The last few years have brought countless new opportunities for remote jobs, providing people more flexibility than ever before. With increased flexibility comes the ability to travel more, and what better way to see the country than by car? Road trips put us in control of the travel experience, allowing us to decide where and for how long we want to stop and explore the sights.
With so many beautiful national parks and stunning travel destinations across the United States, it is hard to know where to visit first. We hope to help you plan a summer road trip that satisfies all your bucket list hopes and dreams.
So follow us along this journey to discover the top four best road trip ideas in America.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
Road tripping along the Pacific Coast Highway is the best way to ensure you are seeing all that California has to offer. Travel over 656 miles of highway along the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington for scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and accessibility to California state parks.
Driving the coast of California takes approximately 10 to 12 hours without stops. With all the beautiful cities and sites along the way, you’ll want to make plenty of stops. Planning a four to a five-day trip is ideal to have ample time at each location and to explore every city.
Here are a few stops for an epic California road trip:
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State Park is where we will begin our journey down the Pacific Coast Highway. California is famous for its redwoods, and this state park is home to the largest old-growth forest of redwoods. Begin your trip by taking in the picturesque scenery of gargantuan trees.
For a truly unique getaway, journey into the Sequoia National Forest and witness the hot springs. Nearby small towns like the California Hot Springs are a delightful slice of Americana.
From Humboldt Redwoods State Park, you can travel four hours south along the Pacific Coast Highway to reach San Francisco. San Francisco is a must-see city along the Pacific Coast Highway.
San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate Bridge, a world-renowned bridge, and is one of San Francisco’s most visited spots. Visit the Golden Gate Park and enjoy the views. You can also experience San Francisco by riding cable cars and visiting some of their outdoor festivals.
Head south from San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway for about three hours until you reach Big Sur. Big Sur is known by many as the most dramatic coastline in the world — it’s where the Santa Lucia Mountains protrude from the Pacific, making for a strikingly beautiful picture.
You will find Big Sur between Carmel and San Simeon, at the center of California’s coast. Upon arriving at Big Sur, check out some of the must-see attractions. One of the most popular things to do at Big Sur is to visit the Bixby Creek Bridge. This bridge is known for its stunning architectural design and is one of the most photographed bridges.
There are also some nature preserves and state parks to visit in Big Sur, so do your research before visiting so you don’t miss out on all that it has to offer.
Follow the Pacific Coast Highway south for about five hours, and you’ll reach Los Angeles, another must-see stop on your road trip. Los Angeles is home to countless tourist attractions. Delight your curiosity by hiking to the Griffith Observatory — gaze upon the adjacent Hollywood Sign and the planetarium for true star-gazing.
You’ll want to budget your time so that you have a full day to explore this city. More into wildflowers than wild times? Drive a little north for quintessential American small towns like Carpinteria in Santa Barbara.
From Los Angeles, you can keep following the Pacific Coast Highway south for another two and a half hours until you reach San Diego.
San Diego is known for its breathtaking beaches, so you’ll want to spend some time near the water. Balboa Park is a popular place to visit when in San Diego. It is home to the San Diego Zoo as well as a few museums and theaters.
2. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, is another popular road trip because it takes you along the shores of Lake Michigan for swimming, hiking, and biking. Lake Shore Drive is a 15-mile stretch with beautiful scenery and iconic attractions.
Here are a few places you should stop if you are traveling along Illinois’s Lake Shore Drive:
Lake Shore Drive offers access to many of Lake Michigan’s beaches. These beaches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lake Michigan is known for its crystal clear water and superior outdoor recreation.
Spend the day kayaking or canoeing on the water or hike one of the surrounding trails. Bring a tumbler to keep your drink cold all day in the sun. Consider packing a cooler full of snacks and drinks to fuel you as you travel.
Lakefront Trail is another must-see stop on your journey along Lake Shore Drive. Lakefront Trail is an 18.5-mile paved path for walkers and bikers alike. This path follows the Lake Michigan shoreline on the eastern edge of Chicago.
Lakefront Trail offers access to many of Lake Michigan’s beaches, so take some time to meander off the path and check out some different beaches and parks. Along the trail, you’ll see Jackson Park, Grant Park, and Millennium Park.
Stop for a picnic or sightseeing throughout your journey. Pack your lunch in a backpack cooler and explore the scenery.
Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest park and worth the trip. It is located in the most affluent neighborhood in Chicago. Lincoln Park is the botanist’s paradise, home to beautiful gardens full of vibrant life and vast green spaces. Take time to see Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory.
Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most popular waterfront locations. In the summer, Navy Pier is alive with fireworks, live music, incredible dining, and many other attractions.
