The best road trip destination in all 50 states

Wikimedia Commons/The Great American Road Trip Death Valley photo

Nothing heralds the arrival of summer quite like taking a cross-country road trip. But if you’re relegated to just one state, there is plenty to see.

California’s Pacific Coast Highway offers a stunning juxtaposition of mountains and ocean, while Connecticut’s Route 169 takes you through quintessential New England. And that’s just the beginning.

If you’ve got the travel bug but can’t afford a trip abroad, here are 50 drives to consider that are well within budget. Grab your gas rewards card, cue the radio and get behind the wheel. (Just be sure to pay any balances off on time to keep your credit score intact. You can see how your credit card use is currently affecting your credit by viewing your two free credit scores each month on Credit.com.)


1. Alabama

Natchez Trace Parkway 

Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this scenic route was once a migratory trail for buffalo and Native Americans.

Don’t Miss: Keep an eye out for Civil War battle sites, ghost towns and parts of the original Natchez Trace Trail.

Planning: Commercial services are lacking, but there are plenty of traveler-friendly B&Bs.


2. Alaska

Seward Highway 

This stunning three-hour drive begins in Anchorage and meanders south across the Kenai Peninsula, ending in the harbor town of Seward on Resurrection Bay.

Don’t Miss: Canyon Creek, where the mountains beckon for snapshots and the water is perfect for kayaking.

Planning: The drive can go fast, but don’t rush it. Devote a long weekend to exploring the array of natural wonders, such as Chugach State Park and Bird Point.


3. Arizona

Catalina Highway 

Catalina Highway offers jaw-dropping views of canyons and valleys, with some mind-bending, brake-testing curves. You’ll ascend through a variety of ecosystems as you climb Mt. Lemmon, the highest peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Don’t Miss: Windy Point, which comes about 18 miles into the drive.

Planning: The town of Summerhaven marks the end of the drive and offers a handful of restaurants, but you’d be wise to pack your own snacks to have along the way.


4. Arkansas

Pig Trail Scenic Byway

Named for the winding byway between the towns of Fayetteville and Ozark, this 19-mile stretch cuts through the heart of the Boston Mountains and Ozark National Forest and over the Mulberry River.

Don’t Miss: Eureka Springs, a North Arkansas town famous for its historic Victorian homes.

Planning: Hit Turner Bend for food and refreshments. Cabins and camping are also available if you want to stay just a bit longer.


5. California

Pacific Coast Highway

This twisting, cliff-hugging route takes about five hours to complete, if you’re not rushing it. The drive encompasses both the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway.

Don’t Miss: The upscale, artsy town of Carmel, which has 80-plus art galleries.

Planning: Make sure you’re well-rested, as narrow shoulders and sharp drop-offs pose occasional risks. Leave your oversized RV at home — this drive is better meant for cars and SUVs.


6. Colorado

Independence Pass

Stretching 27 miles from Twin Lakes through Aspen, this narrow ribbon of road offers cinematic views worthy of an IMAX film.

Don’t Miss: Lake Creek, where the forests surrounding the steely blue water look like an oil painting.

Planning: Weather permitting, the two-lane pass typically opens on the Thursday before Memorial Day and closes on November 7. Be sure to check COtrip for status updates.


7. Connecticut

Route 169

Passing colonial homesteads, covered bridges and stone walls, this country road is as riddled with history as it is quaint. Stop by The Golden Lamb Buttery, in Brooklyn, for a late-afternoon hayride.

Don’t Miss: Mashamoquet Brook State Park, in Pomfret, which offers excellent hiking.

Planning: Allot an hour to drive without stopping or a full day to take in the sights. Make a mental note to return in autumn, when the foliage reaches its peak.


8. Delaware

Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway

Take an unforgettable drive through historic Château Country, home to the fabulously wealthy DuPont family and other early American aristocrats.

Don’t Miss: Nemours Estate, the late Alfred I. DuPont’s 77-room mansion, which he built as a gift to his second wife, Alicia.

Planning: Set aside an hour for the ride and two to three days for sightseeing.


