The sun is beating down and your thoughts are on vacation but you want something different, so why not take your pick from some of the fabulous US road trips? They are a terrific way to see the some of the best the country offers, and whether you have a passion for sprawling cities or tiny country towns, lakes or rivers, forests or plains, beaches or mountains, there’ll be a road trip to suit. In fact, the very best US road trips offer them all.
1 Pacific Coast Highway California
One of the most awesome of all the US road trips you can make is undoubtedly the Pacific Coast Highway drive. This 1,700 mile long trip hugs the beautiful Pacific coastline in southern California all the way to Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Roll down the windows or better still take the drive in an open top and savor the sea breeze on this unique breathtaking journey. Take stops along the way to visit Hearst Castle before heading to Big Sur. Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and spend a couple days on a stopover in San Francisco. Then it’s on to northern California, where you’ll be awestruck at the huge towering redwoods before finally reaching the Olympic National Park and the Hoh Rain Forest. This is one ‘never to be forgotten’ US road trip.
2 Florida State Highway and Overseas Highway Florida
On Florida’s Atlantic coastline you will start from the north east of Jacksonville and drive right on through to Florida’s premiere destination of Key West, taking in 600 miles of state highway. First stop is St Augustine, one of the oldest towns in the US, before driving to Daytona Beach where cars are allowed to drive on the long stretches of the sand. Further south visit Canaveral National Seashore and the fascinating John F Kennedy Space Center. Then visit the Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys Eco-Discover Center. From Miami there will be 42 bridge crossings, including the Seven Mile Bridge. There is so much to see and do on one of the best US road trips and you will be spellbound as you swim with dolphins and tour a turtle hospital.
3 Southern Utah Parks – Utah
The open ruggedness of the Southern Utah Parks is simply quite breathtaking and certainly not just for the outdoor die-hards. A drive through the parks, with their geological beauty and landscape of mountains, rock formations, pillars and canyons, can be quite humbling. Take the US 89 Highway to Utah State Route 12 to pass through 230 miles of the five National Parks in Southern Utah – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. This is one of those road trips in the USA that simply screams out photo opportunities.
4 Needles Highway – South Dakota
One of the most memorable US road trips that combines nature and heritage is the Needles Highway, starting in South Dakota and along to the Black Hills with its ponderosa pine trees and granite outcrops. From Custer County in the south west, visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. From here it’s only 40 miles to Mount Rushmore to see the colossal faces of US presidents carved in epic proportions into the rock cliffs. Along the route weird granite spire formations looking like needles or fingers appear to be growing from the forest floor, which gives the Highway its name.
5 Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee
Travel along the Natchez Trace Parkway for 440 miles as it snakes its way along the Mississippi from Natchez, the oldest city along the nation’s greatest river. From here the town’s finest antebellum houses can be seen as they sit shaded amongst huge oak trees. Follow the Trace to the historic town of Port Gibson and onwards to the Mississippi Craft Center before heading deep into Alabama and Tennessee’s gentle rolling farmlands. It was originally the great ancient herds of bison that first cut a path along this route as they moved from one feeding ground to another, long before the Native Americans came along to follow the same route and to be followed by the first European settlers.
6 Mount Evans Scenic Byway Colorado
Maybe you don’t have time to take one of the great US road trips, so here’s a nice compromise. From Denver this day trip will take you to the start of the highest paved road in North America. The 14 mile narrow road slowly snakes its way along, ascending from 8,700 feet to 14,130 at its peak. You’ll be passing through various ecosystems along the route before surfacing above the tree line and then it’s all the way up and up into the clouds. Along the roadside you’ll meet up with mountain goats and bighorn sheep happily grazing alongside golden squirrels and marmots. At the top, there’s a short trail leading you to the peak summit at 14,264 feet – you’ve now made it!
7 Highway 50 Nevada
For a drive that’s completely different to many of the other great USA road trips, why not take the time to experience the ‘loneliest road in America’ – Highway 50. The highway passes through the vast desolate landscape of Nevada and you can drive for miles with only the huge sky, open country and an unending highway. Don’t forget to fill up and take plenty of water and food as there are very few stops. For 320 miles from Carson City to Ely it’s easy going at the 70 mph speed limit, travelling through spectacular desert scenery with its multi-colored landscape, mirages and the odd ghost town.
Having offered up just a few of the very best US road trips, I’d love to hear your own suggestions or experiences of these.
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