Top 10 Best Road Trip Destinations in the USA
Road trips have forever been a favorite pastime in the United States and will continue to do so, cause what better way to experience the vast array of stunning coastal views, breathtaking valleys, and rugged cliffs to lush forestry and limitless dessert terrains than to be free behind the wheel. VroomVroomVroom has shared our recommended car and tips for each popular road trip destination in the USA.
Pacific Coast Highway - California
Recommended car: For an exhilarating driving experience, book a convertible like a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro to drive up the coast. This type of rental car is perfect if you want to soak up the California sun and experience what it feels like to be out on the open road.
It isn't hard to see why the famous Pacific Coast Highway is considered one of the best drives in the United States. Starting in San Diego, the route takes in some of the best coastal scenery in California. Visit Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle and follow the iconic Highway One north toward the charming coastal town of Monterey. Your final destination is the famous City by the Bay, and you'll find plenty of exciting areas to explore in San Francisco. Read our full Highway One itinerary to get more ideas.
Useful tips: Preparation is the key to a stress-free and enjoyable trip, so make sure you've got everything you need before you hit the road.
Going-to-the-Sun Road - Montana
Recommended car: Since most park roads are paved and some are quite narrow, renting a compact car such as Ford Focus or Nissan Versa has become a popular choice, especially for traveling couples.
This 50 miles (80 kilometers) jagged cliff-hugging mountain journey, is the only road to span the Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana-and what a treat it is. Commencing from either Route 2 Or Route 86 This east/west, west/east road trip in Montana will lead you on a spectacular journey over the continental divide for an easy 1 hour and a half duration through lush green forests alongside Lake Mac Donald, down into deep valleys under plunging glacial covered mountain tops, to Saint Mary Lake where you can view the 100 ft (160 m) high gushing crystal waterfall. This road is truly a visual treat so also keep those eyes peeled for the odd sighting of mountain goats, bighorn sheep and other forms of wildlife that will be flying around.
Useful tips: The parking lot at Logan Pass is usually full from 9:30 am to 4 pm during high season (mid-July to mid-August), so expect road delays and difficulty finding the best parking spot. Note also that vehicles longer than 21 feet are restricted between Avalanche Campground and the Rising Sun picnic area parking.
Blue Ridge Parkway - Virginia
Recommended car: For epic style and unmatched performance, enjoy a standard sports car rental such as Dodge Challenger. This type of rental is ideal if you want a fast ride for your next vacation.
At 469 miles (755 kilometers) long connecting the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina, Blue Ridge Parkway drive is definitely a road trip you won't find anywhere else. With a ban on billboards, commercial traffic and the absence of any commercial towns, the 45 mph speed limit will be a delight as you can truly admire one of the USA's finest scenic drives. Commence your journey from Either Boone or Cherokee and find your way to Blue Ridge Parkway Road so you can indulge 5 and a half hours of Mountainous terrains, the occasional eerie fog, to waterfalls, wild turkeys and birds, to scarlet sourwoods to deep reds and vibrant yellows during the fall season (End of September-October) to a whole new array of wildflowers that bloom orange, white, pink, purple and red during spring (May- June). Definitely an unforgettable trip which you can enjoy no matter what time of the year it is.
Useful tips: Watch your speed. Note that the Parkway’s speed limit is usually 45 mph or less in some places. Many bicyclists frequent the Parkway and usually move at a slower pace than cars.
Olympic Peninsula - Washington
Recommended car: If you are bringing some of your hiking gear, renting an SUV would work best. An intermediate SUV like a Hyundai Tucson or Toyota RAV4 provides enough room for 5 passengers and seems like a smart option for long trips.
To commence this 330 mile (531 Kilometres) loop Journey, start off in Seattle and make your way to the Olympic Peninsula by connecting onto highway 101 via Junction 104. Choose to either go clockwise or Anti, either way you will still experience stunning views of the glistening White Mountain tops of the Olympic ranges, to picturesque shorelines, gushing waterfalls, small logging towns, past "the most beautiful lake in the United States," -Lake Crescent and to really make this a unique experience, top it off by taking a hike through the Hoh and Quinault rainforests located in the heart of the national park.
Useful tips: Hiking shoes or boots are recommended. Note that some steep and rocky areas require extra attention and careful footing. Avoid wearing sandals or flip-flops as it can lead to unwanted accidents.
Brandywine Valley - Pennsylvania and Delaware
Recommended car: If you are traveling with family and friends, renting a mini passenger van such as Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Pacifica is advisable. This type of rental vehicle has more seating capacity and room for luggage.
Nothing beats a short 19 mile (30 kilometers) road trip that takes you back in time through historic beauty. Between South Pennsylvania and North Delaware, you'll find this gorgeous little route that will take you on a loop through scenic chateau country speckled with historic summer estates, twisting narrow wildflower-lined roads that trace the Brandywine River, under overarching branches of oak and tulip trees. And if you really want to make the most of this experience, be sure to stop at the 1,077 acre Longwood Gardens which includes an outdoor topiary, 20 indoor gardens, and spring-fed lakes. Otherwise, to experience and enjoy this short but fulfilling drive, just make your way to Rte. 100 and follow the narrow road until it connects to Rte. 52 which takes you right back to where you started.
Useful tips: The views of the Brandywine Valley are pleasant year-round, but the best time to visit is during the spring and fall. Longwood Gardens and Winterthur are at their best in the warmer months, so don't forget to bring your camera.
Cape Cod - Massachusetts
Recommended car: Treat yourself to a taste of luxury and rent a Cadillac XTS. If you are looking for a bigger car, book a premium SUV like a Chevy Suburban and enjoy a comfortable road trip or family vacation.
