10 Most Popular Road Trip Routes in the US
From "On the Road" to "Thelma and Louise" to "Easy Rider," is there any endeavor more American than the road trip? On these popular drives, getting there is more than half the fun.
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Black Hills of South Dakota
For history, scenery and a distinctly American taste of culture, begin your road trip on I-90 and take exit 131 for the Badlands Scenic Byway. As you travel through the Black Hills, make sure to stop at Wall Drug, Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore. And keep your eyes peeled for bison – they’re notoriously bad at following traffic rules, as seen here on the road to Wind Cave National Park.
You won’t be traveling north – at least not according to Mainers – if you head out on Coastal Route 1, also known as the Lobster Trail. Starting in Kittery –where you might drop by Bob’s Clam Hut for a bit of sustenance -- the road hugs the rocky coastline “down east” through quaint New England fishing villages like Belfast and Rockland.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The 469-mile drive that connects two national parks – Shenandoah in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina – is the most visited road controlled by the U.S. National Parks System. Starting at Front Royal in Virginia, travel along Skyline Drive to Luray Caverns and on south to the Natural Bridge and into North Carolina, where you can stop in Asheville before seeing the attractions of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Pacific Coast Highway
You can opt to drive California’s longest highway north to south or south to north along the often -dramatic Pacific coastline. Either way, it’s 653 miles from Dana Point in Orange County to Leggett in Mendocino County. Key attractions as you wind your way along the coast include Malibu, San Simeon, San Luis Obisbo, Big Sur, Monterey, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Mendocino Headlands. Hardcore road trippers will extend the coastal drive beyond the PCH from San Diego all the way to the Redwood Forest on Route 101 past Mendocino.
Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier, Montana
You could make the drive from Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier National Park inMontana in a single day, but why would you? Take a week and make as many stops as possible in Big Sky Country where you’ll enjoy some of the most stunning and diverse landscape features anywhere in America – from the steep cliffs and racing rivers of the Grand Tetons to the geysers and wildlife of Yellowstone and the dramatic falls and glacial formations of Glacier.
Take this drive while you still can. North Carolina’s Route 12, also known as the Outer Banks Scenic Highway, has suffered a beating during the past decade of extreme weather, with hurricanes washing away swaths of roadway. The route starts at Bodie Lighthouse in the north and passes the narrow spits of land that make up the barrier islands protecting North Carolina’s mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. Sights along the way include the Oregon Inlet, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge and the historic Hatteras Lighthouse, where the highway continues as a boat -the Hatteras Ferry is part of Route 12 and crosses Pamlico Sound to join up with the road again on Ocracoke Island.
The 59-mile highway around the eastern side of Maui between Kahului crosses black sand beaches, waterfalls and 59 bridges. Some stops you may want to make include 'Ohe'o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), the Pipiwai Trail, and Waimoku Falls at Haleakala National Park, Hana Lava Tube, and the Ho'okipa lookout where you can view Maui’s famed surfers taking the waves.
Set out from Seattle for a 300-plus-mile road trip west across the Olympic Peninsula. You’ll enjoy gorgeous scenery and many stopping points for hikes. Within the Olympic National Park itself, you can drive through the lush Hoh Rainforest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S.
At over 2,500 miles, Route 66 is the quintessential cross-country road trip. Though travel on the Mother Road peaked in the 1940s and 1950s before the Interstate Highway system was established, you can still follow the tire treads of so many who came before. While there are countless sights as you journey between Chicago and Los Angeles, ending on the Santa Monica Pier, Route 66 may be most famous for its quirky roadside attractions like the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Oklahoma, and this giant sculpture of Abe Lincoln on a wagon in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.
This 150-mile drive from Miami through the Florida Keys on an the iconic Route 1 is famous from countless car commercials and movie chases. The Overseas Highway, as it’s often called, crosses 42 bridges, including the Seven-Mile bridge over Pigeon Key, shown here. Though you could complete the entire ride in under four hours, the fun of this trip is taking in the life of the Keys themselves – from the Pennekamp Coral Reef Park to Key Largo’s Dolphin Research Center to the many delicious foods the area has made famous, like fried conch and Key lime pie.