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10 Scenic Road Trips That Will Make You Fall in Love with America

Gas prices are down, and it's time to hit the open road!

Between recent passport delays and flight shortages, there's no better time to skip the airport and embark on a road trip than this summer. A road trip, whether it's a day out of town or a cross-country adventure, is arguably one of the best ways to take in some of our country's changing landscapes, as well as national treasures like state forests and national parks.

Another perk to spending so much time on the road is getting an abundance of quality time with the ones you love—or a little peace and quiet, if solo traveling is more your style. The only question that remains is… where are we going?

Whether you're looking to explore your neighboring states or are willing to fly to Point A, there are tons (like, tons and tons) of routes from the northernmost tip of the continental U.S., to its southernmost end, that'll get you exploring the great outdoors. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to the best road trips in America to take this summer, plus tips and must-see pit stops from travel experts.

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1. Georgia's Little Grand Canyon

Little Grand Canyon in Georgia.

Georgia may be known for its peaches and southern hospitality, but did you know it's also the home of the Little Grand Canyon? For a kid-friendly excursion, Chantel Rodriguez, the travel blogger behind Choose Love, suggests road tripping to one of Southwest Georgia's hidden gems: Providence Canyon Park or, as the locals call it, Little Grand Canyon.

After taking in the sights, head westward to Florence Marina State Park for more forested trails and campgrounds, where you can dock for the night. Those who love being by the water (or if it's blistering hot out) may want to add an extra day or two onto their trip for swimming, boating, and fishing.

From there, Rodriguez recommends heading north for about 50 minutes to explore the Chattahoochee RiverWalk in Columbus. The iconic landmark hovers along the state borders of Georgia and Alabama. "With a quick walk over the bridge, you'll find yourself in two states in under five minutes!" Rodriguez tells Best Life. You can also whitewater raft in the river when the conditions are right.

2. Maui's The Road to Hana

The Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii.

Is it even possible to road trip around a small Hawaiian island? Jackie Krawiecki, a travel photographer and blogger at The Adventure Atlas, says a thousand times yes! "The Road to Hana is the most adventurous way to explore Maui," she tells Best Life. "This winding route takes you through lush rainforests and past cascading waterfalls, stunning coastal views, and dramatic cliffs. Located on Maui, Hawaii, The Road to Hana is perfect for nature lovers, photographers, and couples looking for a romantic getaway.

If you want to make pit stops along the way and explore what Maui has to offer, Krawiecki suggests visiting Wai'anapanapa State Park for its famous black sand beach, hiking to Twin Falls and Wailua Falls, walking through the Garden of Eden Arboretum, and paying a visit to the historic Kahanu Garden.

"The trip ends in Hana, a small, tranquil town that has managed to retain a sense of old Hawaii," she says. "Once you get here, I recommend taking the time to drive to Kipahulu in Haleakala National Park. You can easily spend an entire day exploring 'Ohe'o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), the Pipiwai Trail, and Waimoku Falls."

Krawiecki adds, "If you love coffee, don't miss the family-owned Grandma's Coffee House for some Maui Coffee roasted by hand since 1918."

3. North Florida's Fresh Water Springs

Person snorkeling in underwater caves at Ginnie Springs, Florida.

Aside from its beaches, Florida is also known for its beautiful fresh water springs. According to Rodriguez, the best way to plan your North Florida road trip is via the Florida Springs Passport, an interactive booklet that contains a little bit of history about each spring as well as helpful tips for your visit. Swing by Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park before you head off to Ginnie Spring, where you can snorkel in crystal clear waters. At Ichetucknee Springs, you can embark on a six-mile tube float voyage through the springs. Turn your Florida Spring expedition into a three-day road trip by camping overnight at one of the springs—just make sure to reserve your spot (and any necessary permits) ahead of time.

4. South Florida: Miami to the Florida Keys

Key West, Florida, the southernmost post of the continental U.S.

Heading in the opposite direction, is the opportunity for a 160-mile road trip along South Florida's coastline. Depending on how you structure your itinerary, Rodriguez tells Best Life that the road trip could be treated as a day trip or multi-day adventure—but obviously, the latter gives you the chance to take in more of the sights.

If you have the time, Rodriguez advises starting your trip in Miami, where you can bask in the city's Latin American culture and bustling restaurant scene. You may also want to see Virginia Key, Monument Island, and South Beach. From here, hop onto Highway 1 and begin your journey towards the Florida Keys with detours to Everglades National Park and John Pennekamp State Park.

Your road trip, Rodriguez insists, isn't complete without snorkeling in Islamorada and a selfie at Florida's most southern tip.

