Immortalised in many Hollywood films, the American road trip is synonymous with adventure, landscapes and freedom, and in a country as large and varied as the USA it’s no wonder self-drive holidays are a popular choice.
From week-long journeys that take you right across the breadth of the country, to day trips through lush tropical vegetation, there’s plenty to keep every traveller happy.
Here are our top 10 all American road trips:
1: Monument Valley
When most people think about self-driving in America, it’s Monument Valley with its iconic rocky red landscape, made famous through many Wild West films, that immediately springs to mind. There is a strong Native American influence here, and highlights include native rock art and horse-riding lead by local guides, not forgetting a stop at The Mittens, Monument Valley’s most famous monoliths which tower up 1000 feet above the valley floor.
2: Million Dollar Highway
Something a little different, the Million Dollar Highway is part of Route 550 and runs between Silverton and Ouray in Colorado. Not for the faint-hearted, the route weaves its way along narrow roads which, in many instances, are cut into the cliff face.
If you are brave enough to try this route you’ll be rewarded with towering mountain scenery and deep gorges, including the famous Uncompahgre Gorge.
Open all year round, the route is bathed in sunshine during the summer and blanketed by snow in the winter.
3: Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most popular self-drive routes in America, running from two of the country’s most famous cities: San Francisco and Los Angeles. Also known as Highway 1, the drive takes you along spectacular coastal roads, through rolling oak-lined hills and across historic bridges.
With so many of the US’s highlights in one stretch of road, the Pacific Coast Highway is a great self-drive trip for the first-time visitor to the country. It also takes around 10 hours to complete, so take your time and explore the towns, cities and beaches dotted along the way.
4: Avenue of the Giants
Also known as Redwood Highway, Avenue of the Giants runs through northern California from just north of Garberville to just south of Scotia, through some of the most spectacular redwood forest in the world. A must-see on this route is the Immortal Tree, a 950 year old redwood that stands at 250 feet tall, and you definitely do not want to miss negotiating one of the ‘drive-through’ trees!
5: Kancamagus Scenic Byway
The Kancamagus Scenic Byway is a 34-mile stretch of the New Hampshire Route 112 which runs through the White Mountains National Park. The autumn months of September and October are the most popular times to drive this route, when the fall leaves are out in all their splendour, but for a quieter experience and most cost-effective trip, visit during the summer.
Designated a National Scenic Byway by the US Department of Transportation, this stretch of road is home to numerous highlights, including the Castle in the Clouds – a historic mansion, and the picturesque Lake Winnpesaukee.
6: The Enchanted Circle scenic byway
The Enchanted Circle scenic byway is an 84-mile loop in New Mexico which takes in some breath-taking scenery including lakes, mountains and even a ghost town.
Running through seven communities such as Angel Fire, Eagle Nest and Questa, the Enchanted Circle rings Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state.
Highlights include D.H Lawrence’s place of rest, outdoor activities such as boating and walking, and of course, Wheeler Peak itself.
7: Route 66
In its original form the world-famous Route 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. Over the years much of the road was replaced by highways, resulting in Route 66 being decommissioned. This means it’s no longer possible to drive the route in its entirety, however, there are a number of sections that can still be passed.
With a hint of nostalgia this is a road trip that will give you a taste of America in its heyday.
8: Blue Ridge Parkway
As the name suggests, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile route which runs along the Blue Ridge mountain range from Virginia to North Carolina. Affectionately referred to as ‘America’s Favourite Drive’ the route is best undertaken during the fall, when the landscape is awash with colour as the autumn leaves change to red, orange and yellow.
9: Overseas Highway
The Florida Keys, a chain of small islands at the tip of Florida, are joined by the Overseas Highway, also known as ‘The Highway that Goes to the Sea’. Much of this 127.5 mile route is built on a disused railroad that fell into disrepair after the Labour Day Hurricane of 1935.
With crystal clear seas all around you, this is a unique and beautiful road trip that you’re sure to remember for a very long time!
10: Hana Highway
Hana Highway runs along the northern shore of Maui in Hawaii, stretching from the island’s commercial hub, Kahului, to the small isolated village of Hana in the northeast. Winding through lush tropical vegetation, past pretty waterfalls and over bridges this route is a great option for anyone spending time in Hawaii that would also like to experience life away from the pristine shores and hula dancers.
photo by Chuck Coker on flickr