Seeing the sights, meeting new people and discovering just how far you can go without a proper shower—it’s all part of the road trip experience. With modern technology and an ever-increasing web of information and roads to follow, options are endless when it comes to planning your next epic road trip. Remember: it’s the travel that defines the adventure, not the destination.
A Minnesota Adventure, Eh? | 546 Miles
Duluth ↔ Grand Marais ↔ Ely ↔ Voyageurs ↔ Scenic State Park ↔ Grand Rapids
Starting in Duluth and heading north, the North Shore Scenic Byway has enough scenery and state parks worth extending your trip for, and once you make it to Grand Marais or Ely, you’ll find yourself in prime position to explore either the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or the Superior National Forest. Heading west across the top of the state, the remote Voyageurs National Park becomes more accessible, although only by boat or plane. Rounding the trip back to the start, there are plenty of adventure opportunities in the Chippewa National Forest and places like the aptly named Scenic State Park worth exploring on your way back home.
California Dreaming | 700 Miles
Morro Bay ↔ Sequoia ↔ King’s Canyon ↔ Yosemite ↔ San Francisco ↔ Big Sur
While there are many iconic California destinations worth steering towards, if you want to have an experience that spans from sea to summit, it’s worth aiming towards Central California. Whether you start seaside or near the side of a mountain, a loop that contains the stunning Sierra Nevadas and the picturesque Pacific Ocean can be done in less than 1,000 miles. Just the drive down California Highway 1 is worth the trip alone, once it recovers from recent landslides. It’s hard to say whether the blue water from Big Sur will take your breath away most, or the high elevation found throughout the Sierras, but it’s a question that’s always fun to figure out.
Ultimate Oregon | 726 Miles
Crater Lake ↔ Columbia River Gorge ↔ Portland ↔ Cape Lookout ↔ Oregon Dunes
Coastal lighthouses, rugged shores, ancient calderas, dramatic mountains, rushing rivers, waterfalls and a unique city unlike any other, suffice it to say Oregon has a lot to offer, and you can catch a strong glimpse of all there is to do in the Beaver State with just over 700 miles of travel. The emerald waters of Crater Lake will surely amaze, as will the Cascade crags of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and the Three Sisters Wilderness. At the north end of the state, the impressive Columbia River Gorge carves its way between Washington and Oregon, and lends decently quick access to Portland to sample some unique community flavors along your travels. From there, bomb it down the 101 and enjoy the rugged coast with the many different state parks, lighthouses, and scenic stopping points along the way.
Northeast or Nothing | 931 Miles
Green Mountains ↔ Adirondacks ↔ White Mountains ↔ Acadia ↔ Portland
If you happen to find yourself out on the East Coast looking for an adventure, you really don’t have to travel far to come across epic destinations. If you’re starting in New York, the Adirondacks in the northern part of the state offer hiking, mountain biking and paddling. The White Mountain National Forest is approximately 200 miles east of the Adirondacks and features epic wildernesses filled with lush forests and scenic mountain peaks. Heading to Acadia next adds some considerable extra mileage to this loop, but the rocky beaches and glacial peaks are worth the extra drive time. Fuel back up and shower in Portland before returning home, and you’ll be sure to have a road trip under your belt that will remain in your memories for years to come.
Southern Charm | 1,054 Miles
Mammoth Caves ↔ Daniel Boone ↔ Fayetteville ↔ Smokies ↔ Chattanooga
For a little southern exposure, a road trip loop that covers Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee can give you a real taste of southern adventure. Beginning in Kentucky, the massive Mammoth Caves National Park is fun to explore throughout the year; and the Daniel Boone National Forest, complete with more than 700,000 acres to explore, is less than 200 miles away. From Daniel Boone, the West Virginia town of Fayetteville is a decently long drive away, but with the adventure-endowed New River Gorge National Recreation Area as the background, your gas money will be well spent. The Great Smoky Mountains are another 4–5 hours further south from Fayetteville and provide plenty of fantastic hiking and camping opportunities. Heading back east through Nashville will give you something to listen to as you explore the city and end this epic southern road trip loop.
Western Landscapes | 1,839 Miles
Badlands ↔ Tetons ↔ Yellowstone ↔ Glacier ↔ Theodore Roosevelt
Featuring five of the most notable National Parks in the country, if you want to see big mountains, scenic vistas and possibly dangerous wildlife, then this 1,800+ mile loop in the American West is right for you. While the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier might be the first names to really catch your attention, don’t overlook the fun to be had exploring the Badlands of South Dakota and the surrounding Black Hills, as well as the great plains and colorful canyons of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. If you really want to make the most out of all these locations, you’d need about a decade to explore it all, but a month of not sitting still could give you a good taste of everything these dramatic landscapes can throw your way.