9 of the Best Road Trips in North America

Best Road Trips in the World: North America feature pic

Part 1 of the Series: Best Road Trips Around the World

When it comes to exploring the world, we have so many options today. We can fly to just about any point on the planet within a day. We can hop a boat or a ship and cruise the 7 seas.
And yet, the traditional road trip still remains a classic. Anywhere you go in the world you can find the perfect escape on the open road.
That’s why we decided to give an overview of some of the top road trips around the world. Part 1 starts with the Best Road Trips in North America.
We asked 9 different writers for their favorite recommendations. A lot of these are up-and-coming journalists that, as you’ll see, may be the next big thing in travel writing. Each of them briefly outline what makes it such a great trip. Hopefully this inspires you to give one of these a try. Enjoy!

Eastern Canada

by Carolin from Happy When Abroad

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Photo credit: Carolin Klein
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An Eastern Canada Road Trip from Toronto to Quebec City gives a good impression of the spectacular highlights that Canada’s East has to offer. It is the perfect combination of nature activities and sightseeing in vibrant cities. 

The road trip starts in Toronto – Canada’s largest city. Must-see activities in Toronto include strolling around the harbor front, enjoying the view from the unmistakable CN Tower, and taking a boat trip to the Toronto Islands. 

After a stop at the famous Niagara Falls, the journey continues north to the Algonquin Provincial Park. The largest national park in the province of Ontario enchants with its beautiful viewpoints, glittering lakes, many hiking trails, and numerous other options for outdoor activities. 

The next stop of this road trip is Ottawa – the historic and picturesque capital of Canada. Here, the best places to visit are Parliament Hill, the stunning National Gallery as well as the lively ByWard Market. 

Continuing this trip in Montréal, you can find several museums, historic buildings, a lively city center as well as a great viewpoint to see the city’s impressive skyline. 

After driving further north, through many beautiful small villages with a French flair, the road trip ends in Quebec City, one of the oldest cities in North America. The whole city emits a European charm and is home to the magical Chateau Frontenac. A short trip to the Montmorency Falls, which are even higher than the Niagara Falls, is also worthwhile.

 To sum it up, Eastern Canada is the ideal destination for travelers who want to go on an adventurous road trip! 

-Carolin

The Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada

by Audrey of That Backpacker

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Photo credit: Audrey Bergner

Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway is a road trip unlike any other. Spanning a total of 98 miles between the towns of Warm Springs and Crystal Springs, State Route 375 may seem like an ordinary stretch of road; but in fact, it’s a bit of a treasure hunt for those who believe in alien life. The drive is punctuated by desert landscapes, desolate roads, and a few quirky attractions!

Some places not to miss along the Extraterrestrial Highway include ET Fresh Jerky to purchase alien-themed snacks and sign the wall with a message to aliens, the ET Highway route marker to snap that iconic photo, the Alien Research Center to hear all sorts of tales surrounding alien encounters, the Black Mailbox where believers leave all sorts of notes and mementoes, and the Little A’le’inn which is a motel and restaurant that features a UFO-towing pick-up truck out front! You can get more ideas of things do do on the Extraterrestrial Highway here.

There’s no mention of Area 51 and that’s because it is strictly off-limits to the public. No one can enter this highly classified facility and there are no tours for visitors, so it’s best to avoid the drive down that 12-mile dirt road.

Audrey

Vancouver Island Road Trip

by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic

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Photo credit: Dean and Laynni; Routinely Nomadic

Vancouver Island is one of the most impressive natural regions in all of Canada. Despite increased development in recent years, this gorgeous island still retains a rural, outback feel everywhere outside the main cities. 

Featuring stunning old growth forest, dozens of amazing waterfalls, spectacular hiking and some of the best surfing beaches in the country, the possibilities for a Vancouver Island road trip are practically endless. Throw in whale watching, kayaking, fishing and scuba diving and you really are spoiled for choice.

Pleasant, photogenic Victoria has everything from history to beaches to castles and is the obvious starting point. However, things get increasingly impressive as you go west, hitting beach after beach, some with waterfalls cascading right into the ocean, before reaching Port Renfrew with its outpost vibe and huge old growth forests.

Further up the west coast is the famous surf mecca of Tofino, with tremendous waves, unbeatable scenery, and a terrific range of camping options. Inland, massive Lake Cowichan is a pleasure, after which road trippers making their way up the east coast can check in at one fascinating waterfall after another on their way to the remote natural attractions of wild Port Hardy.

