Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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A road trip is the most flexible way to travel, with the convenience of stopping whenever and wherever you like. Pack your tent, a cooler, and your camera and set off on the wide-open road.
The U.S. has some of the best road trips in the world, with diverse landscapes and cities, as well as well-maintained routes and roadside services. Head across historic Route 66, weave your way down the California coastline on the Pacific Coast Highway, or island-hop the Florida Keys following the Overseas Highway.
These are 10 of the best road trips in the U.S., including suggested stops and route highlights.
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic routes in the U.S., running along most of the California coastline, as well as in Oregon and Washington. We’ve focused on the San Francisco to San Diego portion, but if you’re looking for a longer and more varied route, you could always start your journey in Seattle.
Driving north to south means you’re positioned on the nearest side to the coastline and can enjoy the unobstructed, epic views along the way. Marvel at the rugged cliffs, stop off in quaint surfing villages, and spot wildlife such as seals, whales, and sea otters.
Our recommended route should take around 10 hours without stops, but with so much to see along the way, we recommend taking your time and spending at least 6 days to make the journey.
Starting Point: San Francisco
Finishing Point: San Diego
Distance: 600 miles
The starting part of your road trip — San Francisco — is a fabulous city with so much to see and do. Highlights include a cycle ride across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, a ride on a historic cable car, and a boat trip to the former prison of Alcatraz.
Take a stroll around the world-famous Fisherman’s Wharf and head to Pier 39 to watch sea lions basking in the sunshine.
Where to Stay: San Remo Hotel is a 2-star European-style hotel with cozy rooms filled with antiques. With an excellent location, the hotel is within walking distance to Fisherman’s Wharf and 4 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. From $119 per night.
Around 2 hours’ drive from San Francisco, Monterey is just a short drive to Point Lobos State Reserve, known for its scenic viewpoints and hikes. Jump back in the car (or on your bike) and make your way along 17 Mile Drive that weaves through Del Monte Forest and around the Monterey Peninsula. Head to Old Fisherman’s Wharf for fabulous harbor views and the freshest clam chowder.
Where to Stay: Spindrift Inn is a highly-reviewed 3-star hotel located on the beach. Rooms all feature a seating area with a view, and breakfast is included in the rate. From $187 per night.
On the 3-hour drive from Monterey to Morro Bay, you’ll drive through Big Sur — a picturesque stretch that runs from Carmel-by-the-Sea to San Simeon. Stop for photos at Bixby Creek Bridge and head inland from San Simeon to admire the exquisite Hearst Castle.
Stay in the quaint fishing town of Morro Bay and try to spot peregrine falcons that nest in Morro Rock — a 576-foot ancient volcanic plug.
Where to Stay: The Landing at Morro Bay is a 2-star hotel right on the doorstep of local beaches, shops, and restaurants. From $151 per night.
Break up the 3-hour drive from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara with a stop at Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve to admire the miles of dunes and coastal views.
Nicknamed “The American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is a charming coastal city framed by the spectacular Santa Ynez Mountains. There’s a great food and wine-tasting scene, being so close to the wine regions of Santa Ynez and Santa Maria.
Relax on the beautiful Butterfly Beach or take the kids to the 8,000 square foot playground at Alameda Park.
Where to Stay: West Beach Inn, a Coast Hotel is a 3-star hotel located across from Santa Barbara Beach. Guests may use the heated outdoor pool or hot tub, and breakfast is included in the rate. From $152 per night.
With a 3.5 hour drive from Santa Barbara to San Diego, leave early so you can stop-off in Santa Monica or Laguna Beach when driving through the Los Angeles area. Watch the sunset at La Jolla Cove (one of the best beaches in California) before arriving in San Diego.
Hop on a harbor cruise for a narrated tour of some 50 San Diego landmarks, go whale-watching, or take a picnic to Balboa Park. There’s so much to do in San Diego!
Where to Stay: Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego Downtown/Bayside is a stylish 4-star hotel located on the edge of Little Italy. The hotel has a swimming pool and fitness center, and rooms include a free hot breakfast. From $232 or 49,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the world, with a deep history as long as the road itself. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, thousands of American’s migrated west via “The Mother Road” in search of work, and soldiers would often hitchhike the route during World War II to return home.
Spanning 2,400 miles and 8 different states, the landscape and attractions along Route 66 are incredibly varied, from the Painted Desert of Arizona to the unusual Cadillac Ranch art installation of Texas. En route, you’ll come across quirky diners, museums, classic motels, and neon signs, as well as wide-open roads and epic scenery.
2 weeks is a reasonable time to complete Route 66 with adequate stopping time, but if you want to take your time and enjoy each state, it’s wise to allow 3 weeks.
