America’s Iconic Summer Road Trips

America’s Iconic Summer Road Trips

Copper Harbor, Michigan along US 41 is a childhood favorite road trip in the summer. Photo CC 3.0.

Posted July 13, 2023

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Summer is here so it’s time to hit the road Jack (and Jill) and DO come back with many tales from the road.

If you’re looking for road tips ideas in the United States, there are plenty of options to choose from. The United States is renowned for its vast and diverse landscapes, making it an ideal destination for summer road trips. From stunning coastlines to majestic mountains, charming small towns to bustling cities, there are countless routes to explore. For adventurers, just hopping in the car and driving for a day is a great way to have an unplanned adventure and discover some new treasures. But those who really like to explore iconic routes, here are a few road trips you can plan for.  

Pacific Coast Highway (California)

Stretching along the stunning California coastline, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and charming coastal towns. PCH is my old stomping ground and I drove or took the train several times. You can start in San Francisco and drive south to Los Angeles, passing through Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Barbara along the way. Or start in my former home of San Diego and drive north passing through the same cities.

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

Route 66 (Illinois to California)

Get your kicks traveling along the “Mother Road”. A classic American road trip, Route 66 spans from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. This historic highway takes you through iconic towns, including St. Louis, Albuquerque, and the Grand Canyon. Experience nostalgic Americana, roadside diners, and quirky attractions along this legendary route. Route 66 also travels through parts of Texas and we found a cute antique shop outside of Amarillo.

Route 66 in Santa Monica is the end of the trail
Route 66 in Santa Monica is the end of the trail

Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina to Virginia)

Winding through the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers panoramic vistas, lush forests, and charming Appalachian communities. Drive from Asheville, North Carolina, to Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, and enjoy the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains along the way.

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Going-to-the-Sun Road (Montana)

Located in Glacier National Park, Montana, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a jaw-dropping journey through the heart of the park. As you traverse this mountainous route, you’ll witness glaciers, alpine meadows, pristine lakes, and wildlife. (You may also witness some of the impact of climate change.) Be sure to plan your visit during the summer when the road is open.

The sky in Big Sky country opens up along the Going to the Sun Road
The sky in “Big Sky” country opens up along the Going to the Sun Road.

Great River Road (Ten states along the Mississippi River)

Following the mighty Mississippi River for approximately 3,000 miles, the Great River Road passes through ten states, from Minnesota to Louisiana. Immerse yourself in the rich history, culture, and natural beauty of America’s heartland as you drive through charming river towns and witness the river’s grandeur.

The Loneliest Road (Nevada)

U.S. Route 50 in Nevada is famously known as “The Loneliest Road.” While it may lack bustling cities and major attractions, this road trip offers a unique and tranquil experience. Journey through vast desert landscapes, open highways, and small Nevada towns, providing a sense of solitude and natural beauty.

 

 

Overseas Highway (Florida Keys)

Starting in Miami and ending in Key West, the Overseas Highway is a spectacular drive through the Florida Keys. As you cruise along this 113-mile road, you’ll cross numerous bridges and enjoy stunning views of turquoise waters, tropical islands, and vibrant coral reefs. Take your time to explore the charming towns and indulge in fresh seafood along the way.

Overseas Highway in Florida Keys
Overseas Highway in Florida Keys. Photo by Dominika Durtan CC 4.0

Pure Michigan

A not-so iconic road trip but a childhood favorite of mine is the drive through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Every year my dad hired an RV and took me and my sisters on an exploration of Michigan. One of our more adventurous drives was to Copper Harbor at the tip top of the Upper Peninsula. This is a spectacular drive and there’s so much to see and do. Along the way you can stop in Petosky to get a Petosky stone, spend a day on Mackinac Island, enjoy the famous Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie and stop for some tasty pasties.  

Copper Harbor Lighthouse
Copper Harbor Lighthouse. Photo CC 3.0

Before You Hit the Road

Remember to plan your road trip ahead of time, including accommodations, attractions, and any necessary permits. Stay safe, enjoy the journey, and make lasting memories (as my dad did for me and my sisters) as you explore some of the best summer road trips in the United States.

Road Trip Blue Ridge Parkway Credit Pixabay
Road Trip Blue Ridge Parkway. Credit Pixabay.

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  • Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq., is a co-founder of World Footprints, a social impact travel media company that she runs with her husband, Ian. She is an award-winning journalist, global public speaker, and three-time TEDx presenter who has written for several prominent publications including the Miami Herald, AAA World, The Lens and Island Soul. Recognized as Black Travel Journalists of the Year alongside Ian, Tonya serves on several travel industry boards, including SATW, The Explorers Club (DC chapter), NATJA, and JourneyWoman. She has also been appointed to the Maryland Tourism Development Board by Governor Wes Moore.