Putting the top down, slapping on the sunscreen and hitting the highway for any of the great summer US road trips equals FUN. You can be ultra organized with every mile of the route planned out, or you can just throw some things in a bag, put the pedal to the metal and go. These summer US road trips are pretty short and well-established routes so plan or no plan, you’re set to go.
1. Outer Banks National Scenic Byway/NC Highway 12, NC
Taking the narrow Highway 12 that begins in the north at Whalebone Junction is definitely one of the best summer US road trips, as you will have Pamlico Sound on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east with access to unspoiled beaches. You can enjoy a couple of ferry rides, one of which is between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. The other one is between Ocracoke Island and Down East Cedar Island, and it is a longer toll ride. Get to see the windy spot where the Wright brothers decided to go for their first test-flight, or for creepy stories of shipwrecks, pay a visit to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and climb the 248 steps to the top of the black-and-white striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This is a short trip of only 114 miles between Corolla and Ocrecoke, but there’s so much to see en route and places to stop off that you can drive it a few times, doing different things each trip.
2. Green Mountain Byway/VT 100, Vermont
The Green Mountain Byway runs for 11 miles between the towns of Stowe and Waterbury in Vermont, and goes straight through the spine of the northern Green Mountains to the west. Traveling along this route will provide you with stunning views of farmlands, meadows and forests. Not only this, farmsteads, historic homes, villages and mill sites are all easily accessible along the route – it is also easy to find two state forests and three state parks by taking the route. On this route, just don't forget to visit some nearby wineries, Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory and a few cheese makers on the Cheese Trail.
3. U.S. Route 89, Wyoming and Montana
This 480-mile long route is nothing less than a heaven for true nature lovers. Thanks to its high-altitude, it's one of the best US road trips for summer – it's also the right time to drive because winter snow won't prevent you from exploring three national parks: Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier. Fly-fishing is one of the very best things to do at Grand Teton National Park, but you may want to go to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone to come face to face with elk, bison or grizzlies.
4. U.S. Route 1, FL
This 113-mile long road trip between Key Largo and Key West, which includes 42 bridges, is full of excitement. Yes, the traffic can sometimes be an annoyance, but you can take it as a part of the experience. It's one of the finest summer US road trips because it is lined with wetlands, dolphin park resorts, ocean and gulf views, impressive little restaurants and many other tourist traps. Drive to the part of the highway called the Seven Mile Bridge, one of the longest in the world. It's not like driving on a 'typical' highway such as interstate 95; in fact, driving here is fun, with mangroves on both sides of the road. Various ma and pa shops will compel you to make little pit stops, but for exciting entertainment drive to Robbie's Marina to take a reef fishing charter or to hand-feed tarpon from the dock. The nightly sunset celebration in Key West is yet another attraction that is sure to steal your heart.
5. West Michigan Pike/U.S. Route 31
Treacherous mystique and stark beauty make a stretch of coast route 31 between St. Joseph to Ludington a perfect starting point for an outstanding summer road trip. The sandy shoreline of Lake Michigan is the center of attraction. The small town charm you experience along U.S. route 31 is simply outstanding. Travel from one small beach town to another, shop at quality waterfront shops, explore the art at galleries in Saugatuck and experience the taste and beauty of U-Pick blueberry farms. For adrenaline-filled entertainment, go to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes and race around mountainous sandy slopes using a dune buggy.
6. Texas Hill Country Trail, TX
It will take you about 6 hours to complete this 280-mile road trip, but of course, you can take longer to enjoy a few cold brews at Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Saloon, eat at mouthwatering barbecue joints with lazy floats and spicy brisket sandwiches in Driftwood and try other delicious food down the river. Once you've tasted it all, you'd better gather all your energies and go up the rock at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This is just another attraction that makes this none of the popular summer US road trips.
7. Coastal U.S. Route 1, Maine
Once on the route between Kittery and Acadia National Park, don't stop driving until you get to Wiscasset, to grab a lobster roll from Red's Eats. Other nice stops include York Village, Hampton Beach, Ogunquit and Whole Foods in Portland. Arrange a trip now to explore large New England style homes with a chance to see quaint fishing villages come alive. Check out one of the 60 lighthouses, book a Bar Harbor whale-watching cruise or keep driving to get to Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast. Be sure to buy some nice gifts and souvenirs from the 100-year old L. L. Bean flagship store.
If you are in the vicinity of any of these routes, you can easily incorporate them into your vacation as they’re all short enough to do in one day. Do you have any short summer road trips to recommend?