Starting Point: Chicago, Illinois
Finishing Point: Santa Monica, California
Distance: 2,400 miles
Before setting off, be sure to explore the bustling city of Chicago with its impressive architecture, lakeside parks, and museums. Stroll down The Magnificent Mile with its high-end boutiques, hotels, and restaurants or ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
Sample a slice of Chicago-style pizza or visit one of the 70 local craft beer breweries. As a typical cosmopolitan city, there’s no end to the culinary delights that can be enjoyed in Chicago, and the music scene is pretty great too.
Where to Stay: Best Western Grant Park Hotel is located off South Michigan Avenue, across from Grant Park and within reach of many popular attractions. This 4-star hotel has comfortable rooms, a fitness center, and a restaurant. From $163 per night.
St. Louis is a 4.5-hour drive from Chicago, where visitors can ride a replica paddleboat along the Mississippi River or take a tram to the top of the Gateway Arch — a symbol of the westward expansion of the U.S.
Where to Stay: Lehmann House Bed & Breakfast is a 3-star Victorian mansion that offers comfortable bed and breakfast. Located in Lafayette Square, the B&B is 1.7 miles from the Gateway Arch. From $151 per night.
On the way to Springfield, break up the 3.5-hour journey with a stop at the world’s second-largest rocking chair in Fanning. Missouri is known as the Cave State, and visitors can ride a tram through Fantastic Caverns near Springfield that were formed thousands of years ago.
Where to Stay: Rader Manor is a 130-year old mansion that features elegant suites close to the historic Park Central Square. From $135 per night.
En route to Oklahoma City, experience a drive-in movie at 66 Drive-In Theatre located in Carthage, or see the World’s Largest Concrete Totem Pole in Foyil.
Oklahoma City is the modern frontier, steeped in Native American and western culture. Stay on a guest ranch and go horseback riding or cheer on riders at an Oklahoma rodeo.
Where to Stay: Hyatt Place Oklahoma City Bricktown is a 3-star hotel located downtown, close to many of the city attractions. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and garden. From $122 or 6,500-9,500 World of Hyatt points per night.
Hot Tip: If you’ve got time to spare, stop at the Civil War battlefield of Fort Blair in Kansas on your way to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City to Amarillo is approximately a 4-hour drive. On the way, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton provides an excellent stopping point to learn about the history of the route.
Amarillo is home to the Cadillac Ranch — an unusual art installation that’s worth a visit — featuring half-submerged Cadillac cars.
Where to Stay: Comfort Inn & Suites Amarillo is a 3-star hotel located minutes from downtown Amarillo and just off of Route 66. Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center, and breakfast is included in the rate. From $102 or 12,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
Stop for a photo at the Route 66 midpoint, located around 45 minutes from Amarillo. Another 3.5 hours of driving and you’ll reach the distinctive city of Santa Fe, nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Although Santa Fe is an hour off Route 66, it’s well worth the detour.
As the second oldest city in the U.S., Santa Fe has many historical landmarks such as the San Miguel Chapel and Pecos National Historical Park.
Where to Stay: Casa Culinaria – The Gourmet Inn is a well-reviewed 3-star guest house located 1 mile from the Plaza. The guest house oozes charm with a veranda and cute garden. From $115 per night.
4.5 hours from Santa Fe is Holbrook, and en route, you can discover the Petrified Forest National Park where giant fossilized logs litter the landscape along with the colorful badlands of the Painted Desert. Stop for a photo, or even better, stay the night at the famous Wigwam Motel, with huge concrete wigwams, located just off Route 66.
Continue on your journey and stop an hour from Holbrook to see the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark
that is an enormous mile wide and over 500 feet deep.
Where to Stay: Days Inn by Wyndham Holbrook is a 2-star hotel with comfortable rooms, an indoor swimming pool, and a hot tub. From $74 per night or 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points.
The Grand Canyon is an hour’s detour off Route 66 and is worth veering off-course to admire this natural world wonder.
Where to Stay: Grand Canyon Inn and Motel – South Rim Entrance is a 3-star hotel just a 20-minute drive from the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. From $84 per night.
If you’re looking for a little glitz and glamour towards the end of your journey, then take another detour off Route 66 towards Las Vegas. En route, you can stop at the engineering marvel that is Hoover Dam and the impressive views of the Colorado River.
Walk along the Las Vegas Strip, taking in the sights and sounds of the free attractions outside some of the major hotels or see a show.
Where to Stay: Alexis Park All Suite Resort is a 3-star hotel with 3 outdoor swimming pools, hot tub, and fitness center. The hotel is a 20-minute walk to the famous Las Vegas Strip and has an on-site restaurant. From $133 per night.
Hot Tip: You can save quite a bit on your nightly rate in Las Vegas by choosing a hotel off the Strip.
The last leg from Las Vegas to Santa Monica is around a 5-hour drive, and an optional stop is at the Calico Ghost Town — a former mining town in San Bernardino County.
