Looking for a road trip to take this summer, but don’t want to take the classic LA to SF route or the overdone cross-country extravaganza? We’ve compiled ten of the best, little-known, and infrequently-taken road trips in the US that you just have to check out.
Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway
Nestled within the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, this 110-mile road trip takes travelers through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the state. The trip starts at the old mining town of Silver City, and winds into the Pinos Altos (Tall Pines) Mountain Range. One of the best spots to check out along the way is the famous Gila Cliff Dwellings, which is a village built directly into the side of a cliff. Depending on how fast you take the trip, you can finish the route in as little as three hours – although we do recommend you take your time wandering through the beautiful New Mexico landscape.
Acadia All-American Road
Skirting along the Atlantic Ocean and the great Northeastern Bay Region, the Acadia All-American Road is a spectacular trip worth checking. Best through spring and summer, the trip is a winding 40 miles which can take an entire day or a few quick hours if you want to rush through it. The trip starts at the Park Loop of Acadia National Park, and winds through the Cadillac Mountain, which overlooks spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Maine Coast. We recommend you start this trip later in the day, as the Cadillac Mountains offer some of the darkest night skies suitable for stargazing in the U.S.
This is your classic All-American road trip. The iconic 2,400-mile route runs from Chicago to Santa Monica and displays some of the classic sights from 1950s America. The entire toad trip travels through five different states, and unlike the previously-listed trips takes at least two weeks if you want to explore the route in proper. From the classic hot dog spot Cozy Dogs in Springfield, Illinois to Will Rogers State Historic Park in Los Angeles, California, there is plenty to eat and see along the way.
If you find yourself in Virginia this summer in need of a road trip, try the Skyline Drive. This 105-mile trip loops through some of the most spectacular sights of the Virginia countryside. Traveling through the famous Blue Ridge, this route overlooks the stunning Shenadoah Valley National Park. The trip can be done in a quick three hours; however, because of the 35-mile-an-hour speed limit, it's likely going to take longer. We recommend travelers follow the 105 roadside mileposts to make sure you stay on the route. Also, if you’re lucky enough, in the mornings you might be able to catch the spectacular fog ocean phenomenon which makes it seem as though the surrounding mountaintops are rising from a white sea. While the trip is best taken during the spring or fall, the Skyline Drive is still gorgeous during the summer.
Stretched along the Maui Coast, the famous Hana Highway features spectacular views of black sand beaches and plunging tropical waterfalls. The route is a winding 52 miles and runs from Kahului to the town of Hana, hugging dramatic seaside cliff. It's also known to make the faint of heart car sick – so we recommend you get a car with four-wheel-drive. From the beautiful Puohokamoa Falls to the sparkling pools of ‘Ohe’o Gulch, this is one road trip that will never disappoint.
Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway is probably one of the most well-known and spectacular stretches of road in the west coast. Stretching 123 miles from Monterey to Morro Bay, the route passes through cliffs and gorgeous redwood forests. The trip can be done in a day, but you can easily take your time as there is plenty of camping to be had along the way. Don’t expect to have service though; the Pacific Coast Highway runs through some of the most desolate parts of the California Coast. The trip is great anytime of the year, just be wary during the winter rain seasons as the cliffside roads are subject to mudslides.
Route 12 is a famous road that winds down the North Carolina coast line. The 114-mile road trip runs from the picturesque Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, and ends at the quaint Ocracoke Village. From the Wright Brothers National Memorial, to the Bodie Island Lighthouse there are plenty of stops along the way worth checking out. This road trip is perfect during the end of summer (August - September) as during mid-summer the roads can get a little crowded. Don’t let that discourage you though, Route 12 down through North Carolina offers some spectacular views of the Eastern coastline.
Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway
Looping through western Colorado and eastern Utah, the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway is a stunning 480-mile road trip through red rock canyons and vast open vistas. This route is also peppered with faint traces of dinosaur fossils and footprints that date back at least 150 million years. The trip can take three to four days at best, and is perfect from spring through fall. The route passes through a variety of national parks all worth a day’s worth of exploring, and since it is a loop you can start from any end. However, be careful on the roads, most of them are unpaved, and there’s no telling how rough the ride might be.
Often considered the Alps of America, the gorgeous Cascade Mountains offer the perfect location for a mountaintop road trip. The 83-mile route that runs through the mountains can be driven in as little as three hours, but once you’re there, you’ll realize why we recommend you take your time. This trip starts out in Bend Oregon, and winds up into Mount Bachelor through looming ponderosa pine forests. After that the route takes travelers across the spectacular Todd and Sparks Lake, which are nestled in the volcanic mountains. The route ends in a return to civilization at the resort town of Sunriver. Summer is the perfect time for this trip as most of the roads are closed during the winter.
Winding through Lousiana’s famous Creole Country, the Bayou Cruise Road Trip takes travelers on a 70-mile journey through swamps, charming river towns, and all the quaint scenery of the bayou. This route is made up of a maze of small highways that start and end in Natchitoches. The road trip passes through a variety of historic plantations which all overlook the quaint countryside of the Bayou. We recommend you take this trip during late summer, as the weather can be hot and humid during the earlier months. Rich with Southern history this road trip is definitely worth being on your bucket list.
Cruise down Vegas' Black Canyon with a stunning crystal kayak ride: