Take a Road Trip Across the United States
Road trips are just the best way to see the United States, plain and simple. There’s too much stuff to stop and see off the highways, the backroads and interstates to fly instead of drive. I’ve taken quite a few cross country road trips, from Massachusetts to California and other spots on the west coast and back. I’ve also driven to Key West, Florida, and to Washington state. There’s a lot to see, but you need to plan ahead.
The Northern Route:
The Northern Road trip route runs from Maine to Washington state, and will afford incredible views of Acadia National Park, the granite peaks of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, upstate New York, Ohio, Chicago, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Washington. Highlights along the route are Yellowstone National Park, Devil’s Tower Monument, Badlands National Park, Niagara Falls, and the lush rainforests of Olympic National Park. The trip takes around 10-14 days if you’re moving fast, but can be done in around 7 days if you don’t stop much.
The Southern Route:
Planning your trip across the southern states is a lot of fun, and it’s almost guaranteed that it will be warm or comfortable. Drive across the panhandle of Florida, the harbors of Alabama, the history of New Orleans, across the gigantic state of Texas, into the desert land of New Mexico, across the desert city of Tucson, and into the sunny state of California. When you take this route, it’s easy to go quick on I-10, but don’t forget to stop and some of the destinations off the main route like Carlsbad Caverns, Big Bend National Park, and Saguaro National Park.
California Road Trip:
When you enter California from I-10, one of the first desert cities you’ll encounter is Palm Springs, along with the beautiful and strange Joshua Tree National Park. A drive along the coast will take only 4 days at the most, but you’ll want to stop and enjoy it. The southern side of the state has the incredible warm beaches of San Diego, and the famed piers of Huntington and Manhattan Beach. Further north, you’ll visit Los Angeles, Malibu and Santa Barbara, and the spectacular cliffs of Big Sur, immediately followed by Monterey and San Francisco. Just north is the isolated peninsula of Point Reyes National Seashore and the Redwoods. Further inland, head to Yosemite National Park, Lassen National Park, Napa Valley and Sequoia National Park. Of all of the places in the United States, California is one of the easiest to plan. Everything is relatively close together, and there are so many incredible sites to see that you can spend 2-3 weeks traveling the state and not see everything.
East Coast Road Trip
A trip down or up the east coast offers a giant difference in temperature and culture, as you traverse the bridges over the Florida Keys and up to the craggy coastline of Maine. In between, you’ll see the nation’s capitol, Washington DC, the southern charm of Charleston, the pristine beaches of South Carolina and Georgia, long stretches of barrier islands in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the rolling dunes of Massachusetts and New England’s beaches. I-95 runs mostly inland along the east coast, but will most likely serve as your major route for much of the trip. A trip down can take as short as two days, or as long as 2 weeks, depending on your pace. Comfortably, you can get the trip down done in 5 days. Of course, on your way down, you probably don’t want to forget Disney World and Orlando.
The Grand Circle of the Southwest:
The Grand Circle includes some beautiful destinations like Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Zion National Park, and the famed Grand Canyon. This road trip covers the states of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, hugging close to the four corners region. Old Native American ruins, stunning canyon views, odd formations like the spire formations of the hoodoos (like Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks National Monument), and unforgettable hiking will make this one trip you’ll never forget. Plan to spend at least ten days on this trip. Destinations may look closer on the map than they are in reality. Many of the roads are backroads, or criss cross and wind around large mountains and buttes.
Which of these routes are for you? The northern route will carry you across more mountains and colder climates, along with some of the eastern and northern cities. The southern route will give a good taste of southern living, the desert, Texas, and Florida. The Grand Circle will provide some spectacular National Parks trips and views, away from any big cities. California offers a good variety of everything, beautiful beaches, parks and cities. You can pick one, or drive the entire distance, or just choose a single route. I’ve done all of them at once, and it took approximately 3 1/2 weeks, or 6 weeks if you take your time. Figure out how much time you can take off and go for it!