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The Best American Road Trips

America is an enormous territory of ranging landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and vibrant heritage. Founded by immigrants and built by their descendants, the United States is like a multitextured tapestry woven with every color of the rainbow. The cultural impact is unmistakable in the food, architecture, and lifestyles of their communities. There is no template for a typical American experience; each corner of the country is unique and beautiful. The only way to truly appreciate this melting pot of tradition is to hit the road and see it for yourself. Whether you're into big cities with lots of shopping, historic sites, or driving through stunning landscapes, there's a road trip itinerary through the U.S. to satisfy your wanderlust.

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01Archaeological adventures on the Colorado Plateau

The Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is an archaeological wonder. bboserup / Getty Images

The Colorado Plateau is an archaeological time capsule buried in the colorful deserts of the Southwest. This roughly weeklong itinerary is perfect for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Ruins like those at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado are some of the oldest examples of Native American architecture. Take at least one day to browse the ancient rock art at 9 Mile Canyon, the World's Longest Art Gallery, in Northern Utah. Returning southbound, head for picturesque Highway 12 and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park for some breathtaking views and a lesson in geology. Round out your trip with stops at the Instagram-famous Antelope Canyon and Meteor Crater in Arizona.

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02Tour the Pacific Coast Highway

Big Sur is the most famous stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway in California. july7th / Getty Images

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the United States' most famous drives. Spanning over 1,600 miles from San Diego to Washington's Olympic Peninsula, PCH is a beautifully diverse wonderland. The Olympic National Forest and Park are home to gorgeous beaches, lush forests, and even the Hoh Rainforest. Make it a point to see these stunning landscapes before heading to Seattle for a day or two. In Oregon, stop for some fresh cheese in Tillamook, and take a detour through the majestic Valley of the Giants. California's vast coastline is an eclectic mix of charming beach towns, grand views, and metropolises. Don't leave the Golden State without stopping in the much-photographed Big Sur before heading to Los Angeles.

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03Route 66

Classic vertical panorama view of an endless straight road running through the barren scenery of the American Southwest with extreme heat haze on a beautiful hot sunny day with blue sky in summer

Once known as the Main Street of America, Route 66 winds from Chicago to Los Angeles through the heart of the Southwest and onto countless bucket lists. The entire road spans over 2,000 miles and would take at least two weeks to drive—longer if you plan on exploring the cities and small towns along the way. If you can't make the entire journey, there are shorter sections of the road you can explore à la carte. The route through Oklahoma takes you through the sprawling Great Plains and woodlands to small towns and quirky attractions along the road. Admire the murals in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and stretch your legs out at one of the vintage service stations or restaurants still in business.

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04New England's fall foliage

Highway 100 in Vermont is most beautiful in autumn. DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

One of the most striking drives in New England is through the Green Mountains in Vermont. Hwy 100 is known for its flat and straight route through the valley, providing drivers with inspiring mountain views on either side. Stop at a restaurant or shop for a chance to sample some local beers, chocolates, or maple syrup, to name a few. Take Highway 8 into Massachusetts to see the Museum of Contemporary Art, then follow the Mohawk Trail. New England's first scenic route will take you from the Berkshires to the coastal city of Boston. Try to make the journey during autumn, when the leaves change colors, for the best photographs.

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05The great river road

The Great River Road passes through Memphis along the Mississippi River. Kruck20 / Getty Images

From Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River runs for 3,000 miles through ten states. Expect the trip to take about 10 days. Outdoor enthusiasts will find the best fishing in Minnesota, as well as shopping and good food. Further south, dazzling waterscapes give way to charming riverside villages and dramatic bluff-top views. Modern cities also line the river's banks. Memphis is a prime destination for music lovers or anyone who appreciates the history of American pop culture. The Great River Road ends in historic New Orleans, one of America's most culturally significant cities. Take some time in the Big Easy to savor its rich history and irresistible cuisines. You won't regret it.

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06The Las Vegas loop

The dark skies of Zion National Park are perfect for stargazing. adogslifephoto / Getty Images

The Las Vegas Loop takes you to the best national parks on the Colorado Plateau before arriving in Sin City. Plan for a 7-10 day trip that begins at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Here, the steep-sided chasms and towering rock formations are a wondrous sight. From there, the Oljato-Monument Valley spreads out in vibrant red sands and captivating forms. Catch the sunset at Arches National Park near Moab. The smooth red rocks and over 2,000 natural arches photograph beautifully during the magic hour. Bryce Canyon National Park is distinctive for its miles-long collection of colorful rock spires. Take advantage of the dark skies with some late-night stargazing before heading for the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

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07Big sky country

Going-to-the-Sun Road is a marvel of engineering. ChrisBoswell / Getty Images

The Northwestern United States is a treasure trove of remarkable landscapes, with Montana being one of the most pristine areas in the region. The Rocky Mountains in the West and prairies in the East make for some impressive views, but the twisting roads and high elevations make this a road trip for confident drivers only. The breathtaking scenery begins on the Beartooth Highway. This wonderfully scenic route takes you over the staggering Beartooth Pass and into Yellowstone National Park. Here you can marvel at Old Faithful and spot wildlife like bison and bald eagles. For some of the best views in Montana, hop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile long stretch of gorgeous highway.

