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10 Incredible Road Trip Routes Across America

TIME : 2016/2/16 15:56:38
View of the Bahia Honda bridge stretching out far into the distance just over the water.

Old Bahia Honda Bridge in the Florida Keys. Photo © Daniel Martone.

In honor of Moon’s current road trip giveaway, I recently shared with you one of my favorite road trip –an RV excursion along Interstate 40, between Tennessee and Arizona. Of course, that isn’t the only memorable road trip that I’ve taken over the years, and it’s certainly not the only worthwhile route in the United States. National Geographic has even compiled its own list of “50 Ultimate Road Trips” around the world, and of those included, 39 are actually situated in this country, from Alaska’s Seward Highway to Maui’s Hana Coast to the Cherohala Skyway in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Here are 10 more of my favorites:

Vermont’s Cheese Trail: Ever since my first visit to Burlington, I’ve been an ardent fan of Vermont’s sharp cheddar and artisanal cheeses. If you’re a passionate cheese fan, too, you’ll appreciate this 280-mile loop (via I-89, Route 100, and Route 7) from Plymouth Notch, the birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge, to the scenic pastures of the Champlain Valley. For more information about central and northern Vermont, consult Michael Blanding and Alexandra Hall’s Moon Vermont guidebook.

The East Coast’s Journey Through Hallowed Ground: As I shared in a President’s Day post, the East Coast offers a number of amazing sights for history buffs, including the 175-mile route known by preservationists as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground. Commencing in Charlottesville, Virginia, and continuing toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, you’ll encounter such presidential landmarks as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Ash-Lawn Highland, and James Madison’s Montpelier, not to mention Gettysburg National Military Park. For more information about Pennsylvania and Virginia, consult Anna Dubrovsky’s Moon Pennsylvania and Katie Githens’s Moon Virginia guidebooks.

The Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys: As I’ve expressed many times before, there’s nothing quite like the 113-mile drive between mainland Florida and the Conch Republic, via the aptly named Overseas Highway (U.S. 1). Along this picturesque route – a series of bridges and land-based stretches – you’ll encounter several unique islands and attractions, including the state parks and dolphin facilities of Key Largo, the spas and diving museum of Islamorada, Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys, and a plethora of bars, eateries, art galleries, and museums in Key West, the country’s Southernmost City. For more information about the Florida Keys, consult my Moon Florida Keys guidebook.

Louisiana’s Creole Country: Given that I’m currently working on the third edition of Moon New Orleans, it’s probably no surprise that I have southern Louisiana (including Cajun Country and the plantations along River Road) on the brain. But you might be surprised to learn that northern Louisiana is worth a look, too. Starting in Natchitoches, you can take a 70-mile loop known as the Cane River Road, or the Cane River National Heritage Area, where you’ll spy moss-draped live oak trees, small riverfront communities, and several plantations, including Oaklawn, Cherokee, Beaufort, Oakland, Melrose, and Magnolia. For more information about the plantations of Louisiana, consult Andrew Collins’s Moon New Orleans guidebook.

The Hill Country of Texas: Having made the trek between New Orleans and Los Angeles several times over the years, I can attest to the fact that Interstate 10 isn’t the most thrilling route to take through western Texas, but the state’s famed Hill Country is another thing altogether. Defined by wooded canyons, spring-fed rivers, and rolling terrain, this pastoral, offbeat region is one of the loveliest areas in the Lone Star State. Starting in San Antonio, this scenic loop will take you through small towns like the German-settled Fredericksburg and curious landscapes like the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. For more information about the Texas Hill Country, consult Justin Marler’s Moon Austin, San Antonio & the Hill Country.

The Southwest’s Four Corners: I’ve long been fascinated by this strikingly beautiful region of the American Southwest, so named because the corners of four states – Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah – converge here. Beginning in Flagstaff, Arizona, this 525-mile route (via I-40, U.S. 191, etc.) will take you through such wonders as Petrified Forest National Park, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park, and the ski resort town of Telluride, Colorado. For more information about the Four Corners region, consult Julian Smith’s Moon Four Corners guidebook.

California’s Pacific Coast Highway: Indeed one of the most scenic routes in the country – and one of the most accessible – is the Pacific Coast Highway, known regionally as the PCH. The 522-mile stretch between Dana Point and San Francisco is particularly beautiful, offering access to numerous beaches and state parks, several sun-loving towns (such as Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and Monterey), and various historic sites, including the San Juan Capistrano Mission and Hearst Castle. For more information about California, consult Liz Hamill Scott’s Moon California guidebook.

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula: Situated just west of Seattle, marked by snow-capped mountains and old-growth forests, and protected, at least in part, as Olympic National Park, this majestic peninsula is still one of the most untamed regions left in America. Starting in Seattle, follow the 330-mile loop (via Hwy. 101 and Hwy. 12) to explore quiet towns and gorgeous destinations, such as Port Angeles, Lake Crescent, and the Hoh Rain Forest. For more information about the Olympic Peninsula, consult Ericka Chickowski’s Moon Washington guidebook.

The Black Hills of South Dakota: For a history buff and outdoor enthusiast like me, the southwestern corner of South Dakota offers a surprising number of Wild West towns, historic landmarks, and dramatic landscapes. On a circuitous, 350-mile route that mainly follows I-90 and Highway 16, you’ll find places like Badlands National Park, the Mount Rushmore National Monument, and the once-legendary town of Deadwood. For more information about South Dakota, consult Laural A. Bidwell’s Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills guidebook.

Michigan’s Shipwreck Coast: Although I’ve written more often about the Lower Peninsula of the Great Lakes State, I’m just as enamored by the windswept beaches, massive forests, and multicolored cliffs of the Upper Peninsula. By following a series of small routes along unforgiving Lake Superior (where hundreds of ships have met their end), you’ll encounter several worthy attractions from Marquette to Whitefish Point, including the Marquette Maritime Museum, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. For more information about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, consult Josh Bishop’s Moon Michigan’s Upper Peninsula guidebook.

So, which road trip route would you add to this list? One of the 29 others suggested by National Geographic–or another route altogether?