Tired of your morning commute or hungry to experience new places? A cross-country drive or even a weekend trip can offer great scenery and new sights.
From the East Coast to the West Coast, the open road offers breathtaking vistas, history-packed highlights, and a road winding upwards towards the sun. It’s a chance to see our wild spaces, the magic, and the natural grandeur of America as never before.
Whet your wanderlust with our 10 great drives across the country. These top picks from Travel + Leisure and Buzzfeed. Our list also includes some insight from a regular guy who quit his 9-5 job to crisscross the United States from Acadia National Park to the Florida Keys and from the Olympic Loop to Jurassic-style vistas along Hawaii’s Hana Highway.
Let’s help you kick off an epic road trip through blue-tinged mountains, limestone canyons, blazing autumn foliage, or Pacific Ocean views. Don’t forget to stop at some fun tourist spots along the way.
Along with the top 10 cross-country trips that no one should miss, we included the best places to grab a photo-op or check out fun things for the solo traveler or the whole family.
1. Acadia National Park Loop Road | Maine
If you want to experience magnificent Fall foliage or want to drive the meridian from northeast to northwest, you can dive into your road trip with the Park Loop Road that runs along the coastline through the Acadia National Park.
At Acadia, dense conifers plunge to smooth black basalt rocks lining a rugged coastline. Don’t miss the booming crash of surf at Thunder Hole cavern as a spray of water shoots high into the air with every wave.
It’s easy to complete the 27-mile drive in an hour if you avoid the tourist crowds that congest the two-lane loop road in summer.
There’s a raw and glacial beauty to the North Atlantic along the Acadian loop that might just make you want to book a cabin in the area for your next visit.
Where to stop
- Enjoy the tangy sea air and round off your wilderness experience with a day spent catching your supper on a Maine lobster boat.
Route: Acadia National Park Loop
2. Kancamagus Highway | New Hampshire
You’ll want to snap a lot of photos along the picture-perfect roads that wind through New Hampshire’s rolling White Mountains.
Visit in October to experience crisp days and blazing autumn maples, birch, and alder glowing along the 36-mile Kancamagus Highway. Locals affectionately call it “the Kanc” and now you can, too.
The best time to experience “the Kanc” is during autumn’s riotous glory of red, orange, and yellow colors that start in mid-September and peak around mid-October. You can also book a spring trip to experience lush valleys budding with wood anemone and yellow violets.
Picturesque little New England towns with white-steepled churches, old-fashioned downtown districts, and historic waterfront lake resorts dot the route, making this a lovely weekend drive or longer getaway through maple syrup country.
Where to stop
- You can hike a half-mile to view the three-tiered cascade at Sabbaday Falls close to Waterview which is easily accessible from the road.
- Stand in local history’s shadow under the scenic, 120-foot nineteenth-century Albany Covered Bridge built in 1858, just three years before the American Civil War.
Route: Lincoln to Conway
3. The Overseas Highway | Florida
If you head south to sunny Florida, you’re in for a spectacular surprise with the Overseas Highway running along US 1.
Spanning 106 miles from Miami to the Florida Keys, the highway travels from savanna grasses to crystal-clear blue waters teeming with marine life. This bridge to paradise is one road trip that you don’t want to miss.
The Overseas Highway is the gateway to beach bars, nightlife, Parrotheads, and watersports. Discover lighthouses, see the largest collection of underwater coral reefs in the US, or swim with dolphins along the route from Key Largo to Key West.
You can also take a detour to experience the Everglades National Park. These gorgeous mangrove forests are part of the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi.
Where to stop
- Hand-feed baitfish to six-foot-long tarpon from the Islamorada docks.
- Check out the Old Seven Mile Bridge, an architectural wonder built in 1912, that links Knights Key to the Little Duck Key.
- Stop by the Ernest Hemingway Home and visit the descendants of the famous author’s six-toed cats.
- Learn more about the Florida Keys’ history at the Islamorada History and Discovery Center.
Route: Key Largo to Key West
4. Blue Ridge Parkway | Virginia and North Carolina
No road trip along the east coast would feel complete without exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. With stunning panoramic views, this drive has something for everyone in every season, from fiery Fall foliage and epic hikes to winter ski resorts.
Drive 469 miles along winding blacktop roads through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Check out indigenous Native American art in Cherokee, North Carolina, or discover a birders paradise packed with over 50 species and more avian diversity than the European continent.
Savor breathtaking sunrise or sunset vistas along the Appalachian Mountain spine that makes up the Skyline Drive. You can also pack a lunch to enjoy on one of the many hikes or picnic spots in the Shenandoah National Park.
Where to stop
- Don’t miss the famous Natural Bridge, a gigantic natural rock formation in Rockbridge, Virginia. It’s a sacred place where the Monacan tribe used to worship. George Washington also carved his initials into the crystalline marble monolith on a trip to the area.
- Grab some pub food and local craft beer at the Devils Backbone Brewing Companyclose to the Wintergreen Ski Resort
- The Shenandoah Valley has some of the most incredible hikes in the region. Spur yourself to new heights by hiking to the top of Old Rag Mountain, conquer the Three Ridges, or pick out your own hike from a list of these top places to hike in Virginia.
- Did you know that North Carolina saw the first and largest gold rush from 1799 to the California Gold Rush in 1849? If Gold Fever strikes you, there are places where visitors can pan for gold, rubies, amethyst, topaz, and emeralds in the Appalachian Mountains.
5. The High Road | New Mexico
With deserts, forests, meadows filled with wildflowers and wild horses, Spanish churches, and ancient pueblo villages, this 56-mile route will take you from the state’s capital at Santa Fe to northern New Mexico’s high desert.
