Ann Gibson
by Ann Gibson
Posted August 22, 2022

America’s love affair with the Great American Road Trip dates back more than 110 years. It was around 1910 that the first RVs hit U.S. highways. Early RVers embraced camper travel as a flexible alternative to railways and a more comfortable option than camping. Just about anyone could afford it, KOA campgrounds were popping up across the country, and the nation’s highway system was in expansion mode.

Back then, the RV road tripper’s dream vacation was an ever-changing line-up of city lights, friendly small towns, historical treasures, and under-the-radar attractions. The saying “good things stick around” is true, because it’s that same variety and freedom that lures us to hit the road today.

Grab a clean sheet of paper and craft your bucket list with epic itineraries from our list of the best National Scenic Byways, All-American Roads, and National Park touring routes in the country.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway

Travel the ridges, gaps, and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina on the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Visit Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi; the New River, the oldest in North America; and the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, Whitewater Falls.

2. Going to the Sun Road

It’s 50 miles of towering peaks, alpine meadows, and wildlife sightings along Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road. From late June to mid-October, the entire stretch is typically snow-free, taking you along the shores of two high elevation lakes and over 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. Pro tip: The overlook at Jackson Glacier is your best opportunity to see a glacier from the road.

Pink Cone Geyser, Lower Geyser Basin. Photo by Neal Herbert.

3. Yellowstone Grand Loop Road

At over 3,000 square miles, the nation’s first national park is so massive it’s almost impossible to see it all in one visit. Touring Yellowstone’s two interconnected loop roads is the best way to take it all in. Drive 140 miles along the shores of Yellowstone Lake, through the concentration of thermal features around Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs, and across the rugged Northern Range to skirt the wildlife-rich Lamar and Pelican Valleys.

Big Sur, Highway 1.

4. California Highway 1

Start in San Francisco or San Diego for this classic 656-mile journey along the Pacific coast. You can stretch this one out as many days as you like, with stops at the scenic towns of San Simeon, Monterey, Big Sur, Malibu, Santa Monica, and more.

5. Cherohala Skyway

The pink blush of mountain laurel and rhododendron in spring, and a heavy drape of gold and red foliage in fall make these two seasons the best times to drive the 41-mile Cherohala Skyway between North Carolina and Tennessee. Stop over in Robbinsville to camp by Lake Santeetlah and hike the trails of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

Delicate Arch. Photo by Guyyoung1966 / Wikimedia Commons

6. The Grand Circle

Hit Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon, and more national parks and monuments on the 1,500-mile loop through the arid deserts of five states. Start in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or Phoenix and allot 11 days or more to explore this otherworldly terrain.

Seven Mile Bridge bisects the island on the right, while today’s modern-day bridge is on the left. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau.

7. The Overseas Highway

It’s 100 miles one way from the Everglades to Key West on U.S. 1 on a series of bridges connecting the coral and limestone archipelago as it arches out into the aquamarine waters of the gulf. Every island has its charm, from artsy Islamorada and adventurous Marathon to kayaker’s paradise on Sunshine Key.

Acadia National Park. Photo courtesy of

8. Bold Coast Scenic Byway

Explore the rocky and rustic Maine shoreline on the 125-mile Bold Coast Scenic Byway. Tidal marshes, fishing villages, historic shipyards, and maritime forests mark your progress, with many rewarding side trip options like Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

9. Natchez Trace Parkway

Follow in the footsteps of American Indians and European settlers along the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway through Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Pull off at the historic roadhouse rest stops at Mount Locust and Colbert Ferry for a glimpse into what it was like to travel the route over 200 years ago.

10. Tennessee Music Pathways

From bluegrass to jazz, pick your favorite music genre and design a road trip across Tennessee on over 1,000 miles of Music Pathways. There are even hip hop, rock, and entertainer-specific routes (think Dolly Parton and Elvis), along with festivals, museums, and live music venues to customize your tour.

11. Kentucky Bourbon Trail

You’ll definitely want to set aside a few days to pace yourself along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Visit up to 14 signature distilleries and 13 craft distilleries clustered around Louisville and Lexington. If you’d rather just enjoy the ride, local tour companies can do the driving for you.

Route 66

12. Historic Route 66

Few road trips rival the slice-of-Americana appeal of the 2,448-mile drive between Illinois and California on Route 66. Every stop tells the story of this Depression-era highway and Dust Bowl migration route from Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant to the Blue Swallow Motel.

Hana, Hawaii

13. Hana Highway

It’s only 52 miles, but you’ll want to take your time on the Hana Highway. Over 600 curves hug the Hawaii coast, with one-lane bridges and plenty of pull-outs to visit waterfalls, swimming holes, and hiking trails. Rent a campervan for the best maneuverability.

14. Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway

This 61-mile corridor along the northern edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula was etched out by glaciers millions of years ago. The former wagon and logging route snakes through thick pine forests above rocky and fog-shrouded beaches. Chances are good you’ll see orcas, gray, and humpback whales along the way.

15. Great River Road National Scenic Byway

Follow the mighty Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana along this 3,000-mile National Scenic Byway. You’ll pass through 10 states, all with bluffs, waterfalls, museums, and parks that highlight the Mississippi’s impact on the landscape and history of the Midwest.

Badlands National Park.

16. Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway

The barren rock formations along the 39-mile route through Badlands National Park look like you’re on the moon, but the golden prairies, bison, and bighorn sheep will bring you back to earth. Hunt for fossils, study the brilliant night sky and stop at 15 overlooks to capture the scenic vistas.

17. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway

Drive the rural roads of Maryland’s Eastern Shore on this 125-mile National Scenic Byway, celebrating the life of the African-American leader who escaped slavery and dedicated a decade to rescuing others from bondage.

18. Seward Highway

Travel 125 miles of untamed wilderness between Anchorage and Seward on the Seward Highway across the Kenai Peninsula. Look for moose, brown and black bears, wolves, mountain goats, and Dall sheep in the snow-clad peaks.

19. Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Follow the path Lewis and Clark forged through Idaho on the 202-mile Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. Class II-III whitewater of the Middle Fork Clearwater River provides the backdrop as you drive up the canyon from Lewiston and on to even bigger water on the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River to Lolo Pass.

Santa Elena Canyon.

20. Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Tour one of the most remote parks in America on the 30-mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Visit a homesteader ranch, hike the uncrowded trails, and finish with a dramatic view over the Rio Grande from the 1,500-foot-high cliffs of Santa Elena Canyon.

21. Death Valley Scenic Byway

Signs of pioneer life are everywhere on this 81.5-mile Scenic Byway, from the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns to Harmony Borax Works and the ghost towns of Panamint City and Rhyolite. Sand dunes and salt flats change color and shape as the sun rises and sets, and the stars in the night sky are spectacular.

22. Farmlandia Farm Loop

Tour 17 Oregon farms, from the world headquarters of Bob’s Red Mill to small family wineries and produce stands, on a self-guided tour on the rural roads southeast of downtown Portland. Stop by herb farms, bakeries, farmers’ markets, and field-to-fork restaurants along the route, or sign up online for a cooking class. The peak season for produce is from June through October.

Ann Gibson


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