American Road Trip: Part One
Is there anything more quintessentially summer than piling haphazardly into the family station wagon to embark on the iconic American vacation? Let’s hit the road and take a drive through some of America’s most scenic road trips.
California’s Pacific Coast Highway
You can’t mention the words “road trip” without including the Pacific Coast Highway. This 653-mile drive stretches from DanaPoint in Orange County to Leggett in Mendocino County and includes some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the United States. A drive along CA Highway 1 (as it’s officially known) winds through Malibu, San Simeon, San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, Monterey, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Mendocino Headlands. If you’re interested, you could also extend your drive to either San Diego or the Redwoods, depending on which direction you’re headed. The only downside is having to share the road with California drivers, who apparently learned to drive by watching the Mad Max movies.
Jackson, Wyoming to Glacier, Montana
Though you could technically drive this in a day, why would you when you can stretch your trip and make stops in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the West. This road trip has virtually unlimited possibilities. Bike or walk through the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, hike through the craggy cliffs in Grand Teton National Park, and try your hand at identifying the hydrothermal features in Yellowstone, before making your way to Glacier National Park and driving the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Admittedly, this road trip is a little difficult to take if you’re living on the mainland and have strong feelings against driving across the bottom of the ocean, but who’s complaining about taking a trip to Maui? This 55-mile route connects Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. With over 600 curves, 54 bridges, countless waterfalls, and gorgeous beaches, you’ll want to take this road slow and stop as much as possible. (You’ll also want to take your Seabands and Dramamine if you’re prone to carsickness.) Some of the most popular stops are ‘Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), the Pipiwai Trail, and Waimoku Falls at Haleakala National Park, Hana Lava Tube, and the Ho’okipa lookout.
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
I freely admit that I’m a little biased here (raised in Washington), but the 300-plus mile road trip through the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most beautiful (and wet) drives in America. In addition to the gorgeous scenery, you’ll be able to stop for countless stops for hikes (if that’s your thing, and why wouldn’t it be?) along the way. Within Olympic National Park, you’ll be able to drive through the Hoh Rainforest which is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. Outside of Olympic National Park, near the town of Neah Bay, you can visit Cape Flattery, the northwestmost point on the contiguous United States. A short hike will lead you to a viewing platform with dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean.
The road that started it all, Route 66 is over 2500 miles of road that stretches between Chicago and Los Angeles. Originally running through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before terminating in Santa Monica, CA, Route 66 is the stuff of legend. Though the rise of the Interstate eventually lead to the demise of this iconic route (you know, like in the movie Cars), you can still follow the historic treads of drivers of yore. Along the way you can visit some of the quirky attractions that became famous like Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Oklahoma, and this giant sculpture of Abe Lincoln on a wagon in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
This, as the geographically inclined may notice, is not in America. But it’s such a great road trip that we couldn’t help mentioning it. You’ll meander along rugged roads approximately the width of a shopping cart, with startingly green fields on one side and the crashing sea on the other. If you’re lucky, you’ll get clear skies; if you’re even luckier, you’ll see Ireland as nature intended, which is in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. You’ll pass prehistoric ruins, quaint little towns, and a lifetime’s worth of sheep. Make sure to stop in the town of Dingle for some fish and chips.
Now that we’re full of nostalgia and wanderlust, let’s roll down the windows, unfold the map, and head out on the open road.
This post was brought to you by Flat Creek Inn.
Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She doesn’t particularly enjoy road trips, yet has taken several of these.
Baird, J., & Revel, D. (n.d.). 21 Most Popular Road Trips in the US. HGTV. Retrieved May 23, 2023, from https://www.hgtv.com/lifestyle/travel/most-popular-road-trips-in-the-us-pictures