20 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.

February 28, 2020
By: Jennie Baird and Deanne Revel
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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.

Downeast Maine

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 US 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.

California's 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 Obispo, 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 in Montana 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. Some high points include 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.

The Outer Banks, North Carolina

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.

Hana Coastline, Hawaii

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.

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

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 US.

Route 66

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.

Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

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.

California's Route 395

If you love the great outdoors, US Route 395 is the perfect drive. The California stretch may not get as much hype as the famed Pacific Coast Highway, but it's a gateway to bucket-list scenic destinations such as Death Valley National Park, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.

Hamakua Coast Drive, Hawaii

While Maui's Road to Hana gets all the hype, the island of Hawaii's Hamakua Coast Drive from Hilo to Honokaa is just as gorgeous with jaw-dropping scenic overlooks, such as the Waipio Valley Lookout. Don't miss a stop at Akaka Falls State Park for photos of the namesake waterfall.

Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, Kansas

No, this isn't Ireland. This is Kansas. On this scenic drive, you'll pass lush, green rolling hills dotted with colorful wildflowers. Stop at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve for a ranger-led tour out on the prairie. And don't miss the Scenic Byway Overlook for a 360-degree panorama of Tallgrass Prairie.

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

Aptly named for The Land of Enchantment, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway features historic towns and Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest mountain. If you don't like long road trips, this route is perfect as the 84-mile stretch begins and ends in Taos.

Richardson Highway, Alaska

This eight-hour drive from Valdez to Fairbanks includes two 100-mile stretches that were named Alaska State Scenic Byways. Views include glacier lakes, waterfalls and Rainbow Ridge. These colorful mountains feature red and green volcanic rock and yellow siltstone.

San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, Colorado

Step back in time and visit some of Colorado's historic mining towns such as Telluride, Durango and Silverton. The All-American Road also passes the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, where you can visit ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings on a ranger-guided tour.

Old King's Highway, Massachusetts

For a historic look at Cape Cod, travel Route 6A to visit some of the oldest towns in America. The drive features several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and attractions such as the Jonathan Young Windmill in Orleans.

Seward Highway, Alaska

While you can take the train from Anchorage to Seward, driving allows you to stop and take photos. And you'll want to take a lot of photos. The two-hour drive along the Turnagain Arm shoreline and Kenai Peninsula features incredible views of the Chugach Mountains. While in Seward, don't miss the adorable puffins at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

30A, Florida

This scenic highway hugs Florida's Emerald Coast and features white sand beaches, teal waters and rare dune lakes. There are so many adorable beach towns along this route, but the town of Seaside is a must-see.

Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, Maine

If you love fall foliage, this 52-mile stretch around Maine's Rangeley Lake is the perfect day-trip drive. The scenic byway also features gorgeous views of Mooselookmeguntic Lake as well as the Appalachian Mountain ridge line.

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