Ever since automobiles were invented and paved roads began to crisscross the nation, Americans have been going on road trips. Whole industries sprung up around these early adventurers, including motels and roadside souvenir shops. Here are ten road trip routes that some consider to be the greatest of all.
Known as the Mother Road and the Main Street of America, Route 66 stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, a distance of 2, 248 miles. With the advent of the interstate system, Route 66 was corrupted to the point of being nearly obliterated in some places. But there are still portions of the road that can still be traveled, taking one back to a place in time where folks were friendlier and more helpful, where motels could be designed like tepees, and where roadside diners served up local gossip along with their pie and coffee.
Stretching from Seattle, Washington, to Boston, Massachusetts, the longest interstate highway in the nation bisects the Continental Divide near Butte, Montana. Through the Midwest I-90 follows several toll roads that predate the interstate system. Interstate 90 crosses the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and finally, Massachusetts. Because this is an interstate highway, you will need to plan the trip to not miss any of the many points of interest along the way.
Highway 101 begins in Tumwater, Washington and more or less follows the coastline down through Oregon to Los Angeles, California. It crosses the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon. The place where the Columbia meets the Pacific has become known as the Graveyard of the Pacific due to its treacherous nature. It goes through a number of intriguing coastal towns that will inspire you to stop and explore. In northern California the highway winds its way through giant redwoods, through San Francisco, and ends in the greater Los Angeles area.
For a peaceful drive through hills bursting with color, from spring rhododendrons and dogwoods through the reds and golds of autumn leaves make the drive touted as America's Favorite Drive. This route stretches from just north of Cherokee, North Carolina, to just west of Afton, Virginia. It connects North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. Along this route you can see old homesteads, mountain meadows, split-rail fences, waterfalls, and Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi.
Trekking through the bareness of Nevada, Highway 50, where it's known as the Loneliest Road, you can follow US Highway 50 all the way from Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. Before the interstate system overpowered it, Highway 50 went all the way to San Francisco. In the Midwest it primarily passes through farmlands, but also goes through Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, and Cincinnati, Ohio. After passing through the Appalachian Mountains, US 50 makes its way through Washington, D.C., completing slightly less than the 3,073 miles that the sign at Ocean City, Maryland, proclaims.
At one time US Highway 395 was a concrete ribbon stretching from San Diego, California, to Laurier, Washington, near the Canadian border. When Interstate 15 was laid, it replaced Highway 395 from San Diego to Hesperia. Traversing eastern California, US 395 passes through Lone Pine, near where the likes of John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry made movies. US 395 leaves California to visit Carson City and Reno, Nevada, before returning to California, and then entering eastern Oregon near Lakeview. It continues into Washington, transecting Spokane, Chewelah, and Colville, before terminating at the Washington/British Columbia border.
This scenic tour forms a roughly diamond-shaped loop through eastern Utah and western Colorado, with about 75 percent of it in Utah. Officially it's a National Scenic Byway. Along the way you may see paleontologists excavating for dinosaur bones and preparing them for display in museums, which are also scattered along the way. In the same area, one may also admire Native American pictographs and petroglyphs. Several national parks that include Canyonlands and Arches are accessible as side trips.
To take this beautiful drive, you may start at Marquette, Michigan. A series of roads hug the shoreline of Lake Superior, pass through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Grand Sable Dunes before arriving in Grand Marais where rock hounds will enjoy the Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum. You'll pass by the Fox River and the town of Seney, which was the setting for Hemingway's "Big Two-hearted River." The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and the Whitefish Point Lighthouse Station mark the end of the Shipwreck Coast scenic drive. The Edmund Fitzgerald was sailing for this point one 1975 November night when it vanished, along with its 29 sailors.
Address: Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum,
18335 N Whitefish Point Rd,
Paradise, MI 49768
Parts of the original Columbia River Highway are still accessible and take you past a number of gorgeous waterfalls including famed Multnomah Falls. Interstate 84 has replaced the old highway as the fast way to traverse the Columbia Gorge. Freeway or not, it's still a beautiful drive with the Columbia River on one side and on the other side, mountains that begin near Portland, Oregon, as forested, but lose their green covering by the time one arrives at The Dalles. The rolling hills of the eastern end of the Gorge are just as beautiful in their own way as are the lush green, waterfall-draped mountains at the western end.
This loop route takes you from Las Cruces, New Mexico, through Pecos, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and El Paso, Texas, before returning to Las Cruces. White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns are just two of the amazing places to be admired along this route. Paddle the Rio Grande or mountain bike through Big Bend Ranch State Park. A side trip in New Mexico will take you to Roswell, home of the International UFO Museum.