The Top 5 Alternative USA Road Trips

Lauren Curd

The USA is one of the world's great countries that combines fantastic wilderness and breath-taking scenery with some of the most exciting and vibrant cities. The ultimate way to experience everything the United States has to offer is to hit the road. The truck stops, the motels, the endless highways and the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want make for the perfect combination. With that in mind, put your shades on and hit the road on one of these great road trips. We’ve intentionally left Route 66, the Canyonlands and some of the other classics off to focus on some hidden gems.

The East Coast

The Atlantic coast of America is one of the best road trips on the planet and we recommend tackling it over several months to really make the most of it. Start in October in the northern state of Maine and the city of Portland - from here you can take the I-95 all the way to your eventual destination of Miami, Florida. On the way you can take in the cities of Boston, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Richmond, Raleigh, Columbia and Jacksonville. Starting in October in the north, you’ll get to see the stunning fall foliage as you drive through New England. Arrive in Boston in November time and experience this great city as the last of the foliage falls and the ice arrives. Book into a hotel and stay here for Thanksgiving. Continue your journey south and arrive in New York for the beginning of the Christmas period, the most magical part of the year in NYC. Ice skate in Central Park, shop in Macys and see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Stay for the Christmas period and make your way to Washington DC and Philadelphia in January. Over the coming months, drive south and experience the forests, beaches and mountains of North and South Carolina. Arrive in Florida as the weather gets warm and you can work on your tan on the beaches of southern Florida. The rainy season arrives in July so you’ve got plenty of time until then. Whilst taking off a couple of months isn’t realistic for everyone, you can condense the northern part of the trip between Maine and NYC into two or three weeks, still seeing plenty along the way.

Rural Vermont town with colourful autumn foliage

The Great Lakes

The five great lakes, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario are one of North America’s great natural beauties and together they hold 21% of the world’s fresh water. Some of the great North American cities are also located on the shores of the lakes including Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay and Toronto. Contrast these bustling metropolises with visits to stunning natural wonders like Niagara Falls (connecting Erie and Ontario), the dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan or Isle Royale National Park in Superior. We recommend taking your trip during the summer months; the warm weather means plenty of time to hit the beaches and the water temperature can even hit 25C in some cases. The Great Lakes Circle Tour consists of a number of roads that circumnavigate the lakes both individually and collectively meaning you can choose the trip you most prefer depending on your time and budget. Chicago is an excellent base to start your trip from, especially around Lake Michigan. Although the list of possibilities is endless, there are some things you simply have to do. Firstly, take some time to camp out in one of the national parks. The great lakes area is also prime wine country and there are plenty of fantastic wineries to sample. Although the whole area is a foodie’s paradise, the university town of Ann Arbor is worth a visit too for its cafes, bars and park areas. If possible you’ll want to drive all the lakes, however, focussing on Lake Michigan is great if you’ve not got as much time.

Canadian flag flies before Old City Hall Toronto Canada

The Mississippi

One of the world’s great rivers and part of American folklore, the Great River Road tracks the Mississippi from its source in Minnesota to where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico, nearly 2500 miles south. The river itself flows through several major cities including Minneapolis, St Paul, St Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. Channel your inner Huck Finn and see as much of it as you can. The best way to experience the river is over the course of several weeks or even months if you have the time off. Although winters in the north can be incredibly harsh, the snow and ice covered forests of Minnesota are stunning. The spring time in particular is excellent as the area starts to come alive again from its deep freeze. On your journey south there are tons of things to experience; watch live Jazz and Blues in St Louis, enjoy the many music and food festivals in Memphis (Memphis in May is particularly special), take a steamboat ride on the Lower Mississippi and finally, savour the truly unique culture of New Orleans. Short on time? Fly to Atlanta, Georgia and then drive through Nashville, Memphis and end in New Orleans. This trip can be done at a leisurely pace in about two weeks, still giving you plenty of chance to see everything.

Old New Orleans Building with Balconies

The Pacific Coast

The west coast of the USA conjures up images of golden beaches, huge urban sprawl and the glamour of Los Angeles but in reality there is so much more to it than that. The beaches and surf of southern California make way for the greenery and forests of northern California, Oregon and finally Washington. In fact, the landscape can change from almost desert to temperate rainforest in the space of 1500 miles. For those short on time, we recommend sticking just to California. The southern city of San Diego is home to a modern city with plenty to do. The Torrey Pines State Reserve is located within the city limits but is a great place to walk the cliffs and watch the sunset. The animal lovers among you will also love San Diego Zoo, one of the largest in the world. After your day in the zoo, take in some of the city’s famed Mexican food. Heading north, it’s not possible to miss the behemoth that is Los Angeles. It would be possible to spend a year in LA and still not see it all but the highlight for us is the canals, promenade and surf of Venice Beach. Continue on your journey to the liberal and quirky city of San Francisco and experience life at a different pace. Alongside the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, the more active folk should hike up the twin peaks and take in the stunning views of the entire city. Finally, the Redwood forests of northern California and southern Oregon need to be seen to be believed. Sequoia National Park in the Southern Sierra Nevada is probably the most famous and is also home to General Sherman, one of the largest trees on the planet.

Amusement park Santa Cruz California

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains, one of the world’s great mountain ranges forms the spine of North America, running from Canada all the way down to Mexico. Although the mountains run through many states, the most stunning scenery can be found in the more northern ones of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. That said though, Denver, Colorado serves as an excellent base to explore the mountain range from. We particularly like the Grand Teton Loop within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. This unspoilt wilderness is home to the Teton Range and offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding terrain in the world in the winter and great trails for hiking, cycling, fishing and camping throughout the summer. The Jackson Hole Valley and its associated town is an excellent place to stay and explore the surrounding area. To drive the loop, start in the town of Mosse and travel north along the US-89. With the stunning mountains looming large to the west, stop at Teton Point Overlook and Snake River Overlook for perfect views of the surrounding area. Oxbow bend overlook is a fantastic place to see moose, deer, otters and other wildlife. It’s also very popular with canoeists and kayakers. Finally, Cathedral Group Overlook is the perfect place to see the three largest peaks that give the park its name including Grand Teton, Mt. Owen and Teewinot. The Grand Teton Loop can be driven within a couple of hours but spending a few days will really allow you to enjoy it. The stunning Yellowstone National Park is also only 10 miles further to the North and is also worth spending time in.

Cattle ranch and mountains in the Midwest of America

 

**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**