Growing up, family road trips were always on the calendar for our Globetrotting Grandmom’s summer vacations. She’s continued the tradition as an adult enjoying road trips with her children and now her grandchildren. She’s even have some Thelma and Louise adventures across the country. From winding mountain roads to coastal drives along the ocean to straight stretches of land in the heartland, she’s traveled all types of highways and byways. Knowing it’s hard to decide which road to take, she’s sharing 5 of the best.
So many roads, so much beauty to explore!
There’s a reason Katherine Lee described the landscape of the USA in such poetic terms in America the Beautiful. From sea to shining sea, this really is one big beautiful country. Take a few days on the open road to explore the vast wide-open spaces and glorious mountains. Pick your favorite: winding country roads, coastal highways, or long flat stretches of the Great Plains. We have it all.
Discover history and hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to North Carolina
Beginning at the edge of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds 469 miles south to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Split rail fences, historic structures, and old farmsteads tell the story of the route’s history along the way. Scenic overlooks yield views of majestic mountains and deep ravines. Give the kids a break from the ride by taking one of the many hikes just off the parkway. It’s an ideal way to stop the “are we there yet” refrain. Don’t miss Grandfather Mountain one mile off the parkway at milepost 305.
You may recognize the road up as the last stretch of Forest Gump’s cross-country run.
Journey through time on Utah’s Route 12
With 5 national parks scattered across its landscape, it’s hard not to find a scenic road in Utah. One of the most awe-inspiring is Route 12, often referred to as A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. Connecting Bryce Canyon with the Capital Reef, Route 12 is 122 miles of jaw-dropping beauty. This little slice of heaven on earth passes through Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park. From there, it climbs Boulder Mountain in the Dixie National Forest before ending at the entrance to Capital Reef National Park.
The landscape that blankets this part of the country is absolutely spectacular. In fact, I’m running out of adjectives. Multicolored sandstone cliffs, ancient Native American settlements and abandoned Western movie sets await at Grand Staircase-Escalante. Prepare to be wowed following the summit of Boulder Mountain where a 30-mile stretch of the byway winds through a forested landscape. The colorful Capital Reef National Park, the Circle Cliffs and the Henry Mountains are in view, framed by the trees of Dixie National Forest. Looking at the landscape is amazing, but be sure to experience it too. Spend some time hiking with the family in Bryce Canyon National Park amid the brightly colored hoodoos and scented Ponderosa pines. And the dazzling sunrise at Sunrise Point is worth getting up early to catch even for this night owl.
Head out to sea on the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys
Often referred to as “The Highway that Goes to the Sea,” the Overseas Highways connects Miama to Key West. This stunner of a road covers 124-miles and sits atop a vast expanse of clear turquoise water. Originally part of Henry Flagler’s short-lived East Coast Railroad extension, the highway was built after the railroad was destroyed in a 1935 hurricane. The kids and grandkids will love discovering secluded islands. Divers in the family can explore historic shipwrecks. And the family anglers will find some of the best fishing holes in the country. With unobstructed views to the east and west, you choose if you want to time your trip to catch sunrise or sunset. If the weather is right, either choice is spectacular.
Twist your way along the ocean’s edge on California’s Pacific Coast Highway 1
The Pacific Coast Highway 1 runs almost the entire length of the California coast. It’s all stunning, but the stretch from San Francisco to Santa Barbara is spectacular. As you hug the twisting, turning coastline, waves crash over the rocks in the ocean below. On the opposite side of the highway, fertile farmland gives way to charming seaside villages. Highlights along the road include Monterey’s 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach and Carmel and the iconic Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Seriously, it’s all gorgeous.
Get your kicks on Historic Route 66
Referred to as America’s Main Street, Route 66 is the USA’s most iconic road trip. When it opened on November 11, 1926, Route 66 covered 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. Driving Route 66 is a drive into America’s history. For that reason, there’s no better road in the USA to share with your family. Today, neon signs, Mom & Pop eateries, kitschy roadside motels and historic Route 66 markers serve as reminders of days gone by along the “Mother Road of America.” So, if you’re looking for a big scoop of Americana to share with the kids and grandkids, you’ll definitely get your kicks on Route 66!