A Guide to the American Road Trip: Best Things to See

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A Guide to the American Road Trip: Best Things to See

Picture this:

It’s Friday afternoon and you’re all packed, all that’s left to do is to get into that vintage car (or class B RV) and hit the open road as you embark on your all-American adventure…the ever-enticing road trip!

Since its home to some of the world’s greatest attractions, the American road trip can be a little hard to plan if you don’t know where to head out to and what to be on the lookout for. Will you trek through the canyon trails of Arizona, or will you opt to cool down in a secret spot hidden in Texas? 

We’ve got the info you need, and we’ll show you some of the top spots to visit and sites you need to see in order to ensure you have an epic road trip adventure. All you need to do is pick a point on the map and hit the road!

Best Things to See on Your American Road Trip

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California – Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is North America’s largest alpine lake, and as such it attracts thousands of visitors each year, all hoping to catch their breath next to the emerald blue waters nestled in the lap of the majestic mountains of the area. While you’re here you can kick back with some hiking, mountain biking and even give stand-up paddleboarding a try!

Nevada – Valley of Fire State Park

The Valley of Fire State Park is the oldest of its kind in Nevada, and its best known for ombre-colored red rocks that cover the landscape, almost like waves. The Rainbow Vista’s colored stones are well worth seeing if you can bear the harsh sun and scorching heat. 

Arizona – Upper Antelope Canyon

The Upper Antelope Canyon is such an iconic postcard picture that you’d be mad to miss out on the sight if you’re in the area. The canyon was created thousands of years ago thanks to the water that rushed through the rock, and if you swing around here from March to October you might just be able to witness the light beam reflected in the red walls of the canyon. 

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Arizona – Grand Canyon

If you plan on enjoying a kickass road trip and you don’t have the Grand Canyon included in your list of must-see sites, you’ve got a serious problem. Even if you think you know what’s to be expected here, just stop and soak up the grandeur because it’s still one of the world’s most amazing sights!

Washington – Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park surrounds an age-old active volcano. It’s the perfect spot to chill out in the wildflower meadows and just become one with nature as you gaze upon the huge variety of wildlife and plants in the area. 

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California – Big Sur

If you’re looking for some awe-inspiring views then this stretch along the California coast is a must see. Drive the 90-mile route running from the Pacific Coast Highway as it swings along the cliffs overlooking the ocean down below. Once you get to the city of Big Sur you’ll appreciate the small community and the tranquility that exists thanks to the dense redwood forest that surrounds the town. 

Wyoming – Jackson Hole

Overlapping with the Grant Teton National Park, Jackson Hole is a super popular pit stop for those embarking on an ultimate American road trip. With its dramatic peaks and lush plant life, the crystal-clear lakes and the snow-capped mountains, this might just be where your heart decides to stay even if your body journeys on. 

Landmarks to See – State-to-State

We get that some of you might have other ideas for the perfect American road trip, which is why we’re going to give you even more to work with. We’ve compiled a list of all the popular attractions to see along the way for those embarking on an epic adventure. You can use the list below to help you plan a stop-and-go itinerary for your road trip! 

  • Utah – Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Idaho – Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Wyoming – Yellowstone National Park
  • Colorado – Pikes Peak
  • New Mexico – Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Texas – The Alamo
  • Oklahoma – The Platt Historic District
  • Arizona – Toltec Mountains
  • Louisiana – New Orleans, French Quarter
  • Georgia – Okefenokee Swamp Park
  • West Virginia – Lost World Caverns
  • Virginia – Mount Vernon
  • Pennsylvania – Liberty Bell
  • New York – Statue of Liberty
  • Maine – Acadia National Park
  • Kentucky – Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Missouri – Gateway Arch
  • South Dakota – Mount Rushmore
  • California – San Francisco Cable Cars & the San Andreas Fault
  • Nevada – Hoover Dam

The American Road Trip – Routes to Consider

If you’re stuck trying to decide what route to follow for your great road trip, here are some ideas…

You’re driving around California

Try this: The Pacific Coast Highway from Carme to Morro Bay

Stretching 120 miles with some of the most stellar views on offer, the scenic roadway along the California coast is popular for good reason. You can also extend your trip along the Pacific Coast Highway to cover everything and anything from Malibu all the way to the Oregon border. 

You’re driving around Colorado

Try this: the Peak to Peak Highway

Coming in at just under 60 miles long, the Peak to Peak Highway still offers magnificent scenery along the way. Check out the Continental Divide as you pass through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Once you get to the Golden Highway you can take Highway 6 if you’re keen to see Clear Lake Canyon Park. From Highway 119 you’ll start out on the Peak to Peak Highway that extends all the way to Estes Park. 

You’re driving around Virginia and North Carolina

Try this: Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway route is iconic and probably one of the most unique mountain routes of its kind. You’ll pass some Civil War battle sites if you head through Virginia in the north, and also pass the Great Smoky Mountains a little further south. Take note that the speed limit is strictly 45-miles-per-hour, but that gives you more time to soak up the sheer natural beauty. 

You’re driving around Wyoming and Montana

Try this: Beartooth Highway

As part of the U.S. Highway 212, the Beartooth Highway spans across 68 miles of road, starting out at Red Lodge in Montana and passing through the Beartooth Pass in Wyoming. Look out for great sites such as the Custer and Shoshone National Forest. Your route will come to an end at Cooke City, which is where you can embark on yet another adventure in Yellowstone National Park. 

You’re driving around Maine

Try this: the Coastal Route One

For a perfect New England-style experience, try taking on the U.S. Route 1’s coastal section as you drive from Brunswick to Machias as part of your 167-mile adventure. The seaside villages and historic lighthouses are iconic along the Coastal Route One, but try to work in a stop at one of the local lobster shacks for the complete experience!

You’re driving around Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee

Try this: the Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway runs some 444 miles, covering everything from Nashville to Natchez, and promises an adventure filled with scenic appeal and an almost tangible cultural history in the air. Check out some Civil War battle sites, the abandoned towns, and what remains of the old Natchez Trace Indian Trail. 

Final Thoughts

We hope that this post has been helpful and that it will aid you in planning the most epic of American road trips ever heard of! Remember to take in all the sights and sounds as you trail through one of the most richly rewarding countries on earth. 

About The Author

I’m Dan, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can be found frequently hiking the rain forest around my city!

2 Comments on “A Guide to the American Road Trip: Best Things to See

  1. Great article!
    Here’s a few places I’d like to add if ya don’t mind…

    Florida: The Emerald Coast stretching from Pensacola to Panama City are the most beautiful, white sand, beaches in the country.

    Texas: Enchanted Rock. Great place to spend the day exploring the interesting mystical rock formations and the have a picnic on top of the rock.

    Michigan: The Upper Peninsula – Lake Superior – Pictured Rocks (or is it Painted Rocks? I can’t remember) Absolutely gorgeous.

    Utah: The Salt Flats – On the west side of the Flats just before you reach Nevada, there’s a little gas station on the highway exit. You can follow the little road behind it to an entrance to the Flats and then drive your vehicle with absolute freedom across the baron landscape. Be careful though, don’t drive too close to the sides because the salt is loose and you could get struck. Also, be ready to give your vehicle a good washing afterwards for it will be covered in salt. Well worth it though!

    • Yes! Great additions! And it seems they are all within reach! Thanks for sharing Tucker! I have my heart in Utah this season somehow…

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