9. Florida

Old Florida Heritage Highway 

Here’s your chance to get a glimpse of the Florida that time forgot. This route takes drivers past wetlands and homesteads, cattle and historic towns.

Don’t Miss: Micanopy, the oldest inland town in the state. Just south of Gainesville, it’s teeming with antique shops and the kind of barbecue that’ll make your eyes water.

Planning: Head out early if you plan to explore the towns, as most still shut down at 5 p.m.


10. Georgia

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway

This 41-mile drive encompasses part of the Appalachian Trail, the Chattahoochee River and Wildlife Management Areas. As you wind your way through the Chattahoochee National Forest, you’ll get terrific views of the valleys below.

Don’t Miss: Georgia’s beloved Vogel State Park, at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Planning: Pack your bag for a spontaneous hike or swim — there are recreation stops galore.


11. Hawaii

Kauai’s North Shore 

Starting from Lihue and ending in Haena, you’ll see green mountains on your left, and heavenly beaches on your right.

Don’t Miss: The Waikapalae wet cave, where Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was filmed. Daredevils can swim to The Blue Room, a wet cave only accessible by water.

Planning: Bring your own water supply, as you don’t want to drink the freshwater! It’s rife with bacteria.


12. Idaho

Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

This route winds through the Boise National Forest, passing historic Idaho City and Lowman, ending near the sprawling Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Don’t Miss: Park Creek Overlook, where the Sawtooth Range reaches over a wetland meadow.

Planning: Services are limited, so be sure to fuel up beforehand.


13. Illinois

Great River Road

This 550-mile route just about has it all, from historic sites and de Immigrant Windmill to the Mississippi River and Cahokia Mounds, the largest prehistoric Native American settlement in North America.

Don’t Miss: Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, which has shared-use trails for mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers.

Planning: Aim to go in the spring, when the migratory birds come to play in the lakes.


14. Indiana

Highway 46

Spanning three counties — Monroe, Brown and Bartholomew — this route draws local artisans and adventurous foodies.

Don’t Miss: Columbus, a surprisingly artsy town with a rich architectural history.

Planning: Fall foliage, art shows and live music make autumn the ideal time to make this trip.


15. Iowa

Dragoon Trail 

Follow the route of the first U.S. Dragoons, cavalry soldiers who scouted Iowa in 1835 after the Black Hawk Purchase. The historic 200-mile drive starts in Fort Dodge and ends around Knoxville.

Don’t Miss: Stratford’s annual bluegrass festival, the Stratford Stride, which kicks off July 7.

Planning: There are plenty of ways to hit this road. Pass through scenic Des Moines or follow the Trail through Adelphi and Runnels.


16. Kansas

Route 66

Get your nostalgia fix on the Mother Road, which begins in Chicago and winds all the way to the Pacific, ending in Santa Monica.

Don’t Miss: Your chance to swig a Route 66 Root Beer at Eisler Brothers Store, in Riverton.

Planning: Whether you go the purist route and start in Chicago or kick things off in Fanning, Missouri, you’ll want to Instagram all the quirky roadside attractions you see along your way.


17. Kentucky

Bourbon Trail

No visit to bourbon country is complete without a drive through its rolling meadows, white-water rapids and crystalline streams.

Don’t Miss: The Belle of Louisville, America’s last true Mississippi steamboat.

Planning: The heart of bourbon country offers plenty of distillery tours, so find a designated driver beforehand.


18. Louisiana

Cane River Road

This 70-mile loop runs through Louisiana’s Creole Country, starting and ending in Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.

Don’t Miss: Alligator Park, five acres of habitat devoted to the swamp-loving reptile.

Planning: It’s possible to finish the loop in one day, but you may want more time to explore.


19. Maine

Coastal Route 1 

This route skirts the coast for some 300 miles between the borders of New Hampshire and Canada.

Don’t Miss: Seaside towns like Rockland, Camden and Belfast.

Planning: You may need a week to enjoy all that fresh lobster.


20. Maryland

Historic National Road 

America’s first federally funded highway runs 170 miles, passing lonely towns, abandoned toll houses, mountain passes and winding riverbanks.

