Plan Your Next U.S. Road Trip Around These Unforgettable Destinations
There’s something about leaving home that makes you truly appreciate where you’re from. I’m back in the United States after six years of living, working, and traveling overseas, and you know what? I love this place. Current events and politics are making it more difficult than ever to be proud of the country, but, regardless, there’s a lot to love about the U.S. — especially when it comes to travel.
The United States is packed with amazingly Instagrammable sights, and you could spend years traveling the country without even scratching the surface. There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned American road trip to see the best the place has to offer, but narrowing down your destinations can be tricky. These are my top picks for spots to visit on a U.S. road trip.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
For a totally otherworldly experience, White Sands in the southeast of New Mexico can’t be beat. 275 square miles of fine white gypsum sand dunes stretch across this national monument. There are several hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty, and you can even purchase a sled at the visitor center gift shop to go dune-sledding.
If you’re lucky, you may even catch the area’s desert wildflowers and cacti in bloom — the best time of year for this is spring, although some bloom in the summer or autumn. Friday night star talks are held each Friday in the summer and early fall, and there’s even a hot air balloon invitational each September where you can watch colorful balloons floating above the stark white dunes.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
If you’re road tripping through the American Southwest, there’s a good chance your itinerary revolves around visiting the Grand Canyon. And while it’s an absolutely spectacular sight that’s deserving of its popularity, the Southwest has plenty more to offer.
Just two hours northeast of the Grand Canyon, near Arizona’s border to Utah, you’ll find the smaller but equally striking Antelope Canyon. The slot canyon’s narrow passageways, flowing shapes, and colorful striations will have you feeling like you’re on a different planet.You can visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons — Upper is more easily accessible, but Lower has better lighting for photography. In the immediate vicinity, you’ll also find Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell, so be sure to pay those a visit as well.
Yosemite National Park, California
You’ll be hard-pressed to go more than a few miles in California without stumbling upon natural beauty, but, in my opinion, the jewel in the crown of my beautiful home state is Yosemite National Park. You’ll find splendor at every turn with Yosemite’s waterfalls, granite cliffs, mountains, streams, lakes, and sequoia groves, including the iconic Half Dome and El Capitan.
It’s a great spot for hiking, biking, and camping year-round, although keep in mind that Yosemite books up early, so make your reservations far in advance or consider staying outside of the park and driving in during the day.
Gettysburg National Battlefield, Pennsylvania
The U.S. Civil War is a fascinating period in American history, and one of the most interesting things about road tripping along the East Coast is that you’ll encounter Civil War battlefields at every twist and turn. At many of these, you’ll find information centers, museums, guides, and detailed maps.
The Battle of Gettysburg is considered the turning point of the war, so if you can only visit one U.S. battlefield, make it this one. Located about 2 1/2 hours east of Philadelphia, which has plenty of its own exciting things to see, the town of Gettysburg is charming, and at the battlefield you can hire an informative guide nor join a Segway tour. Touring the battlefield is a somber experience, but now more than ever is an important time to reflect on this dark chapter of American history.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Every U.S. National Park is unbelievable in its own way, so it’s tough to pick just a few, but Grand Teton is one of America’s finest. The Rocky Mountain park lies adjacent to the much more well-known Yellowstone National Park, so if you’re already road tripping through the area, Grand Teton will offer just as much splendor without the crowds.
Scenic overlooks provide views of the park’s picturesque mountains and lakes, and you’ll find fantastic spots for hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, and camping. Keep an eye out for buffaloes, moose, and bald eagles as you roam Grand Teton.
The Overseas Highway, Florida
Your U.S. road trip may take you through deserts, forests, and cities, but how about over dozens of miles of ocean en route to the Florida Keys? The Overseas Highway stretches from Miami to Key West and is comprised of forty-two bridges, the longest of which runs for nearly seven miles.
With cerulean waters stretching out as far as the eye can see in either direction, the highway will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And if you’re looking for some rest and relaxation on beautiful beaches, the Florida Keys archipelago is the place for you. Plus, there’s plenty more to see around the state, like the Everglades, Disney World, and, for fans of live music, numerous great music festivals in Florida.
With fifty states, nearly four million square miles of land, and a diverse range of sights and scenery, the U.S. offers more travel destinations than you could dream of. Enjoy discovering all that this country has to offer, but these spots will help you begin planning your next unforgettable road trip.