While Vancouver Island is a very popular summer destination, it also boasts mild, manageable winters that make it one of the top choices for those looking to escape the deep freeze elsewhere in Canada. And, while it is possible to see many of the top highlights on a whirlwind long weekend, the ideal way to see Vancouver Island is on a more leisurely 2-week itinerary.

Dean and Laynni

Bonus: Take a detour to world famous Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Follow the link for the full guide!

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico – 2-3 week roundtrip 

by Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters

Best Road Trips Around the World North America Yucatan Peninsula
Photo credit: Lisa van den Berg; Flip Flop Globetrotters

The Yucatán peninsula is a very scenic and safe area in the southeast of Mexico. It consists of the three Mexican states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, and Campeche. A lot of tourists who visit this part of Mexico stick to the Riviera Maya (roughly between Playa del Carmen and Tulum) which is a shame as there’s much more to see and do. 

A lovely roundtrip in this area starts in Tulum and from there to Bacalar, Campeche, Merida, Valladolid and back to Tulum. To prolong the trip add a stop at the Reserva de la Biósfera Calakmul between Bacalar and Campeche or drive over to Palenque in the state of Chiapas. Palenque is known for its Mayan ruins and lovely waterfalls. 

From Valladolid a side trip to lovely Isla Holbox is another option. Highlights along the route are the seaside Mayan ruins at Tulum, the stunning blue lake at Bacalar, the cities Campeche and Merida with their colorful Spanish colonial architecture, swimming in the cenotes near Valladolid and discovering the Coba jungle ruins (between Valladolid and Tulum) by bike. 

Lisa

 Miami to Key West, Florida   

by Lori Sorrentino from Travlinmad

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Photo credit: Lori Sorrentino; Travelinmad

No visit to south Florida would be complete without a road trip from Miami to Key West. It’s a straight shot down highway A1A, and you can cover the 166 miles in about 3 and a half hours depending on traffic and how often you stop. And you will stop!

This scenic drive has arguably become one of the best road trips in the US. Along the way you’ll pass beautiful beaches, unique attractions for the whole family, salty bars and restaurants, and photo ops galore.

For sun worshippers, summer is the best time to go when the sun is bright and the ocean is warm. Stop in and try the fish tacos at Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo. In Islamorada, the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, visit the History of Diving Museum, hand-feed the giant tarpon at Robbie’s, and enjoy some of the freshest seafood in the world. 

Next is Marathon about half-way to Key West, and with a wide selection of lodging it’s the perfect place to overnight if you have the time. Kids will love interacting with giant sea turtles at The Turtle Hospital and a visit to the Dolphin Research Center.

Once in Key West there’s plenty to see and do – snorkel the pristine reef, go parasailing, rent a bike, or just walk to historic sites and stop to have a cold one or two. Don’t miss the amazing sunsets at Mallory Square, a great place to really chill out.

Whether you spend a week or just a couple of days, a Miami to Key West road trip is always worth the drive.

Lori

Route 66, USA

By Karee Blunt from Our Woven Journey

Route 66 is one of the most famous drives in America. It starts in Chicago and ends at the pier in Santa Monica, California, and although the U.S. freeway system made the once-popular route obsolete, over 85% of the route is still driveable. 

Although it’s no longer the fastest way to travel cross-country, that’s not the purpose of driving Route 66. It’s the journey and adventure itself that make this route memorable.

There are nostalgic towns dotting the roadside with historic hotels and quirky attractions that make it a worthwhile adventure. Spend your time enjoying the old-time family diners, ice cream and coffee, and the people along the way who keep these little towns alive.

Seligman, Arizona is home to the real-life “Radiator Springs” which was the inspiration for the story behind the Pixar movie “Cars.” This little town is full of antiques and memorabilia and home to the famous Snow Cap restaurant, which is worth a stop in itself.

Other quirky stops along the way include Giganticus Headicus in Arizona, Cadillac Ranch and the Leaning Tower of Texas in Texas, Meramec Caves in Oklahoma, and the original McDonald’s Museum in California.

Route 66 is also close enough to make a detour in time to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon. Many road trippers plan their route to see the Canyon, then visit Sedona, Jerome, and Oatman, Arizona as part of their trip. There’s so much to see you can easily spend two to three weeks traveling Route 66 from start to finish!

Karee

San Francisco to Los Angeles

by Charlene Hill from Adventures With The Hills

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Photo credit: Charlene Hill; Traveling with the Hills

One of the most incredible road trips in the world is along the Pacific Coast of California, USA. This 450 mile stretch along Highway 1 is full of unbelievable rugged coastline views, gorgeous beaches and winding coastal cliff roads. This trip can be done in 2 days, but you could easily spend a week exploring the California coast!

