There’s no doubt that international travel is glorious. But sometimes we’re so eager to go abroad that we forget to be tourists in our own country. Why not explore the beauty in your own backyard by taking to the open road?
We’ve mapped out five great American road trips from start to finish, with all the must-see stops along the way. It’s as simple as this: Pick your road trip, book your hotels or campsites along the way, and start driving. Cheers to a little more adventure in 2017!
1. Pacific Coast Highway
California’s Pacific Coast Highway is renowned for stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean and access to gorgeous beachside towns. Start your drive in San Simeon with a visit to Hearst Castle, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s former residence. Next, head up the coast for a meal at Nepenthe, an indoor-outdoor restaurant with a 270-degree panoramic view of the Pacific. Finish off the day with a trip to Pfeiffer Beach, a Big Sur escape famous for its purple sand.
The next day, head north to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve for a morning hike. Afterward, wander through the quaint village of Carmel-by-the-Sea for shopping, wine tasting or a tour of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo. Spend the evening in Monterey.
In the morning, start your three-hour drive to San Francisco. You won’t want to rush by the Bay, so set aside plenty of time for a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge and a hike through Muir Woods. You might even be able to squeeze in a tour of Alcatraz.
Finish up your road trip in the beautiful town of Mendocino, California, but not before spending a night in the charming Whale Watch Inn.
2. The Overseas Highway
The Overseas Highway is a simply stunning stretch from Miami to Key West, linking all the Florida Keys in between. We’ve highlighted the best stops on your route through this picturesque island chain.
After departing Miami, your first stop will be John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Scuba dive or snorkel through the coral reef or take a glass-bottom boat tour of the marine sanctuary. Next, make your way down to Florida Keys Brewing Co. in Islamorada for a cold one. Before you leave Islamorada, make sure to head to Anne’s Beach for a secluded getaway.
On your drive through Marathon, stop for breakfast at The Wooden Spoon, a casual diner decorated floor to ceiling with ― you guessed it ― wooden spoons. Pick up a sack lunch and drive to Pigeon Key for a picnic. The tiny island is nestled beneath Old Seven Mile Bridge. After lunch, pass over the iconic Seven Mile Bridge to reach the Lower Keys.
Once in Key West, you can’t miss the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where Hemingway lived for more than ten years. There are plenty of beautiful spots in Key West and the Lower Keys, but you can’t miss this literary marvel.
3. Historic Columbia River Highway
Interested in a trip to the Pacific Northwest? Look no further than the Historic Columbia River Highway, a scenic route in Oregon. Kick off the trip in Portland and make your way to Troutdale, where you’ll find Lewis and Clark State Park. Visitors can hike, bike and walk along the beach. Next, head toward Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint for impressive views of the Columbia River and Columbia River Gorge. A short ways down the road you’ll hit Crown Point State Scenic Corridor, where the Vista House sports an observatory and expansive views of the river.
Be sure to hike the Horsetail Falls Loop trail to see Lower Oneonta Falls and Horsetail Falls. Later on, stop by Bonneville Lock and Dam to tour the fish hatchery and view the reservoir. After passing the Bridge of the Gods, you’ll end your trip in Cascade Locks.
4. Route 66
Perhaps no American road is more famous than Route 66. The highway connecting Chicago, Illinois with Santa Monica, California is a staple in American history, literature and song. Taking a road trip along Route 66 is about as American as it gets.
If you’re starting your drive in Chicago, make your way down to Springfield, Illinois for hotdogs on a stick at the Cozy Dog Drive In. After lunch, head down to St. Louis and spend some time wandering the Missouri Botanical Garden and snapping photos of the Gateway Arch.
On your way through Missouri, don’t miss the Meramec Caverns, where you can take a guided cave tour. While you wind through Oklahoma, stop for some grub at the historic Rock Cafe and take in the sights and sounds at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.
In Texas, you’ll want to pause by Amarillo to see Cadillac Ranch ― an art installation of painted Cadillacs. Through New Mexico, take a left turn in Albuquerque and head on down to El Morro National Monument. Across the border in Arizona you’ll find Meteor Crater, a massive meteorite impact site.
Cool your heels at the Dollar Bill Bar in Oatman, Arizona. Road trippers have been covering the bar’s walls in dollar bills for years. Finally, wrap up your trip with a stopover at the iconic Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California before exploring Los Angeles.
5. Scenic Byway 12
See some of the best sights that Utah has to offer along Scenic Byway 12. Start your drive in Panguitch and head to the Red Canyon ― a breathtaking collection of red rock formations. Next, spend some time in Bryce Canyon National Park, where you can camp and hike through the many trails.
Next on our list of must-see sites is Kodachrome Basin State Park, where visitors can hike and horseback ride. Don’t miss Grosvenor Arch, which is just 10 miles southeast of the park. After that, you’ll want to make your way to the Escalante Petrified Forest. Enjoy the visitor center’s exhibits of petrified wood and fossilized dinosaur bones.
Grab a cup of coffee at Kiva Koffeehouse in Escalante and head up to Calf Creek, where a 5.5 mile hike will lead you to Calf Creek Falls. Finish up your road trip in Boulder, Utah with a meal at Hell’s Backbone Grill and a trip to Anasazi State Park Museum.