Epic American Road Trips Around the US

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.

MinnesotaA 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.

 

Yosemite CaliforniaCal­i­for­nia 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.

 

OregonUlti­mate 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.

 

AdriondacksNorth­east 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.

 

Smoky MountainsSouth­ern 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.

 

Grand Teton MountainsWest­ern 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.