Pacific Coast Highway

20 Most Iconic Road Trips in America

Have you ever dreamt of hitting the open road, the wind in your hair, and the promise of adventure around every bend? If so, you’re not alone. Road trips have long been an American pastime, and there’s no shortage of iconic road trips in America to explore. Recently, I posed a question on Facebook, asking what people considered the most iconic road trips in America. After sifting through the over 1 thousand responses I found these responses were as diverse as the landscapes themselves. From the sun-kissed shores of California to the rugged mountains of Montana, here’s a list of some of the most iconic road trips in the USA.


Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1) – CA:

Known for breathtaking coastal views from San Diego to L.A.

Our journey begins on the sun-soaked shores of California, with the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1). This iconic drive promises not just a road trip but an unforgettable experience. Winding along the rugged cliffs of the California coastline, it’s impossible not to be captivated by the jaw-dropping vistas. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and dramatic cliffs on the other, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more scenic drive in the United States.

 2. Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Scenic Highway – MT/WY: 

Offers stunning mountainous landscapes.

For those who crave the beauty of the great outdoors, a road trip through Montana and Wyoming is a must. The Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Scenic Highway showcase the rugged grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. With each twist and turn, you’ll be met with snow-capped peaks, pristine alpine lakes, and wide-open spaces that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard.

 3. Blue Ridge Parkway – VA/NC: 

A scenic drive through the Appalachian Highlands.

If lush forests, rolling hills, and the serenity of the Appalachian Highlands beckon to your soul, the Blue Ridge Parkway awaits. This enchanting road trip offers an idyllic escape into the heart of nature. During autumn, the parkway transforms into a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours as the leaves change, creating a visual masterpiece you’ll never forget.

 4. Highway 395 – Various States: 

Runs along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Buckle up for a journey along Highway 395, where the Sierra Nevada Mountains stand sentinel to your east. This drive takes you through wild and untamed terrain, with alpine lakes, dense forests, and the rugged beauty of the Eastern Sierra. It’s an experience that feels like driving through a living, breathing Ansel Adams photograph.

 5. Skyline Drive – VA: 

Offers panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

For a more leisurely and picturesque drive, Skyline Drive in Virginia is a top choice. Meandering through Shenandoah National Park, it offers captivating views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park is a haven for wildlife, and you might spot deer, black bears, and various bird species along the way.

 6. Monument Valley – UT/AZ: 

Famous for its unique red sandstone buttes and mesas.

Monument Valley is where the road meets art. The iconic red sandstone buttes and mesas are instantly recognizable from countless Western movies. As you drive through this surreal landscape, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a John Wayne film.

 7. Million Dollar Highway – CO: 

Winding through the San Juan Mountains with breathtaking views.

Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth every hairpin turn. This dramatic route takes you through the San Juan Mountains and offers stunning views of towering peaks, alpine meadows, and historic mining towns.

 8. Door County Loop – WI: 

A picturesque drive with coastal views along the Door Peninsula.

For a change of pace, explore the Door County Loop in Wisconsin. This charming drive surrounds the Door Peninsula, offering delightful coastal views of Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Quaint towns, lighthouses, and cherry orchards dot the landscape, making it a serene and inviting road trip.

9. The Shafer Trail – UT:

Adventure drive from Moab to Canyonlands, not for the faint-hearted.

Prepare for a heart-pounding adventure on the Shafer Trail in Utah. This rugged route takes you from Moab to Canyonlands National Park. It’s a white-knuckle journey that winds along steep cliffs and offers views of red rock canyons that will leave you in awe.

 10. 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach – CA: 

Beautiful coastal scenery and famous golf courses.

Back on the California coast, the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach offers a blend of awe-inspiring coastal scenery and a chance to glimpse some of the world’s most renowned golf courses. It’s a luxurious drive that will make you feel like you’re in a Hollywood movie.

11. Highway 101 – Various States:

Scenic drive along the west coast.