There’s no better place to end your road trip than Santa Monica, with its fabulous beaches and buzzing atmosphere. Stroll along the Santa Monica Pier or head to nearby Hollywood to find your favorite stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Where to Stay: Gateway Hotel Santa Monica is a 3-star hotel located 2 miles from Santa Monica Beach. Rooms are comfortably furnished, and there’s an on-site restaurant and fitness center. From $195 per night.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic route that weaves through the Blue Ridge Mountains from the southern tip of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The entire route took over 50 years to complete and now spans just under 470 miles of winding roads, viaducts, and breathtaking vistas.
With no commercial vehicles permitted, and a speed limit of 45 mph, The Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect road for cruising along and taking breaks at your leisure. You could drive the route comfortably in around 2-3 days without frequent stops, but 4-5 is recommended to allow more time to take advantage of the many hiking opportunities.
Starting Point: Rockfish Gap, Virginia
Finishing Point: Cherokee, North Carolina
Distance: 470 miles
Rockfish Gap to Roanoke is about a 3-hour drive in total, and 15 minutes into the journey is Humpback Rocks — a prominent rocky outcrop with sweeping views and a few different hikes.
About 1.5 hours later, park at the James River Visitor Center and walk the 1.1 mile Otter Lake Loop Trail with views of the Otter Lake Waterfalls. Stop for a picnic at Peaks of Otter and drive on an hour to Roanoke.
Where to Stay: Shirley’s Bed And Breakfast is not too far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 minutes from downtown Roanoke. This 3-star B&B is a stunning log building with a swimming pool and lovely grounds. From $180 per night.
From Roanoke to Fancy Gap, the route is at a lower elevation, especially for the first 25 miles, and you’ll drive past farmlands and houses. You’ll also see pioneer cabins, including 1 at Smart View Recreation Center that offers walking trails through woodlands and views of the Virginia Piedmont.
Take time to admire the 120-degree views at the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook and stop at the picturesque Mabry Mill — the most photographed location along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Where to Stay: Blue Ridge Manor Bed and Breakfast is a hilltop property located 10 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rooms are well-furnished with complimentary toiletries. From $154 per night.
Hot Tip: The Blue Ridge Music Center is not too far from Fancy Gap and holds live music performances from May through October.
Crossing into North Carolina, it’s around a 2-hour drive to Blowing Rock with the views becoming more wild and mountainous. En route, the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is an excellent place to spend a couple of hours exploring the magnificent flat-top country manor and its extensive grounds.
Known as the “Crown of the Blue Ridge,” Blowing Rock has some great shops and restaurants, as well as the charming Tweetsie Railroad.
Where to Stay: Ridgeway Inn – Blowing Rock is a 3-star property with a quaint and homely feel that was the first inn to open in Blowing Rock. From $101 per night.
2.5 hours from Blowing Rock is Biltmore Village, accessible by crossing the Linn Cove Viaduct that snakes around Grandfather Mountain. Time permitting, turn off to see the Mile-High Swinging Bridge and visit the Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum.
Linville Falls is a magnificent 3-tiered waterfall that is just off the route and can be viewed via the 1.6 mile Falls Trail, or you can detour to Mount Mitchell State Park — the highest peak east of the Mississippi.
Where to Stay: Brookstone Lodge near Biltmore Village, Ascend Hotel Collection is a 3-star hotel located just a couple of miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. From $124 or 10,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
Hot Tip: If you need more space for your road trip gear, check out these great cargo carriers.
The last leg of the journey is a 2.5-hour drive to Cherokee, and you’re spoilt for choice with overlooks to stop and stretch your legs. Admire the sometimes misty mountain views from the Devil’s Courthouse overlook or walk the short trail to Soco Falls.
The Blue Ridge Parkway comes to an end at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and nearby Cherokee — home to the eastern band of Cherokee Indians. Learn about the heritage, history, and culture with a visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indians.
Where to stay: Chestnut Tree Inn is 1 mile from the Museum of the Cherokee Indians and offers comfortable 2-star accommodation. The hotel has a swimming pool and includes breakfast. From $66 per night.
Miami to Key West is just over 150 miles and the majority of the journey is via the Overseas Highway — a long road consisting of 42 bridges connecting the Florida Keys. This road trip is one-of-a-kind, gliding over the turquoise ocean on Seven Mile Bridge and hopping 44 islands to reach your destination.
With good traffic, the journey should take around 4 hours, so you could drive this in a day; however, it’s not a proper road trip without a few stops along the way. Gorgeous beaches and state parks teeming with mangroves make perfect pit-stops for stretching your legs, and marina restaurants serve delicious lunches with the freshest seafood.
Starting Point: Miami, Florida
Finishing Point: Key West, Florida
Distance: 150 miles
Stroll around the historic art deco district of South Beach with its pastel-painted beachfront properties or visit the iconic Miami Beach for a game of volleyball. Miami is a great starting or finishing point for your road trip with a vibrant nightlife and excellent shopping.
