American road trips are part of all of our cultural history. Thelma and Louise, On the Road, Rain Man, there is a never-ending list of cultural journeys that have given so many of us a thirst for those vast, dusty roads, apple pie in a diner, and a soft top, racing green, 1966 Thunderbird.
Of course, in a country as vast as the US, there are many long and winding routes to choose from, so here’s our list of five of the best scenic drives in America.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
This is the classic route for big beaches and big cities. The Pacific Coast Highway hugs the winding curves of the coast from San Francisco down to San Diego. It takes in iconic sights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Big Sur redwood forest, and the Hollywood Hills, but then there’s all that’s in between too. The Danish bakeries of Solvang, for example. This mini-Copenhagen, founded by Danish pioneers in 1911, is the perfect stop-off for delicious pastries and coffee. If wine is more your thing though, stop for a night in the Santa Ynez Valley where the rosé tastes sublime against the backdrop of the rolling hills and expansive wineries. Then there’s Morro Bay, home to blue herons, monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, and gorgeous sea otters. Pit stops don’t get much better than this.
While the rich natural landscapes can keep your wanderlust well-stated, let us find you the best overnight accommodation to rest your head and regroup. Whether you’re after luxury hotels or traditional (but lovely, as standard) local motels, we know where to find the best food, the most comfortable beds, and (for a true taste of American road culture) the best karaoke bars.
Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
There are a few stories about how this road got its name – perhaps it’s the million-dollar views? Or the cost per mile of building it? Or there’s the tale about the gravel containing gold and silver tailings. Whatever the reason, the name fits perfectly for this dramatic, fun, and sometimes thrilling stretch of undulating mountain road. The hairpin turns and steep landscape keep drivers on their toes over this 25-mile stretch through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, between Silverton and Ouray. It’s steep too, climbing about 2,000 feet from Silverton to its summit at Red Mountain Pass before dropping another 3,000 feet into Ouray. It’s not for the faint-hearted as the outside edge of the road drops off towards the valley below. We can help you plan your route, give you driving tips, or even drive you ourselves – however you want to see the views and explore the terrain, we can get you there.
Beartooth Highway, Montana, and Wyoming
At its peak, Beartooth Highway is the highest road in the northern Rocky Mountains, and the views are so beautiful that they will live forever in your memory. It adjoins Yellowstone National Park so expect glorious national forests, glacial lakes, dramatic waterfalls, and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The road curves and winds through a range of ecosystems, from pine forests to tundra, to chilling glacial peaks with year-round snow.
So where do you stop on this journey full of epic possibilities? Let our experts guide you and plan your perfect route, incorporating a few of the best lakes (there are 950 to choose from nearby), mountain lodge restaurants, world-class hiking, and maybe a bit of Grizzly bear spotting too. At 67 miles long (108km), it’s a drive that could take a few hours or be spread over a few days, and it definitely earns its reputation as one of the best road trips through America.
Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon
Beside the steep basalt cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge runs a truly scenic highway. Crashing waterfalls? Check. Sweeping panoramas? Check. Wildflower meadows and river rapids? Check and check. In fact, the historic Columbia River Highway has the breadth and variety to suit every taste and desire. This is a scenic route, created for the pure love of driving through dramatic landscapes in an awesome car
The gorge was formed by Ice Age floods carving through ancient lava flows and it’s a perfect portrait of nature’s wild power. En route, you will pass the Latourell, Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil, and Wahkeena waterfalls, and the biggest one of them all, 620-foot Multnomah.
Park up for a hike or take out bicycles on a guided trail. Stop off for refreshment at a local brewpub or take on the white-water river rapids by boat. There is plenty to keep you entertained in this epic natural playground.
Great River Road, Mississippi River
For 3,000 miles, through ten states, along the winding banks of the Mississippi, the Great River Road is like traveling through America’s history. Rich cultures, vast plains, and a whole lot of stories – this is much more than just a car journey. It takes about 36 hours of straight driving to travel from north to south along the byway, but most people spread it over a few days with pit stops planned along the way.
The route will take you through little villages and big cities, where we can introduce you to the best storytellers, traditional musicians, superb hosts, and some of those classic diners where you can settle in for spiced ribs and sweet apple pie. Perfect.
As well as that though, there are miles of road where it’s just you and your car – it’s classic American road trip stuff that will leave you in awe of the size and scale of this incredible land.
If you want to take on one of the best road trips through America, call us or send us an email. Our well-travelled experts can tailor-make a trip just for you – whatever route, whatever car, whatever duration. Adventure awaits.