons to martian-like sandstone rock formations as far as the eye can see. Make it educational for the kids at spots like Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, where bison, antelope, mountain goats, and prairie dogs steal the show. Make sure to stop and stretch your legs with a guided hike through Spearfish Canyon.

3. For the quirky: The ET Highway

extraterrestrial highway sign
Things might get a little spooky.Photo Credit: Nick Fox / Shutterstock

See the paranormal side of Nevada.

Yep, ET stands for “extraterrestrial,” and this road trip is dedicated to those little green dudes. A 2-day, 470-mile (750-kilometer) loop from Las Vegas, road-trippers course down one of the country’s loneliest roads, stopping at spots like E.T. Fresh Jerky, the legendary Black Mailbox (where alien hunters often meet), and the Alien Research Center.

Yes, this is the same turf as Nevada’s Area 51. Naturally, the government won’t let you in—the closest you can get is on a designated tour, away from the “men in black” watching you.

4. For the ocean-chaser: Florida Keys

highway through the florida keys
Don't forget to stop for a seafood lunch along the way.Photo Credit: Mia2you / Shutterstock

Roll right into the Caribbean Sea.

Yes, you can drive off the tip of Florida (and stay dry) by heading to the Florida Keys. For approximately 110 miles (175 kilometers), you and your crew can zoom along the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West, always surrounded by turquoise water, tiny coral islands, epic sunshine, and long bridges. The Seven Mile Bridge, which you’ll cross, is one of the nation’s most spectacular.

Of course, it’s not all about the drive. In Florida, be sure to stop in Everglades National Park, where you’ll commune with gators, roseate spoonbills, and manatees. In Key West, make time for a sunset sail or mangrove tour for some much-needed outdoor enjoyment.

5. For the fall foliage hunter: Blue Ridge Parkway

highway through fall foliage
Fall is one of the best times to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway.Photo Credit: Anton Ermachkov / Shutterstock

Admire the changing leaves from Virginia to North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds and curves for 469 miles (754 kilometers), from the southern tip of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Start your drive around mid-October, and your entire journey will come lined with golds, tangerines, scarlets, and the distant foggy blues of this serene mountain range. Along the way, stop in trendy Asheville to chase some waterfalls on a tour, snapping photos of the twisting Linn Cove Viaduct.

Related: 11 Epic Fall Foliage Road Trips To Drive This Year

6. For the mountain-seeker: Grand Tetons to Great Glacier

grand tetons
Here, it's all about purple mountains majesty.Photo Credit: Daniel H Chui / Shutterstock

Fly through the Wild West from Wyoming to Montana.

Don your cowboy hat for this one: A nearly 500-mile (800-kilometer) journey across America’s wildest, most beloved landscapes—landscapes that have inspired countless novels, songs, and even the national park system. Starting in the craggy peaks of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, be sure to take the slightly longer scenic route to Yellowstone National Park, where you’ll step out onto a famous supervolcano. Or, just hop over from Jackson Hole with a guided tour that will pop you right back on your route.

From there, head across the wide expanse of Montana, where you’ll land at Glacier National Park. Go on mountain hikes, float down the Flathead River, or simply take a scenic drive (better with a guide in your pocket).

7. For the West Coast, Best Coast-er: The Pacific Coast Highway

pacific coast highway in california
Rent a convertible, drop the top, and drive.Photo Credit: Taras Vyshnya / Shutterstock

Traverse the Golden State.

Few highways can be described as beautiful, but California’s Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) is one of them. Following the rocky, crashing sea, this road trip can be as long as 650 miles (1050 kilometers), from Dana Point in Southern California to Leggett in Northern California.

But don’t expect to travel at highway speeds, as many sections have lower speed limits. That’ll give you more time to soak in the coastal scene, stopping at spots like the iconic Bixby Bridge and exploring beloved towns like Big Sur and Malibu. Grab a self-driving audio tour to make the most of those dramatic views.

8. For the foodie: New Orleans to Memphis

beignets in new orleans
A road trip in the south quickly becomes a food tour.Photo Credit: Alex Washburn / Viator

Eat your way through Louisiana all the way to Tennessee.

No US region has such a distinct and delicious food scene as the American South—a region mixing Black, Creole, French, Spanish, and Caribbean cuisines. This 400-mile (640-kilometer) road trip starts in New Orleans, where beignets in the Big Easy and pots of steaming gumbo are a must.

Explore on a food tour to gobble up as much as you can in just a few hours before driving off to your next stop: Jackson, Mississippi. Here, snack on fried fish and Mississippi mud pies. Then it’s off to Memphis for some of the world’s best barbecue—a guided tour will ensure you chow down at all the best spots.

9. For the history hound: Boston to New York City

paul revere's house, boston
The highways might be a little congested at times, but the Northeast is full of history.Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard / Viator

Take an iconic East Coast road trip.

It’s easy to trace the footsteps of America’s past on the East Coast—especially from Boston to New York City. This 250-mile (400-kilometer) road trip actually starts on foot: Boston’s Freedom Trail winds for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) downtown, where historical sites like the Paul Revere House offer insight into US history.

Then hop in the car because you’re off to historical spots like Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond and the Mayflower’s Plymouth Rock (which is surprisingly small). You’ll eventually wind up in Manhattan, where you can drop the car and take a guided tour of iconic landmarks like Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

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