PHOTO: A roadside rock formation spotted during a road trip. (Photo by Michelle Rae Uy)
A fun and memorable road trip doesn’t have to take an entire week or a whole month. There are jaunts on the road that can only take a couple of days so those yearning for big skies and open roads wouldn’t have to wait for the summer season to start. The country is peppered weekend road trip possibilities, from the Pacific shores to the East Coast. These ten scenic drives are our ideal retorts to a road trip you can complete in a weekend.
New York City to Montreal
The drive from NYC across the Canadian border to Montreal, Quebec, takes about six hours, which makes it a perfect road trip full of meandering about and quick stops. Take Interstate 87 north from New York City, and be sure to make the essential stops. They include Albany to grab a box full of Apple Cider Donuts, the beautiful Sagamore Resort on Lake George, Ausable Chasm for some rappelling or river tubing, and the North Star Underground Railroad Museum. In Montreal, wander around in the oldest part of the city and also take a plunge in its culture and arts.
Jackson Hole to Yellowstone National Park
Jackson Hole is only less than two hours south of Yellowstone. However, as there are many things to do and see, this spectacular drive certainly deserves at least a weekend. Jackson Hole alone has several must-visit spots, and attractions on the road up include the Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake, Lily Falls, and Lewis Falls. Give yourself a lot of time to explore Yellowstone, however. It might be impossible to see all of what it has to offer, but you can certainly check out some of the highlights like the Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Grand Prismatic Spring.
If you’re a fan of glorious sunsets, epic coastal scenes and gorgeous beaches (who isn’t?), then a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in sunny California is the perfect road trip for you. Start your trip in the famous Malibu whose million-dollar beach mansions are just as much of an attraction as its craggy coast, and make Mendocino your northern terminus. Charming adorable towns, Spanish missions, excellent camping spots, and surf breaks are icing on the cake. Must-stops include the Hearst Castle, heavenly Big Sur, cosmopolitan San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Bodega Bay for Hitchcock fans.
Florida Gulf Coast
Say what you want about Florida, but it does boast some of the most amazing beaches in the country. One perfect way to spend the weekend is to go for a drive along its gulf coast, a treasure trove of idyllic little keys, white sand beaches, and deliciously warm water. Skip the panhandle altogether, start your journey in Clearwater, Florida, and head south. This is a seaside road trip, so beach stops are crucial. Splash about in Siesta Beach—famous for its baby powder white sand, go jet skiing in Manasota Key, island hop around the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Reserve, and collect as many unique shells as your hands and pockets can carry on Sanibel Island.
Want a little taste of Mexico without having to hop on a plane? Load up the car and drive down to Ensenada in Baja California instead. It’s about a two-hour drive from San Diego, but the road is teeming with little off the beaten foodie discoveries and crossing the border from the US is easy as pie. Grab a cocktail at Hotel del Coronado to start. Once in Mexico, feast on lobsters in Rosarito—tourists make a beeline for Puerto Nuevo while locals prefer La Fonda; and eat Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos in Ensenada. If you have time to spare, head to Valle de Guadalupe to sample some of Mexico’s finest wine.
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Southern Utah should have an award for having the most majestic landscapes, and everyone who has a deeply-rooted fondness for the outdoors must experience everything it has to offer, at least once. Start your trip in Moab, Utah, and see Arches National Park’s incredible red sandstone arches as well as Canyonlands’ plateaus and buttes, which will make you feel like you’re on a desert planet. When you’re done, make your way west to visit Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and, most importantly, Zion, Utah’s finest. Don’t just take landscape photos at vistas and landmarks. Slather on sunscreen and bring plenty of water, as hiking is part of the whole experience.
Door County, Wisconsin
Thread your way around Door County in Wisconsin for a more tranquil stumble on the road. The peninsula is lush with foliage that’s especially charming in the fall and full of stunning coastal scenes and outdoor recreational areas. Have picnics on the beach, walk around the small villages, and squeeze in a couple of kayaking tours and a bit of sailing. Among the many interesting sights are Death’s Doors Bluff, Washington Island, the Native American pictographs, Horseshoe Island, Cana Island Lighthouse, and Peninsula State Park.
Whether you’re driving in from California or the Midwest, Page, Arizona, is a road trip destination to which you’ll want to keep coming back. This area next to the Arizona-Utah border is a shoo-in for photographers and landscape lovers alike. Within its wind-and-river, battered land are extraordinary natural features that you’ll want and need to first photograph then explore. There’s, of course, the formidable Lower and Upper Antelope Slot Canyon, which you can only explore through a guided tour, as well as the spectacular Horseshoe Bend, which you’ll need a wide-angle lens for. Other sights include Glen Canyon Dam, Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Rainbow Bridge. Set up camp at Lake Powell, where some houseboats are available for rental.
Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine
New England might just be one of the more charming drives you’ll ever make especially when fall foliage is in full bloom. Start your trip in historic Boston, which itself is full of attractions to check out. Weave your way up along the coast and take your time; Bar Harbor is only about five hours away, and there are many idyllic sights to see and delectable seafood to be had. Visit port cities and coastal towns along the way. Spend the night in the college town of Portland, and avoid touristy lobster restaurants. The hole-in-the-wall spots on the side of the road serve better lobster at cheaper prices.
If you love the California coast, then you’ll certainly appreciate a drive along the Oregon Coast on the 101. It’s just as scenic and awe-inspiring, but with milder weather and more lighthouses (ten that you can visit, to be exact). Whether you go from north to south or start at the California-Oregon border, it’s up to you. Many of its best attractions, however, are in the northern half. Important stops are Yaquina Head and its lighthouse, Haystack Rock, the Oregon Dunes and, of course, the famous Cannon Beach.