The narrow road winds through the Sangre de Christo Mountains that form the Rocky Mountains’ southernmost subrange. The trek also delivers breathtaking canyon views that culminate at Truchas Peak rising 13,102 feet into the sky.
Often referred to as the Great American Desert, Taos is also home to the Taos Pueblo. One of the oldest constantly inhabited communities in America, the Taos Pueblo is also a World Heritage site.
Tour the Santa Fe Opera for a summer performance or visit and the 135-year-old Romanesque-revival Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi year-round.
Where to stop
- Check out the artists’ colonies housed in seventeenth-century adobe towns along the route.
Route: Santa Fe to Taos
6. Going to the Sun Road | Montana
If epic is what you are after, there are few places more breathtaking than Going to the Sun Road. This incredible journey leads you on narrow, twisting mountain roads through Montana’s Glacier National Park.
Snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, and bighorn sheep offer unique photo-ops. You can choose from among 700 miles of hiking territory, experience Lake McDonald’s huge, clear alpine lake filled with rainbow-colored rocks, and Blackfoot Glacier, the largest at 441 acres (0.7 miles) of the park’s 26 glaciers.
The towering bulk of Chief Mountain defines the glacial landscape and remains a deeply sacred, powerful, and spiritual place for the region’s Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai tribes.
Return with stories about how you also crossed the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
Monitor local weather conditions before your trip for winter road closures due to snowdrifts that pile up to 100 feet or restrictions due to summer wildfire alerts. The best time to go is in summer when the route is typically open.
Where to stop
- You can learn about glacier geology, Montana’s indigenous peoples’ culture, or explore the park’s diverse ecosystem with a Flathead Valley tour when you sign up for a class at the Glacier Institute.
Route: Going to the Sun Road
7. Olympic Peninsula Loop | Washington
The Olympic Loop that takes you on a 440-mile circle along Highway 101 will have you falling in love with Washington’s magical peninsula. From Seattle, you ascend towards the Hoh River rainforest.
This lush rainforest will make you feel like you escaped to another planet as you walk under giant western hemlocks and ancient, gnarled Sitka spruce shrouded in green ferns and hanging moss.
Below Hurricane Ridge, the cliffs fall away to the San Juan Islands in the distance. When the tide goes out, you can see starfish, sand dollars, and crabs clustering in tidal pools along the beaches.
The road will take you by the Puget Sound, along Hood Canal, wind through majestic green forests layered below snow-capped mountain peaks, and lead you along Lake Crescent’s shore.
The best thing about the Olympic loop which encircles the gorgeous Olympic National Park is that you can either drive the route clockwise or counterclockwise. The route runs along the Pacific Ocean Coast and wraps up where you started.
Where to stop
- Adventurers and Twilight fans alike can explore the ghostly logging town at Forks.
8. Pacific Coast Highway | California
The drive along Highway 1, also known as Pacific Coast Highway, offers jaw-dropping views that will have you pulling over to snap photos of giant redwoods, steep rocky coastlines, and mythical morning fog from San Diego up the coast to San Francisco.
Be sure to experience the famous 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. This privately-owned piece off Highway 1 is less than 10 miles long and runs along the Monterey Peninsula from Pacific Grove to Carmel.
From harbor seals playing below surf-pounded cliffs to the Del Monte forests at the luxury Pebble Beach golf community, the $10.50 per vehicle entrance fee is more than worth it.
Where to stop
- Don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium. From kelp-forest tanks lit up by the sun, to a fun petting pool, and giant sharks and sea turtles floating in a million-gallon tank, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has something for everybody.
- If you continue north towards Highway 101, you will pair one of California’s most beautiful drives with an encounter with the Redwoods of California.
Route: San Diego to San Francisco
9. US Route 163 — Arizona and Utah
If you ever wanted to find yourself in the middle of movie scenery, Route 163 that flows through the red rock deserts of Arizona and Utah is the place. You just might not have thought that the movie was Forrest Gump.
Although the road shown in the film appears when Forrest grows “pretty tired” and heads home, this route is fortunately much more suited to vehicles than runners.
The 64-mile road cuts through the Navajo Nation lands stretching from Kayenta, Arizona, nearly to Bluff, Utah.
Where to stop
- The outstanding view of Monument Valley is the main reason to take this scenic drive. The towering red sandstone pillars rising out of the striated desert floor are one of the most iconic natural sights in America.
Route: Kayenta, Arizona, to Bluff, Utah
10. The Hana Highway — Hawaii
Round off your Maui odyssey with the road trip of a lifetime along the “Road to Hana.” Although you can drive the 52-mile route from Kahului to Hana in just a few hours, you may want to stay the night when you reach Hana so that you can immerse yourself in the island experience.
As the road twists past flowering mango trees, stunning green cliffs plunge to blue surf below. Between the warm sun and the sounds of the sea, you might want to slow down and stop for fresh banana bread or cool off with a shaved ice at one of the wayside stalls.
In the little town of Hana, located on eastern Mau, nudists and rare monk seals mingle on the red sand beach in the warm sun.
At the end of the day, crammed with beauty and banana bread, you too can proudly wear a t-shirt that reads, “I survived the road to Hana.”
Where to stop
Beyond Hana, before the road turns to an impassable track, you can stop by the Pools of Oheo where a seven-tiered waterfall cascades softly into the Haleakala National Park.
Route: Kahului to Hana
We hope that these 10 great drives across the country inspire your wanderlust and guide you on your journey to explore new places.
This guide is intended as a launching place to craft your own extraordinary road trip. Be sure to check out any other sights on each route that may interest you while you are in the area.
From Maine to Maui, the rocky coastlines, fiery foliage, high deserts, and crashing waves offer the chance to truly experience the journey and not just the destination on America’s unforgettable open road.