What do Thelma and Louise, Rainman and Britney Spears’s Crossroads all have in common? They’ve taught us that doing a road trip in the USA is just about one of the coolest things you can ever do, and that with a car, some good tunes and a few friends you’ll have one of the most important adventures of your life.
But, in a country so big, there are many, many routes you could take. All will take you to amazing places and give you a chance to experience America at its best, on the open road and away from the cities. Here are just seven of the best road trips in the USA.
1. Route 66
The classic US road trip, starting off in Lake Michigan and taking you all the way to LA, Route 66 can be done in two weeks, but to give yourself plenty of time for top attractions a month is recommended.
There’s America’s oldest church, St Joseph’s, in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico; the cool car display at Texas’s Cadillac Ranch; the world’s largest rocking chair in Fanning, Missouri. You’ll also find plenty of those classic diners and motels from the movies, like constellations to navigate by.
2. Great River Road
Is there any greater river than the Mississippi? Not in America. And if you take the Great River Road you can travel right beside it through ten states.
This north-south route especially calls out to nature lovers thanks to all of the wildlife resorts lining the route, like the Yazoo Refuge and the Theodore Roosevelt Refuge. There are also plenty of quaint river towns like Greenville and Rosedale you can spend the night in and as you head further south you’ll get to sample that fine fried food. Reaching the end in Louisiana means you can top it off with a po’boy sandwich and the sweet sound of jazz in New Orleans.
3. Pacific Coast Highway
Pack the shades and lather on the cream because it’s roofs off and windows down for this American road trip, as you make your way from San Francisco to San Diego on the Pacific Coast Highway.
You can do this one in around three days, ticking off the likes of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran, before hiking in Big Sur National Park and washing it all down with wine tasting in Solvang, California’s ‘Little Denmark’.
4. The Loneliest Road
US-50 runs from the east to west coast, starting in Ocean City, Maryland, and ending in Sacramento, California. It passes through 12 states and 4 state capitals, but it’s the stretch through Nevada you’ll definitely need a buddy for: miles and miles of sweeping mountains, dusty highways and only the odd otherworldly town make this stretch a little on the quiet side.
The views between Nevada Beach and the Great Basin National Park are some of the most beautiful in all of the US, so your most important companion is your camera.
5. Overseas Highway
If spending days cramped up in a car just doesn’t sound appealing, opt for a mini road trip instead, like the Overseas Highway. This sunshine state route only takes 3-4 hours and links up two of Florida’s top beach locations.
Miami is all sand, surf and art deco hotels whereas Key West belongs to the Florida Keys collection of islands and has a Cuban infusion, as well as some of the best coral reefs to dive in. The 113-mile stretch of highway also brings you across the ocean itself, so expect epic views.
6. The High Road to Taos
Weaving between the valleys along the Rio Grande and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this New Mexico route makes for an American adventure with a Hispanic twist. Desert sands, peaks and greenery are broken up by old Hispanic villages, like Chimayo, Penasco and Truchas – known for their artisan crafts.
Bring your cowboy hat and holster because you’ll recognise the route as the backdrop to many a Western movie.
7. Hill Country
If you want to take your love of all things country a little further then make Hill Country your next road trip. Starting north of Austin in San Antonio, it takes you to the cowboy capital of the world, Bandera, where you can dance to the sounds of Willie Nelson and enjoy onion rings at the Silver Dollar Saloon.
From here you can drive on to the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with the famous pink rock, get your groove on at Gruene Hall and even stop to swap the truck for a tube trip down the Guadalupe River.