USA road trips are often seen in classic movies, novels, and timeless songs. So much so that the activity has become a uniquely American rite of passage, as well as a bucket list thing-to-do. From Route 66 to the Great River Road, dramatic coasts and even potential UFO encounters, here are the greatest USA road trips to take!
1. Route 66
Otherwise known as the ‘Mother Road’, no list of USA road trips would be complete without Route 66. It connects Chicago to Santa Monica, cutting through eight states and approximately 2,400 miles (3,862km), but as of 1985 it is no longer a highway. Now, curious road trippers can still drive through what’s left – over 1,400 miles (2,253km) from Illinois to California. If you want a taste of a bygone era, there are specially indicated maps to help drivers navigate the route.
2. Pacific Coast Highway
The PCH is one of the most scenic USA road trips a person could take. Running along most of the coastline of California for hundreds of miles, the drive brings unparalleled views. The most famous stretch is between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Although it’s filled with steep and treacherous turns, you’ll be rewarded with natural and man-made wonders such as Carmel Beach, Big Sur, Bixby Creek Bridge, Cambria, Morro Bay and more. Just a heads up: some stretches can go for 40 miles (64km) without a single gas station or bathroom.
3. Going-to-the-Sun Road
Built in 1932, Going-to-the-Sun Road is a scenic mountain road in the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park. It passes through almost every type of terrain in the park – large glacial lakes, cedar forests, alpine tundras and snow-covered peaks. Best to do in late-spring or summertime, and avoid during the winter months. Snow can accumulate up to depths of 80 feet (24 metres)!
4. Great River Road
Trace the Mississippi River by car and travel through ten states from Minnesota to Louisiana and hundreds of river towns. One of the most historical and cultural USA road trips, there is a diverse range of things to see and do along the way. If you’re not great with directions, the route is well-marked – just look out for the green pilot’s wheel logo. Fall is the perfect time to do the drive, and September is Drive the Great River Road Month!
5. Hana Highway
Hawaii is known for its sun, sand and sea, but here you can also take one of the most beautiful drives in the country. This road trip in paradise connects Kahului to Hana over 60 miles of steep sea cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for mango trees, the site of the opening sequence to Jurassic Park, and monk seals basking in the sun. When you’ve completed the drive, make sure to pick up a t-shirt that says, ‘I survived the road to Hana’!
6. Anchorage to Valdez
See the best of Alaska’s glaciers and mountains on this 300-mile drive (482km). There are so many peaks along the route which connects Glenn and Richardson highways, many of them don’t even have names yet. Every turn opens up to a new wonder, be it a rushing river, sparkling glacier or lush valleys. Make sure to stop by Worthington Glacier Recreation Center before arriving in Valdez. It is one of the few places in Alaska where you can walk on the glacier and touch the blue ice without joining a tour!
7. Route 50
For the ultimate road trip, Route 50 will take you from the west coast to the east coast. You’ll pass through 12 states, hundreds of old towns, deserted ones, and also what is known as The Loneliest Road in America. As this road trip goes through mainly rural areas, it would make a pretty dry trip for those looking for a ton of things to do. Best done with a group of friends so y’all can keep each other company and entertained along the way!
8. Extraterrestrial Highway
Stretching from Tonopah to Alamo in the heart of Nevada, many travellers have reported UFO sightings and strange unexplained activity along this road. Chock full of alien history, the highly secretive base of Area 51 is also in the area. Keep your eyes peeled for the Extraterrestrial Highway sign, which you’ll find covered in stickers left by travellers before you. Make sure to leave your mark! Even the Nevada tourism office suggests this.