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If you’re looking for summer vacation ideas in the US, we recommend a road trip.

The US is one of the best places to travel by car to explore the deserts, beaches, mountains, and plains in the country.

Our favorite thing about road trips is we can stop anywhere along the way to check out or photograph a new place.

There are many scenic routes in the US that are perfect for road trips.

Here’s a list of 15 summer road trip ideas in the United States you should add to your bucket list!

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What are the 15 Best Summer Road Trip Ideas in the U.S.? 

1. Route 66

Route 66 is the most famous road trip idea in America.

Starting in Chicago, the entire length of Route 66 is 2,278 miles and runs through nine states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.

For a one-way road trip, Route 66 requires about 14 days of travel time. 

Imagine all the scenic views Route 66 has to offer like these world-class roadside attractions: Cadillac Ranch, Catoosa Whale, and Twin Arrows.

2. Scenic Byway 12, Utah

State Route 12 is an All-American Road and best known for its stunning red rock landscape.

Fun fact: Only one-third of America’s scenic byways get the designation of “All-American Road”. It’s only given to roads that offer unique features you can’t find anywhere else.

The road winds between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Park for a jaw-dropping 122 miles.

The drive can be completed in three hours, but if you plan to stop at any of the national parks, state parks, or museums or explore the scenic backways or hiking trails along Highway 12 then you’ll need to plan to spend a few days in the area!

3. Blue Ridge Parkway 

Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most famous road trip routes in the United States.

The Blue Ridge Parkway drive is 469 miles, and it connects two national parks, namely Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Here are the five regions and the drive time through each one:

  • Shenandoah: Afton to Roanoke – 3.5 hours
  • Ridge: Roanoke to Fancy Gap – 2.5 hours
  • Plateau: Fancy Gap to Blowing Rock – 3 hours
  • Highlands: Blowing Rock to Asheville – 3 hours
  • Pisgah: Asheville to Cherokee – 3 hours

The views you’ll see along the parkway are amazing – stop often to take pictures.

And don’t forget to explore the area by taking in some hiking trails.

4. The Outer Banks, North Carolina

Route 12 on the Outer Banks in North Carolina should be on your road trip bucket list!

This route starts at Bodie Lighthouse and passes through the narrow spits of land, making up the barrier islands protecting North Carolina’s mainland from the Atlantic Ocean.

There are many fun stops and things to do along Highway 12 like the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, piers and lighthouses, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum to name a few.

5. Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

The Overseas Highway, Florida Keys is another well-known road trip destination.

It’s often referred to as the “highway that goes to the sea” since it crosses over 42 bridges and runs 113 miles.

Because the road offers unique features you can’t find anywhere else, it’s been named an All-American Road.

Here are the must-stop areas along the route: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine & Lower Keys and Key West.

6. Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a route that will take you to 18 different distilleries, each with its famous bourbon mix and the history behind each one of them.

There is no official route for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but you may want to start at the Welcome Center at the Frazier Museum on historic Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville.

You can enjoy this road trip in a weekend, or extend it out for a week to learn more about and visit Kentucky historic sites.

7. Million Dollar Highway, Colorado 

The Million Dollar Highway section of US Highway 550 connects Ouray and Silverton, Colorado.

If you enjoy mountain views, and don’t mind a windy road with steep drops on one side, then you can’t beat this road trip adventure!

The road climbs up three very steep high mountain passes: Red Mountain Pass (over 11,000 feet!), Molas Pass and Coal Bank Pass. Take your time and be prepared to stop often to photograph the endless views!

There are cool things to see and do along the Million Dollar Highway: ghost towns, hot springs, hike, fish and more!

8. Road to Hana, Hawaii

The Road to Hana is the top attraction on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

When taking this Hawaii scenic drive, remember it’s the journey, not the destination.

You’ll see vibrant green cliffs, stunning waterfalls, vast ocean views, colorful beaches with black, red and white sand, beautiful gardens and trails to explore.

Because this road is so popular, we recommend you start early – really early! When you start later in the morning, you’ll experience traffic and congestion which takes away from the beauty of the place.

You must do your research about this road trip before starting out to make sure it’s a drive you want to do. There are 620 curves, many one-lane narrow bridges, limited turnouts or parking, and it’s crowded. Pack your patience!

9. The Parks Highway, Alaska

The Parks Highway, also known as the George Parks Highway, runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It’s the most direct highway access to Denali National Park and Preserve from either city. 

The entire route is 362 miles through Alaska’s untamed wilderness. Be on the lookout for wildlife like brown or black bear and maybe even moose!

During this road trip, if weather cooperates, you can enjoy the magnificent view of the Denali mountain that stands at a staggering 20,310 feet! 

10. Pacific Coast Highway, California

The Pacific Coast Highway is a road trip that runs along the Pacific Coast in California for 550 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

You can start in the south, but we recommend you start in the north so you’re in the lane closest to the ocean.

Plan about 3 days to make the most of this route and all the stops along the way: Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Cambria, Morrow Bay, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Solvan, and Santa Barbara.

11. Utah National Parks, The Mighty Five

The Mighty Five Utah National Parks are: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion. A road trip to explore each park should be on everyone’s US National Park bucket list!

In addition to the national parks, there are amazing Utah state parks, national monuments, hiking trails, offroad trails, scenic drives and more that you can explore along the route.

You’ll see stunning sunrises, sunsets, landscapes, starry skies, the Milky Way and so much more! Your camera will have a workout capturing the unique beauty on the road trip!

photograph canyonlands in the spring

12. Hot Springs, Idaho

A road trip to enjoy the hot springs in Idaho is a fun and unique adventure.

Many of the hot springs are surrounded by fantastic landscapes which accentuates a relaxing atmosphere while soaking in the water.

We like this itinerary to enjoy the hot springs from Boise to Stanley.

Please follow these hot spring guidelines so they can be enjoyed by everyone for years to come!

  • Keep them clean
  • Pack it in and pack it out
  • Leave it better than you found it
  • Clothing may be option, so beware!
  • Be respectful of other visitors
  • Know the capacity in advance

13. Great River Road, Minnesota to Louisiana

One of the best, and longest, scenic drives in America is along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.

The Great River Road is another All-American Road due to the scenic route that traces the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles through 10 states!

This road trip will take about 36 hours, or 10 days, to drive. You’ll find river-related attractions, tiny riverside villages and large cities to experience the history of the region through music, culture and food!

14. Oregon Road Trip 

Oregon is an incredible place with lush forests, sandy shores, deserts and more!

One of the best ways for you to experience what’s on offer here is by taking an Oregon road trip!

There are many Oregon attractions and places to visit which may seem overwhelming, but we’ve put together an amazing 2-week Oregon itinerary for you!

You’ll start in Portland and visit attractions like the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood National Forest, Bend, Crater Lake, Brookings, Florence, Newport, Seaside and Astoria.

Coastal Drive, Connecticut

The Northeast has beautiful forests and coastlines to explore, making it perfect for summer vacations.

A road trip along the Connecticut coast from Stonington to Greenwich is more than 100 miles long. You’ll find villages and a quaint New England vibe.

There are beaches where adults and kids can stretch their legs from the car to enjoy the ocean views. You can stop at the shops and restaurants when you’re ready to take a break and just relax.

A few fun stops might also be New Haven to check out the beautiful grounds at Yale University or stop at Five Mile Point Lighthouse in Lighthouse Point Park and challenge yourself to climb to the top.

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