Epic Road Trip Ideas Through the USA

Mappingmegan

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Road tripping is an incredible way to quench your thirst for adventure. Kicking back to your favorite tunes, munching on gas station snacks, and leaving all your worries at home as you hit the open road.

As far as road trip scenery goes, North America has a fantastic mix of perfectly sun-kissed beaches, natural landscapes and attractions which constantly sees drivers pulling over to the side of the road.

Byways and highways wind through dramatic scenery here, and connect some of the biggest cultural hubs in the United States, and you have a diverse range of exciting cities, coastal towns, and natural wonders to choose from.

There's no doubt that the USA is an epic destination for a road trip; from driving the Pacific Coast Highway, to taking a caravan trip to the Grand Canyon, there's no shortage of choice on this continent.

But being that there's so much to cover, we wouldn’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed. So, whether you’re struggling with choosing a route, or just looking for some inspiration, the following is a list of our favorites.

Hit The Columbia River Highway

Just out Portland Oregon, why not hit the 74-mile Columbia River Highway?

This route is a great choice if you're after a romantic, adventurous trip. You’ll be able to see stunning waterfalls, rivers, and bridges as you make your way along the Columbia River Gorge. Not to mention the beautiful mountains.

The historic route follows U.S Route 30 and Oregon Route 35 (with a portion that runs concurrently with I-84 between Portland and The Dalles), and you can easily complete the 48-mile road trip from Portland to the Hood River in just 24 hours.

Sites not to miss include Multnomah Falls. Just 30 minutes out of Portland this is a 611-foot-tall roaring, awe-inspiring cascade of icy water, that doesn't dry up in the summer. Horsetail Falls is right there too, about 5 minutes away from Multnomah.

One important thing to note about taking this route is that there are some pretty large distances to cover, so make sure your car is roadworthy and ready for the strain of long-distance trips.

Travel California’s Pacific Coast Highway

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California is a dream road trip destination, and The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world; “an exhilarating driving experience, this twisting, cliff-hugging, 123-mile (198-kilometer) route takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace.”

Also known as State Highway 1, you can either drive the whole route from San Francisco to San Diego, choose to complete just sections of it in a bespoke itinerary, or base yourself in cities like LA, and San Fran, and rent a car for day trips into the surrounds.

Stops include destinations like Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Point Lobos State Reserve, Big Sur, Garrapata State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Cambria and Morro Bay.

The land of giants, make sure you don't miss California’s redwood forest for the tallest trees on Earth. Spread across nearly 40 miles of wild, rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, the redwoods have been known to reach heights of over 370 feet (113 m), and average a lifespan of 500 to 700 years.

Head Over To The Blue Ridge Parkway

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The Blue Ridge Parkway makes its way through the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to the Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Though this is much more than a road - The Blue Ridge Parkway is an epic journey!

Winding through some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States, the Blue Ridge includes spectacular mountain scenery, an abundance of dramatic waterfalls, and some of the best opportunities for hiking and biking in the country.

If you travel during autumn, you’ll witness golden-hued trees that hug the edges of the road which goes all the way through the incredible scenery of the Appalachians.

Depending on which way you're driving, make sure you set time aside for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. America’s most visited National Park, take in the beauty of its ancient mountains, and if you're a wildlife fan, keep an eye out for black bears!

And, with more than 250 waterfalls, don't miss visiting Brevard, just south of the Parkway. Asheville is a great base for accommodation before you start (check out the historic Biltmore Hotel for a luxury splurge), and then you can book in at the Hotel Roanoke at the other end after your drive.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

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Nostalgia is big in today’s pop culture, and if there ever was road trip for nostalgia, it would be Route 66.

Route 66 has a rich history as one of America's first highways. Before the interstate Highways were finished in the 1980's, 66 was known as “The Main Street of America”. Running from Chicago to LA, it served to link remote and under-populated communities with two of the most thriving 20th century cities.

In spite of now being decommissioned as a highway, Route 66 can still be used by those who want to live the nostalgia of the route, or see first hand some of the quirky road side architecture for which it has become famous.

From ‘great displays of neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, or kitschy Americana’, this legendary old road has very much been immortalized as part of the American consciousness, and is America’s largest open air museum.

Make sure you don't miss Texas' Cadillac Ranch (a public art installation where ten Cadillac’s have been driven nose down into the dirt and spray painted by local graffiti artists with vibrant colors), and if you have extra time, just off the road you can detour over to the Grand Canyon.

Explore The Natchez Trace

According to history, the Natchez Trace was used by bisons traveling north to find salt licks. It is now a scenic drive from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

We suggest you take your time to absorb in the Southern beauty along the way. There are so many places on the side of the road. They give the opportunity to admire the view and to explore the history of the trail.

The speed limit on the road is 50 mph which forces you to enjoy the peaceful road trip experience in the slower lane.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

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