Highway 101, although sometimes referred to as the Pacific Coast Highway, primarily spans the West Coast from Washington to California. For the iconic coastal drive through California, particularly from Los Angeles to San Francisco, you’d typically take the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1). Highway 101, on the other hand, guides you through the diverse landscapes of the entire West Coast, from the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest to the sunny beaches of Southern California, offering a true odyssey of its own.

 12. Going-to-the-Sun Road – MT: 

A stunning drive through Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park in Montana is a hidden treasure of the United States. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a feat of engineering that takes you through this pristine wilderness, offering jaw-dropping vistas of glacial valleys, pristine lakes, and dramatic mountain landscapes.

 13. Route 66 – IL to CA: 

Historic highway with a nostalgic feel.

No list of iconic road trips in America would be complete without Route 66. Route 66 is probably the most iconic road trips in the world. Known as the “Main Street of America,” or the “Mother Road” this historic highway weaves through small towns, big cities, and countless roadside attractions. It’s a journey back in time that’s brimming with nostalgia.

 14. Route 1 in Maine – ME: 

The scenic coastal drive from Brunswick to Bar Harbor.

Route 1 in Maine is the perfect blend of coastal charm and rugged wilderness. This drive takes you along the dramatic coastline, passing charming fishing villages, and lighthouses, and offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.

 15. The Loneliest Road in America (Highway 50) – Various States: 

Across the heart of the U.S.

If you crave solitude and wide-open spaces, the Loneliest Road in America is your calling. Highway 50 traverses the heart of the United States, offering a sense of isolation that’s as awe-inspiring as it is serene.

 16. Going to the Sun Road – MT: 

Famous for its views in Glacier National Park.

This Montana gem is a shorter but equally iconic route through Glacier National Park. With numerous viewpoints, you’ll be left breathless by the striking beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

 17. The Great River Road – Various States: 

Follows the course of the Mississippi River.

From the headwaters in Minnesota to the delta in Louisiana, the Great River Road is an epic journey along the mighty Mississippi. Along the way, you’ll encounter charming river towns, and historic sites, and witness the river’s ceaseless flow, reminding you of the heart and soul of America.

 18. Highway 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona – AZ: 

Through Arizona’s red rock country.

Arizona’s red rock country is a geological marvel, and Highway 89A offers a front-row seat to this natural wonder. The drive from Flagstaff to Sedona is a mesmerizing journey through canyons, cliffs, and otherworldly landscapes that have drawn artists and adventurers for generations.

 19. The Oregon Trail – Various States: 

Historic route from Missouri to Oregon.

The Oregon Trail isn’t just a historical relic; it’s a living testament to the spirit of exploration. Tracing the footsteps of pioneers, this road trip takes you from Missouri to Oregon, through prairies, deserts, and forests, connecting you with America’s westward expansion history.

 20. Highway 20 – Various States: 

The oldest continuous highway spanning the U.S.

Highway 20 is not just a road; it’s a piece of American history. Spanning from Boston, Massachusetts, to Newport, Oregon, it’s the longest road in the U.S. As you drive its length, you’ll experience the changing landscapes and diverse cultures of this vast and varied country.


Final Thoughts

Each of these iconic road trips presents a unique adventure and an opportunity to connect with the diverse landscapes and rich history of the United States. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply someone seeking a memorable journey, there’s a road trip on this list that will speak to your soul.

So, pack your bags, load up the car, and hit the open road. These iconic road trips in America are more than just highways; they are gateways to unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a solo adventure, these road trips will awaken your sense of wanderlust and leave you yearning for more.

Remember, the best road trips are not just about the destinations but the journey itself. Along the way, you’ll encounter hidden gems, local cuisine, and unforgettable moments that you’ll treasure forever. So, what are you waiting for? Start your engines and set out on a road trip of a lifetime. The open road is calling, and the most iconic road trips in America are waiting for you to explore and fall in love with the beauty of this remarkable country. Happy travels!

What are your thoughts on this list? Have you done any of these road trips? Are there any others you believe should be included?

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