PSA: Summer’s not over yet! And there are plenty of weekends left to plan a last-minute road trip.
Just because August is right around the corner, that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in one more small vacation, and the best kind happens over the weekend, in the form of a road trip with your S.O. and/or with some of your best friends.
Picture it: top down, smile on your face, taking in the serene California coast line or craning your neck upward at the gargantuan trees in the Redwood National and State Parks or pulling over and taking a quick hike among the breathtaking red rocks of the Sedona mountains. It’s pretty much the definition of freedom.
From the Big Ben scenic byway in Florida to the Hudson River Valley, we’ve scoured the country for the best road trips—and the ideal itineraries that go with them.
A version of this article was originally published in December 2014.
Los Angeles and the Iconic Route 1 Through Big Sur, California
As the Pacific Ocean stretches out in front of you, you’ll pass between the Santa Lucia Mountains with massive redwood trees to one side and frolicking sea lions among the rocky beaches to the other.
Distance: About 300 miles
1. First, make a quick stop inland for a necessary Santa Barbara wine tour.
2. Relive history and plan a trip to the legendary Hearst Castle. Be sure to see the lavish Neptune pool along with the prohibition era wine cellar.
3. Stay at the Post Ranch Inn in Carmel—a serene retreat on the California coastline. You can even rent your own private luxury tree house with a fireplace, king bed and skylight to watch the stars.
4. For a fine dining experience try the Post Ranch Inn’s award winning restaurant, Sierra Mar, and enjoy breathtaking views high while you chow down.
5. The Big Sur Bakery is a local favorite and its over-sized pastries and wood-fired American classics are the perfect ingredients to enjoy on your scenic Californian road trip.
Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Moment/Getty Images.
Texas Through Marathon and Big Bend National Park
Fly into the El Paso airport and follow in Beyoncé’s footsteps with a tour through Texas’s Big Bend Country.
Enjoy a peaceful drive through the expansive and cactus-freckled desert, then spend the night at one of several small bohemian enclaves along the way that have now become chic art destinations.
Distance: About 340 miles
1. Stay at the El Cosmico Hotel in Marfa where you can spend the night amongst traveling hipsters in a 1950s renovated trailer or Sioux-style teepee (wood-fired hot tubs included).
2. The Prada store you may happen upon during your travels through the middle of the desert is actually not a Prada store at all. Rather, it's a 2005 permanent-sculpture installation by Berlin artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingara Dragset. It resides about 26 miles outside of Marfa in Valentine, Texas.
3. The Chinati Foundation is the focal point of Marfa’s contemporary art scene with Donald Judd’s minimalist masterpiece as its main attraction.
4. The extremely popular Food Shark, a 1974 Ford delivery truck-turned food truck, offers up Mediterranean-by-way-of-West-Texas grub. Try their homemade “Marfa-lafel," a falafel wrapped in a tortilla.
5. Big Bend National Park includes stunning desert views and the Rio Grande River. Be sure to make a stop at the Sotol Vista Overlook along the park’s 30-mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.
Olga Melhiser Photography/Moment/Getty Images.
Anchorage to Seward in Alaska
Driving along Alaska’s Seward Highway across the Kenai Peninsula ends in the harbor town of Seward on Resurrection Bay. Hike on top of a glacier in the summer months or take in a view of the northern lights in the winter. The drive can be done in less than three hours, but try to give yourself a whole weekend to enjoy Alaska’s unique landscape.
Distance: 127 miles
1. Before you head off into the mountains, make a stop at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. From art to history to science, the modern building houses something for everyone
2. Also in Anchorage is the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The amazing interactive cultural experience allows visitors to explore the indigenous cultures of Alaska firsthand.
3. Beyond the foothills at Anchorage's edge lies the third largest state park in America: Chugach State Park. Mountainous vistas, roaming moose and glacier-fed rivers are just a few of the awesome sights you will see.
4. When you reach Girdwood, rest at the chateau-style Hotel Alyeska. Take the complimentary ski tram up the mountainside for an amazing view of "hanging" glaciers, snowy mountains and various wildlife.
Alan Majchrowicz/Stockbyte/Getty Images.
New York City to the Hudson River Valley
For a New Yorker looking for a weekend trip, this is the ideal place to go. History meets art world heavy hitters in the newly energized Hudson River Valley. Galleries and antique shops join the 19th century buildings that line the streets.
Distance: 62 miles
1. Just to see the awe-inspiring Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at the Bard College is an experience in itself. If you have time, stop by for a world-class performance or one of their cultural events that are as creative as its the building's architecture.
2. Dia:Beacon Art Foundation is an essential destination on the contemporary art circuit. The nonprofit organization displays renowned artwork and provides a calm environment just an hour from the city.
3. Take a scenic walk on the Walkway over the Hudson. Found inside the historic state park, the linear walkway spans the Hudson River and is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.
4. Visitors come to Homespun Foods to cool their heels. This quaint restaurant only serves local ingredients.
5. After a years-long renovation, the 1854 Rhinecliff hotel is now open and better than ever. All rooms have private balconies with views of the Hudson River.
ErimacGroup/iStock/Getty Images Plus.
Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to North Carolina
Get a taste of the south and it's wild beauty with a journey through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia to the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. Take Skyline Drive through to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway for beautiful views, especially in the fall and summer.
Distance: About 350 miles
1. Start your trip in Charlottesville with a stay at the Keswick Hall. The luxury hotel is the ultimate in relaxation featuring an infinity pool, hot air balloon rides and vineyard-inspired spa treatments.
