21 Best American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List

21 Best American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List

Since we got married, we’ve done 5 cross country road trips and dozens of shorter ones. In our opinion, road tripping is the best way to see the beauty of the United States. There is so much this country has to offer. Here is a list of 21 American Road Trips that we think everyone needs to put on their bucket lists.

21 Best Road Trips in USA

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Last Updated: October 1, 2020

21 Great American Road Trips to Put On Your Bucket List

Whether you love the mountains, want to drive above the clouds, or cruise over the ocean, there’s a road trip for you. Here are 21 of the best road trips in the United States. Let us know in the comments below if there are more we should add to the list.

Location: California   |   Distance: 123 Miles

Enjoy the endless views of the ocean and drive through some of the best beach towns on California’s Route 1. Don’t forget to stop at Hearst Castle, spend some time in Big Sur (one of our favorite places in the US), and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

Pro Tip: Check the news to see if there are any big events occurring. We’ve done this road trip a handful of times with no issues, but the last time we went, there was a bike race and we were stuck in traffic for hours.

Mcway Falls Big Sur California

2. Historic Route 66

Location: Illinois to California   |   Distance: 2,451 Miles

Route 66 is one of the most iconic drives in America. The best stretch of this highway runs from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. To dive into the history, visit the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac, Illinois.

Pro Tip: Unfortunately they’ve painted over most of the Route 66 signs on the road because it was dangerous for people to try to take photos with it. Apparently some still exist, but we haven’t found them yet.

Seligman AZ on Route 66 + 15 Best Day Trips from Las Vegas

3. Overseas Highway

Location: Florida   |   Distance: 120 Miles

Unlike any other drive in the country, this route takes you on bridges right over the ocean. It gives you the sensation of floating over the water, and if you love all things water, there is plenty to explore in the Florida Keys.

Overseas Highway Florida (21 Great American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List).
photo: Peter Jakobs / creative commons

4. Million Dollar Highway (San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway)

Location: Colorado   |   Distance: 305 Miles

Twist and turn through the winding roads between two historic gold-mining towns. Take in the amazing views and don’t forget to take deep breaths as you’ll be over two miles above sea level.

Million Dollar Highway / San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.
photo: flamouroux / creative commons

Location: Oregon   |   Distance: 75 Miles

See the amazing Columbia Gorge on a highway built purely for scenery. This drive gives you views of waterfalls and mountains, and there are plenty of pull-offs. Here are 21 best hikes in the Columbia River Gorge from short and easy day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips.

Pro Tip: Part of the charm of this area is the rainy weather. Come prepared with solid waterproof boots and a raincoat and the hikes are magical.

Columbia River Scenic Highway (21 Great American Road Trips to Put On Your Bucket List).

6. Skyline Drive

Location: Virginia   |   Distance: 105 Miles

This scenic drive takes you along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. Drive through the Appalachians and stop to enjoy any of the 75 overlooks.

Skyline Drive - Iconic American Road Trip.
photo: Eric Ward / creative commons

Location: Maui, Hawaii   |   Distance: 51.1 Miles

Explore the coastlines of Maui along the Hana Highway. You’ll find black sand beaches, waterfalls, jungles, and roadside stands. Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit!

Wailua Falls Hike + 19 Road to Hana Stops You Can't Miss in Maui Hawaii // Local Adventurer #hana #maui #hawaii #usa #travel #roadtrip #hiking #waterfall #outdoors #roadtohana

8. Black River Scenic Byway

Location: Michigan   |   Distance: 11 Miles

Tucked away in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Black River Scenic Byway has a lot to offer in a short distance. Pass by waterfalls and dense forests as you follow the river to the lakeshore.

Black River Scenic Byway (Road Trip America).
photo: James Marvin Phelps / creative commons

Location: Nevada   |   Distance: 408 Miles

Named for the largely uninhabited region that you drive through, explore mining camps, cross mountain ranges, and stop in small cafes. Don’t forget to look up at the stars at night for some of the most spectacular views.

The Loneliest Road in America - Although route 50 runs coast to coast, only this part of the highway in Nevada is called the Loneliest Road by travellers. With Alkaline Salt flats to each side and mountains in the distance, you truly feel all alone // localadventurer.com

10. Route 12

Location: Utah   |   Distance: 124 Miles

Drive through some of the most breathtaking views and explore Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. You can even stop in Boulder for a night’s stay and a great meal.

Route 12 Road Trip (21 Great American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List). // localadventurer.com

11. Kancamagus Highway

Location: New Hampshire   |   Distance: 34.5 Miles

Make a trip down this highway in the fall to get some of the best fall foliage views. Enjoy the crisp breeze with your windows down and take in all the colors of the leaves.

Kancamagus Highway White Mountains New Hampshire + 15 Beautiful Short Day Trips from Boston

12. The High Road to Taos

Location: New Mexico   |   Distance: 56 Miles

This scenic, winding road takes you through deserts, mountains, forests, and ancient Indian pueblos. You’ll find beautiful wildflower meadows and there are art galleries scattered throughout the drive. You can also take the Low Road through the valleys on the way back.

The High Road to Taos (21 Great American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List).

photo: Dave Hensley / creative commons

13. Beartooth Highway

Location: Montana and Wyoming   |   Distance: 68 Miles

Drive through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming with breathtaking views of the Absoroka and Beartooth Mountains. You’ll drive by glacial lakes, forest, waterfalls, and wildlife. To top it off, you end at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Beartooth Scenic Highway + 21 Best Road Trips in USA

14. Highway 2

Location: Nebraska   |   Distance: 200 Miles

See the Great Plains of Nebraska and the rolling sandhills that make up nearly one-fourth of the state. You’ll also see huge farmlands, marshes, and winding rivers. Certain times of the year will bring huge numbers of migrating birds too.

