8 Epic Road Trips to Take This Summer
Everyone knows a good road trip isn’t about the destination at all, it’s about the unplanned pit stops, the road tunes and the ever-changing scenery outside your window. So if you don’t feel like dealing with the hassle that has become international travel these days, grab your pup, your boo, or a few friends and hit the open road!
Road trips are the best way to really get to know a place, all of its nooks and crannies and hole in the wall spots that you normally overlook. You can go at your own pace, stop at all the road-side farm stands, catch up on all of those podcasts you’ve been recommended over the years, sleep under the stars (if you’re into that) and maybe even save some money in the process. There’s something so nostalgic about a summer road trip, whether it’s a classic bucket-list route, or something a little more under the radar-grab a few disposable cameras, load up on your favorite snacks and hit the open road!
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Warm summer temperatures and green rolling mountains or crisp autumn air and fall foliage, there’s no bad time to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the Shenandoah Valley National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge has some of the most scenic vistas on the East Coast. The best part about a summer or fall road trip through this area is the numerous small country stores, apple orchards and family-run wineries where you can stop and taste all the local grown goods. You can hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway from many different points but make sure you plan stops at the Mile-High Swinging bridge on Grandfather Mountain, Mt. Mitchell (the tallest peak east of the Mississippi) and of course a pit-stop in the foodie city of Asheville! Explore the Biltmore Estate by day, brewery hop and indulge in top notch cuisine by night. For more on Asheville check out my Ultimate Guide to Asheville, NC!
Oregon Coast Highway
Highway 101 hugs the rugged shoreline of Oregon and winds its way 363 miles through coastal fishing villages and sleepy beach towns. Enjoy the freshest of seafood, gorgeous ocean vistas and plenty of quirky stops along the way. This could be a long weekend trip or a leisurely week long getaway. From Astoria, after sampling the local breweries, head to see the iconic Haystack rock at Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is a great spot for an overnight stay with plenty of seaside hotels, restaurants and adorable beach cottages like this one! From there, head South to Depoe Bay for some whale watching before settling in at Newport for the night! Heceta Head Lighthouse is postcard-worthy and your trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
Road To Hana – Maui
The curvaceous Road to Hana, which runs along Maui’s northeastern shore around Haleakalā National Park, is one of the island’s most memorable experiences. The trip can easily take a full day, two if you decide to stay overnight and because of all of the pit-stops you’ll want to make along the way. From fresh banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s and sliced mangos at road-side farm stands to refreshing dips in waterfalls, this is a road trip that you aren’t going to want to rush. Make stops at Twin Falls, the Bamboo Forest, Coconut Glen’s for a vegan ice cream pit stop and of course the Black Sand Beach! Spend the night at the unknown Hana-Maui Travaasa Resort or at this gorgeous island oasis VRBO.
Salt Lake To Zion National Park – Utah
Summertime is a gorgeous time of year to do some hiking or mountain biking out west. Spend a few days in the adorable luxe mountain town of Park City, then hit the road towards Zion for dramatic desert scenery! Zion National Park is 300 miles from Salt Lake City, most of which is along highway 15, so schedule 3-5 days depending on how many stops you’d like to make along the way. From Park City, head to Bryce Canyon National park (there are many hotels and inns in Tropic, just 20 minutes outside the national park). Next stop is Zion National park, where hiking through the infamous “Narrows” if a right of passage, schedule 1-2 full days in Zion, the park is HUGE! Make time for Angels Landing and the Emerald Pools. Maybe even splurge on a night in the Zion Lodge or a luxe glamping experience at Under Canvas Zion! The drive back to Salt Lake will be just under 5 hours.
Park Loop Acadia National Park – Maine
For ocean and mountain views alike, hit the 27-mile scenic loop in Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. This loop can be a day trip on a longer road trip along Maine’s lobster trail! From rocky beaches, jagged coastlines and mountain peaks, there’s something for everyone along this loop. Start off at the Hulls Cove visitors center and head first to Sand beach, where you can either soak up the sun or hit a challenging but rewarding 1.6 mile loop for some panoramic views on Beehive Trail. From there head to Thunder Cove, Otter Point and Jordan Pong for hiking trails, and scenic vistas.
Just outside the park is Bar Harbor, a charming New England coastal community with quirky boutique shops and amazing seafood restaurants. Bar Harbour is a great place to base yourself if you plan on staying a few days, stay at the West Street Hotel! If you have a bit more time on your hands, meander your way south on highway 1 to the town of Wiscasset, where you can dig into the most famous lobster roll in Maine at Red’s Eats. Butter that bad boy up!
Denver to Santa Fe
Welcome to the wild, wild West. This unique road trip offers the opportunity to explore an area of the United States that often isn’t on a ton of people’s radar. The drive itself is only about 6 hours if you were to do it in one straight shot, but trust me that there will be many places you’ll want to stop along the way. One of the coolest sightseeing areas you’ll want to prioritize is the Great Sand Dunes National Park-most people don’t even know this place exists! Add Toas Pueblo-one of the country’s oldest permanently inhabited areas to the list as well as the hot spring at Ojo Caliente! Finish off your trip soaking in the rich culture of Santa Fe and maybe even splurge on a night at the Rosewood Santa Fe. This road trip is best in the early or late summer to avoid the high temperatures!
Highway 1 – The California Coast
Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, this route begins north of San Francisco and winds its way along the Pacific coastline all the way to San Diego. San Francisco is a great starting point, from there it’s only a 3-hour drive to Big Sur where you’ll of course have to stop for photos at Bixby Bridge and maybe splurge on a prix fix lunch at Sierra Mar. Spend a night or two in Santa Barbara (check out all my Santa Barbara recs on where to eat and stay in SB here) where you MUST try Renaud’s Patisserie. Continue on to Los Angeles, where you can explore the trendy beach towns of Manhattan Beach and Venice beach, or the hip neighborhoods of Echo Park or Silver Lake. Top it all off in sunny San Diego!
Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone
These two national parks offer completely different but equally incredible experiences. With Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park being just 31 miles apart, the two parks make for a memorable weeklong road trip. You can fly into Jackson Hole or for a bit longer, but more budget friendly road trip fly into Salt Lake City (5 hours from Grand Teton National Park). Grand Teton offers majestic towering mountains, challenging hikes, pristine lakes and cascading waterfalls, while Yellowstone is almost otherworldly. At Yellowstone expect strange sights that make you feel like you’re on another planet, think geysers and hot springs! Plan for 2-3 days in each. If you’re not camping, recharge in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (Yellowstone), or Lost Creek Ranch & Spa (Grand Teton).