A road trip is one of the absolute best ways to see a new part of the country. Though you may be more focused on getting directly to your destination, the sights along the way are often just as noteworthy.
Whether it’s the gradually changing landscape, the funky pit stops, or simply spending time listening to your throwback playlists with friends and family in the car, the American road trip is quintessential and totally memorable for a reason. With a country so big and thousands of miles of highways criss-crossing the land, the road is open and it’s yours. That’s why this summer we’re dishing out some of our best road trip ideas.
The national parks and mountain ranges in the American south seriously do not get enough credit. The 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway connects both Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky National Park, and the views along the way are just as spectacular. You can road trip up from Charlotte and get all your outdoor summer fixings between the two spots.
The views and unique flora and fauna you’ll find on the hiking trails and campgrounds in the Appalachian Mountains are reason enough to make the trip. Small southern towns along the way — with good old-fashioned southern food, country stores, and culture — are a sheer bonus.
The Pacific Coast Highway, stretching from LA to San Francisco, may be one of the most magnificent drives you’ll ever take in the USA. You can do the whole thing in a day, but take it slow on this road trip. Enjoy a few days in LA and then make your way up the coast to take in the insane views and idyllic towns.
Spend your first nights in Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo, then drive through the breathtaking landscape and rocky cliffs of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, until you cross the Big Sur bridge and settle in at Carmel-by-the-Sea. You can head straight to San Francisco afterward, or keep going north and make it to California wine country.
Whether you live in Texas or you’re heading there on vacation, a drive through the Texas Hill Country makes for an easy and relaxing summer trip. Start your journey in Austin (eat as many tacos as you can!) and visit some of the unique towns in the area. Get to know a little more about German heritage (and beer) in Fredericksburg, or get your country dancing on at Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas.
Things can get a little toasty in the summer around these parts, so definitely don’t miss the all-time Texas summer pastime: floating down the Guadalupe River. You can also remember the Alamo in San Antonio or even discover Texas wine country.
This has got to be the most famous highway in the world. Route 66 stretches from LA to Chicago, meaning you can start from a number of areas in the country and drive as much or as little as you want. The flexibility makes it one of the best family road trip ideas.
Hit the important natural landscapes like the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, or the Petrified Forest. And get a taste of deep America with whacky monuments like Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the giant Blue Whale of Catoosa in Oklahoma, or Calico Ghost Town in California.
Lake Michigan is one of the country’s best-kept secrets — it proves you don’t need the ocean for a beach vacation. Start your journey in Chicago and see where the stunning body of water meets urban and residential areas. Drive around the lake up north and enjoy the sights too. Take Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, for example, which opens up into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. How do 450-foot dunes cascading down into the glassy Lake Michigan sound?
It won’t even take you three hours to get from Seattle to Portland, but we recommend you take the slow and scenic drive. Check out Mount Rainier National Park for a few days in Washington, and definitely don’t miss Mount Saint Helens.
Once you hit Oregon, the Oregon Coast Highway offers some of the greenest and lush forests in the country, fresh mountain air, and amazing ocean views. Cannon Beach, for example, is a must-see spot on the Oregon coast. And if you get a little hungry, a visit to the Tillamook Creamery will satisfy your cravings for ice cream or bold cheddar cheeses.
Utah is covered in some truly stunning national parks. From Zion to Arches to Monument Valley, there are so many natural desert sights to see and explore. Of course, this area can get pretty warm in the summertime (though nighttime temperatures are nice and chilly), so it’s good to be near a refreshing body of water. Drive from Moab and end up in Lake Powell, where you can spend your summer days on boats and in the desert sunshine. You’ll also be able to see some of those big national parks on your way there.
Start your adventure in Miami and leisurely make your way down the two-lane road to Key West in just under four hours. From there, you can explore so many of the other keys, depending on what you’re into. To catch a glimpse of some insane coral reefs and fish species, try Key Largo. Or, you can spend your summer vacation in Key West and enjoy miles of sandy, white beaches and activities for all ages.
Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway may only be 25 miles long, but there’s no lack of things to do and see along the way. The weather in this area of the San Juan mountains is practically perfect in the summertime, making it ideal for outdoor activities: get your hiking and fishing in around the Durango area, and camp at Molas Lake in Silverton.
Make your way up Red Mountain Pass for rosy-colored peaks, and don’t miss cool sights around Ouray (and the town), like the falls at Box Canyon falls. And after lots of mountain adventures, you can take the afternoon to relax in the Durango hot springs.
Cross through the nation’s largest estuary and explore Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Loop. Here you can explore natural waterways and historical towns along the east coast. You’ll relax on the beach, take a summertime sailing trip (this is America’s sailing capital), and enjoy some of the best fresh seafood in the area. Check out some of the small colonial towns on your route too, like Chestertown and Oxford, which are rich in maritime history.
Adding an epic road trip to your summer plans but need a car? Instead of renting, borrow with Avail. You can snag the right car in plenty of cities around the country and never have to worry about hidden fees. The last thing you want to deal with on your vacation is a rental car logistical nightmare. Instead, borrow with Avail and you’ll spend more time on the road and less time waiting around a rental office.
Trips to popular U.S. beach destinations can be affordable with a few smart travel hacks. Check out our tips for scoring deals for your dream getaway.
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