Road tripping is undoubtedly a ritual and a rite of passage for new drivers as it is the ultimate adventure. Sure, gasoline is expensive, traffic is unavoidable, and car problems might occur. But that has never stopped people from planning an itinerary, packing up a car, and - after making sure their ride's in good shape - including checking tire conditions - hitting the open road.
The truth is that the United States is a country different from any other place in the world in offering an astonishing variety of landscapes, cuisines, cities, national parks, local cultures, and attractions. With that in mind, it's no wonder car trips are still an integral part of the American experience. Here we point out some of the best routes in the country, from slow mountain escapes to exciting rides by the sea, and everything in between.
Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier National Park, Montana
You can go from Jackson to Glacier National Park in one day, but why would you? Take a week off and make as many stops as possible in Big Sky Country, where you can enjoy some of the most breathtaking and diverse landscapes across America. Highlights include steep cliffs and the raging Grand Tetons river for geysers and wildlife in Yellowstone, as well as dramatic waterfalls and glacier formations.
This legendary itinerary starts at Lake Michigan and takes you to LA. Route 66 can be done in two weeks, but it is recommended that you devote enough time over a full month to enjoy the best attractions. The oldest church in the U.S., St.Joseph's, is located in Laguna Pueblo near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the world's largest rocking chair is in Fanning, Missouri. You'll also find many classic restaurants and motels.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Carolinas and Virginia
The nearly 500-kilometer asphalt pavement winding through the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park was built for travelers looking for the Appalachians. It is a panoramic ride for all seasons with wavy colorful slopes in autumn, an abundance of forests in summer and hot ski areas in winter. The park has become a paradise for bird watchers, with over 50 native species it is more diverse than the entire European continent. The Appalachian mountains are rich in minerals and contain emeralds, amethyst, rubies, topaz, and even gold.
California's Highway 1 to Big Sur
This well-known route has been popular with drivers for years. This Californian seaside classic is full of tricky twists, but it's all worth it for world-class panoramas along the way. Be prepared as some stretches can cover 40 miles without a break for a toilet or gas station. If you drive on Highway 1, it wouldn’t be complete if you don’t have a photo of Bixby Bridge to prove it. It is the Big Sur's answer to the Golden Gate in San Francisco. This impressive arch bridge with an open wedge rises 260 feet above the crumbling cliffs and the steep gorge below.
California's 17-Mile Drive
The so-called 17-Mile Drive through the California's Monterey Peninsula is a private stretch of Highway 1, which extends from Pacific Grove to Carmel, running through the forests of del Monte to the exclusive Pebble Beach golf community. With cliffs and seal colonies, it also offers spectacular sunsets over the Pacific, which residents say are worth the $10.25 entrance fee for using a private road. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has sunny seaweed forest tanks, a pet tank, and a million-gallon tank with sharks and sea turtles.
Anchorage to Valdez
Experience the breathtaking sights of Alaska at first hand on this short but sweet ride from Anchorage to Valdez. A 300-kilometer journey connects the Glenn and Richardson highways, past glittering glaciers and mountain ranges that have so many celestial peaks, many of which have not yet been named. Take on an easy seven-hour hike to admire the natural wonders of the last border, including the colorful ghost houses in the village of Eklutna and the picturesque turnout of the Matanuska Glacier. An easy hike along the Thunderbird Fall Trail is a popular family trip that leads to the impressive 200-meter-high waterfall. More fearless explorers should consider ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier, about 100 miles northeast of Anchorage.
Florida's Overseas Highway
If spending the day in the car does not appeal, take a shorter car trip, such as the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys. The Sunshine State Route only takes three to four hours and connects two of the state's most interesting destinations. Miami has hotels with sand, surfing and art deco, and Key West delights with its Victorian-era Old Town, hopping dining/nightlife scenes, and some of Florida's best coral reefs for diving and snorkeling. The 113-mile route also has plenty of over-water spans, so expect amazing views.