5. Charlotte to Savannah

Fountain surrounded by Spanish moss in Savannah, Georgia.

You can expect a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty—and a ton of southern charm!—on a road trip from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia, per Krawiecki. If you love food, this road trip is going to be a real treat, with opportunities to indulge in everything from Carolina barbecue to fresh seafood, hearty Lowcountry dishes, and famous Southern sweets.

According to Krawiecki, you'll want to begin your road trip in Charlotte, "a vibrant city known for its bustling arts scene and rich motorsports heritage, before heading south through the Carolinas." This route will give you an opportunity to explore several Civil War sites and to immerse yourself in the history and culture of the South. "With its well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and welcoming locals," Krawiecki says Charleston is a must-see. In Savannah, enjoy the city's cobblestoned squares, Spanish moss-draped trees, manicured parks, and historic homes.

On the topic of food, Krawiecki tells Best Life that Mrs. Wilkes's Dining Room needs to be at the top of every traveler's list. "It's a historic restaurant known for its homestyle Southern cooking, where guests all sit around large tables and pass around family style dishes of fried chicken, cornbread and sweet potato souffle," she explains.

6. Olympic Peninsula

Highway 101 along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

The Olympic Peninsula is the little thumbprint of land west of Seattle, across Puget Sound, and is best visited in the summer. The road trip will take you through quaint villages and dense rainforests, and get you up close to some of the West Coast's most breathtaking seaside cliffs. If you're flying to Washington for your Pacific Northwest road trip, experts recommend that you start in Seattle. The metropolis is easy to fly in and out of, plus you can take multiple road trips with Seattle as your home base.

According to Krawiecki, driving counterclockwise around the Olympic Peninsula is the best way to explore the area. On her list of stops are: Olympia Coffee Roasters, Port Townsend, Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rainforest, Shi Shi Beach, Lake Quinault, and Cape Flattery.

7. Las Vegas to Utah's National Parks

Zion National Park Sign in Utah.

You may be surprised to hear that there's a lot more to Vegas than gambling and drinking. Rodriguez says that a road trip through Southeast Vegas and into Utah is packed with family-friendly stops, including 7 Magic Mountain, the Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead. About three hours northeast, across the state border into Utah, is Zion National Park and a little further north, Bryce Canyon National Park. This road trip is definitely for adventure seekers, with tons of hikes at your disposal. Albeit, Rodriguez warns that some national park trails may require permits, so make sure you plan ahead.

8. Las Vegas to Sedona

Devil's Bridge Trail in Sedona, Arizona.

On the flipside, you can drive southwest of Las Vegas into Sedona, Arizona. The distance isn't too far (about 300 miles), and you can pack a ton of stops and outdoors adventures in between. From Vegas, Krawiecki suggests driving about an hour to The Valley of Fire State Park to see ancient petroglyphs. If you're open to detours, you won't be too far from The Grand Canyon South Rim. Then head south to Sedona for awe-inspiring canyons and red sandstone.

9. California's Pacific Coast Highway

Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1 in California.

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1 or PCH, is one of the most iconic road trips in the U.S. because of its serene coastal views, charming towns, and famous landmarks. The road stretches 656 miles from its northernmost tip in Legget to its southern end in Dana Point. "The highway winds its way along some of the most stunning coastline in the world, covering over 7 percent of California's coast," Krawiecki says. "At times, you'll find yourself cruising right alongside sheer cliff faces and crashing waves, while at others, you'll pass through serene beach towns and lush forests."

Krawiecki's key stops include: Malibu, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Carmel By-the-Sea. As a former Californian myself, I highly recommend Newport Beach and Balboa island for bites and dessert, as well as Oceanside, and, if you want to keep going south, Old Town San Diego.

10. Portland to Columbia River Gorge (And Other Waterfalls)

Multnomah Falls Waterfall in Oregon.

If you want to go chasing waterfalls, a road trip through Oregon is the place to do it. Starting in Portland, Rodriguez advises travelers to hop on Interstate 84 East, which will take you right into Columbia River Gorge. This is the beginning of a waterfall mecca. Melissa Miller, a Portland-based travel photographer and the creator of Miss Rover, likes to point visitors to Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, Rowena Crest, and Melamoose Hills for wildflowers. In terms of lodging, she suggests camping or booking a room at the historic Hood River Hotel and taking mini road trips to different waterfalls from there.

Each waterfall park boasts its own collection of trails and hikes, but some may be more advanced than others. Because there are so many waterfalls in the area, experts advise mapping out your journey in advance, including what activities you want to do (and their level of difficulty).

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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