10 Must-See Road Trip Destinations in the U.S.

It’s no secret: America sure is a big, beautiful country.  So it’s no surprise that road tripping is an American tradition. There’s no better way to explore all that the U.S. has to offer, especially if you want to hit several destinations along the way.

And if you really want to up your road trip game, you might even consider taking an epic RV vacation. After all, America is BIG… and those must-see destinations can be pretty spread out! 

An RV can help you save money by keeping you from paying for expensive hotel rooms, and you’ll also be able to cook your own meals to avoid the classic road trip problem of eating out all the time (or worse, living off gas station food). You won’t have to worry about where you’ll lay your head each night, and you’ll be able to bring all the comforts of home along for the ride. Plus, in many public lands, you can camp for up to fourteen days quite cheaply, or even free of charge — and although you likely won’t be able to hook up to fresh water or electricity, the cost to fill and dump holding tanks or fuel a generator is unlikely to offset those savings.

But what about the cost of the RV itself? Well, we actually found a good solution for that problem, too!

If you’ve ever looked into renting an RV, you may have discovered that it can be surprisingly costly. Some dealerships and rental agencies charge $250 per day for RV rentals, before fees — and that’s not even the highest price we’ve seen!

But there’s a cool alternative option for frugal travellers hoping to rent high-quality vehicles at affordable prices. It’s called RVshare, and it’s kind of like Airbnb for RVs. Basically, private RV owners list their rigs for rent when they’d otherwise be sitting empty, thus earning some relatively easy extra cash. And meanwhile, renters like you benefit because private owners can afford to list their vehicles for rent much more cheaply than a traditional rental facility, which has to make up the overhead costs of business. The end result: Comfortable, quality RVs of all types and sizes, available everywhere in the country at fractions of the big dealership’s price. In some markets, we’ve seen trailers available for as little as $10 daily! 

But whether you decide to rent an RV or just load the family into a regular, day-to-day vehicle, what American sites and adventures should be on your not-to-miss list?

We put together this list of 10 must-see road trip destinations in the U.S., some of which you might not have heard of yet. (After all, everyone knows not to bypass the Grand Canyon. We wanted to bring you some better-hidden gems!)

1. Coastal Oregon

Whether your perfect journey includes whale watching, eating amazing seafood, taking stunning hikes, or all of the above (duh), the Oregon coast is definitely not to be missed. Since you really can’t go wrong anywhere along the coast, we avoided picking a specific town… but a few to check out include Yachats, Newport, Cannon Beach, and Pacific City. 

Meander along the coast to see sea otters and starfish, or visit stunning, dynamic coastal rock formations like Devil’s Churn and Thor’s Well. Perhaps you’ll take on a fairly challenging hike, like the St. Perpetua Trail or Cascade Head. You’ll be sweating by the time you reach your destination, for sure, but on a clear day, your viewpoint will be worth every step.

Bonus round: Wind your way through Oregon’s prestigious wine country on your way to visit Portland. Once you get there, don’t miss Powell’s, the town’s famous (and gigantic) book store!

2. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

If you don’t quite have the bandwidth to travel all the way to the Pacific Ocean to see stunning coastline rock formations and cliffsides, never fear.

The beaches, sandstone caves, and craggy windblown coastlines along these islands in western Lake Superior are every bit as fascinating and stunning as their west coast counterparts. You can bike, boat, camp, hike, hunt, scuba dive and more — or take an indoorsier route and explore the region’s historic lighthouses.

3. Haines, Alaska

Proudly proclaiming itself “The Adventure Capital of Alaska,” this panhandle town isn’t quite as far away and hard to reach as, say, Fairbanks or Homer, but still offers the whole scope of Alaskan adventure — both indoors and out. If you want to fish, hunt, hike, or kayak, you’re covered… but you could just as easily spend your time browsing art galleries or taking guided sightseeing tours. Win win!

4. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Newsflash, Denver-bound mountaineers: There’s more to America’s mountain ranges than the Rockies!

The east coast’s Appalachian mountain range is much older than its famed western cousins, which is why its peaks aren’t quite so towering — they’ve been worn down over enormous stretches of time. But what this range lacks in elevation, it more than makes up for in beauty and adventure potential. From minor hikes to serious backcountry camping trips, Shenandoah’s a gorgeous place to immerse yourself in nature — and it’s well worth taking a leisurely route along all of scenic Skyline Drive.

5. Glacier National Park, Montana

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to walk into a desktop background, put Glacier National Park at the top of your list. Lake McDonald Valley is pure Instagram gold… but there’s plenty more to explore in this 1,500-square-mile wilderness. You’ll even have a chance to encounter all kinds of wild critters, from mountain goats to grizzly bears.

6. The Florida Everglades

Where else can you find crocodiles and alligators coexisting peacefully — or, at least, usually peacefully? (Spoiler: nowhere in the world!) 

But even if you’re not into reptiles, there’s a lot to love about this swampy south Florida National Park. You’ll experience some of the darkest, most star-speckled skies in the country, not to mention the opportunity for the unique thrill of an airboat ride. And since you already came so far south, why not continue down some of America’s most scenic highways, including the Seven Mile Bridge, to reach Key West and get that iconic Mile Marker 0 selfie?

7. The Colorado River in Arizona

I know, I know. We said we weren’t putting the Grand Canyon on this list, so you may very well consider this cheating.

But most Grand Canyon National Park’s tourists don’t make the trek down to the river itself — although those who do are richly rewarded. Arizona’s Colorado River offers some of the most beautiful and exciting whitewater rafting opportunities in the states. And if you aren’t headed into the major tourist area around Flagstaff, you can find alternative river entries further west in towns like Peach Springs. It’s only a little bit out of the way — though if you’re heading north from Phoenix, you may pass through tiny towns with names like “Signal,” “Date,” and our personal favourite, “Nothing, Arizona” en route.

8. Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, Maine

If you’re headed northeast, you won’t want to miss this gorgeous coastal park, complete with oceanside granite mountains, or the adorable gateway city of Bar Harbor. And if you’re a hiker, Maine’s got your back: It grows plump, fresh wild blueberries you can pick right there on the trail!

9. San Luis Obispo, California

A funky coastal town known as SLO for short, San Luis Obispo is a carefree hub of artists and outdoors enthusiast conveniently located on the south side of the not-to-be-missed Big Sur drive. While you’re in town, be sure to sample some locally-brewed beer or wine from nearby California vineyards, or check out the nearby beach at Los Osos, a rallying point for van dwellers and nomads.

10. Durango, Colorado

Don’t pay Aspen prices to play in the snow and get your ski fix.

Tucked in the southwestern corner of colourful Colorado, Durango’s got a low-key, local vibe — but still offers all the outdoor adventures you could possibly want. In fact, it’s the foot of the Colorado Trail, which will lead you straight to Denver… if you’re brave enough to take the trip on foot, that is! 

So there you have it, fellow adventurers… what are your favourite American road trip destinations?

 

Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.