Road trips have always been a top pick for those with a spark of wanderlust in their soul, but this year, their popularity has skyrocketed. Associating this uptick to an increase in happy-go-lucky, optimistic attitudes would be great, but in reality, their rising popularity is more likely correlated to increased flexibility for travelers, limited exposure to strangers, and — in some cases — cost-effectiveness. Whether with a significant other, family, or solo (be sure to take appropriate safety and communication precautions if traveling alone), a road trip is always a good idea. Here are some of the routes for your best road trip in the U.S.:
- Route 66, Texas
Although it is no longer “officially” a single route and has been subdivided into more manageable interstate routes, the Mother Road (as it dubbed by John Steinbeck) remains one of the best places for a road trip. Motorists can hop on anywhere along the route, but one of the most iconic waypoints on the journey is in Texas, where the vintage feel comes to life.
The towns of McLean and Cadillac Ranch are historic stops along what is now I-40. McLean is known for its outstanding preservation of structures and businesses that thrived in the mid 20th century but saw desolation by the 1980s. Of note is the town’s Phillips 66 gas station, which still displays a 19 cents per gallon price sign. Cadillac Ranch is a major supplier to the U.S. beef industry, managing two million cattle per year. The Wild West vibe of this stop is unparalleled, and lucky travelers may even spot some tumbleweed.
- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina & Virginia
This National Parkway route winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains for 469 miles in both Virginia and North Carolina. Constructed in 1936, the road connects Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, making it ideal for families on adventure journeys.
- Scenic Route 100, Vermont
For New Englanders and tourists alike, few routes offer more perfect American autumn and winter scenes than Route 100. Passing directly through Vermont, this 217-mile interstate will bring travelers to quaint mountain towns like Ludlow and Stowe (where the state’s highest peak is), giving ample opportunity to duck into country stores and galavant in the foliage and snow. Explorers looking for more adventure can make their way to one of the many ski, snowboard, or outdoor activity locations in the state.
Be sure to check out one of Vermont’s greatest breweries along the way too, Alchemist Brewing Company. Vermont and the surrounding states have long and intense winters, so be sure to check for inclement weather prior to departing, and of course, drive carefully.
- Highway 1, California
Clocking in at just over 650 miles, Highway 1 road trippers can begin in the lively and art-drenched city of San Francisco before jumping on the road, passing through the picturesque Central Coast town of Big Sur, known for its culinary, coffee, and undeveloped stretches of scenery, before moving down the coastline through National Forests and ultimately, the City of Angels.
- Alaska-Canadian Highway, Alaska & Canada
Route de l’Alaska, as the French Canadians would say, is a nearly 1,400-mile highway passing through British Columbia, Yukon, and finally into Alaska. The highway was constructed in 1942 at the peak of the Second World War to connect mainland U.S. to The Last Frontier State of Alaska. While it may have started out as a precautionary measure, the highway is now a major tourist attraction.
This option is for those seeking an epic endeavor, and not for the faint of heart. Probably taking about seven days and stopping five to seven times, this trip is more of a “journey,” but boasts some incredible views, access to state parks, museums, waterways, and of course, snow-capped mountains.
- Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, New Mexico
Turquoise Trail of New Mexico is one of the more manageable road trips, with a 56-mile freeway traversing the land between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, continuing on to Taos.
The trip offers terrain of all sorts: ranches, mountains, and mineral springs. It also gives the option for small-town wandering, metropolitan adventures, ghost town tours, and even ski destinations in Taos. The route provides ample stops for education on the rich culture of Native American communities in the state.