The 10 Best Road Trips in America

Caroline McCloskey
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The 10 Best Road Trips in America
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Photo: RyanMcGuire/Pixabay

There’s nothing better than the open road—and the best road trips almost always happen when there’s a warm breeze ruffling your hair.

MORE: Your Guide to the Travel Essentials You Need for 2017

Spring is in the air and summer’s right around the corner, making it the perfect time to start planning that road trip you’ve always dreamed of. Envision yourself—top down, smile on your face, taking in the California coast line or 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.

MORE: The Best Huge Bags That Are Cute Enough to Travel With

Have a favorite American road trip? Share your pick in the comments below!

Originally published September 2014. Updated March 2017.

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Scroll through for our suggestions for the best road trips in the United States and our suggested itineraries for each.

Photo: RyanMcGuire/Pixabay
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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

Suggested Itinerary:

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. For more information visit hearstcastle.org.

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. For more information visit postranchinn.com.

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. For more information visit bigsurbakery.com.

Photo: 466654/Pixabay
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Elmgreen_&_Dragset_-_Prada_Marfa_-_Head_on.jpg

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

Suggested Itinerary: 

1. Stay at the El Cosmico Hotel in Marfa where you can spend the night amongst travelling hipsters in a 1950s renovated trailer or Sioux-style teepee (wood-fired hot tubs included). For more information visit elcosmico.com.

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, it is rather a 2005 permanent sculpture installation by the 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. For more information visit chinati.org.

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. For more information visit foodsharkmarfa.com.

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.

Photo: popmortem/Pixabay
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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

Suggested Itinerary: 

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. For more information visit anchoragemuseum.org.

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. For more information visit alaskanative.net.

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. Along the way, stop at the Turnagain House in Kenai Mountain to admire the view and sample fresh Bay oysters. For more information visit turnagainhouse.com.

5. When you reach Girdwood rest at the chateau-style Hotel Alyeska. Take their complimentary ski tram up the mountainside for an amazing view of “hanging” glaciers, snowy mountains and various wildlife. For more information visit alyeskaresort.com.

Photo: skeeze/Pixabay
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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

Suggested Itinerary:

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 it’s the building’s architecture. For more information visit fishercenter.bard.edu.

2. Dia:Beacon Art Foundation is an essential destination on the contemporary art circuit. The nonprofit organization provides renowned artwork and some calm just an hour from the city. For more information visit diaart.org.

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. For more information visit homespunfoods.com.

5. After a five year renovation the 1854 Rhinecliff hotel is now open and better than ever. All rooms have private balconies with views of the Hudson River. For more information visit therhinecliff.com.

Photo: solocoot/Pixabay
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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

Suggested Itinerary: 

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. For more information visit keswick.com.

2. Before you leave Charlottesville brush up on your American history with a stop at Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello. Then stop by one of the many vineyards nearby, like Donald Trump’s new winery just down the road. For more information visit monticello.org.

3. On your way through the Shenandoah Valley stop and see Virginia’s natural bridge, once owned by Thomas Jefferson. The twenty story tall and one hundred 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 see how the Vanderbilts vacationed at their massive chateau. The estate includes a 250-room mansion, gardens, and a four-star inn. For more information visit biltmore.com.

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.

Photo: kalacreative/Pixabay
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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

Suggestion Itinerary:

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. For more information visit thephoenician.com.

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 you are there be sure to take a tour of their “funky retail grocery” for cute gifts and cool kitchen supplies. For more information visit lagrandeorangegrocery.com.

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. For more information visit enchantmentresort.com.

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. For more information visit pinkjeeptours.com.

Photo: skeeze/Pixabay
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Nikolas-Koenig-Miami-Florida-2004.jpg

Big Ben Scenic Byway In Florida 

Route 1 heads over a chain of islands linked by forty-two 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

Suggested Itinerary:

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. For more information visit raleighhotel.com.

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. For more information visit casamarinaresort.com.

3. Fans of Ernest Hemingway can now tour his house, which is now home to more than forty six-toed cats (allegedly descendants of the writer’s favorite pet, Snowball—a gift from a sea captain, of course). For more information visit hemingwayhome.com.

4. Try SNUBA-ing (yes this is actually a thing), beyond snorkeling, but 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. For more information visit 915duval.com.

Photo: Mariamichelle/Pixabay
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Going-To-The-Sun Road in Montana

This drive is a National Historic Landmark and is consistently on the top road trip lists. Brave the narrow roads, and hairpin curves to experience some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in the U.S. Expect to see some native wildlife like moose and Bighorn sheep.

Distance: About 50 Miles

Suggested Itinerary: 

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 Lakes. Built in 1927, the hotel was meant to resemble a Swiss chalet. For more information visit glacierparkinc.com.

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. For more information visit http://lakeblainemtnresort.com.

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. For more information visit visitmt.com.

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. For more information visit parkcafe.us.

Photo: jplumb/Pixabay
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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii to Puukohola 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

Suggested Itinerary:

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. For more information visit kaawaloaplantation.com.

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. For more information visit coffeeshack.com.

Photo: skeeze/Pixabay

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