US Hwy 2 (Best Road Trips in USA).
photo: John Carrell (top) and Erin Kinney (bottom) / creative commons

15. Route 6

Location: Massachusetts   |   Distance: 117 Miles

Explore the Cape Cod area on this scenic drive. Drive through forests, colonial villages, tidal pools, and explore the harbor.

Route 6 Massachusetts (Best Road Trips in USA).
photo: Nicholas Tonelli / creative commons

Location: Maine   |   Distance: 27 Miles

This coastal drive gives you views of Acadia National Park and is one of the best places for spotting bald eagles and peregrine. You’ll get amazing views from above but also from the harbor below.

Otter Cliff Acadia

Location: Montana   |   Distance: 50 Miles

This drive through Glacier National Park gives you views of mountain peaks and alpine lakes while having the least negative impact on the delicate environment.

Note: It does close every winter because of snow, which can reach up to 80 feet in depth. When we went in late June, they had just opened the road the week before.

Going to the Sun Road - one of the most famous scenic drives in the world (+ 9 Wonderful Things to Do in Glacier National Park) // localadventurer.com

18. Tail of the Dragon

Location: Tennessee and North Carolina   |   Distance: 11 Miles

This drive is more about the drive and less about the scenery. Known for its degree of difficulty and sheer excitement when driving, the Tail of the Dragon is full of sharp curves, twists, and turns that demand your full attention.

Tail of the Dragon (21 Great American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List).
photo: Robert Du Bois / creative commons

19. Route 100

Location: Vermont   |   Distance: 216 Miles

Route 100 runs through almost the entirety of Vermont and takes you right through the center. See the fall foliage, stop for ice cream, and enjoy the views of the lush mountains.

Route 100 Vermont (Road Trip America).
photo: Shiran Pasternak / creative commons

Location: Washington   |   Distance: 400 Miles

See rainforests, apple orchards, beautiful lakes, small towns, and more on this 400-mile loop that takes you through some of the best of what Washington has to offer.

Diablo Lake - Ross Lake National Recreation Area in North Cascades National Park Complex, WA USA // localadventurer.com

21. Mount Washington Auto Road

Location: New Hampshire   |   Distance: 8 Miles

This short drive climbs nearly 5,000 feet giving you the opportunity to stop at viewpoints, see waterfalls, and gaze out at sprawling meadows. The end offers a spectacular view from above.

Mount Washington Auto Road (21 Great American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List).
photo: ppdiaporama / creative commons

BONUS: Cross Country Road Trip

There’s no better way to see the country than to drive across it in its entirety. There are a lot of different options for routes to take, but if you’re really ambitious, check out this road trip plan that was computed to be the most optimal way across the United States.

Map of Great American Road Trips

More US Road Trip Ideas for Your Bucket List

  • 17-Mile Drive, CA
  • Alaska Highway, AK
  • Big Island Loop Road, HI
  • Black Hills, SD
  • Bluebonnet Trail, TX
  • Blues Highway (Route 61), TN
  • Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
  • Great River Road, LA
  • Highway 143, TN
  • Historic National Road, MD
  • Lake Shore Drive, IL
  • Maine Lobster Trail, ME
  • North Shore Drive, MN
  • Ocean Drive, RI
  • Olympic Peninsula, WA
  • Oregon Coast, OR
  • Outer Banks Scenic Byway, NC
  • Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, MI
  • Silverado Trail, CA
  • Trail Ridge Road, CO
  • Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, CA

Essential Tips

  • Take your time! These trips are all about the journey so enjoy the views and pullouts.
  • Don’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere, have a car emergency kit ready to go.
  • Stay safe on the road by picking up a dash cam.
  • Stay hydrated by bringing enough water and beverages with you. These insulated water bottles will keep your drinks cool (or hot).
  • Bring a few extra bags to collect garbage in the car.
  • We love having this cooler with us on our road trips. Helps us keep anything we need cold.
  • It’s always good to have a physical road map with you just in case you lose service.
  • Worried about bathroom stops, we always have these handy in our car in case we just can’t hold it anymore. Wet wipes are always handy too.

Can you think of any other road trips in the US to be added to this list? What’s the best road trip you’ve been on?

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21 Best American Road Trips You Should Add to Your Bucket List
21 Best Road Trips in USA

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Amazing link – thank you! But you missed one of the top 5 – Rocky Mountain National Park – the Great Divide. That is breathtaking! I’ve been to many of the above listed destinations and believe Colorado’s Eastern as well as the Western (the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton) slopes have much to offer.

    Thanks!

  2. We have been fortunate to have driven on half of these. Route 12 in Utah and Beartooth stand out. And the Tail of the Dragon was sheer fun. But the Going to the Sun Road was in my opinion, the most scenic, plus fun to drive and in the middle of my favorite National Park. Hope to get back there some day

    1. That’s one of our faves too!

  3. All of these sound amazing! Glad Acadia made your list – there are lots of other scenic drives in Maine as well (the western part of the state is gorgeous!). And I’ve only done parts of Skyline Drive but I can attest that it is absolutely incredible. I would love to do a cross country road trip one day though! Life goals. :)

  4. I’ve been n a few. And the ones I have been on I want to do again!!!

  5. What a great post! We need more like this. There are hundreds of posts on must visit places but not enough on must do road trips! These certainly look like some awesome places.

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