This time honored tradition gives a unique glimpse into the cultural landscape of the U.S., taking the traveler through expansive ecosystems that traverse natural and historic wonders—it's no surprise hitting the road has become an American pastime. Experience this exciting opportunity for yourself and check out some of the best routes that the American roadways have to offer.
Coastal CruisesThe Pacific Coast Highway - California 1 of 11
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) runs along the majority of California's coastline, offering some of the most spectacular seaside views the contiguous United States has to offer. To get an unforgettable taste of this splendor, take the PCH (Highway 1) from Morro Bay, California, to Monterey, California (123 miles). This route goes directly through the Big Sur area.
- Morro Rock, which is a 576-foot volcanic plug rising out of the city's harbor
- Hearst Castle, near San Simeon
- Elephant Seal Vista Point, located 4.3 miles west of San Simeon
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which includes McWay Falls—a waterfall that tumbles 100 feet to the beach below
- Bixby Creek Bridge.
The majority of this drive is a narrow road that hugs the coast with beaches on one side and lush countryside on the other. Take your time as this is a drive you will never want to end.
Use these tips for camping along the pacific coast and don't miss the 10 must-see stops.
Coastal CruisesThe H?na Highway - Hawaii 2 of 11
The H?na Highway (routes 36 and 360) is a 68-mile road which connects the town Kahului to H?na on the island of Maui. This route has been classified as Hawaii's best coastal drive and for good reason: it winds through deep jungle terrain and along wide open shoreline. Note: this is not the most developed road, so be prepared to traverse 54 one-lane bridges, all while snapping photos of roadside waterfalls.
- Iao Valley State Park (located 5.7 miles west of Kahului), which is a wonderful way to start the trip
- Ho'okipa Beach Park, 9.2 miles east of Kahului, where you can stop and watch some world-class windsurfing
- Ke'anae Arboretum, which is a great botanical hike that offers descriptions of the various trees in the area
- Wai'anapanapa State Park, 3 miles north of H?na, which has black beaches and lava tubes leading down to the water.
Don't cut this trip off at H?na. Keep traveling to see the lower portion of Haleakal? National Park, and hike up to Waimoku Falls and the south side of the island, which offers unreal views of distant waterfalls.
Mountain PassagesGoing-to-the-Sun Road: Montana 3 of 11
This road spans 53 miles, the width of Glacier National Park, connecting the eastern side to the west. This narrow road crosses the continental divide via Logan Pass, winding along the rim of massive glacier-cut valleys and the views are some of the best the American Rockies have to offer. This road has with minimal guardrails (due to heavy snows and avalanches) and is not for the faint-of-heart.
- Lake McDonald, found on the west side of the park
- Saint Mary Lake, on the east side; and every scenic overlook along the way.
Depending on traffic, construction and weather conditions, this drive will take a couple of hours to complete.
Mountain PassagesCortez to Carbondale: Colorado 4 of 11
This drive is 244 miles in length and includes all of the following routes: 145, 62, 550, 50, 92, and 133. This is one of the most peaceful and serene mountain drives this country has to offer.
- Mesa Verde National Park, just outside of Cortez, which is the largest archeological site in the United States and protects the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world
- Telluride, in the valley of the mountains and with Bridal Veil Falls always in view
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, located just outside of Montrose, is best visited at sunset.
Desert DrivesPhoenix to the Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona 5 of 11
This drive, 224 miles in length, will take you from the harsh terrain found outside of Phoenix, to the red rocks of Sedona, to the forests of Flagstaff, ending at the Grand Canyon.
- Montezuma's Castle National Monument, a cliff dwelling 96 miles north of Phoenix
- Sedona, which has the contrasting red buttes against the green growth and Slide Rock State Park, a natural waterslide in the slippery bed of Oak Creek
- Flagstaff, offering all the amenities of a quaint college town
- Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, just north of Flagstaff
- The Grand Canyon
This route has a lot to offer if you stop and take your time at each site; it can be done in a day but you might want to set aside an entire week.
Desert DrivesHighway 9 and 89: Hurricane, Utah, to Page, Arizona 6 of 11
In terms of the most unique beauty found within one confined space, this is possibly the best road trip in the country. Starting in Hurricane, you travel through massive mountain walls, petrified sand dunes, slot canyons, ancient oyster beds and strange river formations—all within 62 miles.
- Zion National Park
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
- Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the world
- Coyote Buttes, an area that includes the famous wave formation but requires a permit to visit—permits can be obtained months in advance on the internet or by an arduous lottery system the day before your visit
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which includes toadstool formations and ancient oyster beds
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a great area for people who love water sports
- Antelope Canyon, which has some of the strangest sandstone formations in the country
Autumn's BestHighway 12: Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah 7 of 11
This route is a bit of an unknown wonder, taking you from one of Utah's great national parks to the next—what lies in between, however, is equally magical. This road (114 miles) is such a seasonal treat because, rising to 9,600 feet, you travel through what seems to be an endless grove of aspens. In the fall these trees become fiery with the hues of yellow, orange and red.
- Capitol Reef National Park, a park you can enjoy both from within its limits and also when viewed from above as you gain elevation on Highway 12
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Several state parks including Anasazi, Escalante Petrified Forest and Kodachrome Basin
- Bryce Canyon National Park
To extend this trip even further, take highway 12 to 89 south and then head east on 14 over to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Autumn's BestThe Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia to North Carolina 8 of 11
This is one of the best road trips to see the fall colors for which the East Coast is famous. The ecology along this route is almost limitless, as the parkway has both the growth of river valleys and rolling mountains. This can range from annual and perennial flowers, to oak and hickory trees, to fir and spruce. Also expect to see a lot of lakes, waterfalls and streams.
- Shenandoah National Park
- Numerous recreation areas and state parks
- Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned manor in the United States
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Agricultural AppreciationPanoche Road, Central California 9 of 11
Take this Central California drive in spring, when the almond, cherry and orange trees are in bloom (February, March and May, respectively). Start in Kings Canyon National Park and head down into the valley and get on Panoche Road just outside of Fresno.
This road will take you through the heart of California's agricultural lands. Look out the windows as you cruise by expansive, lush meadows where horses gallop and cattle graze. End this drive at Pinnacles National Park.
- Kings Canyon National Park; 116 miles of a refreshing two-lane road
- Pinnacles National Park.
Waterfall WatchHistoric Columbia River Highway: Oregon 10 of 11
The most famous of Oregon's waterfalls is Multnomah Falls, but matching the beauty of this landmark is the drive it takes to get there. Heading along the Columbia River on Highway 84, turn off on the scenic drive of the Historic Columbia River. Here you will get lost in the hanging moss that paints the entire landscape in every shade of green imaginable.
- Multnomah Falls, a waterfall split between the upper 542-foot fall and the lower 69-foot fall
- The entirety of the Columbia River from Troutdale to The Dalles.