Exploring the USA is a bucket list must for every wanderluster and regardless of budget, the best way to do it is with an old-fashioned road trip. Why? Because even if you can afford a private jet to fly you from NYC to LA, there’s so much you’re missing out on by not hitting the open road and seeing the USA from the ground. Plus, being on a coach gives you the added elevation needed to get a full view of the wonders beyond the road.
If you want a real cultural and scenic experience, there’s only one way to do it, and we have 11 favourite drives to get it done the right way:
Phoenix/Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon
This 3.5-hour journey is a diverse trek right through the best of Arizona. From cityscapes to desert, cacti and mountains, to flatlands and sandstone formations, you’ll end up at the Grand Canyon in a totally different landscape than where you started.
Don’t miss highlights along the road such as the Chapel of the Holy Cross built right into the red rocks, elk, deer, towering pine trees, and even the chance of snow in the winter in higher elevations. Seeing the top of the Hoover Dam from the right side of the coach on the way from the Grand Canyon is also a great view you can only get from your elevated position on the road.
Boston to Quebec City
There aren’t many states that are as naturally beautiful as Maine, and as you cross the border into Canada, that beauty is mirrored in rural Quebec, through the 7-hour drive to one of Canada’s most charming cities.
Sioux Falls to Keystone
Many call South Dakota a flyover state, but the little towns along this route are absolutely worthwhile for a drive. The classic corn, wheat and hay fields of South Dakota are accented by the world’s only Corn Palace in Mitchell, a drive over the mighty Missouri River and into the beauty of Badlands National Park.
Follow this up with a drive close to Native American reservations such as Rosebud and Pine Ridge, and then the historic towns of Sturgis and Deadwood on the edge of Black Hills National Forest, all in about 10 hours.
Montreal to Toronto
From the Thousand islands in the St Lawrence River to the lush Canadian farmland, wineries and cute small towns of Ontario and Quebec, the drive from one of Canada’s biggest and best cities to another is just under 6 hours of waterside bliss, with beaches and countless foodie pitstops of fresh cherries and poutine along the way.
It’s one highway from start to finish, shifting from predominantly French-speaking Quebec signs to English signs in Ontario. Seeing that iconic TO city skyline from the 401 lets you know you’re almost there.
Durango to Albuquerque
For most drives the best part is looking forwards, but leaving Colorado means the mountain views behind you are nothing but breathtaking. Follow that up with the colourful geology of New Mexico as you get closer to Albuquerque, and you’ll understand why this 4-hour southern drive is one for the books.
Cody to Jackson
This drive cruises through the first ever National Park and the most photographed mountain range in the world. If that’s not reason enough, you might also see bison, elk, moose, grizzly bears or grey wolves.
No other place in mainland USA provides a higher concentration and selection of large mammals in their natural habitat. As the Grand Tetons glide into view, make a stop at the famous Moulton Barn. Built in the early 1900’s with awe-inspiring mountain views as a backdrop, this photo spot will make your friends jealous, guaranteed.
Take a slight detour south from Jackson and finish off at Snake River Canyon or Bear Lake, then enjoy some great scenery along Highway 89 and into the parklands.
Kanab to Las Vegas
In less than 6 hours you can jump from Kanab, into Arizona, back up to Zion National Park, back down through Arizona and down Utah to Las Vegas on the I-15, and the journey from lush parklands to Sin City is a diverse trek filled with canyons, waterfalls, rivers and beautiful red rocks.
Montreal to Boston
Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts echo the beauty of Quebec, especially in the fall with stunning vibrant leaf colours on this journey from one metropolis to another in less than 6 hours. From the beautiful mountains of Vermont to the home of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in Burlington, there’s a lot of delicious food and scenery along the way.
Keystone to Cody
Wild west cowboy culture, mineral production and stunning natural beauty are all up for grabs from Colorado to Wyoming. Drive through Sundance where “the Kid” got his name and learn about other wild west outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang.
Then, get an up-close view of open pit coal mining and the two largest coal mines in the world in the Powder River basin. Follow that up with a journey through the Big Horn mountains, a snowball fight or two, Ten Sleep brewery and the lands of cattle ranches and sugar beet farms as you approach Yellowstone National Park.
Grand Canyon to Durango
Start at one of the natural wonders of the world, see the largest Native American reservation and run in the footsteps of Forrest Gump; no other drive captures the spirit of the American west more. Views of the Grand Canyon fade as the dry plains and red buttes of the Navajo Nation fill your windows. See the Painted Desert and learn of the World War II Navajo code talkers in Kayenta.
Capture a photo or two of Monument Valley from the famed John Wayne lookout—guaranteed to improve your Instagram. Finally, pay tribute to Forrest Gump’s run on southern Utah’s iconic Highway 163 on your way into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, all in less than 5 hours.
Cody to Kanab
This trip takes you from the top of Wyoming to the bottom of Utah, past Salt Lake City and after a necessary pitstop in Bryce Canyon National Park, you’ll be just on the edge of Arizona in Kanab in about 13 hours.