Top U.S. Road Trips to Take This Summer: Going on a road trip is almost a summer rite of passage. The warm weather and longer hours provide safer driving conditions that beg travelers to get out on the open road. Plus, road trips earn bonus points for their affordability and family-friendly vacation appeal.
So if you’re ready to press the gas pedal but don’t know where to go, we’ve got you covered. Check out this roundup of the seven top road trips in the United States to inspire your upcoming summer travel plans.
Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway, which is often referred to as State Route 1 or Highway 1, is undoubtedly one of the most iconic trips. The highway borders the California coastline starting just south of Los Angeles and ending in the San Francisco Bay Area, offering views of laid-back SoCal surfer towns and rugged cliffs along the way. Drivers will see the geography transform outside their windows from rocky deserts to lush valleys in a journey that can be comfortably completed in about 10 hours.
While the route passes through world-class cities and exciting towns in between, there are stretches of the road that go through some rural areas. So it’s wise to pack plenty of snacks and to put together an emergency kit in case you need assistance while out on the open road.
Located on the opposite coast, the Overseas Highway offers a unique road trip experience that largely takes place over water. Also known as Highway US 1, the exotic road takes travelers through city streets, tropical savannah, and over miles of bridges connecting the Florida Keys together.
The two-lane route begins in Miami and runs all the way down to Key West, taking three or four hours to complete without stopping. Whether you take a break at each island or drive straight through, you’re guaranteed to relax as you take in the breathtaking scenery along the drive. And if you don’t want to put the miles on your own car, here’s a list of rental car deals worth checking out.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Explore the nature and rich folk culture of Appalachia on a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. This byway runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia all the way down to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, providing drivers jaw-dropping vistas to look at throughout the journey. Just prepare ahead by making sure your brakes are in good shape, since portions of the route have steep hills and winding turns.
Along the 469 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find popular points of interest, including famed cultural attractions like the Biltmore Estate, Grand Caverns, and the Appalachian Mural Trail, to name a few.
Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway
If you were obsessed with dinosaurs as a child — or if your children love them today — you’ll have fun journeying along Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway in Utah.
The loop route covers several paleontology landmarks and museums through the rugged red-rock country of Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. Notable highlights of the highway include Dinosaur Quarry, Dinosaur Hills, and Dinosaur Journey Museum. And, better yet, you’ll pass by a few national parks where you can stretch your legs and take in stunning views. Travelers will need at least 3 to 4 days to complete the route at a leisurely pace.
The Iconic “Route 66”
No road trip list would be complete without mentioning the legendary Route 66. Covering over 2,000 miles across eight states, this road is one of the original highways of the US highway system and has appropriately earned nicknames such as “Main Street America” and “Mother Road.”
The roadway is a historic path for the generations of Americans who have migrated West over the years, and it remains a major thoroughfare for many travelers today. Cruisers on the route will see plenty of classic Americana in the kitschy diners, national landmarks, and oddball roadside attractions located right off the highway. But before you embark on just a portion or all 2,491 miles of the route, be sure to get yourself an oil change deal so you can ensure your engine will run great.
Hop over to the Hawaiian island of Maui for a road trip in paradise. The 64-mile Hana Highway hugs Maui’s eastern coastline and takes drivers through enchanting rainforests, waterfalls, natural pools, black-sand beaches, and more — just don’t forget your swimsuit!
But natural beauty and outdoor adventure isn’t all that Hana has to offer. Travelers will have their share of delicious foods to sample at roadside fruit stands and local markets along the way. Or, you can get your share of people watching as surfers hit the waves at one of the many beach towns along the route.
Olympic Peninsula Loop
Hit the pedal and circle around the renowned Olympic National Park for a road trip filled with magnificent natural wonder. The 300-plus-mile drive circles around the Olympic Peninsula and can be easily reached from Seattle by a short ferry ride. Highlights of the road include hot springs, rugged beaches, and the towering trees of the lush Hoh Rainforest.
Keep in mind that rain is no joke in Washington State. Remember to get your outdated windshield wipers replaced ahead of the trip, or learn how to change them yourself, so you’ll be able to see clearly ahead when driving.
Going to the Sun Road
Consider taking a drive down the highly-distinguished Glacier National Park located in Northwestern Montana. Going-Down-The-Sun Road, which was built in the 1920’s, was constructed inside the national park to entice more visitors to explore the untouched preserve.
Joyriders get to pass by picturesque glacial lakes, wildflower-covered valleys, alpine tundras, and plenty of lookout points for those times you want to pause and take in the views. And for those who want the road trip experience without having to commit to long periods of time behind the wheel, the historic 50-mile road is ideal as it can completed in just two hours without stops.
Stay Cool and Cruise Through One of These Destinations
“Life’s a journey, not the destination” – Amazing, Aerosmith
Road trips are a quintessential part of the American summer experience. The warm weather and extra hours of daylight make being on the road safer and more enjoyable. And, if you need an affordable travel option for kiddos on a summer break, a road trip is always a no-fail vacation idea.
With so many roads to take and country to cover in the USA, it can be hard to decide where exactly you should go. Keep these routes in mind so you can know where to take your next summertime trip.
Guest Post by Jon McDonald
Jon writes for various savings-oriented publications across the web, including DealCrunch.com and BadCredit.org. He also has more than 15 years of experience editing, writing, and designing — mostly in the sports department — for newspapers owned by The New York Times. In a previous life, Jon curated sports and entertainment memorabilia auctions for a high-end collectibles business. Currently, he enjoys watching sports, taking family road trips, and helping others save money in their everyday lives.