A road trip is as American as a barbecue on the Fourth of July. The open highway. Sing-along playlists. A cooler full of sodas and snacks. Unforgettable conversations about nothing and everything.
The United States has a grand variety of road trip-suitable routes, from straight shots across deserts to stomach-churning switchbacks through the mountains. Whatever type of adventure you seek, however much time you have and whatever you want to see, there’s a road out there for everyone.
Best romantic road trip: Pacific Coast Highway, California
Route: Route 1, from Monterey to Morro Bay (123 miles)
Let’s hope your partner makes your heart soar; if not, the unimaginably gorgeous views from the Pacific Coast Highway will. The highway jogs alongside California farms and cliff-edged beaches, across high bridges and near groves of towering redwood trees. Tour the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium, enjoy lunch at a posh Carmel-by-the-Sea cafe, see the famous waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (check the updated status of the park), and take a sunset stroll at Big Sur. There are plenty of romantic Victorian bed-and-breakfasts where you can spend the night.
Where to stay to start your journey: Munras Inn, Monterey
Runner-up road trip: Charleston to Savannah, South Carolina
Best road trip in the middle of nowhere: Marathon to Presidio, Texas
Route: U.S. Highway 385, FM-170 (160 miles)
The only companions you’ll have during long stretches of this paved, two-lane road through Big Bend National Park are cacti and migratory birds. This is one of the most isolated of all U.S. national parks, but it’s also one of the most dramatic, with desert, canyon and mountain landscapes. Santa Elena Canyon is worth the detour from the main park road to see its 1,500-foot drop-offs. Stop for lunch at the 1930s-era Starlight Theatre in the historic Terlingua Ghost Town. Movie buffs will marvel at the abandoned Western film sets at Contrabando.