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10 Best Routes To Take On The Ultimate Cross Country Road Trip

by Staff

Summary

  • Cross-country road trips offer the opportunity to visit popular cities, national parks, and roadside attractions in one vacation.
  • Planning a big road trip can be overwhelming, but these 10 routes provide a basic outline for personalized itineraries.
  • From the Oregon Trail to Route 66 to the Continental US National Park Road Trip, there are road trip routes to suit every traveler’s interests and preferences.

Road trips are one of the most popular vacation types in the country and one of the best ways to explore the nearly four million square miles that make up the US. While states like California have enough roads and attractions to fill several road trip itineraries, many travelers are looking for something bigger.

The cross-country US road trip is a classic travel experience, creating opportunities to visit popular cities, state and national parks, and unusual roadside attractions in one vacation. Unfortunately, planning such a big road trip can quickly become overwhelming.

Below are 10 of the best cross-country road trip routes, along with important details about distance and states included. Each entry also includes a basic outline to build a personalized cross-country road trip itinerary, giving travelers a head start as they plan their epic adventure.

Related: 10 Tips For Minimalist Packing Before Taking A Road Trip

10
The Oregon Trail Road Trip


Credit: Google Maps

Map of the US Cross-Country Road trip following the Oregon Trail 

For those looking to travel even further back in time than Route 66, the nearly 3,500-mile Oregon Trail Road Trip parallels the original Oregon Trail of the pioneers’ wagon companies.

Multiple stops along the road explain the history of the Oregon Trail, particularly where the route intersects with the Columbia River Highway.

Besides the unique history lessons, road trippers can also enjoy the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park, Niagara Falls, and big cities like Chicago.

Topped with beautiful coastal towns on each end, including Astoria, Oregon, one of the best cross-country stops in the US, and the Oregon Trail is the perfect road trip route for any kind of traveler.

  • Oregon Trail Road Trip Distance: 3,441 miles
  • Recommended Time for the Oregon Trail Road Trip: 2–3 weeks
  • States Visited on the Oregon Trail Road Trip: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts

Major Stops on The Oregon Trail Road Trip

Astoria, OR → Columbia River Gorge, OR → Pendleton, OR → Boise, ID → Yellowstone National Park, WY → Mount Rushmore, SD → Field of Dreams Movie Site, IA → Chicago, IL → Cleveland, OH → Niagara Falls, NY → Cape Cod, MA

Related: These 10 US States Are Best For A Summer Road Trip In 2023

9
Southern Pacific Road Trip


Southern pacific road trip map: San Diego, California to Savannah, Georgia
Credit: Google Maps

Southern Pacific road trip map: San Diego, California to Savannah, Georgia

The desert may not be the most obvious location for a cross-country road trip, but there is plenty of beauty to be found across the southern stretch of the US.

The Southern Pacific Road Trip starts with the beauty of coastal San Diego before quickly shifting to the Southwestern desert landscape in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Traveling to the deep south, major cities like Jackson and Atlanta round out a unique and lesser-known US cross-country road trip route.

  • Southern Pacific Road Trip Distance: 2,442 miles
  • Recommended Time for the Southern Pacific Road Trip: 1–2 weeks
  • States Visited on the Southern Pacific Road Trip: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia

Major Stops on the Southern Pacific Road Trip

San Diego, CA → Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA → Tucson, AZ → Roswell, NM → Dallas, TX → Jackson, MS → Birmingham, AL → Atlanta, GA → Savannah, GA

8
Historic Route 66 Road Trip


Historic Route 66 Google Map
Credit: Google Maps

Historic Route 66 Google Map with major stops

There is perhaps no more famous road trip route than Historic Route 66. The subject of songs, museums, and whole movies, Route 66 spans over 2,000 miles through eight states.

What makes Route 66 one of the best cross-country road trips? The historic highway is full of quirky roadside attractions, while also passing through some of the most exciting cities in the country.

  • Historic Route 66 Distance: ~2,400 miles
  • Recommended Time for a Route 66 Road Trip: ~2 weeks
  • States Visited on a Route 66 Road Trip: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California

Major Stops on a Route 66 Road Trip

Chicago, IL → Springfield, IL → St. Louis, MO → Carthage, MO → Tulsa, OK → Oklahoma City, OK → Amarillo, TX → Tucumcari, NM → Albuquerque, NM → Petrified Wood National Park, AZ → Flagstaff, AZ → Williams, AZ → Needles, CA → San Bernardino, CA → Santa Monica, CA

The Grand Canyon is not directly on Historic Route 66, but it is only a 50-mile detour from the main road at Williams, Arizona, and is often considered one of the best stops on a Route 66 road trip.

