There’s a certain magic in the American highway that you won’t find anywhere else. ‘The Great American Road Trip’ has become not just an item on a travel bucket list, but a rite of passage.
So as the new year starts with as many possibilities as America’s open roads, read up on KKday’s top routes for the best American road trip.
Pacific Coast Highway | Monterey to Santa Barbara
This coastal road winds down for almost the entire length of California, but its best and most dramatic section is the stretch between Monterey to Santa Barbara. Here, you’ll see the famous Big Sur, a section where the rugged mountains relax just enough to give you a stunning look of ocean.
Stop By: Bixby Bridge by Big Sur, and the artsy town of Carmel-by-the-Sea
Columbia River Scenic Highway, Ore | The Dalles to Troutdale
Designed in the early days of the automobile, this nearly century-old route was built purely for scenery and features some of America’s most breathtaking landscapes. Pull over and drink in lovely sights of mountain views and waterfalls before hitting the Columbia Gorge, just east of Portland.
Stop By: Vista House, a rest stop that also serves as a memorial to Oregon Trail pioneers
Route 66 | Illinois to Missouri
There’s a reason why Chuck Berry tells you to get your kicks on Route 66. Also nicknamed ‘The Mother Road,’ this is the quintessential cross-country route. The Illinois stretch is full of quirky roadside attractions, while the Missouri drive has tons of historic sights. But the highlight of the trip is Arizona, for its iconic American road trip attractions. It’s not a great road trip without hitting up the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend — a must-see for both Americans and tourists alike.
Stop By: Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Illinois, and the the Route 66 Museum in Missouri
Great River Road | Minnesota to Louisiana
Experience what both Mark Twain and Bob Dylan have been talking about for decades as you drive down the length of the Mississippi River on this iconic American road trip. Find a number of charming small towns along the way, but watch out for the steep canyons and rough terrain of what locals call the ‘Driftless Region.’
Stop By: Galena Town in Illinois, and the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa
Route 12, Utah | Scenic Byway
Sometimes nicknamed ‘The All-American Road,” Route 12 will take you to some of the country’s best national parks and monuments. This great American road trip will treat you to all sorts of jaw-dropping sights. With colorful rocky mountains, open deserts, and snow-capped peaks, don’t make the mistake of just zipping by. Take your time and pack some hiking gear to hit up trails in different national parks.
Stop By: Hogback Road. This two-lane road winds through the mountain ridges, and the sheer drop-offs on the side let you take in panoramic views of the landscape.
So pack your bags and hit that wide, open road—whether for weeks or just a weekend. All you really need are four wheels, a full tank of gas, and some great company.1