22 U.S. Road trips to take before you die

Take these bucket list road trips before you kick the bucket

Road trips in the USA offer limitless possibilities, be they mountain-winding roads snaking through majestic peaks, sea-kissed highways hugging shimmering coastlines, or national park routes crisscrossing breathtaking landscapes.

To help get your wheels rolling, here are the bucket list road trips in the USA to take before you kick the bucket. 

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Jump to US road trips by region:

Road trip USA: The Midwest

Historic Route 66, one of the best road trips in the USA
Photo credit: Andrey Bayda via Shutterstock 

Route 66 (Illinois to California)

The Mother Road weaves a path through the psyche of Americana. Starting in the Midwest, this route kisses against many of the most iconic moments in our history as it meanders to the West Coast. It’s also one of the most popular road trips in the USA for folks from around the world who make the pilgrimage just to run this road. 

This legendary highway is dotted with quirky roadside attractions, vintage motels, and classic diners. Explore the art deco architecture of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, and the ghost towns of the Mojave Desert. Whether you’re fascinated by history or just love a good road trip, Route 66 offers a unique glimpse into America’s past.

You can even electrify your journey because Route 66 is now EV-friendly.

Related The ultimate guide to riding Route 66 on a motorcycle

Minnesota’s North Shore

Discover the rugged beauty of Minnesota’s North Shore on a road trip along Highway 61, stretching from Duluth to Grand Portage. This scenic drive offers breathtaking views of Lake Superior, towering cliffs, and lush forests. 

US road trip: Minnesota North Shore
Split Rock Lighthouse, MN | Photo credit: Lonnie Paulson via Shutterstock 

Highlights include the picturesque Split Rock Lighthouse, the cascading waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls State Park, and the serene beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

This road trip in the USA offers opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and exploring charming lakeside towns like Two Harbors and Grand Marais.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Road Trip

Michiganders are uber-proud of their picturesque Upper Peninsula, and with good reason. The “U.P.” is known for its pristine wilderness, dramatic shorelines, and historic landmarks. Drive along US Highway 2 and M-28 to explore stunning spots like the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with its colorful cliffs and waterfalls, and the serene beaches of Lake Superior. Visit the historic town of Marquette, the breathtaking Tahquamenon Falls, and the secluded beauty of Isle Royale National Park

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | Photo credit: Martina Sliger via Shutterstock 

The Upper Peninsula splits between Lakes Superior and Michigan, and kisses Lake Huron at the end. A road trip here offers views of these Great Lakes, plenty of hiking stops, and all the boating breaks you could want along the journey.  

Related 5 must-see stops on a road trip through Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula

Texas Hill Country

This road trip takes you along the rolling hills, vineyards, and historic towns of Texas Hill Country, a region known for its scenic beauty and cultural richness. 

Texas Hill Country road trip USA
Photo credit: J. Amill Santiago via Unsplash

Visit charming towns like Fredericksburg, with its German heritage, and Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Enjoy wine tasting at local vineyards, wildflower viewing in the spring, and the unique limestone formations of the Hill Country State Natural Area

The roads here offer a mix of outdoor activities, cultural attractions, and picturesque landscapes.

Great River Road (Mississippi River)

The Great River Road along the Mississippi River is a scenic byway that passes through ten states and offers a rich tapestry of American history and culture. 

Great River Road US road trip
Photo credit: Joseph Sohm via Shutterstock 

From the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll encounter charming river towns, historic sites, and stunning river vistas. Highlights include the vibrant music scene in Memphis, the historic homes in Louisiana, and the scenic bluffs in Iowa. 

The Mississippi River is part of the fabric of America, and that’s why this is a part of a top road trip in the USA

The Great Lakes Circle Tour

This road trip captures the stunning shorelines of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. You’ll see bustling cities like Chicago and Toronto, as well as serene natural areas like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Great Lakes US road trip
Photo credit: Michael Deemer via Shutterstock 

Boating, fishing, and diverse cultural and natural attractions also dot this itinerary. This is one road trip in the USA that takes time to do it right and rewards those who do it with the experience of a lifetime. 

Related Sand dunes and dark skies: Can’t-miss stops on a road trip around Lake Michigan

Road trip USA: West/Southwest

Pacific Coast Highway (California)

This route is on virtually every US road trip list because it’s simply spectacular

Stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it offers breathtaking ocean views, rugged cliffs, and charming seaside towns like Monterey and Santa Barbara. 

Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway
Source: Daniel X D via Shutterstock

A road trip itinerary on the PCH offers iconic stops such as Big Sur’s dramatic coastline, the quaint Danish village of Solvang, and the glamorous beaches of Malibu. With plenty of opportunities for whale watching, hiking, and exploring coastal state parks, this road trip is a must for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

San Juan Skyway (Colorado)

This scenic (and slightly scary) loop offers dramatic mountain passes, historic mining towns, and breathtaking vistas. 

Key stops include the skiing and summer mecca of Telluride, the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the picturesque alpine village of Ouray

Million Dollar Highway
Photo credit: Craig Zerbe via Shutterstock 

This US road trip also encompasses the Million Dollar Highway, a famed road not for the faint of heart. The highway cuts through the heart of majestic mountains, etching a path along sheer cliffs, towering peaks, mountain forests, and raging waterfalls. 

Related The ultimate guide to Colorado’s San Juan Skyway

The Loneliest Road (Nevada)

Venture through Nevada’s remote landscapes on the Loneliest Road in America, also known as U.S. Route 50. This historic route takes you through vast desert expanses, rugged mountains, and ghost towns that echo the state’s mining past. 

Loneliest road in America road trip
Photo credit: Natalia Bratslavsky via Shutterstock 

Visit the eccentric town of Austin, the beautiful Great Basin National Park, and the intriguing dunes of Sand Mountain. This drive’s solitude and stark beauty make it an iconic choice.

Scenic Byway 12 (Utah)

Discover the otherworldly landscapes of Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, which traverses red rock canyons, high desert, and ancient Native American sites. This 124-mile route passes through two national parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, and features stunning natural wonders like the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

US road trip in Utah, Scenic Byway 12
Photo credit: lu_sea via Shutterstock 

Enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and exploring the region’s unique geology and vibrant colors. This drive is ideal for adventure seekers and nature lovers looking to experience Utah’s extraordinary beauty.

Related Why you should visit Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and how to do it the right way

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway (New Mexico)

Circle the stunning Sangre de Cristo Mountains on this road trip in New Mexico. This 84-mile loop takes you through diverse landscapes, including alpine forests, high deserts, and picturesque valleys. 

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
Photo credit: Gestalt Imagery via Shutterstock 

Stroll through the historic town of Taos, the artist community of Arroyo Seco, and the ski resort of Red River. Explore the natural beauty of the Rio Grande Gorge and the serene waters of Eagle Nest Lake

The Enchanted Circle is a US road trip that blends cultural heritage, outdoor recreation, and scenic beauty.

Related In Taos, a community of ‘voluntary anarchists’ is taking off-the-grid living to the next level

Route 89A (Arizona)

This American road trip meanders through the epically awesome landscapes of Northern Arizona. Along the way, you’ll see the red rocks of Sedona, roll through the Oak Creek Canyon, and cap your trip in the hip mountain town of Flagstaff

US road trip in Arizona
Photo credit: Sue Smith via Shutterstock 

The 89A offers dramatic canyon views, vibrant rock formations, and lush forests. Be sure to take a pit stop in Sedona, known for its towering red rocks and spiritual vortexes. The drive through the Oak Creek Canyon offers several trailheads to park and take a hike.  

Road trip USA: Pacific Northwest

Highway 101 (Oregon Coast)

Discover the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast along Highway 101, a scenic drive that offers dramatic coastal views, sandy beaches, and charming seaside towns. 

Oregon road trip USA
Photo credit: Ashley Hadzopoulos via Shutterstock 

Visit the iconic Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, explore the historic lighthouses at Cape Meares, and enjoy fresh seafood in Newport. The route also features lush forests, tide pools teeming with marine life, and scenic overlooks like the one at Heceta Head Lighthouse. Whether you’re interested in outdoor adventures or relaxing by the ocean, Oregon’s stretch of Highway 101 has it going on.

Columbia River Gorge (Oregon)

A scenic drive through the Columbia River Gorge offers waterfalls, lush forests, and breathtaking views of the Columbia River. Highlights include the iconic Multnomah Falls, the historic Vista House at Crown Point, and the picturesque Hood River Valley. 

Photo credit: Jon Bilous via Shutterstock 

This route is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous opportunities for hiking, windsurfing, and exploring the region’s diverse flora and fauna. The Columbia River Gorge is an iconic testament to Oregon’s natural beauty.