Related: The Best Stops Along Route 66, Ranked

7
Classic I-80 Road Trip


I-80 Road Trip Route Map
Credit: Google Maps

I-80 Road Trip Route Map with major stops

Slicing right through the middle of the United States, I-80 may be better known for its traffic jams than its cross-country views. For those willing to plan around rush hour traffic, a classic I-80 drive is one of the best road trip routes in the country.

An I-80 cross-country road trip has a number of notable stops along its nearly 3,000 course, including capital cities Sacramento, Salt Lake City, and Des Moines, as well as outdoor havens like Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Near River State Park.

  • Classic I-80 Road Trip Distance: 2,901 miles
  • Recommended Time for an I-80 Road Trip: 1–2 weeks
  • States Visited on an I-80 Road Trip: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey

Major Stops on an I-80 Road Trip

San Francisco, CA → Sacramento, CA → Reno, NV → Elko, NV → Salt Lake City, UT → Bear River State Park, WY → Lexington, NE → Omaha, NE → Des Moines, IA → Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH → Cleveland, OH → Freedom Falls, PA → Teaneck, NJ

Related: Hit The Road: 14 Unforgettable Adventures Await With These U.S. Road Trip Ideas

6
I-50 – The Loneliest Highway Road Trip


Road Trip Map of Highway 50 - The Loneliest Road
Credit: Google Maps

Road Trip Map of Highway 50 – The Loneliest Road

Sometimes a road trip vacation is about enjoying some time alone, just enjoying the sites. With several stretches of over 100 miles with not even a gas station for company, I-50 is a long road of nothing but wide open country.

The source of I-50’s nickname, and what makes it one of the best cross-country road trips in America, is the nearly 500-mile stretch in Nevada.

Traversing this desolate highway is going to take some serious planning (and a very reliable car!), but the unique look at the uninhabited corners of the US is well worth the adventure.

  • I-50 Road Trip Distance: 3,023 miles
  • Recommended Time for an I-50 Road Trip: 2–3 weeks
  • States Visited on an I-50 Road Trip: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland

Major Stops on an I-50 Road Trip

San Francisco, CA → Sacramento, CA → South Lake Tahoe, CA/NV → Carson City, NV → Ely, NV → Delta, UT → Arches National Park, UT → Grand Junction, CO → Kansas City, MO → Serpent Mound, OH → Arlington, VA → Washington DC → Ocean City, MD

5
Highway 2 – The Great Northern Road Trip


Highway 2 - Great Northern Road Trip Google Map
Credit: Google Maps

Highway 2 – Great Northern Road Trip Google Map

Planning the perfect road trip is all about determining what kinds of attractions travelers want to enjoy. For some serious time in the great outdoors, a trip across the northern part of the country is a must.

Starting in Olympic National Park, Highway 2 passes through 10 states and two major cities in Canada. The Great Northern Road Trip also intersects with four different National Parks along its over 3,000-mile path, making this cross-country route one of the most scenic road trips in America.

  • Great Northern Road Trip Distance: 3,223 miles
  • Recommended Time for a Northern Road Trip: 3–4 weeks
  • States Visited on a Northern Road Trip: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Canada**, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington

Major Stops on The Great Northern Road Trip (Highway 2)

Olympic National Park, WA → Seattle, WA → Spokane, WA → Glacier National Park, MT → Havre, MT → Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND → Devils Lake, ND → Duluth, MN → Canyon Falls Roadside Park, MI → Ottawa, Ontario, Canada → Montréal, Quebec, Canada → Montpelier, VT → Acadia National Park, ME

Highway 2 enters Canada over the Great Lakes. Passports are required to stay on the route, or travelers can stay state-side by detouring through Michigan.

Related: Wilds Of Maine: 10 Best Acadia National Park Hikes

4
New York To San Diego Road Trip


New York to San Diego Road Trip map
Credit: Google Maps

New York to San Diego US cross-country Road Trip map

With major cities and some of the most beautiful national parks in the country, the nearly 3,000-mile journey from New York down to San Diego is an unforgettable cross-country epic journey.

