Top 5 Road Trips in the US

Road Trips have something magical. Especially Road Trips in the US. Heck even Hollywood thinks so. From iconic movie masterpieces such as Thelma and Louise, Easy Rider or Rainman, to comedies like Little Miss Sunshine and National Lampoons Vacation.

Road Trips are popular, because they speak to us. Everybody has been on a Road Trip. I went on my first US Road Trip when I was only 3, with my whole family squeezed into an old RV, we drove from San Francisco to New York. We loved it so much, that we did it every year thereafter, exploring and driving all over the US to see this beautiful country and meeting locals. 

My Top 5 Road Trips in the US List

1. Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago

Maybe the most iconic of all Road Trips in the US, the legendary Route 66 goes from Santa Monica all the way to Chicago. What most people don’t know, is that the official Route 66 Highway does not exist anymore.

In 1985, it was removed from the official road index of the United States. However, in some areas, the old Highway is now marked as the Historic Route 66. Just follow the hundreds of Souvenir shops that sell Route 66 memorabilia and you should be fine ๐Ÿ™‚

2. 17 Mile Drive on Highway #1 from San Francisco To San Diego

17 Mile Drive - Top 5 Road Trips in the US

The PCH, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway is maybe one of the most stunning and diverse of all the Road Trips in the US. The winding Highway takes you along the California Coastline, from its rugged cliffs in the North to the sandy beaches further South. I love the rough coastline of Northern California, the deep cliffs and the golden hills that are so indicative of the area.

When you leave San Francisco, you make your way to Muir Woods, Santa Cruz until you reach the famous 17 Mile Drive between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. You’ll have to pay $10 to enter the exclusive residential area and enjoy the stunning views. Take your time and stop, take pictures and imagine yourself living in one of the villas there. 

Before you reach Los Angeles, you make your way along the coastline of the Central Valley through the coast wine region of California. Ever seen the movie “Sideways”? If not, check it out and you’ll get some inspiration. After passing through the City of Angels, you follow it down the coast through beautiful little Beach Towns like Malibu, El Segundo, and Ocean Beach. And finally, you arrive in the Finest City of the United States, San Diego, right at the border to Mexico.  

Travelingninetofiver shares some really great and in-depth tips about the Pacific Coast Highway, fun stuff to do along the way and also has some absolutely stunning pictures. Go check out her Pacific Coast Trip Report!

3. The Hawaii Belt

The big loop around the Big Island of Hawaii is only about 150 miles long, but also the most diverse Road Trip of our Top 5 Road Trips in the US list. You will follow along Highway 11, 19, and 190 as you make your way around the island.

The winding road will lead you through lush tropical forests and you will see beautiful vistas of the cliffs along the coastline. You will drive through moonlike deserts leading to the base of the Kilauea volcano and rolling green hills and valleys. The landscape is changing so fast, you will feel like you are teleporting from one corner of the world to the next.

While you can do the trip in only one day, you will get much more out of it, if you take your time. There is so much to do and see, for example:

  • Tour a Kona Coffee Plantation and sample some of the delicious brew
  • Visit the Kilauea Visitor Center and/or hike up the volcano to view the sunrise
  • Take pictures of the Lava Fields and Bougainvillea forests, one of the most unique landscapes in the world
  • Follow the Ironman route of the Famous Hawaii Ironman World Championship

4. Florida Keys

From Key Largo to Key West, this Road Trip is just 90 miles long, but deserves a spot on my Top 5 Road Trips in the US list anyways. When I was a kid, we used to spend our Easter Holiday (in Germany schools are out for 2 weeks in this time) in Florida and one of the usual Highlights of our vacation was a Road Trip to Key West. While it is the shortest road trip on the list, please take your time as you hop your way from one island to the next.

The Florida Keys make their way from Miami halfway across to Cuba. Take in the crystal clear and turquoise shimmering waters of the Caribbean as you drive over the endless bridges towards Key West. Stop at Eddie’s Restaurant on Islamorada to feed wild Tarpon and enjoy fresh seafood by the water. 

When you reach Key West, you feel like you are in a different country and you can enjoy the Caribbean flavor of this island. A must see is the infamous Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where Hemingway used to sip his scotch and foundย inspiration. The shallow reefs make Key West a great spot for diving and snorkeling and the stunning sunsets are best taken in from aboard a sailing ship while sipping a cocktail.ย 

5. Seward Highway Alaska

The All American Road Trip from Anchorage to Seward is a beautiful drive to see some of the most stunning views of Alaska. You will feel the remoteness and endlessness of the Alaskan wilderness, yet you’ll never be too far from civilization. 

Top 5 Road Trips in the US

After leaving Anchorage, you follow along the banks of Turnagain Arm, a Fjord leading East off the Cook inlet towards Portage on its Eastern tip. Stop at Turnagain House to try some fresh Bay Oysters and watch the local fisherman try their luck on Bird Creek. If you are lucky, you might spot some Beluga whales from the viewpoint in Bird Point.

After leaving Anchorage, you follow along the banks of Turnagain Arm, a Fjord leading East off the Cook inlet towards Portage on its Eastern tip. Stop at Turnagain House to try some fresh Bay Oysters and watch the local fisherman try their luck on Bird Creek. If you are lucky, you might spot some Beluga whales from the viewpoint in Bird Point.

As you drive across the wetlands of Portage Valley, take in the stunning views of the snow-capped mountains and then make your way to higher grounds over Turnagain Pass and into Canyon Creek. This steep valley is perfect for adventurers who want to kayak through the icy waters of Canyon Creek, or go hiking in one of the best hiking spots of the Trinity Alps, as this mountain range is known. 

The sleepy town of Seward is a great spot to relax for a few days and enjoy the outdoors. Kayaking across the bay, fishing for fresh Salmon, hiking in the nearby mountains or just relaxing by the water – if you love the outdoors, you will love spending time in Seward!. 

Road Trips in the US are such a wonderful way to see this beautiful and stunning country. You will see stunning landscapes and meet wonderful people along the way and as you can see, no matter if you prefer Beaches or remote Mountain ranges, the US has a road trip for everyone. And if you are planning a road trip yourself, check out this blog post with great resources to plan your Road Trip in the US!