America's Best Road Trips

Written by  Taryn McKinnon

North America suggests daydream images of expansive landscape sprawling off into the distance like a never ending, unconquerable continent. Because of its massive size, many holidays to the US and Canada centre around major cities on either coast and skip all the stuff in between. Sure, you might think you’re getting the highlights, but this itinerary leaves out some of the most pristine landscapes in North America, and certainly doesn’t introduce visitors to the spirit of the open road and the tradition of manifest destiny and westward expansion that made the US what it is today. So leave the crowds of LA and the yellow cabs of NYC behind, cram the family into an old station wagon and hit the road to get a real taste of “real” America.

If it's highlights visitors to the US want, a road trip can be the perfect way to see them. In South Dakota, drive over the Missouri River, camp in Badlands National Park, make a pit stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial and end your journey like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure 2 at that classic monument to democracy, Mt Rushmore. Or, explore another cinematic landmark in the infamous location that has been a backdrop for more Hollywood scenes than any other, and drive through the Wild West of Utah along the Monument Highway, stopping to take pictures of the crumbling sandstone monuments.

Road trippers who are looking for a more authentic experience can opt instead for any one of the scenic highways throughout Canada and the US. There are no famous sights to see on these routes, but that’s not to say the view through the windscreen will be anything less than impressive. Wind your way through the Appalachian Mountain roads and cozy campgrounds of North Carolina and Virginia’s national parks on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  In Montana, travel to new heights on the Going-to-the-Sun Road or, in Massachusetts, take to the Mohawk Trail and stop to take in the views, the wildlife, and the wild flowers that grow along the highway.  In Canada, try the Icefields Parkway or the Sea to Sky Highway for ice capped peaks, skiing in winter and two of the most scenic drives in Canada.

Mountains not your thing? Sometimes careening the car around those windy curves can be a bit much - especially if you have passengers in the back.  For a more relaxed road trip experience, skip going up and down and follow the coast North to South.  Hawaii's Hana Highway offers views of the whole island of Maui, driving through the rainforest, past waterfalls, through miles of bamboo and all the way along the coast.  If you’re looking for something on the mainland try the Pacific Coast Highway winding along secluded coves, beaches and dramatic cliff faces all the way along the California coast.  The Florida Overseas Highway is a shorter option that truly stays along the water, including 43 bridges, the drive takes you all the way from Miami to the Keys in just four hours, along some of the most beautiful waters and coastlines in the US.

Of course, when it comes to North American road trips, the landscape might be the last thing on any drivers mind. The focus inevitably becomes trying to conquer the whole thing coast to coast.  The Trans Canada Highway does just that; drive from Newfoundland to British Columbia exploring all the best of Canada’s wilderness and take yourself and your car all the way from the shore of the Atlantic to the coast of the Pacific.  For a more famous route, make like Jack Kerouac, or at least feel like you are, and get on Route 66 for the notorious drive from Chicago, Illinois to California.

Trips across country are epic and that much time in the car is definitely not for everyone. But don’t abandon the open road, there’s still a stretch of highway for the road tripper who’d rather be a day tripper. The ride from Bourne to Orleans in Massachusetts’ Cape Cod is an easy drive, taking visitors through all the charming New England towns with lots of cafes, beaches and antique shops to make pit stops at to stretch your legs. Vermont’s Route 100 is another great day trip option in New England and you can still feel like an explorer of the great outdoors when you realize you’ve driven across the entire state.

No matter the region, or the road, there’s plenty of highway in North America to drive across, whether you’re in search of a destination or just along for the ride.

Resources

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