Where to Stay: Circa 39 Hotel Miami Beach is just a 5-minute walk to Miami Beach and 2.7 miles from Ocean Drive. This 4-star hotel has a sundeck, outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, and bar serving craft cocktails. From $172 per night.
Hot Tip: Glide through the Florida Everglades in search of alligators with an airboat tour. Located just 20 minutes from Miami, it’s an amazing way of seeing Florida’s native wildlife up close.
The drive from Miami to Key Largo takes approximately 2 hours, and on the route, you can stop at the enchanting Coral Castle — a sculpture garden hand-crafted from coral during the early to mid-1900s.
Key Largo is the first and the largest of the Florida Keys and is home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This huge underwater park is teeming with marine life that can be explored from above in a glass-bottom boat, or from below the surface scuba diving or snorkeling.
Where to Stay: Atlantic Bay Resort is a 3-star hotel with a private beach and a swimming pool. Some suites include kitchens, and all have a terrace or a balcony. From $218 per night.
Islamorada consists of 6 islands and is a short drive from Key Largo. Stop for a picnic at the Village of Islands Founders Park or feed hungry tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. Anne’s Beach is a lovely tranquil place to stop for a paddle with clear shallow waters and sandy shores.
Where to Stay: Fisher Inn Resort & Marina is a 3-star waterside hotel with light and airy rooms. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and direct beach access. From $216 per night.
Marathon lies at the start of the Seven Mile Bridge and is made up of 13 islands. Visit the Crane Point Museum & Nature Center or the Turtle Hospital, where sick or injured turtles are rehabilitated for release.
Where to Stay: Seascape Resort & Marina is a 3-star waterfront motel with a private marina and outdoor swimming pool. Guests may use kayaks and stand up paddleboards free of charge. From $191 per night.
Key West is the southernmost point of Florida (and the U.S.) and is known for its pastel conch houses and brilliant beaches. Take an Old Town Trolley Tour and stop at the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum or see where Ernest Hemingway once lived.
Enjoy a slice of the best key lime pie you’ve ever tasted or join the renowned sunset celebrations in Mallory Square.
Where to Stay: Old Town Manor is an elegant bed and breakfast located in the Old Town district. Rooms are beautifully furnished, and guests may relax with a drink in the courtyard. From $163 per night.
The Olympic Peninsula Loop follows U.S. 101 around the diverse landscape of the Olympic National Park. Starting and finishing in Olympia, you’ll encounter lush rain forests, rugged coastlines, magnificent waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains. The scenery is extraordinary.
To savor the experience, you’ll want to allow 3-4 days as some incredible sights require some deviation off the highway. There are countless campsites in the Olympia National Park, so bring your tent to really embrace the great outdoors, or we’ve included some suggestions for accommodation along the way.
Starting Point: Olympia, Washington
Finishing Point: Olympia, Washington
Distance: 330 miles
A 2-hour (clockwise) drive from Olympia, you’ll come across Lake Quinault, where visitors can swim and kayak during the warmer months or embark on one of the many walking trails. The community of Quinault is home to the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree, among a few other record-breaking species.
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the largest temperate rain forests in the U.S., and this natural wonderland is due to the 168 inches of annual rainfall the forest receives. Stop at the visitor’s center to find out more about the area before setting off on one of the forest walks in search of elk.
Arrive in the small town of Forks and drive out to the coastline community of La Push where wild beaches await.
Where to Stay: Forks Motel is a 20-minute drive from La Push and 45 minutes from the Hoh Rain Forest visitor’s center. This 2-star motel has an outdoor swimming pool (seasonal) and comfortable rooms. From $95 per night.
An hour from Forks and en route to Port Angeles is Sol Duc Falls, a thundering waterfall that can be admired from an easy 1.6-mile round-trip trail. Alternatively, start a 6-mile hike at Sol Duc Hot Springs and purchase a pass to rest your weary feet in the warm waters.
If you would prefer a free alternative, head to the naturally formed Olympic Hot Springs, that can be reached after a 2.5-mile hike.
17 miles south of Port Angeles is Hurricane Ridge — the most accessible mountain area inside the national park. From the visitor’s center and along the ridge, the views of the surrounding mountain peaks are breathtaking.
Where to Stay: Super 8 by Wyndham Port Angeles at Olympic National Park is a 2-star motel located on the edge of the national park in Port Angeles. Rooms are comfortable and include a free continental breakfast. From $109 or 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night.
Highway 101 hugs the Hood Canal for over 25 miles providing many opportunities to admire the waterside views. Stop near Lake Cushman, where you can pick up multiple walking trails into the surrounding mountains, including Mount Elinor and Mount Rose. It’s free for visitors to walk the lower trailhead, but forest passes are required for those that plan to tackle the upper trailhead.
Where to Stay: The Waterfront at Potlatch is a motel right on the water’s edge in Shelton. Rooms feature waterside views, and some include a kitchen. Lake Cushman is a 12-mile drive from the property. From $98 per night.