This pier is also home to the Centennial Wheel, a 200-foot Ferris wheel that is an iconic piece of Chicago’s skyline. This popular tourist attraction is worth a visit.
3. Scenic Coastline Hana Highway Maui, Hawaii
Third on our list of road trips for your bucket list is Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii. The Hana Highway is a 64-mile-long journey along routes 36 and 360, connecting Kahului to Hana. Along this scenic drive are beautiful overlooks and stretches of open roads. Stop to explore various hiking trails and majestic waterfalls.
Along this scenic highway, you’ll catch volcano vistas, beautiful beach views, and lush rainforests. Traveling up and back on the Hana Highway can take between 10 and 12 hours, but it is all about the stops you’ll see along the way.
Let’s take a look at some stops you’ll encounter on your journey:
Maui Garden of Eden
The Maui Garden of Eden is an arboretum at mile marker 10.5. Inside are 2.5 miles of trails as well as 26 acres of tropical plant life that contain over 700 different specimens.
Take your time walking through the arboretum and appreciating the beauty and vibrancy of plant life. You can also repel down the Puohokamoa Waterfall or swim in the pools below. There is something for everyone at the Garden of Eden Arboretum.
Halfway to Hana
Halfway to Hana is a banana bread stand at mile marker 17. It is raved about by countless visitors because of the quality of Hawaiian bananas. Exploring a new travel destination includes culinary experiences, and what better way to immerse yourself in all that Maui has to offer than visiting a stand run by locals?
Upper Waikani Falls
You’ll encounter tons of breathtaking waterfalls as you venture along the Hana Highway and the Upper Waikani Falls are a must-see destination. Located on mile marker 19, this stop is home to three seventy-foot waterfalls, which are referred to as the Three Bears.
The three waterfalls plunge into a small pool, which is open for swimming. Spend some time cooling off or snapping a few pictures of this one-of-a-kind stop.
Black Sand Beach
Wai‘ānapanapa State Park is known for its black sand beach. This state park is at mile marker 32 and is one of the most renowned spots along the Hana Highway. The black sand beach is a strikingly beautiful contrast to the vibrant colors around it. Spend time here getting plenty of photos and soaking up the sun.
Carve out time to swim and explore some of the caves at this location.
4. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys
Next on our list of road trips is Highway 1 in the Florida Keys. This route is called the Overseas Highway, stretching 113 miles and including 42 bridges along the way. The Overseas Highway connects Key Largo to Key West and runs over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The journey from Key Largo to Key West is about a 2 1/2 hour journey, spent mainly traveling over bridges that connect small islands which make up the Florida Keys. There are plenty of stops to enjoy along the way, so expect this 2 1/2 hour drive to turn into a multiple-day venture.
We will lay out your road trip itinerary here:
Key Largo is where you will begin your journey along the Overseas Highway. Key Largo offers extraordinary opportunities for snorkeling and diving with unique marine life and clear water. Check out John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for a great location to dive and snorkel.
Seven Mile Bridge
The Seven Mile Bridge is the longest bridge along the Overseas Highway. This bridge is worth traveling along to see stunning ocean views. The Seven Mile Bridge also features Fred the Tree, a tree growing on the bridge that is fun to try and spot as you drive. The bridge connects Knights Key to Little Duck Key.
Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda is an island in the Florida Keys and worth a stop for a day or two. This island is also a great stop for snorkeling, paddling, and fishing. Spend the day at the beach or bike some of the paved roads in the park. Pack your cooler to keep your drinks and food fresh for a day in the sun.
Bahia Honda State Park has three beaches to visit: Sandspur Beach, Calusa Beach, and Loggerhead Beach. This state park is also home to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, previously a part of the Overseas Highway, now a pedestrian bridge over the water.
Key West is our final destination on the Overseas Highway. There are plenty of things to do and see upon your arrival in Key West.
Mallory Square is located in Key West’s historic old town. It is a waterfront plaza facing the Gulf of Mexico. This plaza is a beautiful place to watch the sunset and enjoy countless options from food vendors. You can also find street performers as well as live music here.
Key West Garden Club is another tourist attraction and is free to all visitors. This garden overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is full of tropical plant life and beautiful arches.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is worth the stop for those visiting Key West. It is home to approximately 60 species of butterflies and 20 species of birds. Beautiful plant life fills the conservatory, making for a tranquil and uniquely breathtaking experience.
Driving Into the Sunset
The summer season is perfect for hitting the open road and experiencing the cross-country lifestyle from our cars. There are countless road trip destinations across the USA that are worthy of your bucket list. So take to the road and start exploring.