The 9 most iconic American road trips

Tamara Hinson

Summer's just around the corner, which means it's the ideal time for a road trip, and America, home of the legendary Route 66, has some of the best. Here are nine fantastic ways to take in the US of A's best bits

1. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

This route's known as America's favourite drive, and it turns out the American “taste” (at least when it comes to road trips) isn't so different from ours.

Tackle this tree-lined, 469-mile ribbon of tarmac and you'll cruise from Virginia's mountainous Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains.

The route winds through the spectacular Appalachian Highlands, and essential stop-offs include Humpback Rocks, famous for its rocky outcroppings and historic farm buildings, and North Carolina's Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, where you'll find a beautiful mansion built by conservationist Moses Cone in 1901.

 

2. Skyline Drive, Virginia

Virginia's Skyline Drive allows road trippers to see the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains without committing to the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway route.

The 105-mile road trip starts in quaint Front Royal, an historic town founded in 1788, and passes through Shenandoah National Park before finishing in Waynesboro (the site of one of the American Civil War's most significant battles).

Although the best time to tackle this route is autumn, when the foliage is at its finest, visit in spring and you'll find an explosion of wildflowers, azaleas and mountain laurel.

 

3. Highway 50

This super-sized road trip (3,000 miles) passes through 12 states, including California, Kansas and Colorado. Known as America's loneliest road because of the rural, desert landscape, Highway 50 owes its existence to Captain William Bicknell.

In the 1820s, he travelled between Missouri and Santa Fe, selling furs from the back of his wagon. Later, he helped government surveyors map his route, which became the Santa Fe Trail, now an important part of Highway 50.

You'll pass several national parks, like Indiana's George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, as well as numerous relics of a bygone age—rusting gas stations and wonderfully kitsch diners.

 

4. Overseas Highway, Florida

Yes, this road trip is actually one long bridge, but that’s what makes it special. Trust us—the Severn Bridge will look rather bland after this.

The drive, which takes you from Miami to Key West, takes four hours, but we recommend leaving plenty of time for detours, whether it's at Big Pine Key, with its ridiculously cute, knee-high Key deers, or Marathon, which has the world's first sea turtle hospital.

Get lucky and you'll meet its popular long-term resident—a green sea turtle which ended up with a deformed shell after a boat collided with his rear end. Although we can’t help but feel staff added insult to injury when they gave him his name: Bubble Butt.

 

5. Route 66, Illinois to California

Some fascinating Route 66 facts: drive this 2,448-mile route, which starts in Chicago and ends in California, and you'll travel through eight states and three time zones. Its nickname (mother road) was given by Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, who honoured it with an entire chapter in The Grapes of Wrath.

The strangest fact? Although it's still possible to drive it, the road no longer officially exists, and you've got President Eisenhower to thank for that. When he signed the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956, Interstate 40 replaced much of Route 66, which was decommissioned. Today, the route is maintained mostly by volunteers.

 

6. Frederick Douglass Driving Tour, Maryland

New England has a number of road trips which provide an insight into the dark days of slavery. One is the 125-mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, and the newest example is the Frederick Douglass route, named after the abolitionist and former slave.

And 2018's the perfect time to drive it, because many of the sites lining this route will hold celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Douglass's birth. This includes the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, where you'll find the former home of Douglass's sister, Eliza Mitchell, and Baltimore's Fells Point National Historic District, the entry point for thousands of slaves.

 

7. Colorado Hot Springs Loop, Colorado

Proof that driving in circles isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the Colorado Hot Springs Loop is a 720-mile road trip which can be broken down into smaller sections or tackled as one.

The route starts in Colorado's Ouray County (known as America's Switzerland due to its stunning alpine scenery) and finishes in Glenwood Springs, where you can soak in the world's largest hot springs.

Budding geologists will love the wide range of rock formations, from the Rocky Mountains' Yampah Vapor Caves to Steamboat's 150 geothermal springs.

 

8. Pacific Coast Highway, California

The Pacific Coast Highway certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, thanks to several sheer drops and a road which defies gravity by clinging to the side of California’s steepest cliffs.

Start your journey in San Francisco, where you can stock up on supplies (channel your inner hipster and opt for a loaf of sourdough bread) before heading along the coast.

In Big Sur, we recommend spending the night at the Treebones Resort, where you bed down in a giant, super-sized nest overlooking the ocean.

You'll finish in San Diego, where you can celebrate your success at the city's world-renowned Automotive Museum.

 

9. Great River Road, Memphis to New Orleans

This 395-mile section of the Great River Road (which has a total length of 2,000 miles) route takes you from Memphis in Tennessee to New Orleans. Highlights include Louisiana's beautiful plantation homes and the swamp-filled wilderness of the Mississippi Delta.

A weird fact? In Louisiana, it’s legal to drive with an open container of alcohol in the car as long as there's a paper-wrapped straw in it, and there are even drive-through daiquiri bars.

Strange laws aside, New Orleans (the finish line) is the perfect place to raise a toast to America's most beautiful road trip.