The Road to Hana runs along the northeast coastline of Maui from Kahului to Hana. It’s easy to see why the route is one of the most popular attractions on the island, twisting through lush rain forests, past dramatic waterfalls, and offering breathtaking coastal views.
Without stopping, the drive would take 2-3 hours, but you’ll want to check out various viewpoints to watch surfers tackle the impressive waves and stop and marvel at the white, black, and red beaches that the island is famous for. Leave early, drive carefully, and stop frequently to make the most of this fantastic route.
Starting Point: Kahului, Hawaii
Finishing Point: Hana, Hawaii
Distance: 50 miles
Home to Maui’s airport, Kahului is a great place to explore before embarking on the 50-mile drive to Hana. Admire the lush tropical flora of Iao Valley State Park — home to the majestic 1,200-foot Iao Needle — or for a more strenuous hike deeper into the West Maui Forest Reserve, head to the Waihee Ridge Trail.
Baldwin Beach Park is a long, white sandy beach just a short drive from Kahului. Patrolled by lifeguards and providing restrooms, showers, and BBQ faculties, this beach is a firm favorite with families.
Where to Stay: Maui Seaside Hotel is a 2-star hotel located 100 yards from Ho’aloha Park Beach. The hotel has an outdoor pool and an on-site restaurant, and rooms are equipped with a mini-fridge. From $193 per night.
Take a small detour off Hana Highway out to the scenic overlook of Pe’ahi Point — Maui’s biggest surf break. The road leading to the lookout point is a 1.5-mile dirt track, so you may have issues in wet weather if you’re not driving a 4×4.
Caveman Falls is one of 2 waterfalls at Wailele Farm, also known as Twin Falls. The first waterfall is just a 5-minute walk, but it’s worth the extra 25-minute trek to reach the picturesque Caveman Falls. Clear water cascades over a rocky overhang into an emerald lagoon — this waterfall is a photographer’s dream.
Around a 15-minute drive from Twin Falls are the enchanting rainbow trees. This “painted forest” consists of naturally-formed colorful bark that appears as if someone has used a paintbrush to create the effect. These Eucalyptus Deglupta trees shed their bark at different points of the year, with the colors weathering to varying shades of blue, purple, red, and orange.
There are countless waterfalls along this stretch of the island, and you won’t have time to stop at them all. A couple to tick-off your list should be Waikamoi Waterfall and Upper Waikani Falls.
As you approach Hana, stop at the Gold Cacao Plantation and take a tour to learn how this family-run business turns cacao from branch to bar. Spend some time at Waiʻānapanapa State Park and appreciate the beautiful black basalt lava coastline. Black Sand Beach is a stark contrast to the lush green surroundings, and there are lava tubes, blowholes, and walking trails to explore.
Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach is a stunning protected cove that doesn’t attract hoards of visitors due to the precarious route required to reach the beach. If you’re sure-footed and sensible, you’ll be rewarded with relaxation on crimson sands provided by the red lava cliffs that surround the cove.
Where to Stay: Heavenly Hana Paradise is a quaint guest house with comfortable rooms and pretty gardens. Some rooms feature kitchens, and guests are provided with complimentary toiletries and beach towels. From $248 per night.
The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River 3,000 miles from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf Coast in Louisiana. This scenic route runs through 10 states on various roads and highways, passing hundreds of small river towns and bustling cities.
The Great River Road is designated a National Scenic Byway, recognizing the historical, cultural, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities that the route encompasses. Following the Mississippi River, you’ll discover towering bluffs with far-reaching views, museums and historical sites depicting the struggles of Native Americans, and varied wildlife from black bears to bald eagles.
You’ll want to allow around 2-3 weeks to drive the full length of the Great River Road, allowing adequate breaks to explore the many attractions along the way. The drive will take you through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Starting Point: Lake Itasca, Minnesota
Finishing Point: New Orleans, Louisiana
Distance: 3,000 miles
After weaving through the headwaters of north-central Minnesota, take time to explore Minnesota’s capital, St. Paul. Huge parklands frame the Mississippi River as it meanders through St. Paul, and historic Fort Snelling is an interesting landmark to visit. Built in 1820, this military outpost was used to control the commercial use of the river and to enforce peace in the western frontier, before also later being used during the Civil War.
Where to Stay: InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront is a 4-star hotel located on the Mississippi River. Guests may use the on-site restaurant, full-service bar, and fitness center. From $135 or 35,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.
Take a trip along the Mississippi River on an authentic paddlewheel boat or cycle along an old railroad line that is now the Great River State Trail. Admire the incredible views from Wyalusing State Park and discover Native American burial and effigy mounds that still stand today.
Where to Stay: Courtyard La Crosse Downtown is a 3-star hotel located on the riverfront in La Crosse. The hotel has an on-site restaurant, and Starbucks, and rates include breakfast. From $148 or 20,000 Marriott points per night.
