With those sporadic warmer days slowly become more regular, you know winter is finally winding down and spring is just around the corner. And what better way to enjoy this time of year than by getting outside and watching the earth come back to life? Road trips are a great way to do that.
We often think of driving as just a means to an end, but pick the right route and suddenly the road itself becomes the destination. Here’s a brief road trip planner to get your car ready to go. Whether it’s majestic mountains, spectacular flower fields, stunning ocean vistas, or thrilling twists and turns, America’s endless variations in landscapes and climates guarantees something for everyone. Here are five of the best road trips in the USA.
1. Columbia River Highway, Oregon
This nearly century-old highway is unique, because unlike most highways whose purpose is to get from one place to another, this road was constructed almost entirely for the scenic views. Located just outside of Portland, this curvy 75-mile route travels along the Columbia Gorge, giving you breathtaking views of the mountains, river, and waterfalls, and historic tunnels and bridges. There are many pull-offs along the way, allowing the driver to enjoy it too. You will also likely get to see a vast array of wildlife as you drive along. And if you enjoy hiking, make sure to stop at Horsetail and Multnomah Falls.
2. Historic Route 66
This famous piece of American history once started in Chicago and wound down through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before ending in Los Angeles nearly 2,500 miles later. The historic road lasted from 1926 to 1985, before newer roads and highways were constructed, disrupting its original route. Today, you can still travel along it for the most part, as markers with the well-known “Historic Route 66” emblem run along the current roads where 66 once existed. Consider starting or ending your trip in one of the route’s famous destinations, like St. Louis or Flagstaff. If you’re looking for cool places to spend the night, check out El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, or if you enjoy camping, stop off at the campground in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona.
3. US Route 1, Florida Keys
The historic road stretches from Maine all the way to the Florida Keys, but the highlight is definitely the southern end. If you start in the northernmost coast of Florida, it’s about 545 miles down to its end in the Keys. The ride boasts gorgeous ocean views and features the 7 Mile Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world. It strings the Keys together like a Connect-the-Dots puzzle, taking you past coral reef parks and lighthouses. Be sure to make a stop on the island of Islamorada, where you can swim with the dolphins at the Theater of the Sea.
4. Antelope Valley, California
During the month of March, take Route 14 in L.A.--also known as the Antelope Valley Freeway--north to a town called Lancaster. The Mojave Desert is filled with golden poppies during this time of year. For an especially breathtaking sight, consider a visit to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, which features not just the golden poppy, but cream cups, fiddlenecks, gold fields, and tidy tips, especially in late March. If you do visit the reserve, drive the 7-mile Antelope Loop Trail to reach Antelope Butte Vista Point--the sweeping views of the desert below will be worth it.
5. Pacific Coast Highway, California
On the lower elevations of Route 1 in California, you go through some fun beach towns. But when you reach Big Sur, you’ll understand why this route became so famous. For about 100 miles, this route scales the cliff sides along the coast. It takes you past the historic city of Monterrey and Hearst Castle. Stop to eat at Nepenthe on the cliff top, a classic restaurant boasting panoramic ocean views.
When the open road is calling and you’re in the mood for an epic adventure, pack up and try out one of these top road trip destinations in America!