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08The Overseas Highway

The Seven Mile Bridge allows tourists to walk alongside the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys. FilippoBacci / Getty Images

The Overseas Highway is a short but sweet road trip over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The 113-mile journey from Key Largo to the island of Key West provides 360-degree views of deep blue ocean, coral reefs, and a variety of exotic animals and tropical plants to observe. Stop at any of the islands along the road to take a break and relish the scenery. Exit the highway at Islamorada for some delicious fish and snorkeling. If you'd rather stay on dry land, head for the Seven Mile Bridge for a great view of the highway and surrounding islands. Key West is the final destination on this trip. Celebrate a sunset ceremony at Mallory Square, and head for the bars afterward to socialize with the friendly locals.

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09East Coast history lesson

New York City is just the start of this history-driven, East Coast road trip. FilippoBacci / Getty Images

The bustling metropolis of New York City is an icon of the United States. You could spend an entire week sightseeing in Manhattan alone, but there's too much beauty on the East Coast to stay in just one city. Once you've had your fill of bagels, drive down to Philadelphia for a lesson in American history. Take your time exploring Independence National Historic Park, then head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to climb the Rocky Balboa steps. Afterward, treat yourself to a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, because why not?

In Wilmington, Delaware, you can enjoy a taste of local vintage on the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail before heading for Annapolis, Maryland. This historic city is picture-perfect, so be sure to walk around the charming downtown center. Your road trip ends in Washington D.C., where you can marvel at the classic architecture and iconic national monuments.

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10The Deep South food tour

Aerial shot of backlit road in Georgia Mountains during the sunset in the Fall season rodclementphotography / Getty Images

Each state in the Deep South has its own culture and nuances, but one thing they all have in common is a reputation for delicious cuisines. Charleston, South Carolina, is a charming city of historic sites and phenomenal seafood dishes. The she-crab soup is a specialty here, as well as the shrimp and grits. You're likely to work up an appetite touring the islands and important sites of Savanna, Georgia. Indulge your cravings with some fried chicken and a dessert of peach pie. Alabama is known for serving some of the best soul food; stop in Montgomery for your pick of restaurants and then tour the Civil Rights Movement sites. Finally, head to Louisiana for some famous Creole cuisine, and some of that New Orleans jazz.

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11Black Hills of South Dakota

Retro color toned road to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, United States. MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski / Getty Images

Never seen Mount Rushmore? This twisty, mountainous road trip will take you along gorgeous stretches of America's prairie-land, through the Black Hills of South Dakota (you'll find out why they call them that) and up close and personal with iconic monuments like Mount Rushmore. You can catch some of the most stunning sights in America, all without leaving the comfort of your own car.

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12Downeast Maine

Downeast is what they call the rocky shoreline of Maine, also home to Acadia National Park. It's famous for scenic harbors, lighthouses galore, and stunning views of both the mountains and the ocean. This drive curves up along the entire coastline, taking you through picturesque towns like Bar Harbor and Ogunquit, Maine. Grab a lobster roll and a spot on the sand - it's a beautiful place to take in the salty Atlantic air.

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13Blue Ridge Parkway

Road through forest with cars. Ryan Herron / Getty Images

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular road trips in America, and not only because it stretches all the way from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains, nearly 500 miles away! It's also one of the most stunning and unique scenic drives — and it features 26 tunnels, with 25 of them in Asheville, North Carolina alone. Don't worry, you won't be underground the entire time, but tunnels are helpful for getting through these mountains vs. climbing over them in your trusty steed. And there are plenty of delightful roadside diners where you can stop and sample some authentic southern cuisine.

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14Hana Coastline

Hawaii Maui Hana coast road highway rainbow A

Hana, Hawaii, located along Maui's rocky eastern coastline, is a super peaceful town that doesn't draw in tourists like many other Hawaiian cities. The "Road to Hana," as this drive is famously called, winds and curves through rainforests, one-lane bridges, majestic waterfalls, and more. It's a great way to see Hawaii as it used to be, lush, green, and pristine. You can also find a few towns scattered along the drive if you want to stop and sample some local delicacies, like Spam Musubi or fresh-caught shrimp any way you like it.

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15Seward Highway

Located in the state of Alaska, Seward Highway is a 125 mile stretch of road between Seward and Anchorage. It's known for its scenic views and for having plenty of spots to hop out and grab some award-winning photos. Be careful on the road, however. It's a popular tourist attraction and the traffic can make what was already a hazardous drive even more difficult to navigate. Keep your eyes out for stopped cars as well as wandering moose! People in Alaska are known for being warm and convivial, so don't be surprised if you make a new friend or two along the way.

Highway to Seward, Alaska

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