A road trip in the summer is the perfect opportunity to take the family to the best parts of the U.S. — spots you wouldn’t have the time to visit during the rest of the year. Warm weather means lush foliage, full rivers and wild animals abound, so hop in your car and get ready to explore.
Here are 25 road trips to take this summer, no matter where you are in the country.
1. Parkway Road Trip
- Starting point: Charlottesville, Va.
- Ending point: Asheville, N.C.
- Distance: 469 miles
The Parkway winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering stunning views and connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It’s been named America’s Favorite Drive and is one of the most-visited parts of the national park system.
You can get a room at the Pisgah Inn, which offers the highest elevation lodging on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for $160 per night during the week.
2. Kancamagus Highway Road Trip
- Starting point: Lincoln, N.H.
- Ending point: Conway, N.H.
- Distance: 34.5 miles
This American Scenic Byway cuts through White Mountain National Forest and offers views of the White Mountain, Swift River, two waterfalls and a gorge, which are sure to be full in the height of summer.
Be aware, though: Along this stretch of New Hampshire Route 112, there are no gas stations, restaurants or hotels. There’s only one cabin — Radeke Cabin — that can be rented for $40 per day plus a $9 reservation fee.
3. Big Bend Scenic Loop Road Trip
- Starting point: Panther Junction Visitor Center, Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Ending point: Panther Junction Visitor Center, Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Distance: 100 miles
A drive through this vast and isolated park in Western Texas offers stunning views of massive canyons, mountains, desert expanses and the Rio Grande River.
It’s important to drive within the 45 mph speed limit and watch for wildlife along the road — especially at night. Those who want to drive through the park’s backcountry on dirt roads need to make sure they have a high-clearance vehicle with four-wheel drive.
The park offers three campgrounds for $14 per night if you want to sleep under the stars, or you can stay in the Chisos Mountains Lodge with rooms starting at $141. The entrance fee to get into Big Bend National Park is $25 for a seven-day pass.
4. High Road to Taos Road Trip
- Starting point: Santa Fe, N.M.
- Ending point: Taos, N.M.
- Distance: 105 miles
The High Road to Taos twists and turns through the scenic Sangre de Cristo mountain range, taking drivers past artist colonies and villages with well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. The drive can take several hours if you stop along the way to Taos, which draws visitors to its art galleries and historic sites. You can find lodging at the Taos Country Inn, with rooms starting at around $60 per night.
5. Million Dollar Highway Road Trip
- Starting point: Montrose, Colo.
- Ending point: Durango, Colo.
- Distance: 105 miles
If you drive from Montrose to Durango on U.S. Route 550, you’ll pass through a 25-mile stretch from Ouray to Silverton that’s called the Million Dollar Highway. It’s considered one of the most dangerous roads in the U.S. — but also one of the most spectacular. There are no guardrails or shoulders, the drop-offs are steep and the curves are sharp. But there are stunning views of Uncompahgre Gorge and the San Juan Mountains.
At the end of the drive, you can find accommodations in Durango — such as Best Western Durango Inn & Suites, which has rooms from $136 per night.
6. Columbia River Highway Road Trip
- Starting point: Troutdale, Ore.
- Ending point: The Dalles, Ore.
- Distance: 70 miles
Not only will you get views of Oregon’s lush foliage along the Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway on this road trip, you’ll also see spectacular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Additionally, the route is marked by sheer cliffs, forests and mountain views.
You’ll find various lodging options along this scenic byway, including the Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa that has rooms starting at $124 per night.
7. Tail of the Dragon Road Trip
- Starting point: Deals Gap, N.C.
- Ending point: Tabcat Creek Bridge, Tenn.
- Distance: 11 miles
Motorcyclists and sports car drivers flock to this portion of U.S. Route 129 along the Tennessee/North Carolina state line that has 318 curves in 11 miles. You’ll have to stick to the 30 mph speed limit — or even slower — to handle the curves and enjoy the scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains.
There are various lodging options in the area, including motels, resorts, lodges and vacation homes. Rooms at Fontana Village Resort and Marina — which is just 7 miles from the Tail of the Dragon — starting at $129 per night.
8. Black River Scenic Byway Road Trip
- Starting point: Bessemer, Mich.
- Ending point: Black River Harbor, Mich.
