Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue April 28 2015

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  • Michelle Bucher | April 28, 2015 3:00 AM ET

    11 Essential Road Trip Routes

    11 Essential Road Trip Routes

    Image courtesy of Thinkstock

    Grab your maps, road trip season is here!

    If you're stuck for an idea for your next road trip, this map of essential routes is a great start. I've personally done all of these road trips over the years, except the last half of the Atlantic Coast road trip route, we've sadly never made it down through the east coast of Florida yet.

    Each of these road trip routes offers a little something special that you won’t find on another route. Below is a rundown of our experience on each of these routes.

    1. Pacific Coast

    We've actually done this road trip several times. There’s a lot of amazing things to see along this route, but we also use this route quite frequently to get to San Francisco, San Diego, and we even make our way over to Arizona for vacation.

    2. Border to Border

    We've done this route on several different road trips. Glacier National Park on the northern part of this route is a beautiful experience. We spent some time here last summer, taking in the natural beauty of the park and admiring the glaciers. Driving through Nevada, we deviated east to Bonnieville Salt Flats for an afternoon of exploring before heading down towards Las Vegas. Driving to Phoenix from Las Vegas, we always like to stop over at the Grand Canyon. If you don’t have time to make it up through Flagstaff, you can always head to the Grand Canyon Skywalk for an equally stunning view of the canyon below.

    3. The Road to Nowhere

    Although this may be called The Road to Nowhere, there’s a ton to see along this route. While in South Dakota, if you have some free time, head east towards Sioux Falls. It’s a beautiful city with a huge waterfall flowing through the center of the city. If you head west in South Dakota, you can visit Mount Rushmore before carrying on with your road trip.

    Once you reach Texas, take a short deviation off course towards Amarillo, here you’ll find the Cadillac Ranch. This is an old art movement where several Cadillac cars have been buried half in the ground, and travelers are encouraged to come and spray paint whatever you like on the cars. This is a fun experience. Once you head down through Texas, you’ll be in foodie heaven. So many delicious food trucks in Austin and San Antonio.

    4. The Great River Road

    Lots of city driving along this route. One of the first times we road tripped this route, we stopped at our first White Castle in St Louis. You of course can’t go on a road trip without including White Castle in the route. Along the way, we also chose to stop at many bbq places, collecting various bottles of bbq sauce and seasoning to bring home with us. Driving through Mississippi to New Orleans was also a great experience. Quite a bit of greenery along this route, and of course New Orleans was such a fun experience. I can’t wait to go back one day during Mardi Gras.

    5. Appalachian Trail

    The Appalachian Trail, hiking trail that is, is high on our list of things to do one day. Since we’ve yet to do the iconic hike, we’ve opted to road trip along the route for now. Some of the key highlights from our road trip route last summer was the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory, New York City, and The White House. The last bit of this road trip route had us driving through quite a bit of nature with stunning mountain views. The best time to drive this route is during the fall, specifically in Vermont and Georgia, for the colorful leaves.

    6. Atlantic Coast

    This route takes you from New York City to Key West, Florida. We’ve only made it to the top of Florida, but enjoyed the northern part of the route that we did road trip. Along this route you’ll come across some stunning beaches and old lighthouses, perfect for those who enjoy photography. We made a ton of stops along this route for iconic/well-known sights that we’d only seen in movies previously. Because there’s so much to see along this route, I’d recommend spending your time with this road trip. You need at least a week to really enjoy everything this route has to offer.

    7. The Great Northern

    This is a great cross-country route that has some truly stunning scenery. Glacier National Park is our personal favorite highlight of this route, along with the stunning mountain ranges that you’ll pass through. Once you cross into Canada, you'll pass through the nation’s capital of Ottawa, then through Montreal, a great place to stop for some delicious poutine and local beer. You then cross back over to America, through the lush forest in Vermont, and ending in Maine. This is yet another great road trip route to do near the end of the summer, or beginning of fall just as the leaves begin to change color.

    8. The Oregon Trail

    This route hits some of the big attractions for any road tripper. Starting along the Columbia River Gorge, this route passes along through Yellowstone National Park; a must-see attraction. We spend a few days in Yellowstone, but found it just wasn’t enough time to enjoy the park. We had to move on with our route trip route. We followed the Oregon Trail east towards Mount Rushmore, then Sioux Falls. Make sure to stop in Sioux Falls for a stunning view of the large falls passing through the towns center. You then pass through Chicago; we chose to stop at the Leaning Tower of Nile and Millennium Park before carrying on with our road trip.

    Niagara Falls is another great attraction to see along this route. Make sure to ride the Maid of the Mist if you’re going to Niagara Falls, it’s a great experience being so close to the falls. You’ll end your road trip route passing through Boston. There’s so much to see in Boston, you might need a few days to explore this town. The route ends in Cape Cod, Mass., but you’re of course welcome to end your road trip anywhere you like.

    9. Loneliest Road

    Running through the heart of America, this is another great coast-to-coast road trip route. You’ll start off in San Francisco, passing through Carson City, making an essential stop at Arches National Park. From here, you’ll pass through many small towns before hitting St Louis, and eventually Washington, D.C. You also cross over the Appalachian Trail mountain range, enjoy the stunning views of the mountains on this part of the trip, before ending your road trip along the shores of Maryland.

    10. Southern Pacific

    This is my second favorite road trip route. It’s a great road trip for those long winter months, when many of the northern states are snowed in. We’ve gone from Florida to California on this route. One of the highlights of this trip was deviating off-course to New Orleans. What an amazing experience touring around New Orleans, and some wonderful sights to see.

    We also enjoyed some delicious gator meat while in town. Driving through Texas was also a great cultural experience, especially for those foodies. If you head south a little towards Austin or San Antonio, you’ll come across some amazing food trucks. From here, you’ll drive fairly close to the Mexican border, we came across some beautiful white sand dunes, then ended our trip in San Diego.

    11. Route 66

    The iconic Route 66 is a road trip that everyone should do at least once in their life. This route is chock-full of historic markers, but also really gives you an appreciation to the way life used to be for those who traveled along this route. It’s a popular route for road trippers, especially during the summer time.

    Use this map as a stepping stone to plan your next road trip, but remember to customize it to your road trip style. If there’s too many options on this list, and you’re finding you’re stuck on which route to pick, my personal favorite is the Oregon Trail, as it hits some iconic landmarks/parks/attractions that any road tripper would want to see. I’d also highly recommend the Southern Pacific route, there's year round sunshine and some amazing attractions and towns along the way.


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Michelle Bucher Road Rules From the Road Trip Blogger

Michelle Bucher Michelle Bucher is an avid road tripper, travel writer and social media marketer from Vancouver, British Columbia. Michelle has spent the past six years on various road trip adventures around North America. She's road tripped through 48 states, 10 provinces and several other countries. Michelle runs a fun travel blog,, showcasing stories from her random road trip adventures.
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