Despite increasingly more affordable air travel, the American road trip is more than just rosy-glowed nostalgia—it’s alive and thriving. And as travel restrictions begin to loosen up, summer is the perfect time to start planning a trip to check out all the US has to offer. When you’re ready to hit the road, be sure to check Hotwire for great prices on rental cars for these awesome road trips, beyond Route 66, where the journey is just as much a draw as the destinations.
- Pacific Coast Highway, Coastal California. One of our personal faves, the PCH offers 655 miles of amazing views of the Pacific—from Mendocino all the way down to Orange County. Our favorite section begins on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco continuing on through the wharf in Monterey, cute cottages of Carmel-By-The-Sea, the bluffs of Big Sur, and down to San Simeon to see Hearst Castle. With that said, we won’t turn our noses up at a drive along the Malibu coast.
- Overseas Highway, Florida Keys. This 125-mile chain of islands on the southernmost tip of Florida is connected by the Overseas Highway—half the time you’ll actually feel as if you are driving on water. Beginning in Key Largo and ending in Key West, the road has plenty to see and experience along the way (tiny islands, fishing, swimming with dolphins, and more).
- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina to Virginia. Billed as one of America’s most visited sections of the National Parks System, the Blue Ridge Parkway does not disappoint. Beginning in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and ending at the famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, this 469-mile route offers plenty to see. Along the way, don’t miss Skyline Drive for epic views, National Bridge Park (just like it sounds—a 20 story “bridge” of solid rock), and hiking in Grandfather Mountain State Park. Have lots of time? Add on a Tennessee visit to Gatlinburg (“Gateway to the Smokies” with awesome views of the park from the Space Needle), Nashville (because Nashville is always a good idea), and Mammoth Cave National Park (the longest known cave system in the world) in Kentucky.
- Upper Michigan Peninsula Parts of the UP are so different than its lower neighbor, that it can feel like a completely separate state, meaning it’s an awesome road trip for both locals and out-of-towners alike. Start in Mackinac Island, head north to Michigan’s oldest town, Sault Ste. Marie, and then west to Whitefish Point (Great Shipwreck Museum), Tahquamemon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the college town of Marquette, and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
- Cascade Loop, Pacific Northwest. An ambitious undertaking, the Cascade Loop is 400+ miles and will take you 4+ days to complete (probably a bit more if you want to take more stops) but will show you the diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Begin your trip in Seattle (where it’s actually super sunny in the summer), drive North through Whidbey Island to Bellingham where you can pick up the North Cascades Scenic Highway to the East. Along the highway stop in small western towns, pass jaw-dropping vistas, and take beautiful hikes. Spend a night in local getaway Lake Chelan or the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth.
- Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks. Utah’s five National Parks are all stunning and incredibly unique so plan this trip for when you have time to visit them all. From Salt Lake City, head down to Zion (iconic red cliffs), Bryce Canyon (hoodoos—i.e. spire-shaped rock formations), Capitol Reef (100-mile-long Waterpocket Fold), Arches (2000+ natural sandstone arches), and Canyonlands (dramatic desert vistas carved out by the Colorado River). Hot Tip: Goblin Valley State Park, while not a National Park, is worth stopping at, too. It also has thousands of mushroom-shaped hoodoos, making the landscape look extra-terrestrial.