America’s Five Best Road Trips

Published November 3, 2015
Updated February 26, 2018

From a painted desert to a petrified forest and far beyond, travel the highways, byways, and skyways of America's best road trips.

America's Best Road Trips

Monument Valley, Utah. Image Source: 2 Wheels 1 Cause

There is something poetically American about heading down the open road. With nearly 4 million miles of American road to navigate, you can weave in and out of awe-inspiring natural wonders, pass through small towns and bustling cities, taste different cuisines, and discover rich histories. While you’re at it, you can experience the romance–or, if you’re anything like the family from Vacation, the headaches–of the Great American Road Trip.

However, as most anyone who has spent more than two hours in a car will know, the United States is also home to many miles of highway that feel like purgatory (Ohio). Avoid those soul-sucking routes and give in to profound wanderlust with these five amazing road trips.

To quote famed beatnik Jack Kerouac, “nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”


For The Wonder: Four Corners (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, And New Mexico)

Best Road Trips Painted Desert

Painted Desert, Arizona. Image Source: Douglas Dolde

Sites: Petrified Forest National Park – Canyon de Chelly National Monument – Monument Valley – Mexican Water – Trail of the Ancients – Mesa Verde National Park – San Juan Skyway – Telluride – Mountain Village

The Southwest is home to a unique mix of beautiful landscapes: some so strange they seem to have emerged from Salvador Dali’s imagination, some so shockingly picturesque you might think you’re dreaming. You’ll spend most of the trip with your mouth gaping open in awe of these incredible sights, so give yourself time to get out of the car and explore them, spending at least two days to do this 525-mile drive.

Best Road Trips Canyon De Chelly

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. Image Source: Thousand Wonders

Starting in Flagstaff, Arizona, head east on Interstate 40 until you cross into the Petrified Forest National Park, home to the astonishing Painted Desert and Crystal Forest. Continue east on I-40 and then venture to the north on U.S. 191 to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Navajo have built structures right into these 1,000-foot cliffs, making their home there for nearly 5,000 years.

Best Road Trips Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Utah. Image Source: SouthwestDesertLover

Keep going north on U.S. 191 to 59, a Navajo Nation road which takes you into Monument Valley. Make a left onto U.S. 160, a right onto U.S. 163, and coast as you pass through the iconic scenery straight out of countless westerns. Next, head south back towards U.S. 160, then east to Mexican Water. Here, you’ll find here the exact point at which Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet, and excitedly beam for Instagram with various body parts in all four states at once.

Best Road Trips Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde, Colorado. Image Source: I Started Something

Next, as you reach Cortez, Colorado, you’ll happily find yourself on a portion of the National Scenic Byway, Trail of the Ancients. This route follows the culturally and historically significant sites of the southwestern Native Americans. Stop at Mesa Verde National Park to explore preserved Puebloan cliff dwellings.

Best Road Trips San Juan Highway

San Juan Highway, Colorado. Image Source: Ouray, Colorado

Jump back on the road and double back west to find Colorado 145 north as you make your way to Telluride. The last 75 miles of this drive follows the San Juan Skyway, another National Scenic Byway, that winds you through the stunning San Juan Mountains. Route 145 comes to a halt in the small ski resort town of Telluride. Ditch your car and wander the streets on foot. End your trip with a free, and breathtaking, gondola ride up from Telluride to Mountain Village.

Best Road Trips Telluride Gondola

Telluride, Colorado. Image Source: Telluride Blues & Brews Festival

Callie Stewart
Callie Stewart is a writer, graphic designer, and photographer living in New York City. She is a big fan of anthropology, music, art, the written word, a good glass of wine and The Jerk.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Citation copied
Cite This Article
Stewart, Callie. "America’s Five Best Road Trips.", November 3, 2015, Accessed June 25, 2024.