Don’t Miss: History buffs will get a kick out of all the Civil War sites and attractions. Also keep your eyes peeled for stone markers dotting the highway.

Planning: The Maryland National Road Association will soon debut a new app, featuring guided journeys that use GPS coordinates to share historical facts.


21. Massachusetts

The Mohawk Trail

This 63-mile highway follows a historic trail once used by the Native Americans. Officially opened in 1914, it’s a mecca for nature lovers and fans of classic New England scenery.

Don’t Miss: Mohawk Trail State Forest, where six log cabins are available year-round and the trees play host to a variety of plants and animal life.

Planning: With foliage like this, you’d be a fool not to go in the fall.


22. Michigan

Red Arrow Highway

This popular summer cruise takes you through the quaint coastal villages of Union Pier, Lakeside and Harbert on the way to St. Joseph.

Don’t Miss: Three Oaks, inland of Harbor County. Here, you’ll find three blocks of turn-of-the-century brick buildings packed with food shops, cafes and boutiques.

Planning: Lake Michigan dictates the climate, so check the weather before you head out.


23. Minnesota

Avenue of Pines

Cutting diagonally across the Chippewa National Forest, this route is one of the most dazzling yet, with views of aspen stands, mature red pines stands and gleaming lakes.

Don’t Miss: Northern wildlife sightings are common in these parts — you may even spot a bald eagle.

Planning: This is another great place to visit in fall so as to not miss the colorful leaves.


24. Mississippi

The Blues Highway 

No other route evokes the genre of music known as the Delta blues like the legendary one that runs along the Mississippi River. John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith and B.B. King all sung about it. Chances are you will, too, once you’re home.

Don’t Miss: The fried chicken and peach cobbler in Tunica.

Planning: Aim to visit Stax Records, the iconic home of Otis Redding.


25. Missouri

Glade Top Trail

The views on Missouri’s only national scenic byway span the Springfield Plateau to the northwest and south, and St. Francis and Boston Mountains in Northern Arkansas.

Don’t Miss: Pygmy rattlesnakes, collared lizards, roadrunners and wild turkeys are just a few of the animals to watch out for on the road.

Planning: Go in the fall, when the fiery red-and-orange foliage is at its peak. Also be sure to grab a map of the trail published by the USDA Forest Service; the $10 price tag is worth it.


26. Montana

Clark Fork Scenic Drive

Here’s your chance to follow in William Clark’s footsteps. The expedition begins at Alberton, where you’ll encounter some of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking, then passes through the towns of Superior, St. Regis, DeBorgia, Haugan and Saltese on the way to Lookout Pass Ski Area.

Don’t Miss: KooKooSint Sheep Viewing Area, eight miles east of Thompson Falls, where as many as 100 bighorn sheep are often gathered in the small meadow.

Planning: ‘Silver Country’ features more than 1,000 miles of continuous snowmobile trails, the largest system of its kind in the Continental U.S. They’re open to mountain biking in the summer.


27. Nebraska

Heritage Highway

One of the state’s nine scenic byways, Heritage Highway extends 238 miles, from historic Brownville along the banks of the Missouri River westward to Edison.

Don’t Miss: The first week of October features a 14-county, three-day long yard sale — the Trail of Treasures — that’s a must for antiquarians.

Planning: Build a stop at Rock Creek Station State Historical Park into your itinerary; no western trip is complete without Oregon Trail wagon ruts.


28. Nevada

The Big Smoky Valley Scenic Drive

Meander through one of Nevada’s rarely seen wonders, the Big Smoky Valley. Though the first dozen miles or so are nothing to see, you’ll soon be rewarded with stellar views of the Toiyabe Range and an open-pit gold mine.

Don’t Miss: Ophir, a short-lived ghost town deserted in the 1890s.

Planning: Most of the valley is public campgrounds, however, the most accessible is near the town of Kingston.


29. New Hampshire

Apple Way

Get ready to splurge on apples, cider, pumpkins and produce galore. The Apple Way begins by the Londonderry Town Offices, passing Dutton Farm, the first maple syrup producer in town, Woodmont Orchards, Sunnycrest Farm and Breezy Hill Farm (now a B&B).