Traveling North to South, make sure to spend some time exploring San Francisco. Here you will want to see the giant Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument, views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall’s Beach and Crissy Field, Lombard Street – the “crookedest street in the world”, Alcatraz island prison and the shops at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Your trip down Hwy 1 will bring you past Monterey where you can drive around the coastal town and stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Next, you will come to Big Sur. Make sure to stop at McWay Falls and Sand Dollar Beach. You will also want to stop at Elephant Seal Vista Point to see the Seals lounging on the beach. Just a short drive off the highway, you can visit Solvang for some Danish-style architecture and heritage.

When you reach LA, be sure to check out some of the popular attractions such as the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland, the Santa Monica Pier and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You will want to visit all of the beautiful beaches here as well including Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. 

If you want to extend your road trip, you can continue down Hwy 5 to San Diego and all the way to the Mexico Border. Hwy 1/101 also extends up through Oregon and Washington, all the way to Canada with more unbelievable scenery along the Pacific Ocean.

From beaches to amusement parks, you are sure to find your adventure. Whether traveling with toddlers or teenagers, a couple’s trip or driving solo, there is something for everyone on the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Charlene

Mighty 5, Utah

by Ale Leon from Sea Salt & Fog

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Photo credit: Ale Leon; Sea Salt and Fog

Utah is home to some of the most stunning national parks in the United States, and there’s no better way to see them than on a classic American road trip. 

The highlight of this road trip is the scenery. Starting in Las Vegas, you’ll drive east through red rock canyons and hit Zion National Park. At Zion, you’ll be surrounded by crimson red rocks that tower above. There are many things to do here, but one of the best is hiking The Narrows. This bucket-list worthy hike has you hiking directly on a river with canyon walls soaring up to a thousand feet above you. 

Leaving Zion, the next stop is Bryce Canyon. The main highlight at this park is an amphitheater of dusty, orange and white rock formations that make for fun and challenging hikes. 

After Bryce, you’ll hit one of Utah’s hidden gems: Capitol Reef. This national park doesn’t get many crowds, which means you’ll often have hiking trails all to yourself. The real highlight here, however, are the fresh fruit pies. 

Next up you’ll get to the town of Moab, Utah, which is a hiker’s paradise. Here you’ll find Canyonlands and Arches National Park. At Arches, Delicate Arch is a must-see. To avoid the crowds, Canyonlands delivers stunning views with few people. 

If you love the outdoors, a Utah Mighty 5 road trip is the perfect adventure. 

— 

-Ale

Oregon Trail, USA

by Julie Kosker from Kosker’s Idlewild

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Preparing to move across the country, Jake & Julie Kosker knew the BEST way for them to drive across the US would be to follow the Oregon Trail.  

While technically, the Oregon Trail starts in Independence, Missouri, they opted to start a little farther East and visit the ”oldest structures in the New World”, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near St. Louis, Missouri. These 13th- century Native American ruins are fascinating and set the stage for this drive through history.

Now, it’s time for a quick stop in St. Louis, Missouri to visit the Arch!  This Gateway Arch pays tribute to the expansion into the “Wild West” and celebrates the exploration of Louis, Clark & Sacagawea as they embarked on their exploration to map a route to the Pacific Ocean.

The next stretch of the route feels long, but there are some wonderful landmarks!  An excerpt from Julie’s daily journal describes this stretch:

“We saw Wagon Trail routes where thousands of wheels cut deep into rocks, climbed Independence Rock which the pioneers used as their trail register, explored Ayres Rock Bridge and saw endless, barren, beautiful landscapes.  Though the land is void of people, we wanted to stop often for pictures and to take it all in!”

As you near the end of the journey, three MUST SEE sites are the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon; the End of the Oregon Trail Visitor’s Center in Oregon City, Oregon; and finally, though Oregon City marks the official end of the trail, this journey truly ends at Fort Clatsop, in Astoria, Oregon, where you get a true feel for the way of life these great explorers lived.

Julie

Wrap up

Well, there you have it. Nine travel writers outlining their top rated road trips in North America. Did your favorite one make the list?

If not, feel free to comment below. Maybe we can consider a few more that should be on this list.

If you are looking for inspiration for other trips in the US, check out our favorites in the 7 Best Road Trips in America.

We go into much more detail in our road trip guides. Start with a road trip to Yosemite National Park for one of the most beautiful places in the US.

Or make a loop out of it with other California parks, like Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Big Sur.

Or choose Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks for your road trip. Not too far from Yosemite but a world of difference.

And for midwesterners like us, there are plenty of great road trips for us too. We have some ideas for a Kansas City road trip.

Finally, look for the best road trips in other regions in this series as we roll them out later this week.

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