Related From snow to sea: The perfect Northwest Oregon road trip

Going-to-the-Sun Road (Montana)

This road trip in the USA takes you through Glacier National Park. Going-to-the-Sun Road in the heart of Montana’s prized park is an engineering marvel that spans 50 miles. This mountain road offers spectacular views of glacial valleys, towering mountains, and pristine lakes. 

Going to the Sun Road in Glacier should top any road trip USA list
Photo credit: Beach Creatives via Shutterstock 

Highlights include the Logan Pass, where you might spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep, and the breathtaking views of Lake McDonald. This route is a paradise for photographers and outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and exploring the park’s rugged beauty.

Beartooth Highway (Montana to Wyoming)

The Beartooth Highway showcases some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the U.S. Built in The Thirties, it’s been called “the most beautiful drive in America.”

The road winds from Montana to Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park. This high-altitude route passes through dramatic switchbacks, alpine meadows, and snow-capped peaks. 

Beartooth Highway US road trip
Photo credit: Yiwenz via Shutterstock 

Key stops include Beartooth Pass, which offers panoramic views, and the scenic vistas of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. This highway is built for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and even camping.

Road trip USA: Eastern US

Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia to North Carolina)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic US road trip winding through the heart of the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to North Carolina. 

Blue Ridge Parkway US Road Trip
Photo credit: Kelly vanDellen via Shutterstock 

Known for its stunning vistas, especially during the fall foliage season, the parkway offers numerous overlooks, hiking trails, and picnic spots. Visit the historic Mabry Mill, the Linville Falls, and the Blue Ridge Music Center to experience the region’s cultural heritage. 

Related Planning a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

Florida Keys Scenic Highway

This USA road trip is built right into the ocean via a network of highways connecting a beloved Florida archipelago. It stretches from Miami to Key West over several islands connected by 42 bridges. 

Florida Keys Scenic Highway US Road Trip
Photo credit: Mia2you via Shutterstock 

See stunning ocean views, vibrant coral reefs, and charming seaside communities. Key highlights include the Seven Mile Bridge, the historic town of Key West, and the Bahia Honda State Park with its beautiful beaches. This tropical drive offers a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for those seeking a taste of the Caribbean in the continental U.S.

Outer Banks Scenic Byway (North Carolina)

Road trip along the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, a coastal route with lighthouses, sandy beaches, and charming seaside villages. 

Photo credit: Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

Check out historic sites like the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and the picturesque town of Ocracoke. This drive offers a mix of natural beauty, maritime history, and relaxed beach town vibes, making it perfect for those seeking the ideal coastal road trip in the U.S.

Acadia All-American Road (Maine)

Discover the rugged coastal beauty of Acadia National Park on this All-American Road in Maine. This scenic drive offers rocky shorelines and lush forests. 

Photo credit: TLF Images via Shutterstock 

Highlights include the picturesque Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, the scenic loop road around Mount Desert Island, and the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast. 

This drive is ideal for nature lovers and photographers. Take pit stops along this US road trip to find spectacular hiking opportunities, snap pics, and enjoy quaint New England towns. 

Road trip USA: Alaska and Hawaii

Hana Highway (Hawaii)

Moving on to non-continental US road trips, the winding Hana Highway on Maui offers a journey through lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic coastal cliffs. 

Photo credit: Arkanto via Shutterstock 

Stunning views can be had at every turn on the Hana Highway as you trek over 600 curves and 50 bridges in just 64 miles of road-tripping. Highlights include the serene Hana town, the beautiful Waianapanapa State Park, and the majestic Oheo Gulch with its series of cascading pools. 

Alaska’s Seward Highway Road Trip

Alaska’s Seward Highway stretches from Anchorage to Seward and offers some of the most stunning landscapes in the Last Frontier. 

This US road trip takes you through the dramatic Turnagain Arm, with its breathtaking views of glaciers, mountains, and the rugged coastline. 

Alaska road trip on Seward Highway
Photo credit: EWY Media via Shutterstock 

Fun pit stops include the picturesque town of Girdwood, the stunning Kenai Peninsula, and the majestic Exit Glacier Area. A Seward Highway road trip offers opportunities for wildlife spotting, hiking, and experiencing the rich cultural heritage of Alaska’s indigenous peoples. 

This road trip through the 49th state is a must on a road trip USA bucket list. 

Road trips in the USA pack in a plethora of sights. Few other countries feature car-bound adventures where you can see so much from your windshield. Check off this bucket list of road trips before you kick the bucket to soak in the special mojo that is the US of A.