- Distance: 11 miles
Highway 513, which is designated as National Forest Scenic Byway, winds through Ottawa National Forest in Michigan along the Black River. The highlights of the drive are the several waterfalls that require short hikes to reach. You can find lodging in nearby Ironwood. For example, rates at the Comfort Inn start at $140 per night.
9. Scenic Byway 12 Road Trip
- Starting point: U.S. Highway 89, near Panguitch, Utah
- Ending point: Torrey, Utah
- Distance: 124 miles
Scenic Byway 12 winds through some of the most remote yet awe-inspiring landscape of Utah. Along the route, the scenery ranges from alpine meadows and aspen trees in Dixie National Forest to towering red rock formations called hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
The road has sharp curves and narrow shoulders in parts, and cell phone service isn’t available in many areas. Camping is available in the parks along the byway. You also can find lodging in motels like the Bryce Canyon Pines Motel, which has rooms with rates from $142 per night.
10. Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
- Starting point: Monterey, Calif.
- Ending point: Morro Bay, Calif.
- Distance: 147 miles
The Pacific Coast Highway is considered one of the best American road trips. As it winds along the Central California coast, this highway offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, quaint beach towns and roadside attractions to explore.
You can find a variety of lodging options like the Anderson Inn in Morro Bay, where room rates start at $289 per night.
11. Route 6 Massachusetts Road Trip
- Starting point: Sagamore, Mass.
- Ending point: Woods Hole, Mass.
- Distance: 160 miles
You can easily make the road trip to Cape Cod in a day, but spreading it out over several days gives you the chance to stop and explore some of the oldest towns in America. Along the route is Cape Cod National Seashore, which features beaches, marshes and ponds.
You can find a variety of accommodations on the way, such as the Hyannis Travel Inn, which has rooms starting at $90 per night.
12. Bourbon Trail Road Trip
- Starting point: Varies in Kentucky
- Ending point: Varies in Kentucky
- Distance: Varies depending on number of distilleries visited
Head to the birthplace of bourbon — Kentucky — to see how “America’s Official Native Spirit” is crafted at the nine distilleries along the Bourbon Trail. Not only can you tour and sample the bourbon at distilleries like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, you’ll also see some of state’s most beautiful horse farms and scenery. Just don’t drink and drive.
There are numerous lodging options, including Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn in Bardstown that has rooms starting at $193 per night.
13. Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park Road Trip
- Starting point: Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Acadia National Park, Maine
- Ending point: Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Acadia National Park, Maine
- Distance: 27 miles
You can see the mountains, forests and rocky shoreline of Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island as you drive along Park Loop Road. Drive slowly, though, because there is lots of wildlife.
You can camp at one of the park’s campgrounds for $30 to $60 per night. Or, the town of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island has accommodations like the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, where rates start at $199 per night.
14. Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Road Trip
- Starting point: Grand Island, Neb.
- Ending point: Alliance, Neb.
- Distance: 272 miles
This stretch of Highway 2 takes you through the Nebraska Sandhills and along wetlands, marshes and rivers, where millions of birds stop along their migration routes. You can learn about pioneer life at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, visit working ranches, or see the largest hand-planted forest in the world at Nebraska National Forest.
You can find a variety of lodging, such as the La Ruche Bed and Breakfast in Seward, Neb., where rooms start at $95 per night.
15. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario Shorelines Drive
- Starting point: Dunkirk, N.Y.
- Ending point: Cape Vincent, N.Y.
- Distance: 276 miles
You can see both of the Great Lakes that border New York — Lake Erie and Lake Ontario — if you travel from Dunkirk to Cape Vincent. Along the way, take a short detour to the breathtaking Niagara Falls.
Find lodging at the end of the trip in Cape Vincent, where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River. For example, a room at The Roxy will run you $119 and up per night.
16. Pacific Northwest Wine Country Road Trip
- Starting point: Salem, Ore.
- Ending point: Walla Walla, Wash.
- Distance: 288 miles
Wine lovers can get their fill as they drive from Salem, Ore., to Walla Walla, Wash. Salem lies within Oregon’s largest wine-making region — Willamette Valley — home to more than 100 wineries. You’ll also find rivers, hot springs and waterfalls.
From RV parks to hotels, there’s a range of lodging options. For example, rates for rooms at A Room with a View Bed and Breakfast start at $140 per night with a two-night minimum.
