One of the most beautiful parts about a road trip is not knowing for sure what’s around the next corner. Will there be a giant cow blocking the road? A melting, pink ombre sunset? A gas station slinging delectable tortas?
While a road trip’s mystery is part of its magic, not having at least a loosely planned out route can leave you driving around all akimbo like Billy from a Family Circus cartoon. Below are some guaranteed-to-please road trip routes—beyond Route 1 and Route 66—for every kind of road tripper, from those looking for natural wonders to the gastronomically-inclined.
(If you’re ever looking for a quick day trip closer to home, the United States Byways will be able to get you on some breathtaking stretches of road and have you home by dinnertime.)
THE CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIPPER
Bangor, Maine to Seattle, Washington (U.S. Route 2 aka “The Great Northern”)
There are an infinite (and infinitely fun) number of ways to trek all the way across the country, but missing out on the vast diversity and expansiveness of U.S. 2 would be a shame. With a couple of dips and dives into Canada along the way, this trip runs the entire top border of the United States and showcases both terrain that often is overlooked and the incredible diversity of topography from East to West.
THE BEST TRAILS FOR EDIBLE ADVENTURES
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Traveling to Kentucky in the fall for the full, leaf peeping experience is recommended, but who can beat a trip devoted to brown liquor any time of year?*
*Don’t drink and drive!
Acadiana Boudin Trail
Calling all sausage lovers: boudin is ready for you to hit the road on a trip of meaty discovery. This Louisiana specialty sausage can be found in butcher shops and gas stations surrounding the Lafayette area in Cajun country, and has been mapped into a well-organized trail built for eating and driving.
Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail
A spicy specialty burger that reflects the unique culinary heritage of New Mexico, the green chile cheeseburger allows road trippers to take in the sweeping mountain views—all while doing some serious snacking.
FLOWER POWER ROAD TRIPS
Antelope Valley, California
There’s something about thousands upon thousands of poppies to completely lift one’s spirits, and the 17,600 acre Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has them (specifically, the golden poppy) hand over fist. Go in March to fully experience the blooms as well as other California-native wildflowers.
Hill Country, Texas
The importance of Lady Bird Johnson’s floral contribution to the Texas landscape is easy to see each year with the fields of bluebonnets lining the state’s highways and byways, particularly when dipping into Hill Country.
U.S. Route 9
One of the only driving routes with a ferry connection on both ends, this 500-plus mile trail stretches from Delaware to the upper reaches of New York. While it proves to be luxuriously beautiful and flower-dappled in late spring and summer, it’s also a fine antiquing route year round.
Michigan’s Gold Coast
While—admittedly—an unlikely candidate for non-snowy natural beauty, this 300-mile stretch of beach, flora and beer along Lake Michigan is a diamond in the (tundra) rough.
THE QUIRKY SLEEPER HIT
U.S. Route 83
Clocking in at a whopping 1,885 miles, U.S. Route 3 runs from North Dakota (at the Canadian border) to Texas (at the Mexican border). It’s one of the finest journeys for stopping and starting at kitschy roadside attractions and visiting the kinds of small towns far removed from traditional highway life as the route rarely (and only briefly) intersects with the Interstate.
Sarah Baird is a writer and editor based in New Orleans.