Take advantage of the last weeks of summer freedom to embark on an epic road trip across the U.S. Whether you’re looking for a drive along a coast or something that connects you with nature, these five routes highlight the wonder that is this vast country. So pick your favourite trek and head out!
If you’re looking for a tour of America to end your summer, head out on the classic Route 66 trek from Chicago to Santa Monica. Route 66 has served travellers since 1926—and the memorabilia and establishments along the way reflect this history. Look out for throwback-style gas stations along the route in every state. Plan your overnight stays in hotels that reflect the Route 66 charm (the El Rancho in Gallup, NM is a favourite for ghost-hunters!). Catch a drive-in movie at the 66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage, MO, and stop to spray paint the abandoned cars at the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, TX.
Pacific Coast Highway
If your ultimate road trip involves natural beauty, classic two-lane highways, and plenty of ocean views, the Pacific Coast Highway drive between Seattle and San Diego is for you. Plan 4-5 days for the trip so you have time to stop along the way. You’ll want to check out the natural wonders and the cities! At the northern end, visit Olympic National Park (the northwesternmost tip of the continental U.S.) and Seattle’s Pike Place Market for fresh fish and plenty of entertainment. The drive takes you through the Avenue of the Giants in northern California, where you’ll see the ancient redwoods towering above. Southern California has plenty of pristine beaches and kitschy beach towns for exploring on your way down to San Diego.
Ready to tackle the East Coast? Head to Florida’s A1A highway for a two-day drive along the Atlantic that takes you through historic towns, pristine beaches, and over one of the world’s most iconic bridges. The northern end of Amelia Island is excellent for water activities without too many crowds. The drive south takes you through landmarks like the Saint Augustine Lighthouse (a perfect stop for history buffs!) and the Daytona International Speedway. Stop at Cocoa Beach or South Beach for some glamorous fun in the sun. Then, finish the drive on the Seven Mile Bridge out to the Florida Keys. You’ll finish at the southernmost tip of the continental U.S. in Key West.
Photo: Win Nondakowit via 123RF
The “Great River Road”
Instead of heading to one of the coasts, take a drive along the mighty Mississippi and follow the “Great River Road.” This path is a series of smaller state and local roads running as close to the river as possible. It will take you through 10 different states over more than 2,500 miles. There are so many iconic stops along the way that you could easily spend two weeks on this journey. Start up north in Itasca State Park to see the Mississippi headwaters and camp along the banks. Then head south, stopping and riding to the top of The Arch in St. Louis (the Gateway to the West!). Further downriver, stop in Greenville, Mississippi for your best chance to enjoy the waters of the river in peaceful surroundings at the Greenville Cyprus Preserve. End your trip in New Orleans, and enjoy this bustling city’s amazing food and music scene.
Southwest National Parks – Zion to the Grand Canyon
If you’d like to skip the urban areas altogether and explore the country’s rugged national parks, head to Las Vegas and start your week-long drive through three parks down to the Grand Canyon. You can find plenty of motels along the way, but booking campsites keeps you focused on the natural beauty! You’ll visit Zion National Park first and experience breathtaking canyons with a chance to splash in the Virgin River. For a detour somewhere cooler, head to Cedar Breaks National Monument for alpine meadows and nighttime stargazing parties. Pass through Bryce Canyon National Park as you head to the Grand Canyon for your final stop. Spending the extra time to hike down into the canyon is worth it for a truly spectacular experience!
Grab your friends and get behind the wheel for an epic trip you won’t soon forget!