Eagle Point Park provides panoramic views of the widest point of the river and a visit to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium will tell you everything you need to know about the Mississippi River, past and present.
Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Clinton is located 5 miles from the historic city of Clinton. Rooms are comfortably furnished and include breakfast, and guests may use the indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center. From $133 or 20,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Pass through charming riverside towns such as Nauvoo and Quincy before stopping at Elsah to witness the convergence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. Cycle or walk over the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge, known for its sharp 30-degree bend midway along the bridge.
Where to Stay: Quality Inn & Suites is a 3-star hotel located in Quincy and offers comfortable rooms with breakfast included. Guests may use the swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center. From $97 or 8,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
Cross over into downtown St. Louis and take a tram to the top of the Gateway Arch — a 630-foot monument located on the riverfront. As the highest accessible building in Missouri, the views are spectacular, stretching as far as 30 miles east and west on a clear day.
Where to Stay: Hyatt Regency Saint Louis at The Arch is a 4-star hotel with a restaurant offering views of the Gateway Arch. Rooms are stylish, and the hotel also has a fitness center and 2 bars. From $103 or 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
A 90-foot memorial cross stands prominently on Fort Jefferson Hill, once a military fort at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Incredible views of the river are visible from the bluff, and there’s a welcome center on-site. Wickliffe Mounds is a Native American archaeological site with a museum, walking trail, and picnic areas.
Stop at Fort Pillow State Historic Park, set on a steep bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. This 1,600-acre state park was originally a strategic location for the confederate army and now displays Civil War artifacts.
Hop aboard a riverboat cruise or trolley tour to learn about the history of Memphis, or visit the Cotton Museum to discover how the city was once at the heart of the global cotton trade. Explore the hidden tunnels of the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum that was once used as a secret stopping point for slaves escaping north along the Mississippi River.
Where to Stay: Comfort Inn Memphis Downtown is a 3-star hotel located on the city’s trolley line, overlooking the Mississippi River. The hotel has an outdoor rooftop pool, fitness center, and rates include breakfast. From $157 or 20,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
The scenic byway runs through St. Francis National Forest, where you can camp or kayak at Storm Creek Lake. At the edge of Crowley’s Ridge lies Helena — a historic port city with a vibrant blues community that was once a stopping point for musicians taking music from the deep south to Memphis and Chicago.
Where to Stay: Edwardian Inn is a 3-star bed and breakfast located in Helena that has hosted former U.S. presidents and governors. Rooms are individually designed and include complimentary toiletries and breakfast. From $119 per night.
Visit the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale — a center point for blues music since the 1920s — or take a stroll around the Emerald Mound that is the second-largest ceremonial mound in the U.S.
Vicksburg was the site of one of the most important Civil War battles, which is commemorated at the Vicksburg National Military Park.
Where to Stay: Baer House Inn is a 4-star bed and breakfast located in central Vicksburg. This 1870s mansion is filled with antiques and has a grand piano and a parlor with a pool table. From $149 per night.
The Great River Road meanders through Plantation Country, and you can take a tour around one of the stately mansions, such as the Laura Plantation, to learn about the creole culture and slavery.
Take a streetcar ride through the garden district of New Orleans or sip a cocktail in one of the city’s many jazz bars.
Where to Stay: Lafayette Hotel is a 3-star hotel in New Orleans that overlooks Lafayette Square. The hotel is on the St. Charles Streetcar line and is just a short walk to the French Quarter. From $105 per night.
Starting Point: Anchorage, Alaska
Finishing Point: Valdez, Alaska
Distance: 300 miles
Located 30 minutes from Anchorage, wander through a birch forest along the Eklutna River canyon to the 200-foot Thunderbird Falls. Then head to nearby Eklutna Village — an Athabaskan Indian settlement with a graveyard full of brightly-colored spirit houses.
Where to Stay: Aptel Studio Hotel is a 2-star hotel that offers comfortable rooms with well-equipped kitchenettes. From $72 per night.
On the way to Glennallen, stop at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site for one of the best free viewpoints of the Matanuska Glacier, or pay the $30 fee and drive right up to it a little further along. At mile 102, adventure-seekers can go ice climbing or see the glacier from above with a helicopter tour.
Hike the challenging, 1-hour Lion’s Head Trail for spectacular views of the Matanuska River and Talkeetna Mountain Range. Spot Dall sheep hanging about on the cliffs and black spruce forests on your way to Glennallen.
Where to Stay: Aspen Haven Cabin is a charming wooden cabin sleeping up to 4 people. The cabin has 1 bedroom, a patio, and a kitchenette. From $135 per night.
As you drive through Glennallen, you’ll have views of the Wrangell Mountains in the distance, and after turning down the AK-4, you’ll come across the small community of Copper Center, with a museum housing mementos from the pioneer days.