17. Great River Road Trip
- Starting point: Minnesota
- Ending point: Louisiana
- Distance: 3,000 miles
Follow the route of the Mississippi River from its origin in Minnesota to where it meets the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana with a road trip along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. As you pass through 10 states, you’ll see small and large cities — including Minneapolis, St. Louis and New Orleans.
Depending on where you decide to start and end your trip, you will need lodging for several nights. Rates will vary depending on the property and city, but you can stay right on the riverfront for $110 per night at Alma Home Style Lodging in Alma, Wis.
18. Big Island Loop Road Trip
- Starting point: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
- Ending point: Mauna Kea, Hawaii
- Distance: 300 miles
If you want to see the most of Hawaii’s Big Island, drive along this series of connecting highways that will take you past jungles, beaches, mountains and active lava flows. You can start at sea level in Kailua-Kona, then make your way to the 13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea.
19. Southern Colorado Loop Road Trip
- Starting point: Durango, Colo.
- Ending point: Durango, Colo.
- Distance: 500 miles
Take a tour of Southern Colorado as you drive from Durango to Great Sand Dunes National Park — which has the tallest dunes in North America — to Gunnison, then through the Red Mountain Pass back to Durango. You can stop along the way in Almont at Three Rivers Resort, which has lodge rooms and cabins starting at $79 per day.
20. Blues Highway Road Trip
- Starting point: Nashville, Tenn.
- Ending point: New Orleans
- Distance: 657 miles
Route 61, known as Blues Highway, offers music lovers the chance to listen to live music, explore famous recording studios and visit Graceland, the home of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. The trip could take several days, but there are various lodging options along the way, including the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., which has rooms starting at $251 per night. It also has ducks — yes, ducks — that march to the lobby fountain twice a day.
21. National Parks Tour Road Trip
- Starting point: Jackson, Wyo.
- Ending point: Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.
- Distance: 180 miles
Start in Jackson and head north through Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll see wildlife, beautiful lakes and the spectacular Teton Range.
Then continue north to Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park and home to Old Faithful geyser. Yellowstone offers a variety of campgrounds on which to pitch your tent or park your RV, starting at $24.75 per night, or choose the park’s lodging starting at $145 per night.
22. Southwest National Parks Road Trip
- Starting point: Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim), Ariz.
- Ending point: Moab, Utah
- Distance: 862 miles
Take a tour of some of America’s most spectacular national parks, starting with the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
From there, head north to Utah’s Zion National Park — where you’ll see massive sandstone cliffs and deep, narrow canyons — then to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park to see the world’s largest collection of hoodoos. Continue driving north through Canyonlands National Park, then finish your trip at Arches National Park near Moab, which has more than 2,000 natural stone arches.
You will need to make multiple lodging stops on this trip. The national parks have campgrounds with varying fees, typically $25 or less.
23. New Mexico-Texas Road Trip
- Starting point: Las Cruces, N.M.
- Ending point: Las Cruces, N.M.
- Distance: 950 miles
Take the lonely highways of Southern New Mexico and West Texas to see the world’s largest gypsum dune field at White Sands National Monument, the spectacular caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park and the artsy desert town of Marfa, Texas. As you head back to Las Cruces, make a detour to Roswell, N.M., to visit the International UFO Museum.
Plan to make several stops during this trip. You can find lodging at spots such as Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces for $119 per night.
24. Mohawk Trail Road Trip
- Starting point: Williamstown, Mass.
- Ending point: Athol, Mass.
- Distance: 69 miles
One of the first auto-touring roads, the Mohawk Trail — Route 2 — passes through forests and historic towns and by five major rivers. It’s famous for its Hairpin Turn, where there are views in to four states. If you want to stop and enjoy the scenery, there are plenty of hiking trails along the route.
For lodging, you can stay at the mountain-top Whitcomb Summit Retreat in Florida, Mass., for $109 and up per night.
25. Hana Highway Road Trip
- Starting point: Kahului, Hawaii
- Ending point: Hana, Hawaii
- Distance: 52 miles
A road trip on Hana Highway will take you along Maui’s eastern coast — where you’ll get beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean on one side of the road and cliffs, jungles and waterfalls on the other. You’ll want to take your time not only to enjoy the spectacular scenery but also to safely navigate the highway’s 600 curves. You can stay at the Garden Room guest cottage for $163 per night.
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.