The road trip is a quintessential American experience. In 2020, more Americans are taking road trips than ever before. It’s a safer way to travel and explore during the COVID-19 pandemic. Classic road trips connect national parks and beautiful scenic stops in regions throughout the country.
Many of the most beautiful routes have been designated as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads by the Department of Transportation. Many of the routes highlighted below have this distinction, giving you all the more reason to hit the road this year.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Considered one of the most scenic roadways in the U.S., the Blue Ridge Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Drivers will be treated to beautiful mountain views, lush forests, and rock tunnels. Visit in the spring to see flowering shrubs and wildflowers and in autumn for vibrant fall foliage.
Pacific Coast Highway: Los Angeles to San Francisco
California State Route 1 is one of the best scenic road trip routes in America. It connects the Los Angeles area with the Bay Area near San Francisco and winds along the California coast. Drivers see ocean views and seaside cliffs as they wind their way through adorable beach towns. You can hop on and hop off at any point along the route, from Nothern California to San Diego.
Great River Road: Memphis to New Orleans
The Great River Road follows along the Mississippi River, from Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. One great section begins in Memphis, TN, and ends in New Orleans, LA. It’s a great road trip for music lovers because it connects the blues and rock and roll history of Memphis with the jazz traditions of New Orleans.
Utah State Route 12: Panguitch to Torrey
Also known as Scenic Byway 12, this highway weaves through canyons, plateaus, and valleys at high elevation. The route captures the geographic diversity of Utah and has plenty of stops for hikers and campers to enjoy. Stop at Bryce Canyon National Park to see beautiful red rocks or explore canyons at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Highway 101, Pacific Northwest
U.S. Route 101 runs along the west coast of the country. A portion covers the entire coast of the state of Oregon, also known as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Along the route are many coastal Oregon towns, rocky beaches, lighthouses, and even Tillamook Cheese factory. Stop at some of the many scenic overlooks as you make your way along the coast.
Route 100, Vermont
Enjoy Vermont’s natural beauty on this state highway, which runs from north to south through the heart of the state. You’ll see the eastern edge of the Green Mountains. There are plenty of towns along the route to visit for delicious food and attractions. The highway is popular during the fall because of its beautiful foliage and in the winter for skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts.
Seward Highway, Anchorage to Seward
The Seward Highway connects Anchorage and Seward along the southern-central portion of Alaska. Since visiting Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many Americans in the “lower 48,” this road trip is a great addition to a visit with its stunning views and great hiking trails. It’s a beautiful coastal route with stops near the ocean, rivers, and Kenai Lake. You’ll also see plenty of mountain views along the way. This is a great trip for hikers and campers, as there are many trails to stop at. Look out for moose along the way, a common sight on Alaskan roadways.
Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West
One of the most unique highways in the U.S., the Overseas Highway connects mainland Florida to the Florida Keys. The highway goes over the Atlantic Ocean as it hops from key to key. Fishing and boating is a popular activity in the Keys. Many unique species of birds call the area home, so birdwatchers will enjoy this road trip as well. Stop for a photo-op in Key West at the “Southernmost Point of the Continental United States” buoy.
National Park Road Trip: Wyoming and Montana
Though separated by quite a bit of geographical distance, the Mountain-West region of Wyoming and Montana boasts a trio of amazing national parks: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks. Start in Wyoming at Grand Teton, outside of Jackson, Wyoming. Then drive along U.S. Route 191 to Yellowstone–only about 90 minutes separates the two parks. The big commitment is heading north to the top of Montana to see Glacier National Park, a 7-hour drive from Yellowstone. The trip is well worth the time to see a glacier in person–especially as they are rapidly disappearing from the park.
What’s your favorite U.S. road trip? Share your experiences with any of the recommended routes above.