Roadside diners, Main Streets, purple mountains majesty, local radio stations, amber waves of grain…. We love a good summer road trip. It’s the perfect mix of nostalgia and nomad, where rubber meets the road meets the boiled peanut hawker on I-40. Saddle up your trusty 4-wheeled steed (or 2-wheeled, if you’re gutsy), and hit the open road. Here are a few of our favorite Great American Road Trips:
New Mexico, a land of desert, green chile, sand dunes, hot springs and caves doesn’t get nearly enough credit. The ‘Land of Enchantment’ is a bona fide mecca for exploration, discovery, scenic (and dull) stretches of highway, UFO’s, and endless adventure. This 7-day road trip itinerary takes you from Denver to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, a stopover in gorgeous Taos, to the natural hot springs of Jemez Valley, over to White Sands National Monument, down to otherworldly Carlsbad Caverns National Park, then back up to Santa Fe via Roswell – because what’s a trip to NM without a trip to UFO country?
Carlsbad Caverns, NM. John Fowler.
To many, Denver is the true gateway to the West. Like so many early frontiersmen, who reached the western edge of the High Plains and gazed upon the Front Range in both terror and excitement, the Mile High City (Denver) still acts as the ultimate springboard for Colorado adventure. Combine the glory of the open road with the solace of the mountains on this 7-day journey from Denver over some of the nation’s most scenic highways. Head south out of Denver to the Collegiate Peaks, through the Sawatch Range to Crested Butte, marvel at Gunnison National Park, sip wine in Grand Valley, float the Yampa River, relax in Steamboat Springs, hike Estes Park (and a drink at The Shining‘s Stanley Hotel) and watch the sunset over the Flatirons on Day 7. Are we there yet?
Black Canyon and Gunnison River, CO. Terry Foote.
One of the best things about Seattle is how many beautiful places are within easy reach, but some of the Pacific Northwest’s most amazing areas are far enough from Seattle that they require a whole weekend (at least) to explore them. Take the North Cascades National Scenic Highway (Hwy 20) east toward Methow Valley. Take a ferry across the sound and start up the Olympic Coast for a weekend of clamming, hiking and camping on the beach if you’ve got a good sleeping bag. Sneak across the Canadian border to Squamish to hike to the top of Stawamus Chief. Fill up on oysters and embrace Washington’s surf culture (yes, they have one) in the Westport. Take a week off and connect all 4 weekend getaways into one great road trip.
Shi Shi Beach on the Olympic Coast, WA. Scott Neilson.
American History in Pennsylvania
You can’t help but feel patriotic when you roll through the Keystone State. Surrounded by 6 states and with the great Appalachian Mountains running right through the middle, there’s no shortage of Americana in PA. For history buffs and lovers of all things kitsch, start in the City of Brotherly Love – birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution, and the resting place of the Liberty Bell. People-watch in Franklin Square and hit up the nation’s oldest bars for a cold one. Head out of the city on Route 30 for a scenic drive through the little farm towns that make up the fabric of the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside (“Dutch” refers to the German culture brought over by Protestant immigrants in the 17th century). Lancaster County is the seat of Amish Country and home to the Lancaster Central Market; pop in on Fridays for local shoo-fly-pie and chicken corn soup. Hop back on the 30 toward Gettysburg. Spend a few hours exploring the battlefields. Hook up with the Appalachian Trail via Caledonia State Park and spend a few nights camping on the great AT.
Amish buggy in Lancaster County, PA.
What’s a road trip without a pit stop at the “World’s Largest” roadside attraction? Luckily, the land of 1,000 lakes also seems to have a thousand pit stops. What the Midwest lacks in elevation, it more than makes up for with quirky, memorable sights and attractions. Here are 11 detours you should add to any trip through Middle America. Native American effigies, massive waterfalls, manicured gardens, the National Mustard Museum and even the American Gothic house. Smile for the camera!
Not actually in the Midwest, but how about that Cabazon Dinosaur?! Say “Cheese!”