Compared to the bustling high-speed SH 6 or the congested, overdeveloped Rte. 28 along the south shore, taking a 57 mile (91kilometres) drive along the Cape Cod's most Historic and scenic Route 6a is a guaranteed pleaser for this top 10 list. From Sandwich through to Brewster you'll get to relish in the dune-lands and charming historic villages that were established in 1639, through to the old Brewster Store that's been in business since the 1850s. Heading to Orleans be sure to take in the views of the best beaches that edge this league of the journey so you can begin to appreciate the next 2,000 acres of scrubby pitch pine/ oak forest and randomly placed fresh water ponds contained within the Nickerson State Park. Continue your journey on SH 6 through Truro then bear left onto Route 6a where the scenic bay-side will lead you to your final destination in lively Provincetown.
Useful tips: Avoid bottleneck areas such as the lane drop on Route 6 (the Mid-Cape Highway), Route 28 through portions of Falmouth, Hyannis, Yarmouth, and Dennis, and Route 6 from Wellfleet to South Truro, especially during the summer months.
Historic Columbia River Highway - Oregon
Recommended car: It is advisable to book a full-size car like a Chevrolet Malibu or Toyota Camry. A full-size car rental is ideal if you need more passenger room and luggage space than a small car.
Being built in 1917-this 23 miles (37 Kilometres) road trip is the oldest scenic route in the country and was considered one of the greatest feats for its time. Today, it is revered as a National Historic Landmark that puts on display some of the most astonishing views you can witness via your mode of transportation. Commencing in Troutdale, you will embark on an exhilarating journey that will leave you in awe over the marvellous attractions such as the Vista House which sits over 700 ft above the Columbia River, to the series of waterfalls (LaTourell Falls; Wahkeenah Falls-242 ft and Multnomah Falls-620ft) that coat the foliage covered cliffs and flow under the triumphant bridges that still stand to this day and lets not forget the carved out road tunnels that cut through the Cliffside offering the most spectacular views.
Useful tips: Time your visit at the Historic Columbia River Highway during off-peak travel times and shoulder seasons. To avoid congestion, ensure to start your trip before 10 am.
Red Rock Country - Arizona
Recommended Car: Book a standard car such as Volkswagen Jetta or Chrysler 200. This type of rental is perfect if you are searching for a short drive that is packed with enchanting geological features.
This straight 145-mile journey along Interstate 17 with a minor detour on Route 179(Red Rock Scenic Byway) and 89a to Flagstaff, Arizona or north-south to Phoenix; is definitely a perfect unique road trip experience to have in this top 10 list. Compared to the dense green, orange and colorful forest filled journeys, this trip sends you through the vast seemingly endless dessert terrains and skyscraper like rock formations that crown the horizon making you feel as though you're on another planet. However, make sure to stop and admire the National Monument/ancient cliff dwelling “the Montezuma Castle” or visit the Rock State Park where you can plunge down a natural waterslide that's been carved into the rock to reassure you of human civilization and to have some fun.
Useful tips: Red Rock Scenic Byway takes 20 minutes to drive, however, remember that some stops along the byway need a $5.00 use pass to access.
Route 66 - Chicago to California
Recommended Cars: Luxury and elite SUVs are some of the popular car types rented for Route 66 trip as they are sturdy and add a lot of style to the trip. Drive in style and choose from luxury SUVs like a Lincoln Navigator.
Route 66, the original highway from Chicago to Los Angeles measures a whopping 2, 451 miles (3, 945 Kilometers) has now been replaced by the new Interstate highway system to reduce time and travel distance. However, the history on this road cannot be replaced and is the very reason this road is so popular today. With dozens of remarkable old highway towns, to the vast desolate desert plains, this is definitely a road trip to indulge in. See the sights of downtown Chicago, visit St. Louis and make a stop at the unique Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. Read the full Route 66 road trip itinerary.
Useful tips: It's recommended to fill up before crossing the California state line. The cost of fuel can jump significantly when in remote regions.
Outer Banks - North Carolina
Recommended car: Rent an intermediate convertible like a Cooper for your next trip. Reward yourself and cruise down the open roads to soak in the sun and fresh air.
This 100 miles (160 Kilometres) route along Highway 12 (aka Ocean Front Hwy-12) of the Outer Banks, North Carolina offers a rich mixture of seashore experiences: white sand beaches, historic colonial towns, fishing villages to exclusive major tourist areas full of summer homes and massive hotels right over the beach. To get to the Outer Banks one must first cross the Wright Memorial Bridge to Kitty Hawk. From here you can make your way north on 12 to explore the duck beaches and town of Corolla. After which you must now return south of Kitty Hawk through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore where the historic lighthouses reside and unfortunately where the highway ends your journey.
Useful tips: Be sure to take turns driving to help the main driver from feeling tired or worn out on the road. Make sure to pull over and take a break every two hours while you enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.
Excellent ideas to prepare for a long road trip
- Plan everything properly. Check where are you going and see whether the route you are planning to take is driveable. It's also important you get a good night's rest before a road trip. Plan where you will be able to stop for fuel or grab a bite to eat. Don't forget to take a break every two hours, drink water to stay hydrated, and treat yourself to some incredible music to keep you awake.
- Be sure to inspect the headlights and taillights and ensure if the front and rear windshield washer jets are working properly. It is recommended to clean your windshield, including the side mirrors, door, and rear windows because they can hamper visibility, especially when it's dark.
- Examine your tires and check if they are in good shape. Know that there is usually a safe limit of the tire tread wear. It is advisable to get a spare tire, especially for long trips. It's also important to examine if your coolant/antifreeze level is okay. Any leaks should be addressed immediately.
- Have an emergency supply kit. These include jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, flashlight, spare headlight bulb, gloves, screwdrivers, and a first-aid kit and items such as a couple of energy bars and bottled water.