Best and Most Scenic Summer Road Trips for 2018

There's nothing quite like taking to the open highway in the summer in America. After all, the U.S. was built on epic cross-country treks.

Get steeped in history, see some of the country's most stunning scenery, visit some of America's most interesting towns and cosmopolitan cities; we've put together a dozen road trips to inspire you.

So check your oil and tire pressure, and your air conditioning. Here are 12 of the best, most scenic road trips in the U.S.

(Photo: Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com)

Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway

1. Alaska Highway

The historic Alaska Highway actually starts in British Columbia, and winds its lonely way through the Yukon Territory. It originally ended in Delta Junction, but you can continue on to Fairbanks. The trip is about 1,459 miles. 

Photo: Shutterstock

Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway

The Alaska Highway, or the ALCAN, starting in Dawson Creek, B.C., is paved but sections are often under construction. There's no shortage of beautiful scenery and wildlife along this trip.

Photo: Shutterstock

Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway

