Inspired to take a road trip, but not sure where to go? You could toss out your maps and just hit the road, or you could do one of these iconic road trips and find out what makes them American classics.
Route 66 Starts Here Sign
Ah, the Mother Road. This Illinois-California route was wildly popular post-WWII, and it still has that old-timey nostalgia even today. As you travel from Chicago and through America's heartland to Los Angeles, you'll pass by vintage hotels, kitschy attractions, retro diners, and back in time to an era when the American road trip was king.
This All-American road is literally right on the California coast, so it offers some pretty stunning scenery. Plus there’s tons of great stops along the way from Legget, across the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, through Big Sur, and down into LA and San Diego. Watching the landscape change, from misty redwood forests to sandy, palm-tree lined shores, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the winding, shore-hugging road highlights California's coastal beauty.
Looking for a more offbeat trip? Even though we can’t really travel into space (yet), you can at least travel the Extraterrestrial Highway (aka Nevada State Route 375). It takes you through some pretty unremarkable desert, where some pretty remarkable (alleged) alien encounters have occurred! While we can’t guarantee a close encounter, we can promise that you'll have a few memorable experiences stopping at the quirky diners and otherworldly attractions along the way.
Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor's Center
This former buffalo trail is now one of America’s more scenic drives! Check out some classic Southern sights, from historical landmarks to diners that serve delicious comfort food as you cruise the route that winds its way from the quiet, historic town of Natchez to the bright lights of Nashville. Plus, since the speed limit rarely tops out of 60 MPH, you'll be learn to enjoy life in the slow lane.
This All-American road connects two national parks (The Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah) along a chain of mountains, so you know you’re in for some breathtaking views. Travel it in the summer and spring for some hiking and camping, or do it in the fall to catch some of the colorful foliage!
National Frontier Trails Museum
Had a hard time beating the game The Oregon Trail? Your chances of dying of dysentery while taking the trip in real life are a lot slimmer. This route (best taken in a Conestoga wagon) will take you through history and through some America’s gorgeous Western scenery! Start in Independence, Missouri like the characters in the game (and real-life pioneers) did... the National Frontier Trails Museum is a great place to get some context for this famed trip.
When Charles Kuralt from the famed television show "On the Road" calls a route “the most beautiful drive in America,” you should probably take note! He was referring to the Beartooth All-American Road (also known as the Beartooth Highway) that leads from just outside Red Lodge, Montana right to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Just shy of 70 miles, the drive will take at least 3 hours thanks to exciting switchbacks and the ever-present temptation to pull over for pictures. When you add in all the stops along the way, you can easily spend the entire day enjoying the Beartooth All-American Road as it rises nearly 11,000 feet to Beartooth Pass in Wyoming.
Following the Columbia River and cutting across the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the Historic Columbia River Highway was built back in the early 20th century, and the road was designed to enhance and show off the stunning landscape of the gorge. Cozy small towns and dozens of lush waterfalls literally line the route, and scenic overlooks abound. What more could you want from a trip?
Whether you're roadtripping back in time, or you're looking to get lost on a scenic back road, these iconic road trips will definitely be worth crossing off your bucket list.
Roadtrippers helps you find the most epic destinations and detours—from roadside attractions to natural wonders and beyond.
Explore More Trip Guides
9 stops on a Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail road trip
- 9 Places
- 55 mi
Offbeat guide to Kansas City, Missouri
- 10 Places
A road trip to filming locations featured in 'The Goonies'
- 6 Places
- 28 mi