Last updated on: Oct 15, 2020
I absolutely love road trips! In fact, self-drive tours in the USA with my family formed my earliest travel memories.
Related post: Safe Driving Tips for a US Road Trip
If you’re just getting started with exploring the US, here are 10 great road trips that reveal the spectacular beauty of the US.
The Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 101, is one of the most scenic roads anywhere in the world. The drive from San Diego, CA, to Seattle, WA, on Highway 101 is approximately 1,500 miles and takes about 25 hours nonstop, so a minimum of two weeks is needed to reasonably make the journey.
Must visit places along the drive include:
While most of the Washington route is not along the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s a scenic route, allowing you to also visit the cities of Long Beach and Olympia.
Of course, Seattle is a great American city and a nice endpoint for a Pacific Coast Highway trip.
For a shorter route, a great option is driving the California section of the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco.
Related post: 4 Great Stops for a West Coast Road Trip
There is no better state to take a self-drive tour in the US than Arizona! With iconic natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls, Red Rock Country, and Antelope Canyon, you’ll be treated to one breathtaking vista after another.
Related post: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip
Starting in Las Vegas, you can drive east to visit several amazing places along the way, including:
Related post: Top 5 Day Trips from Sedona, Arizona
Known as the emerald city, Seattle is one of the most beautiful American cities due to its waterfront setting and mountain greenery. Pike Place Market, Puget Sound, and the are just a few of the notable places to see.
From Seattle, you can take a scenic drive east toward Glacier National Park on a route of approximately 550 miles and 9 hours nonstop.
Highlights of the route are:
If you’re looking for more, drive across the border from Montana to visit Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
Related post: Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
It’s no surprise that the Carolina Coast is popular for beachgoing and water activities, given that much of North and South Carolina can both be described as “lowcountry”, which means a low-lying country or region.
The beaches of the Outer Banks occupy the majority of the Atlantic coastline of North Carolina, so that’s where the best beaches are in that state.
Related post: Great Outer Banks Beach Towns for Families
South Carolina has a number of beach resort areas to choose from, including Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, and Hilton Head.
Myrtle Beach is the most popular beach area in South Carolina with North Myrtle Beach being a preferred spot for families. The other beach areas have a lot to offer as well. Kiawah Island and Hilton Head are upscale beach and golf towns offering a wide variety of luxury homes and rentals as well as activities
Kiawah Island is located closer to Charleston, while Hilton Head is located closer to Savannah, GA. Hilton Head is consistently rated one of the best vacation destinations in the world.
Both Folly Beach and Isle of Palm are beach towns near Charleston, SC, that offer a wide stretch of sand and a more laid-back vibe than Myrtle Beach.
During your tour of the Carolinas, add in stops to historic Charleston and possibly Savannah, depending on your route.
Though Texas is one of the largest US states, much of the population is clustered in a four cities: Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio.
Not to be missed is the Texas Wine Country, which makes Texas the fifth largest wine-producing state in the country. At the heart of Texas Wine Country is Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country AVA (American Viticultural Area), it is the second largest certified Viticultural Area in America with well over nine million acres.
Highlights of this trip include:
Outside the four major cities, another trendy place to visit is Marfa. A six-hour drive from San Antonio, Marfa is a small desert city in west Texas that is also an arts mecca.
It’s the place where you can snap Instagrammable photos at ‘Prada Marfa‘ and possibly catch a glimpse of the Marfa Lights phenomenon.
When visiting Marfa, you should definitely pay a visit to Big Bend National Park for its gorgeous scenery.
The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of the U.S. state of Florida.
Highlights of a trip to the Florida Keys include:
Given that the New England states are so geographically small, it’s quite easy to visit many of them from any of them. Therefore, New England makes one of the best places to do a self-drive tour of the USA.
A great place to start is Boston, where you can explore the city’s rich history and venture to other parts of the state such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
From Boston, it’s an easy drive north to these places of interest:
Newport, RI, and Hartford, CT, are also worth checking out. Those are an easy drive south of Boston.
As the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, the Great Lakes offer some of the most beautiful views. For this road trip, begin in Chicago and end in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.
Highlights of this trip:
Related post: 9 Midwest Beaches You Should Visit This Summer
Utah and Colorado are two gorgeous states with more national parks than you can probably name.
Start your trip in Denver and spend a few days in the mile-high city. Be sure to visit the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
After exploring Denver, head to the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park to hike the Dream, Emerald, and Nymph Lakes and visit Alberta Falls and the Continental Divide.
The gorgeous White River National Forest and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area in Colorado are well worth a visit, too.
In Utah, drive to the iconic Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Zion National Park.
Highlights of this trip:
During winter time, Utah and Colorado are fantastic ski destinations, with resorts such as Keystone; Breckenridge; Aspen; Vail; Beaver Creek; Telluride; Snowbird; Deer Valley; and Park City.
Related post: Top 5 Day Trips from Sedona, Arizona
Maybe I’m biased as a native Tennessean, but it’s hard not to cross this state when traverse the south.
Though Tennessee is not one of the most populous US states, it is one of the most decentralized states with population centers in four different areas of the state: Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
Driving from one end of the state to the other is roughly 500 miles or 7 hours nonstop across Interstate 40, and the state offers a lot of beautiful natural scenery.
Must visit places include:
Before traveling anywhere in the US, check the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center to track the status of COVID-19 cases by state and county. The site also has tabs for global destinations as well as for ‘Critical Trends’, which displays the hot spots and trends.
Ensure you have enough sanitizing supplies for the duration of your trip, including wipes, sanitizer, and alcohol. Consider portable travel urinal devices if you are traveling in rural areas or to avoid public restrooms.
Electric hand dryers in restrooms were already shown to spread viruses and germs prior to COVID-19, so using a restroom with them is a higher risk than those without them.
Research whether your drive involves toll roads and obtain an EZ Pass or equivalent toll collection system if you need one, as many toll roads will not feature in-person collection.
Consider renting a vehicle:
For accommodations-on-the-go, you can rent an RV through sites such as Outdoorsy, which can provide even greater flexibility and cost savings.
Rent an electric vehicle from companies such as SIXT and skip the gas stations altogether. Many electric cars can go the same distance on a single charge as gas-powered cars, and you can use apps like PlugShare to plan your trip around available charging stations.
Some Marriott hotels even have on-site charging stations, which can save valuable time and money.
Consider staying in bed-and-breakfasts, vacation rentals, or with friends and family to limit your exposure to a greater number of people.
Upon entering your accommodation, wipe down all surfaces, especially high-touch areas like door handles, light switches, remote controls, and thermostats.
If you stay in accommodations with daily cleaning service, skip the cleaning service during your stay to avoid cross-contamination and a higher risk of exposure.
Avoid places where people congregate indoors. If you’re at the airport, flying on an airplane, or using public transportation, you can’t avoid doing so, but you can still follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines to minimize your risk.
If you fancy driving around the entire US, this map shows you the best route to take to hit every state and most major attractions. You can start at the place you are closest to and go for it!
Have you done any self-drive tours in the USA? What has been your experience traveling the US?