Top 10 US Road Trips

The road trip is as American as apple pie, and with one of the largest and most diverse landscapes on the planet, the USA has so much more to offer than just Route 66.

  1. Golden Triangle – California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona

    A bucket-list bonanza that ticks off some of the USA’s ultimate must-dos, this journey starts on California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway, and is a sensory feast of city, sea, sin and sightseeing. Take the jaw-droppingly beautiful coast road from San Francisco to Los Angeles, making a pit stop at the Big Sur, where mountains plunge into the Pacific. Get your Hollywood fix in LA, and then head inland to the desert oasis of Las Vegas – AKA Sin City – for hedonistic pleasures. Cross the border into Utah for a grand loop of natural wonders, starting with Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Cruise through Monument Valley Tribal Park – made famous on the silver screen – before winding up at the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. Dust the dirt off back in Las Vegas and return to San Francisco via Yosemite National Park, where the continent’s highest waterfall will take your breath away.
  2. Great River Road – Minnesota to Louisiana

    Captain your own Huckleberry Finn adventure on an epic road trip along the length of the mighty Mississippi River. This 3330km quintessential-American journey starts in the far northern state of Minnesota, following the course of the Mississippi through 10 states and into the Deep South, before finally pulling up in Louisiana at the Gulf of Mexico. Experience an unmitigated cross-section of US culture as you enjoy the unique food, music, history and life of the diverse river communities. Get stuck into a Memphis barbecue, kick up your heels to the blues in Mississippi, and cruise on a classic steamboat on the storied river than is the lifeblood of the Gulf and Midwest. There’s plenty of river to choose from.
  3. Hana Highway – Hawaii

    The island state might be better known for beaches than bitumen, but its dramatic landscapes make for exhilarating driving. For thrill-seekers, the Hana Highway on the island of Maui is hard to top. The 84km-journey from Kahului to the sleepy hollow of Hana carves a path across Maui’s north-east coastline, and is a wild ride of narrow bridge crossings, hairpin bends and precipitous cliff faces. Buckle up for an adrenaline-fuelled drive taking in tropical forest, black sand beaches, shimmering waterfalls and incredible coastal views. Keep your eyes on the road and check your rental care insurance: there are 600 bends and 59 bridges to navigate.
  4. Seward Highway – Alaska

    Alaska’s answer to Africa’s ‘Big Five’ comes in the form of mountains, glaciers, whales, fjords and waterfalls. Pull on your thermals and grab your camera for an eye-popping 204km adventure through one of North America’s most striking topographies. The Seward Highway connects the USA’s northernmost city of Anchorage to the harbour town of Seward, via a chain or dramatic mountain passes. Visit in summer and see the valleys and snow-frosted mountains pop with wildflowers, park your wheels for a ski tram ride up Mount Alyeska, and keep your eyes peeled for black bears, beavers and bobbing icebergs.
  5. Cheese trail – Vermont

    Throw away the GPS and let your nose guide you on a delectable jaunt through the verdant artisanal cheese-producing state of Vermont. Start at the border with Massachusetts and, using Route 100 as a guide, wend your way north along the rugged ridgeline of the Green Mountains. Deviate through green pastures to farm doors for lashings of the famous Vermont cheddar, and tempt your taste buds with local varieties of feta, soft-ripened, blue-vein and goats cheeses. Drive through valleys and quaint riverside villages ablaze in autumnal hues in the fall, check out the abundant ski resorts in winter, or eat and mooch your way around this picture-postcard state year-round. Finish in Newport, the gateway to Canada.
  6. Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia and North Carolina

    For an alpine escapade that tantalises the senses and cleanses the lungs, journey deep into the Appalachian Mountain range. Two hours west of Washington DC, hook onto Skyline Drive, a breathtaking 170km route along the spine of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park. This drive is all about the views. Enjoy vistas across deep valleys and soaring peaks from 75 scenic overlooks, and keep a look out for roaming woodland animals and colourful mosaics of wildflowers. Continue onto the 755km Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah with Smoky Mountains National Park. Stop for happy snaps at the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering marvel that snakes across the slopes of North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain.
  7. Sea Islands – Georgia

    The well-to-to inhabitants of this island chain off America’s south-east coast would probably rather there were no roads bringing in four-wheeled riffraff. But, with a series of interconnecting bridges, causeways and ferries, the Golden Isles are free game to everyday motorists. Take a few days to discover the islands of St Simons, Sea, Jekyll and Little St Simons on an unconventional road trip over water. A historic playground of America’s elite, the islands glisten with glorious white-sand beaches, golf courses, resorts and beautiful people.
  8. San Juan Hwy and the Million Dollar Skyway – Colorado

    Check your brakes and file your fingernails for this white-knuckle journey through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, considered one of North America’s all-time greatest drives. The 380km-loop twists, climbs and free-falls through spectacular mountain passes, valleys and alpine forests, reaching a dizzying altitude of more than 3,500 metres. Steady your nerves exploring ghost towns, mining communities, Old West saloons and rolling cattle ranges, then stretch your legs on a ladder climb to ancient Native American cliff dwellings. Try your hand at fly fishing, warm up in the hot springs, and spot black bears, elk and bighorn sheep. If the panoramas don’t get your heart racing, the drive certainly will.
  9. Hermann Wine Trail – Missouri

    Forget California’s Napa Valley, for a more intimate vigneron venture head to Hermann, once one of the largest wine-producing regions on the planet. German settlers planted the first vines here in 1837, and the wine is still flowing freely today. A handful of small wineries and cellar doors dot the 32km trail meandering along the banks of the Missouri River between Hermann and New Haven. Swirl, sniff and swill your way between properties, taking time to meet the winemaker and learn the secrets of their latest vintage. This is one drive where you want to do as little driving as possible. Pack a picnic, drop your pace down a gear and suck in your surroundings.
  10. Going-to-the-Sun Road – Montana

    The journey through Montana’s Glacier National Park can indeed feel like an ascent into the heavens. With a national engineering gong, the Going-to-the-Sun Road slices an improbable path through a lunar landscape of mountain peaks and windswept alpine tundra. The road climbs out of cedar forests and past glacial lakes before crossing the continental divide, on a drive as variable as it is picturesque. Suck in your tummy as you navigate sections of the road carved into a sheer vertical cliff, known as the Garden Wall. Built in 1932, the Sun Road is an engineering triumph that has stood the test of time.

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