The road trip is practically an American right of way. So why not buckle up, take the wheel with both hands and do as the locals do on your next escape to the land of stars and stripes. Pull up to bask in the limitless span of theatrical landscapes, the tales of a long-living history and the irresistible allure of iconic highlights.
There’s a route to move the soul of every traveller. Here’s just a handful of the most unique, the most impressive and the most iconic road trippin’ routes in the USA.
The Stones, Chuck Berry and Depeche Mode all sang about it and when John Steinbeck coined it The Mother Road in The Grapes of Wrath, the name stuck. The legendary Route 66 is famous in song, film and story and by no mistake, many would contest it’s the ultimate iconic American road trip. Running from Chicago through the very heart and soul of the USA to Los Angeles in sunny California, this coast-to-coast 5000km journey transpires nostalgia, exposes a multitude of landscapes and snakes its way through cities old and new.
The most famous stops include Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Oklahoma City and Amarillo in Texas. But you’ll also pass through deserted ghost towns as well as bustling ones, discover many kitsch old-school diners and witness beautiful beaches merge into deserts, cornfields and skylines dominated by soaring skyscrapers. Do Route 66 and find out for yourself why travellers wax lyrical about it.
It may be just 83km long but Hawaii’s Hana Highway packs a punch in one condensed, winding and impressive feat of engineering. A road dug by hand by locals along Maui’s domineering east coast, the route is quite the ‘cliff hanger’ – in both the literal and the lateral sense. Hugging the coastline so as to not slip down the striking mountainside, around the corner of 600 curves and over 59 bridges you’ll be greeted with gushing waterfalls, bamboo forests, bottomless valleys and jagged red and black cliffs smothered in verdant rainforest and lapped at by azure tides.
Follow short paths on foot to swimming holes or detour onto side roads that lead to sleepy seaside villages. This is one road trip that is truly about the journey, not the destination, though the starting and finishing points – Kahului and Hana – are still fascinating in their own right. Four wheel drives are recommended to navigate this dramatic dance of a road.
Reach for the volume button and crank up the music but rest assured: the music on this soothin’ southern ride won’t be limited to the car confines. Pull up, open the door and step out to discover some of the world’s most rhythmic, charismatic and famously musical cities pulsating all around you and drawing you into its sweet caress. The Blues Highway goes end to end from the home of country music, Nashville in Tennessee, to the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans in Louisiana.
The most soul-stirring pit-stop along the way is no doubt the birthplace of blues and rock’n’roll, the one and only Memphis – the place to get swept up in Elvis mania and finally make that pilgrimage to Graceland. Other stops include Clarksdale, the home of delta blues, Vicksburg and Tunica, as well as Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. This illustrious winding stream is one the route never strays too far from.
Follow the wagon-wheeled and horse-trodden path of the 18th century gold seekers, stoic pioneers, fur traders and farmers who once dared make this cross-country trek in search of a better life. Start in the hard and dusty heart of the USA at Independence, Missouri, and unpack once you reach the wild coastal stretch of east-coast Oregon, the final destination which once brimmed with promise.
A dangerous journey in its beginnings, today it’s simply fascinating to steer through the dusty deserts of Wyoming, the golden cornfields of Nebraska, the wide open plains of Kansas, the wooded forests of Oregon and past the sprouting geysers of Idaho. From the Native American treasures of the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Fort Laramie to the Courthouse and Jail rock formations in Bridgeport, there are many eye-opening, beautiful and unexpected stops along the way to perfectly complement the authentic American cities and towns.
Forget wine country and foodie trails. Hit the open road and take your time to enjoy the distinctive local brews that sing true to the ever-changing landscapes and climates weaving their way between two inland beauties: Phoenix, Arizona and Polson, Montana. The road isn’t straight up and down though; instead it twists and turns to take in the best craft beers within arm’s reach.
Along the way, don’t miss the popular Snake River Brewing Company and Roadhouse Brewery in Jackson, Wyoming, Unita Brewing or Squatters Pub in Salt Lake City, Utah, or the Denver Beer Company in Denver, Colorado. Albuquerque in New Mexico and Boise in Idaho are also refreshing stops, while national forests and beautiful natural landscapes offer no shortage of outdoor adventures between sips, from the red rocks of Slide Rock State Park to the stunning lakes and waterfalls of Coeur d’Alene.
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