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Embarking on a cross-country road trip is a dream for many adventure-seekers. There’s something magical about hitting the open road and exploring the vast landscapes and hidden gems that our country has to offer. From stunning natural wonders to quirky roadside attractions, the possibilities are endless. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through seven epic cross-country road trips that will inspire your wanderlust and leave you with unforgettable memories.
1. Route 66: The Mother Road
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Santa Monica, California
Distance: 2,448 miles
Route 66, often referred to as the “Mother Road,” holds a special place in American history and culture. Although it was officially removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985, the spirit of this iconic road lives on. The journey begins in Chicago and takes you through cities like St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Santa Fe before reaching the final destination of Santa Monica.
As you traverse the 2,448-mile route, you’ll witness the changing landscapes of the American West, from vast plains to arid deserts and finally, the breathtaking Pacific Coast. Along the way, make sure to stop and explore the diverse attractions that Route 66 has to offer. From the artistic Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, there’s no shortage of wonders to discover.
For whiskey enthusiasts, a special itinerary can be tailored to include visits to craft distilleries along the route. Indulge in the American pastime of whiskey tasting by stopping at distilleries like Few Spirits in Chicago, Still 630 in St. Louis, and Red Fork Distillery in Tulsa. Route 66 truly offers something for everyone, making it a must-visit road trip destination.
2. U.S. Route 2: The Northern Border Adventure
Start: Houlton, Maine
End: Everett, Washington
Distance: 2,575 miles
If you’re looking for a road trip that takes you along the scenic northern border of the United States, U.S. Route 2 is the perfect choice. This cross-country journey begins in Houlton, Maine, and continues west until just before the Canadian border near Burlington, Vermont. From there, you’ll cross into Canada and pass through Quebec and Ontario via the Trans-Canada Highway, offering stunning views of the Great Lakes region.
After rejoining the USA in St. Ignace, Michigan, the adventure continues through Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Montana’s picturesque Glacier National Park. These natural wonders provide ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to hike, explore, and immerse themselves in the beauty of the American landscape.
As you travel along U.S. Route 2, be sure to take the time to visit vibrant cities like Montreal and Ottawa, which offer a blend of history, culture, and culinary delights. Whether you’re admiring the beauty of Pancake Bay Provincial Park’s beach or marveling at the 40-foot Kakabeka Falls in Thunder Bay, this road trip promises to be an unforgettable adventure.
3. U.S. Highway 50: The Road of Duality
Start: Ocean City, Maryland
End: Sacramento, California
Distance: 3,019 miles
U.S. Highway 50, also known as the “backbone of America,” offers a road trip experience like no other. This cross-country journey begins in Ocean City, Maryland, and passes through cities like Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati before reaching its final destination of West Sacramento. As you travel along this historic route, you’ll witness the duality of the road, as it transitions from bustling city streets to vast desert landscapes.
One of the most memorable sections of U.S. Highway 50 is in Nevada, where it earned the nickname “The Loneliest Road in America.” Here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by miles of desert, with only a few gas pumps between Ely and Fernley. While it may be a challenging drive, the solitude and tranquility of the desert offer a unique sense of peace and quiet.
Make sure to take the time to explore the small towns and unique landmarks along the way. From a tree covered in shoes to old mining towns like Eureka, there’s no shortage of fascinating sights to discover. U.S. Highway 50 is a road of contrasts, offering a glimpse into the diverse landscapes and cultures that make up the fabric of America.
4. U.S. Highway 61: The Blues Trail
Start: Wyoming, Minnesota
End: New Orleans, Louisiana
Distance: 1,407 miles
For music lovers and history enthusiasts, U.S. Highway 61 is the ultimate road trip. This iconic route begins in Wyoming, Minnesota, and takes you through the heart of the blues genre, ending in the vibrant city of New Orleans. Bob Dylan famously wrote about his spiritual connection to Highway 61, and its significance in American music cannot be overstated.
As you travel along this musical journey, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the birthplaces of legendary artists such as B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. Immerse yourself in the rich history of the blues by stopping at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale and the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Museum in West Point.
Highway 61 is also part of the Great River Road, which follows the full length of the Mississippi River. This scenic route offers breathtaking views of river towns like Red Wing and Hastings in Minnesota and takes you through natural areas like the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi. The combination of music, history, and natural beauty makes U.S. Highway 61 a road trip to remember.
5. U.S. Route 1: Coastal Splendors
Start: Key West, Florida
End: Fort Kent, Maine
Distance: 2,369 miles
U.S. Route 1, often overshadowed by its famous counterpart in California, offers its own unique charm and beauty. This coastal road trip begins in Key West, Florida, and winds its way along the East Coast until reaching the small border town of Fort Kent, Maine. Along the way, you’ll pass through major cities like Miami, Washington, D.C., and Boston, as well as charming coastal towns and scenic landscapes.
The journey starts at “Marker 0” in the Florida Keys, where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the laid-back island vibes. As you make your way north, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes of the Southeast, including the picturesque beaches of Georgia and the Carolinas. The road then veers inland before hugging the coast again in Connecticut and eventually reaching Maine.
One of the highlights of this road trip is the opportunity to experience a range of landscapes and attractions, from the vibrant city life to the quaint coastal towns. Whether you’re indulging in fresh seafood, exploring historic sites, or simply enjoying the scenic drives, U.S. Route 1 offers something for everyone.
6. U.S. Highway 80: From Coast to Coast
Start: Tybee Island, Georgia
End: San Diego, California
Distance: 2,734 miles
If you’re seeking a road trip that takes you from coast to coast, U.S. Highway 80 is the perfect choice. This transcontinental journey begins in Tybee Island, Georgia, and stretches all the way to Southern California, ending in San Diego. U.S. Highway 80 was originally known as the Dixie Overland Highway and has played a significant role in connecting the Southeast and Southwest regions of the United States.
As you travel along this historic route, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the diverse landscapes and cultures that define America. From the forested eastern portion until Dallas, Texas, to the red mesas and dry landscapes of the Southwest, U.S. Highway 80 showcases the unique beauty of each region.
While parts of the original road have been renamed and incorporated into different interstates, there are still sections that retain their historic charm. States like Arizona have recognized parts of U.S. Highway 80 as a historic route, preserving its legacy. This road trip offers a blend of natural wonders, small-town charm, and the chance to explore iconic cities like New Orleans and San Diego.
7. Pacific Coast Highway: A Scenic Coastal Adventure
Start: Olympia, Washington
End: San Diego, California
Distance: 1,650 miles
The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as State Route 1, is renowned for its breathtaking coastal views and scenic beauty. This road trip begins in Olympia, Washington, and takes you along the stunning coastline of California until reaching San Diego. With a total distance of 1,650 miles, this journey offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.
As you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and picturesque beaches. The road winds through charming coastal towns like Carmel, Santa Barbara, and Malibu, allowing you to immerse yourself in the laid-back California lifestyle.
One of the highlights of this road trip is the chance to visit iconic attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the stunning Big Sur coastline. Take the time to stop at scenic viewpoints, go for a hike in one of the many state parks along the way, or simply relax on the beach and enjoy the tranquility of the ocean.