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Must-Do Road Trips to Make Summer 2016 Unforgettable

There’s a palpable excitement that fills the air as summer approaches. The season promises long sunny days, get-togethers fueled by barbecue and refreshing drinks, and spontaneous outdoor adventures. After all, summer is practically synonymous with road trips. 

As Memorial Day looms, we’ve scouted out four all-American drives that combine knock-your-socks-off scenery with roadside attractions. Whether you favor mountain breezes or sea spray, we have a route that’s calling your name. And when it's time to brake for the night, we've got you covered with equally memorable accommodations, ranging from quaint inns to national park lodges to boutique hotels. 

Read on, and then get packing: These road trips are sure to shift your summer into high gear.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

California is legendary for its coastal scenery, and there's no finer way to drink it in than a road trip along iconic Highway 1. One of the world’s greatest coastal routes, it traces the Pacific Ocean from Dana Point in Orange County through charming San Simeon and spectacular Big Sur up to the towering redwoods of Mendocino County. Break your drive in Santa Barbara at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, where you can work out any driving-induced kinks at the award-winning spa, a whitewashed mini-village with a Moroccan fountain, 50-foot bell tower, and a backdrop of the Topa Topa Mountains. Follow the coast—keeping an eye out for humpback, blue, and gray whales, who migrate through this part of the Pacific in summer—until you reach the artsy enclave of Carmel. It’s a fine place for a little R&R amid posh restaurants, wineries, and white-sand beaches. Check in at the Sea View Inn, whose eight tasteful rooms overlook either the ocean or the garden. It’s a 10-minute walk to town, past fairytale-like 1920s Tudor Revival and Spanish Romantic Revival homes. And after a day of exploring, you can settle by the fireplace at the inn’s parlor.

Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier National Park, Montana

It’s hard to overstate the sheer grandeur of America’s national park system, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Road tripping gives you the time and flexibility to really appreciate the parks’ varied landscapes and wildlife. Start your adventure in Jackson, Wyoming's postcard-perfect cowboy town at the foot of Grand Teton National Park. Bunk down at The Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa, a fabulous family-run property that nails the rustic-luxe spirit of Jackson, before exploring the town, with its antler archway and atmospheric bars. Next up: Yellowstone National Park, where you can explore natural wonders like the Old Faithful geyser and spot the many wild inhabitants, including wolves, grizzly bears, and coyotes. Back on the road, continue through the soulful vast expanses of Big Sky Country to Glacier National Park, a wonderland of alpine meadows, mountain passes, and mind-blowing glaciers. The park counts 750 miles of trails, so you could easily spend days here. When it's time to rest your head, the waterfront Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers creature comfort in classic Grand Lodge style.

Coastal Route 1, Maine

If you're seeking New England tropes—colonial towns with whitewashed church steeples; roadside seafood shacks; ruggedly gorgeous scenery—you’ll find them aplenty along the Maine portion of Route 1, particularly along the coastal stretch from Bath up to Bucksport. It delivers spine-tingling vistas, along with plenty of opportunities to shop, nosh, and admire quintessential New England architecture. Portland’s stylish new Press Hotel makes a great pre- or post-drive base. Housed in a former 1920s newspaper office, the hotel features vintage-inspired furniture, local artwork, and two buzzy restaurants. Fuel up with authentic Maine lobster rolls and clam chowder at Bob's Clam Hut, right along Route 1 in the town of Kittery, before making the scenic drive north. At Searsport, the Homeport Historic Inn encourages drivers to pull over and enjoy its sun porch, library, and games room. Just across the causeway is Sears Island, a bucolic hideaway perfect for summertime biking and strolling. Since you’ve made it this far north, you may be tempted to hop back in the car; it’s only another hour’s drive to stunning Acadia National Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina to Virginia

This fabled mountain highway passes through several American wilderness icons, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian chain—all in lush splendor and brimming with outdoorsy recreation in the summer months. Admire the views of Shenandoah from the ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains along Skyline Drive, en route to Frederick House, a boutique hotel set in the idyllic small town of Staunton, Virginia. Spread across seven lovely historic buildings, the inn is not only inviting but also convenient for tooling around local vineyards, museums, and performing arts spaces, with programming that peaks in summer. Further down the road, in artsy Asheville, North Carolina, the North Lodge on Oakland Bed and Breakfast (est. 1904) makes a cozy home base within 15 minutes’ drive of the Biltmore Estate, whose palatial house and grounds are open to visitors daily.