Epic US road trips top many a bucket list. In the land of the Interstate, where the automobile is king, it can be surprisingly hard to plan a road trip. The reason? There’s just so much choice. Narrowing down a plethora of possibilities into an itinerary that will fit neatly into a week or fortnight’s holiday is tricky. If you’re feeling overwhelmed – or simply don’t know where to begin – then let Mundana share their favourite epic US road trips you must take.
Historic Route 66
Nothing screams epic US road trip quite like historic Route 66. The original highway linked Chicago to Los Angeles on an almost 2500 journey which traversed states such as Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona. John Steinbeck wrote about what he dubbed the “Mother Road” in his 1939 classic The Grapes of Wrath. Nat King Cole famously sang “(Get your kicks on) Route 66” a few years later. More recently, Pixar used it as the inspiration for their smash hit animated movie Cars. Today, bypassed by forgettable but faster Interstates, only portions of this iconic road remain. If you have the time and the patience, these scenic byways reward you with retro diners, abandoned ghost towns, vintage stores and heritage motels – a true slice of good old-fashioned Americana.
Utah’s National Parks
Spend a week or more driving through the red rocks of Utah’s national parks. There are five in all, handily situated within easy reach of each other by car. Begin your tour at Arches, where the wind has sculpted the soft sandstone into incredible arches, some so delicate that you wonder how they don’t collapse. Next up are the panoramic views of Canyonlands, where the Colorado River carves a snake-like path through the desiccated landscape. Don’t rush the often overlooked Capitol Reef in your hurry to hike amongst the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. Round off your road trip as you park up and switch to Zion’s summer shuttle. Hike the riverside trails of breathtaking Zion Canyon that lead to popular landforms like exquisite Emerald Falls.
New England in the fall
Though New England is lovely at any time of year, it’s especially so during autumn, making this a popular choice if you’re narrowing down a list of possible epic US road trips. The red, orange and gold tones of the fall foliage contrast beautifully with white clapboard churches and blue skies dotted with cotton wool clouds. Begin in historic Boston, allowing at least a couple of days to explore before hitting the road. Wind north through Salem, notorious for the witch trials that took place in the 17th century. Push on to Portland, via the beaches of Kennebunkport and Bar Harbor, where the scenic loop of Acadia is a highlight. If you’ve the time, head inland to mountainous Vermont. Base yourself in stunning Stowe to explore the dense woodland of Smugglers’ Notch State Park. Soak up the colours of gorgeous White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire before returning the car.
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The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway winds for 469 glorious miles, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For this epic US road trip, be prepared to hop out of the car at regular intervals. For instance, follow in the footsteps of past presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as you visit Natural Bridge. It spans an impressive limestone gorge. As you drive over the Linn Cove Viaduct, ponder the engineering vision and skill that went into the construction of this iconic S-shaped bridge. Now one of the most photographed sights along the route, it seems to float against Grandfather Mountain. Just a few short miles away, you’ll find the Linville Gorge. This steep-sided granite canyon is home to Linville Falls, a delightful cascade surrounded by nature. Nearby lies charming Asheville.
The California Coast
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in sunny California is high on many people’s bucket list. It’s definitely one of the most epic US road trips. Rent yourself a convertible and feel the ocean breeze in your hair as you follow this well-trodden but unmissable route. Start your adventure in southerly San Diego, close to the Mexican border. Point the car north, passing the stunning beaches of La Jolla, and call in at one of the old Spanish missions at San Juan Capistrano. In LA, tick off the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the glitzy boutiques of Rodeo Drive as you imagine a celebrity lifestyle. Keeping the sea on your left, check out the waterfront mansions of Malibu and the upscale coastal town of Santa Barbara. Take the almost-obligatory detour to follow 17 Mile Drive to the Lone Cypress near Carmel. Just a few miles further, visit the world-famous Monterey Aquarium and grab a selfie on Cannery Row. Make your last stop San Francisco, so you can end your trip driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Loneliest Road
In 1986, Life Magazine ran an article about a road in Nevada. It read: “It’s totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it.” It was an unlikely candidate for a road trip, yet more than three decades later it has achieved something of a cult status among travellers. Granted, it’s not likely to be your first ever US road trip, but if you’ve seen some of the main sights and you’re looking for something off the beaten track, then the part of US Route 50 they call The Loneliest Road might just be what you’ve been searching for. It’s a desolate place, but a reminder of how vast this country is – and how stark its beauty. The road partly runs alongside the old Pony Express, the route taken by riders delivering the mail back in the 19th century. Today, in a landscape littered with sagebrush and punctuated by pine trees, keep your eyes peeled for sheep, deer, elk and wild horses. If you only make one stop, make it for the Singing Dunes of Sand Mountain.
We hope these suggestions help you pin down which part of America you’d like to explore for your epic US road trip. Check out Mundana’s top tips for road trips and then give us a call. We’ll help you fill in the detail, from hotels and excursions to car hire and flights. The open road’s calling: why wait any longer?