4 Famous Road Trips In America I’ve Taken — And You Should Too

Road Trip During Covid

More people are hitting the road, and with good reason. It’s safe, easy, and you won’t be packed on a plane or navigating airports. I’ve been a huge fan of road trips since college, and I’ve taken dozens of the most famous road trips across the globe. Here in the U.S., I’m constantly going up and down the east coast, and when I lived in LA, I was heading upstate, through Nevada, Arizona, and even down the Mexico.

If you’re wanting to get on the road, here are 4 famous road trips you should take. I can attest. I’ve done all 4 of them.

1. Pacific Coast Highway: Los Angeles to San Francisco

Distance: 400 miles

I lived in Los Angeles between 2013 to 2016, and I am a huge fan of this drive. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a favorite for West Coast road-trippers, day-trippers and honeymooners who drive along the Pacific Ocean from Southern California to Washington. Los Angeles to San Francisco is the famous route dotted with charming beach towns, state parks and a whole lotta sky along the way. The easy-breezy, cliff-hugging highway stretches approximately 400 miles with ocean views dominating most of the drive, so expect a sense of calm.

Obviously, stop in Malibu. The beaches are among the most striking on the coast, and it’s a hot spot for surfers. In fact, it’s a magnet to them, and it’s perfect for Instagramming as they take to the waves. You’ll also most likely bump into a celebrity or two (my last sighting was Jason Statham at Nobu).

Santa Barbara is a must-stop spot for terrific wineries, and if you want to stay at one of the best hotels on the coast, stop at Four Seasons Santa Barbara. It’s drenched in luxury (and great views) and just steps from the beach. Honestly, it’s a great reason to take this famous road trip.

San Luis Obispo, which critics refer to as the “most California town,” is gorgeous and feels like it’s own little world. There’s tons of ma and pa shops and an indie vibe I loved.

The Great American Road Trip isn’t complete without stopping at Big Sur to take in the immense, natural landscape (chockfull of redwood trees).

2. Road to Hana: Maui’s Northeast Shore

Distance: 68 miles

Amazing sunset in Maui.

I’ve been to Maui four times, and I’ll be quick to admit that most visitors don’t truly experience (or appreciate!) Maui without driving its iconic Hana Highway, which snakes along the Northeast coast on wild, steep and thrilling curves, bends and twists. The ocean-front seascapes are spellbinding, but the number of waterfall pools along the highway that really makes the journey considerably “Hawaiian.” Start in Paia, a former plantation village that’s overrun by surfer types and affluent families alike.

Start with a hearty breakfast at Charley’s, then, along your journey, take a splash at Twin Falls, a waterfall pool that’s easily accessible from the road. If you need to stretch your legs, Waikamoi Ridge Trail is a flat, mile-loop nature trail.

Hana is your destination, and it’s incredibly rewarding. The bohemian, retro beach town is straight out of a time capsule, where locals still walk barefoot and fire up barbecues.

Road Trip During Covid
My friend Josh and me in Maui.

3. Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia to North Carolina

Distance: 470 miles

I recently did a New Year’s road trip through North Carolina with my friend Daniel, and I love the Southern states to hop in a car and drive for hours.

In the South, road trippers can expect forestry and mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 470-mile drive connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. While this averages roughly 10 hours to drive, it’s worth it. Locals call the Blue Ridge Parkway a “window” to the region.

Visitors stop at the Humpback Rocks in Blue Ridge, VA, a natural rock outcrop with a storied history. Nearby is the Natural Bridge of Virginia in Rockbridge Country, one of the oldest tourist destinations in the country and constantly voted as one of America’s best natural wonders.

I loved Winston Salem and Durham, but several cool attractions await in lesser known places, like Blowing Rock, North Carolina, including the actual Blowing Rock itself, a cliff looming 4,000 feet above seal level with commanding views of Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock. For the mother of all views, stop at Waterrock Knob, which, at 7,000-feet high, showcases breathtaking mountain views.

North Carolina best road trip in America
We stopped in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Obviously, you’ll want to check out Asheville, North Carolina (if you have time). It’s home to a vortex, amazing boutiques and hotels and just good vibes all around. While it might be tempting to take road trips during Covid, wait it out. Asheville will always be here.

And, remember, go the speed limit! We got busted : )


4. Route 66: Arizona (one of the most famous road trips !)

Distance: 370 miles

The classic, ever-famous and incredibly cool Route 66 connected Chicago to Los Angeles via Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. While it was officially removed from the US highway system in 1985, die-hard road trippers and Instagrammers alike still follow the historic road, and Arizona holds many of its highlights. From Toprock on the western border, Route 66 rolls north to Seligman. You’ll get a good feel of the Old West here with ubiquitous tumbleweeds and saguaros.

After a stop in Oatman (which still stages gunfights, so why would you not??), pass through oddball towns like Hackberry, Valentine and Truxton, then pull the brakes at Grand Canyon Caverns for retro-cool cavern touring.

Have you gone on any of these famous road trips? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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