“Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel…Let it roll, let it roll”
-Jim Morrison, “Roadhouse Blues”
There is nothing more American than a good ‘ole fashioned road trip! Time to roll down those windows, let down your hair and feel the wind at your face. Grab your fellow road warriors and set out on a journey to see some of the top-notch destinations that this country has to offer. The options are endless, and here is your road map to some of the finest adventures to embark on this summer.
Overseas Highway- Florida Keys
Distance: 126 miles (182 km)
If you have a fear of bridges and driving over water, this adventure is not for you. However, if renowned achievements in engineering and pristine teal-blue waters as far as the eyes can see are your thing, then this road trip has your name all over it!
This highway is a 126-mile series of roads and bridges that stretch from the Florida mainland all the way down to our country’s southernmost point- Key West.
Get up close and personal with sea turtles and a variety of fish while snorkeling, diving or fishing in the warm turquoise waters. Although ranked highly among many travel-goers, the only common complaint is the traffic you will most likely hit on the highway. Solution? Rent a convertible and you can work on your Florida tan instead of fretting over traffic!
The “Hawaii Belt”
Distance: 300 miles (483 km)
The perimeter around the “Big Island” of Hawaii is made of three state routes- 11, 19 and 190- and is referred to by locals as the “Hawaii Belt.” Most people spread this trip across several days to fully enjoy the local scenery, attractions, colors and flavors. All experts agree that your trip should begin in Kailua-Kona, a town bordered by hardened lava flows and home to the famed Kona coffee.
As you wind your way around the Big Island, expect to be delighted with deserts of lava, lush jungles, rushing waterfalls, active lava flows, farmland, snow-white beaches, soaring mountains and deep valleys.
Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)- California
Distance: 123 miles (198 km)
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is one of the most well-known and sought-after road trips in the world. Hugging cliffs and coastlines, majestic redwoods, whale and sea otter sightings are just a few of the reasons people are so drawn to this portion of the California coast.
Also referred to as Highway 1, this road follows most of the Cali coastline, but the official stretch of the PCH is only 123 miles (198 km). It only takes about 5 hours to drive the PCH, but it is strongly recommended to split your trip over a few days. Start your trip in Monterey and wind your way through the many must-see spots surrounding the incomparable Big Sur– this is where you’ll find the best state parks, the most breathtaking views, and where you will most likely want to spend the majority of your trip.
Highlights: Carmel by-the-Sea, Point Lobos State Reserve, Garrapata State Park, Old Coast Road, Bixby Bridge, Big Sur State Park, Nepenthe, Lucia, Plaskett, Gorda, Ragged Point, San Simeon, Cambria, and Morro Bay.
San Juan Skyway- South West Colorado
Distance: 233 miles (374 km)
The San Juan Skyway is a 233-mile loop around and through the San Juan Mountain Range in southwestern Colorado. This scenic route connects Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, Telluride, and Cortez. It takes about five hours to drive, but you should definitely allow at least a couple days to set up camp and soak-up your surroundings. The San Juan National Forest, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests.
This “road to sky” provides views of the San Juan Mountains, quaint towns and ancient Native American pueblo ruins. Mountain biking, world-class hiking, and skiing are all popular pastimes that draw people to this region of the U.S. Any time of year is good to drive the skyway, and in the summer you will be delighted with dazzling displays of wildflowers!
Grand Canyon, Arizona, Nevada, Utah
To give you some insight on this all-american road trip, I enlisted the assistance of outdoor enthusiast and full-time wanderlust, Kim Sans, who recently embarked on this adventure. She has spent the last 5 years working summers in Alaska, and uses the rest of the year to explore some of the best travel destinations in and outside of the United States. Here is her experienced advice for a five day trip:
“As an outdoor enthusiast one of my favorite things about camping is placing my tent in the most perfect place so when I unzip my tent “window” that next morning my breath will be taken away and a smile will be put on my face. I had 5 days to road trip around the Southwest and I camped in some places that did just that.”
From Phoenix drive 45 miles to the Lake Pleasant Campground. Enjoy the bright blue lake, primitive camp spots, and wild donkeys.
Drive 207 miles to Grand Canyon National Park. Take your time here, overwhelm your senses with the beauty of the Grand Canyon. I would highly recommend catching the colors change on the canyon as the sun goes down. Then drive 118 miles north to Lake Powell. Once at Lake Powell you can camp right in the sand at the shore of the lake, and go to sleep to the sounds of coyotes in the distance.
Drive 147 miles to Bryce Canyon National Park. Set up camp in one of their cozy and beautiful campgrounds. And if you are an early riser I would recommend catching the sunrise at Sunrise Point.
Drive 74 miles to Zion National Park. This park is one of my favorites. There is a lot to see and do here with all of the remarkable landscape. Lots of hiking, backpacking, camping, canyoneering, birding, cycling etc. For the thrill seeker in you I would recommend hiking Angel’s Landing. Then drive 60 miles to the Virgin River Canyon Campground, low fees, public restrooms, and gorgeous landscape.
On your last day drive 67 miles To Valley of Fire State Park. Enjoy the multiple acres of land covered in magnificent red sand stone formations. While you are there be sure to check out Petroglyphs, Arch Rock, and the Beehives.
The Kenai Peninsula- Alaska
Enjoy a true taste of the wild on the most scenic trip on this list. Glaciers, lush green mountains, the wildest of animals (bears, moose), world-class river and lake fishing, fresh salmon for every meal, whale-watching and ocean kayaking all await you on your journey.
Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier National Park, Montana
Duluth, Minnesota to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Distance: 300 miles (483 km)
Get your fill of Lake Superior views on this journey through prime hiking and biking country: waterfalls, dense forests and sea caves all await you on this journey.
Eureka, California to Coos Bay, Oregon
Distance: 250 miles (402 km)
Outside Online said it best, “Soak in the Pacific on this 250-mile trip from Eureka to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area—it’s every bit as stunning as California’s iconic Highway 1, but without the crowds.”
Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway- Virginia and North Carolina
Distance: 105 miles (169 km)
This cliff-hugging road offers sweeping views, fascinating and diverse flora and fauna, geologic wonders and a myriad of recreation opportunities. For these reasons, the Blue Ridge Mountains draw everyone from the casual Sunday driver to the avid road-tripper.
Bring some roadmaps: You remember, those paper things, that fold-up and have a ton of useful information and directions on them? Yeah, they still come in very handy! You never know when your electronics will lose service, and we all know Google Maps aren’t always the most reliable.
Pack a road kit: So, what’s a road kit? Well, road kits are used in case of an emergency and are going to keep you somewhat comfortable, and more importantly, alive! Road kits should include the following: first aid kit, road flares, plenty of water and food, a flashlight, blankets, and a portable power source.
Use the AllTrails app: If you’re going to be doing a lot of camping and hiking, download the AllTrails.com application— it’s very helpful, informative and people post great review and pictures!