With three national parks, major cities like Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas, and iconic attractions like Hoover Dam, this cross-country road trip is ideal for those who have a full month. This will leave travelers to explore every hiking trail and bustling downtown along one of the best cross-country road trip routes in America.

  • New York to San Diego Road Trip Distance: 2,979 miles
  • Recommended Time for a New York to San Diego Road Trip: 3–4 weeks
  • States Visited on a New York to San Diego Road Trip: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California

Major Stops on a New York to San Diego Road Trip

New York City, NY → Columbus, Ohio → Chicago, Illinois → Des Moines, IA → Denver, Colorado → Moab, UT → Canyonlands National Park, UT → Arches National Park, UT → Zion National Park, UT → Red Rock Canyon Recreation Area, NV → Lake Mead, NV → Las Vegas, NV → Hoover Dam, NV → San Bernardino, CA → San Diego, CA

3
Highway 83 Road Trip


Highway 83, also known as The Road to Nowhere, Road Trip
Credit: Google Maps

Highway 83, also known as The Road to Nowhere, Road Trip from north to south

There are plenty of US road trips that are all about the journey rather than a destination, but the literal Road to Nowhere may just take that to the next level.

Unlike most of the road trips on this list that cross the country from east to west (or vice versa), the Highway 83 road trip runs from north to south, exploring several of the “flyover states” of the Midwest.

At less than 2,000 miles from border to border, the Highway 83 Road to Nowhere is one of the shorter cross-country US road trips, but the unique stops along the way make it one of the best cross-country road trip routes in the United States.

  • Highway 83 Road Trip Distance: 1,817 miles
  • Recommended Time for the Highway 83 Road Trip: ~1 week
  • States Visited on the Highway 83 Road Trip: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

Major Stops on the Highway 83 Road Trip

Minot, ND → Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, ND → Sitting Bull Memorial, SD → Buffalo Bill Rodeo, NE → OzFest Liberal, KS → Remember the Alamo!, TX → South Padre Island, TX

2
Washington State To Florida Road Trip


Seattle, Washington to Dry Tortugas, Florida Road Trip
Credit: Google Maps

Seattle, Washington to Dry Tortugas, Florida Road Trip Map

Much like the trip from New York to San Diego, a cross-country road trip from Washington to Florida cuts a diagonal path from the northwest to the southeast. Starting and ending with national parks, this 3,400-mile road trip is epic from start to finish.

The Washington to Florida route is one of the best cross-country road trips in the US because it offers a little bit of everything that road trip travelers are looking for: big cities, the great outdoors, and quirky small towns.

  • Washington to Florida Road Trip Distance: 3,460 miles
  • Recommended Time for a Washington to Florida Road Trip: 2–3 weeks
  • States Visited on the Washington to Florida Road Trip: Washington, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida

Major Stops on a Washington State to Florida Road Trip

Seattle, WA → Spokane, WA → Billings, MT → Rapid City, SD → Sioux Falls, SD → Omaha, NE → Kansas City, MO → St. Louis, MO → Nashville, TN → Atlanta, GA → Orlando, FL → Key Largo, FL → Dry Tortugas National Park, FL

Related: Exploring The Beauty Of The Florida Keys On A Road Trip Along The Overseas Highway

1
Continental US National Park Road Trip


National Park Cross-Country Road Trip Map
Credit: Google Maps

Example of a National Park Cross-Country Road Trip Map that includes 14 of the most popular national parks in the US. 

One of the most popular destinations along a cross-country US road trip is the nation’s beautiful national parks. If one or two national parks aren’t enough, this epic 14-park road trip is sure to satisfy.

Out of 63 national parks, these 14 create a relatively continuous, over 5,000-mile snaking path across the country.

Given the time it takes to explore each national park, as well as the driving time to get to each destination, this road trip is ideal for those who can work on the road to enjoy a couple of months out in the country.

  • Continental US National Park Road Trip Distance: ~5,357 miles
  • Recommended Time for a Continental US National Park Road Trip: ~2 months
  • States Visited on a Continental US National Park Road Trip: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

Major Stops on a Continental US National Park Road Trip

Olympic National Park, WA → Crater Lake National Park, OR → Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA → Yosemite National Park, CA → Joshua Tree National Park, CA → Las Vegas, NV → Grand Canyon National Park, AZ → Arches National Park, UT → Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO → Wind Cave National Park, SD → Cuyahoga National Park, OH → Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC → Congaree National Park, SC → Everglades National Park, FL → Dry Tortugas National Park, FL

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