Don’t Miss: The Currier & Ives Trail. Henniker is the area’s cultural center, while Warner offers prime hiking in Rollins State Park.

Planning: Make time to stop at one of Londonderry’s five orchards for apple picking in the fall.


30. New Jersey

County Route 519

Horse farms, antique shops and vineyards are but a few reasons to head just north of Stockton. And who wouldn’t want to say they’ve visited a town called Plumbsock?

Don’t Miss: The kiddos will be begging you to stop at Space Farms, a zoo-slash-museum featuring Goliath, the world’s largest “bear.”

Planning: Be sure to hit the farmer’s markets for in-season produce.


31. New Mexico

Abo Pass Trail

Speed by remnants of the lonely Abo Pueblo and the city of Belen on a path shaped by ancient pueblo life and Spanish explorers.

Don’t Miss: Abo Pueblo, one of the largest pueblos in the Southwest.

Planning: With horses more common than cars on this road, you’ll want to fill your tank up beforehand.


32. New York

Route 9

Just an hour north of the city, you’ll find fields of wildflowers and sleepy cottages that will make you feel like you’ve ventured to an entirely new land.

Don’t Miss: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where you’ll find beautifully carved head stones dating back to the 18th century.

Planning: Time your trip to avoid the commuters heading back home.


33. North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

This spectacular mountain drive hugs the Blue Ridge Mountains, connecting Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

Don’t Miss: Exit onto U.S. 221 to reach the famous Grandfather Mountain, known for its rocky terrain.

Planning: Be sure to check on road closures, especially during inclement weather.


34. North Dakota

Killdeer Mountain Four Bears 

With a name like this, how could the ride not be magical? This 64-mile byway charts some of the most enchanting parts of western North Dakota.

Don’t Miss: Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 4,033 acres of wetlands, making it ideal for birdwatching.

Planning: Aim to go in the fall to see the area’s beauty in all its brilliance.


35. Ohio

Covered Bridges Byway 

Rated one of the best driving roads in America by Car and Driver magazine, this curvy byway does not disappoint. You’ll start in Marietta and head northeast through the Wayne National Forest until it dead ends in Monroe County.

Don’t Miss: See how many Mail Pouch Tobacco barns you can count along the way; this area has quite a few.

Planning: Check on road closures, as some of the older bridges are being restored.


36. Oklahoma

Route 66

Hit the Mother Road for another dose of nostalgia and roadside oddities.

Don’t Miss: Stop in Claremore to get acquainted with vaudeville star Roy Rogers, “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son.”

Planning: This is one trip you can take in winter, when cabin fever starts to set in.


37. Oregon

Volcanic Legacy 

Start at Diamond Junction, just south of Chemult on Highway 97. You’ll circumnavigate the sparkling lake on Rim Drive.

Don’t Miss: Head south on Highway 62 and then 97 to pass Upper Klamath Lake, a large but shallow freshwater lake.

Planning: The road is closed seasonally, so make sure to check on its status before packing up the car and cooler.


38. Pennsylvania

Delaware Water Gap 

This woodsy drive centers on the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap that straddles the shores of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Don’t Miss: Buttermilk Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in New Jersey.

Planning: Go anytime between April and June, when the weather is ideal for a picnic.


39. Rhode Island

Ocean Drive 

Known as Ten Mile Drive, or “The Drive” to locals, this Newport route offers spectacular views of the coastline.

Don’t Miss: Fort Adams State Park, home of the legendary Newport Folk Festival.

Planning: Avoid the crowded beaches by driving past Castle Hill Inn & Resort. You can park in the Brenton Park lot, cross the street and take one of the paths down to the rocks. Fair warning: The water is usually freezing.


40. South Carolina

Ashley River Road 

Cruise under a dreamy canopy of hickory and oak trees, making time to visit a stop or two along the way.

Don’t Miss: Magnolia Plantations and Gardens, the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry. Founded in 1676, it still remains one of the loveliest gardens in the South.

Planning: This byway is a perfect day trip from nearby Charleston.