Walk the 2-mile Bridal Veil Falls trail to the scenic lookout and stop at the pretty Horsetail Falls. During the summer, melting snow and ice create flowing waterfalls, and during the winter, the water freezes into long icicles. Valdez Glacier Lake sits at the terminus of the Valdez Glacier with huge icebergs floating around and beautiful views of the Chugach Mountains.
Where to Stay: Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn is a 3-star hotel with panoramic harbor views. The hotel has a garden, bar, and restaurant, and rooms are comfortable with complimentary toiletries. From $113 per night.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road stretches 50 miles from west to east of Montana’s Glacier National Park. You’ll discover the most spectacular scenery, from glacial lakes to towering mountains and cedar forests to plunging waterfalls.
Due to the heavy snowfall that the national park receives, the route is only open from sometime in June until October, as it takes a considerable amount of time to clear the roads.
Starting Point: Apgar, Montana
Finishing Point: St. Mary, Montana
Distance: 50 miles
Apgar is at the western glacier and is your starting point for the road trip. It’s located on the edge of Lake McDonald — Glacier National Park’s biggest lake that is surrounded by mountains. In the warmer months, go for a paddle in the clear waters or hike the Rocky Point trail for excellent views of the lake.
Where to Stay: Sky Eco – Glacier General Store and Cabins has air-conditioned cottages located at the west glacier, 6 miles from Lake McDonald. Cottages feature kitchenettes and BBQ facilities, and there’s a mini-market on-site. From $129 per night.
The first section of the drive follows the edge of Lake McDonald, and if you fancy a walk to kick-off your journey, then take the John’s Lake Trail with views of McDonald Falls. Stop at the Trail of the Cedars to stroll among ancient cedar and hemlock trees and marvel at the west glacier tunnel — it has huge archways carved into the wall so that you can admire the fabulous views when driving through.
You’ll encounter the famous “loop” that is a section of the road with a severe hairpin turns backtracking across the mountain. There’s a small parking lot at the turn to admire the panoramic views. You’ll cross a triple-archway bridge and arrive at Logan Pass — the highest point of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. From here, you can join the Hidden Lake Trail that weaves through alpine meadows to the Hidden Lake overlook.
From the Jackson Glacier overlook, you can see the glacier in the distance on Mount Jackson, and be sure to stop at the closest end of St. Mary’s Lake for some lovely woodland walks and waterfall views. Wild Goose Island lookout is a popular stopping point to snap a photo of the tiny island in the middle of the lake, overshadowed by towering mountains.
Where to Stay: The Cottages at Glacier is located in the village of St Mary. Cottages have 2 or 3 bedrooms and all feature a kitchen and a living area with a fireplace. From $275 per night.
The I-90 is the longest interstate highway in the U.S., stretching across 3,000 miles. You’ll pass through 13 states boasting the most diverse landscapes, from rolling prairies to rugged mountains and bustling metropolises to vast badlands.
If you average just over 200 miles per day, you could complete the journey in 2 weeks, but its recommended to allow at least 3 weeks, so you can enjoy the odd car-free day to relax and explore your surroundings. Your road trip will take you through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.
Starting Point: Boston, Massachusetts
Finishing Point: Seattle, Washington
Distance: 3,000 miles
The bustling city of Boston is your starting point and is worth exploring before setting off on your road trip. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to view important historical sights such as museums, churches, and parks that tell the story of the American Revolution. Take a cruise around Boston Harbor, go whale-watching, or head to Quincy Market for a spot of shopping.
Experience 1830s New England with a visit to Old Sturbridge Village — an outdoor living museum with costumed staff.
Where to Stay: The Revolution Hotel is located a half-mile from Boston Public Garden and has an outdoor terrace, restaurant, and coffee shop. Rooms are a mix of shared and private bathrooms. From $113 per night.
Visit the thundering Niagara Falls and prepare to get wet on the Maid of the Mist tour that takes you on a boat into the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. There are several hiking trails around the Falls and many other attractions in the Niagara Falls State Park.
Where to Stay: Wyndham Garden at Niagara Falls is a 3-star hotel located just a 5-minute walk to Niagara Falls State Park. Rooms have a microwave and fridge, and hotel facilities include an indoor swimming pool, restaurant, and coffee house. From $90 or 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night.
Hot Tip: If you would like to admire Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, you will require a U.S. passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license, or a trusted traveler NEXUS or SENTRI card.
Stop for a picnic at Presque Isle State Park — a sandy peninsula that juts out in Lake Erie with lovely beaches and picnic sights. Continue to Ohio for the next overnight stop.
Stop at the lakeside city of Cleveland and visit one of the many museums including the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland has 18 Metroparks and nature reservations that are beautiful spaces to relax, walk, cycle, or swim.
Where to Stay: Crowne Plaza Cleveland at Playhouse Square is a 3-star hotel located in the city center. Guests may use the indoor swimming pool and hot tub as well as the on-site restaurant and outdoor terrace. From $147 per night or 30,000 IHG One Rewards points.