2. Before you leave Charlottesville brush up on your American history with a stop at Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello.
3. On your way through the Shenandoah Valley, stop and see Virginia's natural bridge, once owned by Thomas Jefferson. The 20-story, 100-foot wide bridge is a National Historic Landmark shaped by Mother Nature over thousands of years.
4. In Ashville, North Carolina, be sure to see the famed Biltmore Estate and how the Vanderbilts vacationed at their massive chateau. The estate includes a 250-room mansion, gardens and a four-star inn.
5. If you’re in North Carolina you have to experience barbecue. Try Luella’s Bar-B-Que restaurant in Asheville and enjoy some down-home, Southern cooking and hospitality. For more information visit luellasbbq.com.
zrfphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus.
Phoenix to Sedona in Arizona
Take the Red Rock Scenic Byway and catch a glimpse of ancient ruins, Native American culture and the epic red rocks on your way to the quaint old-west town of Sedona.
Distance: 128 miles
1. Begin your Arizona adventure in Phoenix and stay at The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician. Cool off beneath the palm trees in one of their nine sparkling pools, and play a round at their championship golf course.
2. While in Phoenix, stop by La Grande Orange Pizzeria and Café. This charming restaurant is all about organic dishes and the sangria is to die for! While there, be sure to take a tour of their "funky retail grocery" for cute gifts and cool kitchen supplies.
3. Once in Sedona, find your inner Zen at Sedona’s Enchantment Resort and follow up a private yoga session with a Sedona clay body wrap at their full-service luxury spa.
4. For an adrenaline-charged experience, check out the Slide Rock State Park in Sedona's Oak Creek Canyons, where you can slide down natural waterslides carved into rock.
5. Take a Pink Jeep Tour into the Sedona Mountains for a thrilling off-road adventure and breathtaking panoramic vistas.
Dusty Pixel photography/Moment/Getty Images.
Big Ben Scenic Byway In Florida
Route 1 heads over a chain of islands linked by 42 bridges and surrounded by gorgeous water views. This drive will take you through two types of ecosystems from Miami: the Everglades and all the way down to the white sandy beaches of the Florida Keys.
Distance: 220 miles
1. Start your trip by unwinding at the fabulous Raleigh Hotel in South Beach. Take a dip in their famous Art Deco pool and enjoy private beach access.
2. In Key West, stay at the Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, established in 1920 as Key West's most glamorous destination founded by American railroad tycoon, Henry Flagler.
3. Fans of Ernest Hemingway can tour his house, which is home to more than 40 six-toed cats (allegedly descendants of the writer’s favorite pet, Snowball—a gift from a sea captain, of course).
4. Try SNUBA-ing (yes this is actually a thing). Beyond snorkeling, it doesn't require certification or bulky scuba tanks. Swim down through the crystalline waters and come eye to eye with butterfly fish and other majestic underwater creatures.
5. A trip to Key West isn't complete without a taste of the local seafood. Stroll into the Nine One Five restaurant and wine bar found in a distinguished Victorian mansion in the heart of old town.
Benedetta Barbanti/EyeEm/Getty Images.
Going-To-The-Sun Road in Montana
This drive is a National Historic Landmark and is consistently on "top road trip" lists. Brave the narrow roads and hairpin curves to experience some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in the US. Expect to see some native wildlife, like moose and Bighorn sheep, too.
Distance: About 50 miles
1. This 50-mile road cuts through Glacier National Park, which local Native Americans call the "Backbone of the World." Take a self-guided hike or even sign up for one of the many tours offered to see things like the Northern Lights or local Grizzly bears (from a safe distance, of course).
2. Stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel at Waterton Lake. Built in 1927, the hotel was meant to resemble a Swiss chalet.
3. If you plan to stay a while, why not rent your own luxury lake house or log cabin? The Lake Blaine Mountain Resort has properties that allow you to have a true Montana experience.
4. Take a ride on the famous Red Bus tour, which features 1930s convertible sedans, and leave the driving to an experienced professional while you are free to enjoy the splendors of the park.
5. A stop at Park Café is a great way to spend an evening after much exploring. Reflect on your trip and gain some energy back from the day's adventures with savory pies and coffee.
laughingmango/iStock/Getty Images Plus.
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii to Pu`ukoholā Heiau, Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii has it all. You will encounter active lava flows, warm beaches and lush forests. Take the Hawaii Belt Road that circles the entire island.
Distance: 480 miles
1. Go where the lava meets the sea, and experience Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island's east coast. If you're looking for more adventure, take a sunset hike with the Volcano House that resides inside the park.
2. Stay at the charming and spacious Ka'awa Loa Plantation and Guesthouse. Enjoy their locally grown products like Kona coffee, fruit, macadamia nuts and more, grown right on the plantation.
3. Float in the thermal tide pools at Ahalanui County Park. Ancient Hawaiian kapuna (elders) say the sulfuric content of the pools aids in purification of the spirit, while modern cosmetologists say it helps with wrinkles—either way, we're in.
4. Bring your camera and a towel down to the black sand beaches at Kahena Beach.
5. Perched high on a mountain slope, the Coffee Shack offers an incomparable view of Kealakekua Bay. The best part is that most of the menu items here are homemade and the coffee beans are grown in the orchard directly below the restaurant.
Ro-ma Stock Photography/Corbis/Getty Images.