41. South Dakota

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Drivers can’t get enough of the Black Hills of western South Dakota, and it’s not hard to see why. Here, you’ll pass through one-lane rock-walled tunnels, reaching the uppermost heights of the Needles and Harney Peak in Custer State Park.

Don’t Miss: The challenging hike to the tower on Harney Peak.

Planning: Harney Peak’s trail isn’t paved, and the weather is changeable, so pack a jacket.


42. Tennessee

The Cherohala Skyway

This romantic byway crosses the Tennessee-North Carolina state line into the Great Smoky Mountains. You’ll get views of the mountain vistas, waterfalls and lush evergreen forests.

Don’t Miss: The Cherokee National Forest, which has 600 miles of hiking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail.

Planning: Stop in Tellico Plains’ visitor center to fuel up before leaving; there are no gas stations along this route.


43. Texas

Devil’s Backbone

From the Old Blanco Courthouse to Edwards Plateau, you’ll find plenty of sights to marvel at on this drive through the Texas Hill Country.

Don’t Miss: Canyon Lake State Park, one of the deepest lakes in Texas with 80 miles of shoreline.

Planning: Consider exploring the rest of Texas Hill Country, where the barbecue is second to none.


44. Utah

The Energy Loop: Huntington/Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway

The name says it all, as this dramatically changing landscape makes clear. Though it’s known for power plants, natural gas wells and coal mines, the Energy Loop is home to thousands of plant species and a multitude of birds.

Don’t Miss: Pack a picnic to enjoy in one of the well-maintained campgrounds.

Planning: This exhilarating drive is a thrill in any season, assuming the winter weather doesn’t make the roads unsafe.


45. Vermont

Scenic Route 100 Byway

Named one of “the most scenic drives in New England” by Yankee Magazine, “Vermont’s Main Street,” as it’s often called, connects some of the best winter skiing and riding in the Northeast.

Don’t Miss: You won’t lack dining options on the Chews & Brews route, one of several itineraries curated by the state.

Planning: For commentary and facts, download the Vermont Route 100 Byway Gypsy Guide from the App Store or on Google Play.


46. Virginia

Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park is the star of this ride, which features 75 tremendous overlooks. You’ll see the Shenandoah Valley to the west, and the rolling piedmont to the east.

Don’t Miss: Deer, black bears and other woodland animals that call Shenandoah home.

Planning: Go in June, when the azaleas, cardinal flowers, black-eyed susans and goldenrods are in full bloom. Skyline Drive is only closed when there is snow or ice covering the road, as well as at night during deer hunting season.


47. Washington

Chuckanut Drive 

Often referred to as Washington’s Big Sur, this is the only place where the Cascade Mountains meet the sea. Chuckanut Drive offers stunning views of the San Juan Islands and Chuckanut Bay.

Don’t Miss: Blanchard Mountain, the “jewel of the Chuckanuts,” where hiking trails (and bat caves) abound.

Planning: Camping is available at Larrabee State Park, and the area takes pride in its locally grown produce.


48. West Virginia

Route 32 Through Canaan Valley

This 20-mile drives stretches from Harmon to Thomas, with plenty of twists and turns as you ascend through the Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Don’t Miss: Thomas, an up-and-coming town with designer coffee and artsy hotspots.

Planning: Consider booking a stay at one of Thomas’ cozy B&Bs.


49. Wisconsin

Rustic Road 83

Pass the town of Bear Lake on Narrow Gauge Road, so named because it follows the route of an old railroad line used in the logging era. This route intersects the Ice Age Trail, so you’re sure to see some varied terrain.

Don’t Miss: The Nelson Cheese factory, where you can stock up on a variety of cheeses and gourmet ice cream.

Planning: Late September through early October are peak times for fall foliage.


50. Wyoming

Muddy Creek Historic Byway

Cruise 25 miles of back roads from a western ghost town to Muddy Creek, a famous campground of the western migration.

Don’t Miss: Fort Bridger, an emigrant supply stop along the Oregon Trail. In 1933, the property was dedicated as a Wyoming Historical Landmark.

Planning: Be sure to check road conditions before you go.

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