The Indiana State National Park runs along the southern shore of Lake Michigan for nearly 15 miles. Spend some time on the sandy beaches or hike through rolling dunes and forests in search of wildlife. Chicago is less than an hour’s drive from the national park, so head there for your overnight stay.
Chicago’s impressive skyscrapers and city parks line the front of Lake Michigan, so from every angle, there’s a spectacular lakeside view on offer. Head to Millennium Park Campus and see the skyline reflected in the iconic sculpture of The Bean or splash around at the unique Crown Fountain.
Where to Stay: HI Chicago Hostel is a contemporary 3-star hostel with private rooms with or without a private bathroom. Facilities include a restaurant and coffee shop, games room, library, and large communal seating areas. From $80 per night.
A small detour off of I-90 takes you to Devil’s Lake State Park in Sauk County, with spectacular viewpoints and interesting rock formations. With over 29 miles of trails, you can hike, mountain bike, or spend time relaxing on one of 2 lakeside beaches.
A short drive from the lake is Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron — the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture. You’ll reach the city of La Crosse that sits on the banks of the Mississippi River at the edge of Wisconsin.
Where to Stay: Castle La Crosse is a distinctive bed and breakfast located in La Crosse. The property has beautiful features such as stone fireplaces, and stained-glass windows and rooms are individually designed. From $194 per night.
Driving through southern Minnesota, stop off at Albert Lea — the “Land Between the Lakes” — or go in search of bison among the ancient prairie of Blue Mounds State Park. Spend the night in Sioux Falls just over the border in South Dakota.
Before setting off, enjoy a coffee in front of the cascading waterfalls of Falls Park and move on to a tour of 1880 Town — originally a movie set with 1880s-style buildings and props from the film Dances with Wolves.
Explore the striking geological formations of the Badlands National Park and stop to admire the massive sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore.
Where to Stay:
Buffalo is an excellent base from which to explore the Bighorn Mountains. This historic town has an old western feel, including the famous Occidental Hotel that has been restored from an 1880 saloon, retaining many of the original features.
If you’re all about outdoor recreation, you may opt to bypass I-90 to drive the Cloud Peak Scenic Byway that runs through the south of Bighorn National Forest before continuing to Yellowstone National Park.
Where to Stay: Buffalo Inn is a basic 2-star hotel with comfortable rooms featuring a microwave and fridge. Rates include a continental breakfast. From $63 per night.
Learn about the lives of Montana’s miners at the World Museum of Mining, located in Butte, and tour the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park to see highly-decorated limestone caverns.
Where to Stay: MountainView Lodge and Suites is a 3-star hotel located in Bozeman. The hotel features an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna. From $67 per night.
The Pulaski Tunnel Trail is a 3.5-mile walk that traces part of the route that was used to escape the 1910 North Idaho forest fire. The walk follows Placer Creek with interpretive signs along the way detailing the history of the area.
Take a tour of the Crystal Gold Mine before heading to the lakeside city of Coeur d’Alene for spectacular scenic walks.
Where to Stay: Greenbriar Inn is a 3-star bed and breakfast in Coeur d’Alene just a mile from the lakeside. Rooms are elegantly furnished with antiques, and the restaurant features live music on Friday and Saturday nights. From $97 per night.
Admire the Wild Horses Monument from afar to see 15 life-size galloping horses on top of the hill, or take the short climb to see the sculpture up close while enjoying the sweeping views of the Colombia River.
On your way into Seattle, stop at Snoqualmie Falls to admire the 270-foot waterfall plunging into the Snoqualmie River. Allow some time to explore Seattle at the end of your road trip and hang out in Pioneer Square, take a trip up the futuristic Space Needle for incredible city views, or ride the Seattle Center Monorail.
Where to Stay: Belltown Inn is a 3-star hotel located just a 15-minute walk from the Olympic Culture Park in Seattle. Stylish rooms feature kitchenettes, and the hotel has a rooftop terrace with city views. From $171 per night.
If your time is limited, it’s wise to plan your itinerary to ensure you’ve got accommodations booked will know how much ground you need to cover each day. But if you’re a bit more flexible, it can be exhilarating to hit the open road with no concrete agenda. Stay for longer in your favorite destinations or take an unplanned detour after hearing about a hidden gem.
Road trips are a perfect way to spend a vacation, whether that’s with your family, friends, or partner. Rent a car, download a road trip playlist, and you’re good to go!
There are so many U.S. road trips to choose from but we’ve rounded-up the top 10:
To plan a road trip, you’ll need to figure out how much time you have to see which routes are feasible. You’ll need to consider whether you can drive directly from home or whether you need to take a flight to your starting point and rent a car. Check a map for distances between stopping points and book accommodations in advance.
The Pacific Coast Highway is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the U.S. with its rugged coastlines and beautiful beaches.
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