3 classic US road trips to plan right now
Road trips are all the rage now, and few countries beat the range and scale offered up by the US. With landscapes to suit all tastes and thousands of miles of highway stretching in all directions, the country has road tripping in its blood.
Whether you’re hungry for coast, country, mountains, or desert, there’s a road waiting for you. Want to start planning? We have three classic trips to get you started.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
It’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular road trips in the US. Follow in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller as you soak up the sunshine and pass cliff-hugging beaches, redwood forests, sea lion nooks, seaside towns, and wine country.
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Route 101 are often used interchangeably, so depending on the source, the “official” route follows 600 miles of Californian beach, or a rather more substantial 1,700 miles through Washington, Oregon, and California. Set aside at least two weeks to drive and sightsee the entire Highway, or choose a section such as California’s Highway 1 or Oregon’s Highway 101.
Highlights include the Californian section, perhaps the most famous of the Highway, and all the famous beaches along it, including Huntington Beach, Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara. Nature-lovers will appreciate the wildlife-teeming Channel Islands, San Simeon’s elephant seal colony, and the dramatic cliffs and redwoods of Big Sur. Architecture and engineering buffs will love the Bixby Bridge and Hearst Castle. For the more laid-back among you, the lovely, hippy towns of Monterrey, Carmel, Pescadero, and San Luis Obispo will definitely delight.
2. The Great River Road
The eternal Mississippi River has enchanted generations and inspired novels as it winds its way from Minnesota to Louisiana. Get to know this iconic river on our second classic road trip: the Great River Road, an unforgettable route following the length of the Mississippi.
The Great River Road is not a single highway but a series of roads more than 2,000 miles long. The Road passes through (count ‘em!) ten U.S. states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Highlights include the amazingly varied landscapes you’ll drive through, including iconic American farmlands, forests, cliffs, and wildlife refuges, as well as classic American cities like St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. Music and book-lovers will appreciate the chance to visit the birthplace of jazz, blues and Mark Twain. This road trip will also allow you to visit old plantation homes and fill up on the Deep South’s hearty fare (think cornbread, barbecued meat, baked potato, fried chicken, and sweet tea).
3. Blue Ridge Parkway
Hikers and campers rejoice – this is the road trip for you! How about a panoramic route along a mountain ridge – without the eyesore of a single interstate highway? That’s what awaits you on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make your way from North Carolina to Virginia and take your pick of dozens of hiking trails along the way.
The 460 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway’s specialty is its scenery. The fact that Stanley Abbott, the project’s head designer, was not an engineer, but a landscape artist, gives you an idea of the aesthetics of the Parkway. It runs from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, along a section of mountain ridge forming part of the Appalachian Mountains.
Highlights include tons of photo opportunities along this scenic route, dozens of stunning hikes with the opportunity to camp on nine sites along the Parkway, wonderful nature, cultural tours of Cherokee sites and the chance to tune into amazing local music, especially bluegrass and blues.