America is a country filled with roads: About 4.18 million miles (or 6.72 million kilometers) of them, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. However, it takes the right combination of roads filled with scenery, activities and destinations to make a worthy road trip.
The idea of the “great American road trip” has been around for over a century. The idea gained popularity as a family holiday activity during the 1950s, when fresh road-building projects and increased automobile affordability made taking time for a scenic drive a real possibility.
Unsurprisingly, this boon for the road trip was also the heyday for Route 66, the most famous route in the USA.
Why is Route 66 the most famous route in the USA?
There’s a lot of space and a little bit of everything on historic Route 66. Designed to connect the rural communities of the American West to larger cities and the potential business opportunities on the Pacific Coast, the path is winding on purpose, making for a driving experience unlike any other. Whether you want to see craters that are thousands of years old or skyscrapers that are hundreds of meters high, you can find it on the so-called “Mother Road.”
Route 66 is also unique in the way the communities around it take pride in its history and have developed a unique identity for the road that welcomes explorers from across the world. From neon signs and tinsel-covered buildings that harken back to the 1950s to the adobe pueblo architecture of the Southwest, culture simply abounds. While the original Route 66 designation is no more (the road was decertified in 1985 after completion of I-40 in Arizona), many states and communities still mark the old route for travelers.
Other top American road trip destinations
While Route 66 is perhaps the most singularly epic road trip holiday available in America, it is far from the only one. Others include:
U.S. Route 2: Route 66’s northern sibling
If a trip to a National Park or three and natural beauty is what you seek, U.S. Route 2 has it in spades. Unlike Route 66, this single Route runs across the entirety of the U.S., from Seattle, Washington, to Acadia National Park in Maine, one of the easternmost places in the whole country. The road even goes international, crossing over the Canadian border for a stretch in between Michigan and Vermont. If you’re traveling East to West, you’ll start with a traverse of the rugged forests and (if you time it right) fall foliage of northern New England before crossing into Canada and coming out in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, home of Lake Michigan beaches and endless greenery. As you continue westward you’ll cross the upper midwest and find yourself in Montana, where you’ll locate some of America’s most distinctive alpine terrain.
The Pacific Coast Highway: The West Coast classic
Although it doesn’t feature the multi-region expanse of Route 66 or Route 2, make no mistake about it: The Pacific Coast Highway is a classic American road trip. Founded as Roosevelt Highway in the 1920s, around the same time as Route 66, this road closely hugs its namesake ocean and allows drivers to take in the varied terrain of each part of the West Coast — from sandy beaches to the remote forests of the Oregon Coast and Washington. You’ll also get a chance to explore major cities like San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco — with Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, just short detours away. Scenic areas include Redwood National Park in northern California, Olympia National Park in Washington and Oregon’s sand dunes, a shocking anomaly in a region known for its rainforest-like fauna and flora.
The Oregon Trail: Driving in the footsteps of the pioneers
While Route 66 may be the most famous road in America, it’s not actually the longest route out there. That distinction belongs to U.S. Route 20.
During the 1800s, American settlers from the east, called “pioneers” walked, rode horses and drove covered wagons thousands of miles across the country to settle in the wide-open spaces of the Midwest and West. Today, Route 20 largely follows one of the most popular of these migration paths, the Oregon trail — named for its final west coast destination.
While Route 66, shows off the best of the Southwest, the Oregon trail remains in the northern quadrant country, although the two do both pass through (or in Route 66’s case, begin) in Chicago. The road runs from the beaches of Cape Cod, on the east coast up to New York state and then west to Ohio. Highlights of this section of the road include the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. From there, fly through Chicago and out to classic American monuments like Mt. Rushmore and even a roadside attraction like Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge made from vintage cars. You’ll also pass several historic military forts that would have stood as resupply spots for the original pioneers.
Planning your next USA road trip
Wherever in the U.S. you’re looking to travel, planning a road trip can certainly be overwhelming — whether you’re new to this kind of adventure or a long-time veteran. What kind of trip you want to take, and where you’ll be taking it will depend on some important factors. How many nights would you like to be on the road and how many hours a day are you willing to drive? Are you looking to take in America’s big cities, splendid National Parks and natural areas or a bit of everything? What kinds of amenities will you require?
Once you have this framework in place, you can select a route and begin planning an itinerary and making a packing list. Some oft-neglected suggestions include plenty of extra food and water, rain gear (even in the dry Southwestern U.S.) and navigation materials, like a Route 66 Atlas, in case you lose GPS reception.
One way to take out a lot of the guesswork? Go on the adventure of a lifetime with Route 66 Tours.
Each of the Route 66 experiences is led by an experienced Aussie guide who knows all the best hidden spots on a historic route filled with many — whether it’s a roadside diner, historic gas station or some other exciting oddity of old America. We also know how to personalise the experience and ensure you get to see what you really want to see. After all, you’ve come from across the world for this experience. Make the most out of it.
Looking to travel on another famous road trip route in the U.S. Not a problem! Our other tour offerings include our Sturgis Tour, a wild ride through not just parts of Route 66 but also the amazing Rocky Mountains and South Dakota’s Black Hills. Highlights include your start and finish in Las Vegas, Nevada and, of course, the famed Sturgis Bike Rally.
To learn more and check out our itinerary of tours, whether on Route 66 or another American destination, go to https://route66tours.com.au/The-Tours.