Hilarious video of our 2014 road trip to 22 states and 15 national parks...
Top 10 Budget Road Trips in the USA 2023
Road trips don't have to be expensive. The adventure can be in the drive itself and there are a great many things to see in America that don't cost a dime. Your only expenses will be fuel, food and lodging... and souvenirs if that is your thing. Below are just a few of the great road trips you can take in America. We tried to cover enough places so that no matter where you live in the US, you can reasonably make it to at least one of these. If not, head over to Google or Bing and type in "road trip state" (replace the word state with your state's name). You'll get lots of suggestions for your neck of the woods.
- Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina, Virginia)
The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway runs for 469 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and offers access to Skyline Drive. The Blue Ridge Parkway was built to connect Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is no fee to drive on the BRP and this is a great 3-7 day drive. Food, fuel and lodging can be found all along it at various exits.
- Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee)
The Natchez Trace Parkway (also known as the Natchez Trace or simply the Trace) is a National Parkway in the southeastern United States that commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace and preserves sections of the original trail. Its central feature is a two-lane parkway road that extends 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. Access to the parkway is limited, with more than fifty access points in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The southern end of the route is in Natchez, MS at an intersection with Liberty Road, and the northern end is northeast of Fairview, TN, in the suburban community of Pasquo, TN, at an intersection with Tennessee 100. The All-American Road is maintained by the National Park Service, to commemorate the original route of the Natchez Trace. This slow paced, scenic route is a fantastic 2-5 day drive and food, fuel and lodging are available in the towns you pass by or through.
- Route 66 (Chicago to Los Angeles)
U.S. Route 66 (US 66 or Route 66), also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles. It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66" and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s. Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, and it was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985, after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name "Historic Route 66", which is returning to some maps. Several states have adopted significant bypassed sections of the former US 66 into the state road network as State Route 66. It isn't necessary to drive the whole route but if you can, that would be awesome.
- Overseas Highway (Florida)
The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile highway carrying U.S. Route 1 (US 1) through the Florida Keys. Large parts of it were built on the former right-of-way of the Overseas Railroad, the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Completed in 1912, the Overseas Railroad was heavily damaged and partially destroyed in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The Florida East Coast Railway was financially unable to rebuild the destroyed sections, so the roadbed and remaining bridges were sold to the state of Florida for $640,000. Since the 1950s, the Overseas Highway has been refurbished into a main coastal highway between the cities of Miami and Key West, offering travelers an exotic roadway through a tropical savanna environment and access to the largest area of coral reefs on the USA mainland. This is an absolutely stunning drive and while it can be done in a day, you should take at least a week to really take it all in.
- Columbia River Highway (Oregon)
The Historic Columbia River Highway is an approximately 75-mile-long scenic highway in the U.S. state of Oregon between Troutdale and The Dalles, built through the Columbia River Gorge between 1913 and 1922. As the first planned scenic roadway in the United States, it has been recognized in numerous ways, including a listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark, designation as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and considered a "destination unto itself" as an All-American Road by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The historic roadway was bypassed by the present Columbia River Highway No. 2 (Interstate 84) from the 1930s to the 1950s, leaving behind the old two-lane road. The road is now mostly owned and maintained by the state through the Oregon Department of Transportation as the Historic Columbia River Highway No. 100 (still partially marked as U.S. Route 30) or the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. This description alone should make you want to spend your vacation time here.
- Pacific Coast Highway (California)
State Route 1 (SR 1) is a major north-south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. Highway 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway. Its southern terminus is at Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point in Orange County and its northern terminus is at U.S. Highway 101 (US 101) near Leggett in Mendocino County. Highway 1 also at times runs concurrently with US 101, most notably through a 54-mile stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge. The highway is famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA, leading to its designation as an All-American Road. In addition to providing a scenic route to numerous attractions along the coast, the route also serves as a major thoroughfare in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and several other coastal urban areas. If you happen to live out West, take a week or so and drive this amazing road.
- Scenic Byway 12 (Utah)
Proceeding west to east for 122 miles, the highway starts south of Panguitch at an intersection with US-89, crosses part of Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park, continues through the small towns of Tropic, Cannonville, and Henrieville. It crosses various parts of Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument (GS-ENM), continues northeast through Escalante and over the Escalante River, then north through more of GS-ENM, Boulder, the Aquarius Plateau, Grover, ending in Torrey at an intersection with SR-24, five miles west of Capitol Reef National Park. The 30-mile long portion of the highway that ascends and descends Boulder Mountain on the Aquarius Plateau is known as Boulder Mountain Highway. This is a 1 day leisurely drive you can take if you are visiting any of the 5 National Parks in Utah.
- Shipwreck Coast (Michigan)
This route follows a string of quiet roads along Michigan's Upper Peninsula between Marquette and Whitefish Point. The roads are set so close to the shore they seem at times strung across the waves. The power of the lake is evident at every turn. You see it in the shape of the land, particularly in the sandstone cliffs sculpted into weird artistic shapes along the 40-mile stretch of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It's also apparent in the shifting sands at Grand Sable Dunes. It's in the weathered clapboard cottages and lakeside galleries gone silver-gray under years of spray and in the 40-foot drift logs tossed far up the shore like ghostly matchsticks you pass by on a lonely beach walk. Here Lake Superior sings the stories of the more than 300 shipwrecks that the waters just offshore have claimed over the years, famous ships like the Edmund Fitzgerald as well as anonymous wrecks washed ashore without a clue, earning this stretch of the Upper Peninsula a reputation as the "Shipwreck Coast." Spend a day or a week and see the beauty and power of one of America's Great Lakes.
- El Camino Real (New Mexico, Texas)
Cultures along El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior Land), are as diverse as its history and scenery. Pueblos reveal artisans crafting wares using centuries-old methods. The route, first traveled by Don Juan de Onate in 1598, provided news, supplies, and travel to the first capital of the New World. It starts in Sante Fe, NM and heads south to El Paso, TX. We suggest you stop there but if you are brave enough, continue on to Mexico City, MX. There is a lot of history on this route, so please take your time to see as much as you can.
- Great River Road (Missouri)
The mighty Mississippi was the lifeblood of many Missouri towns for over a century. The Missouri Great River Road is a route with stories to tell and a history to preserve. Civil War History and the movement west are just two of the great American stories that the byway has to tell. The man who characterized the golden age of the Mississippi River left a legacy of sites behind on the Missouri Great River Road. Mark Twain's home town of Hannibal, as well as many other buildings, museums, and wildlife refuges honor the memory of this favorite American writer. The Missouri Great River Road tells the story of the people who came to the Mississippi when it was still a frontier. It also tells the story of people who lived here before the United States became a nation. Drive the Great River Road and find out what story it will tell you. While you can do it in a day, we suggest you spend more time seeing the beautiful country and the many historical sites.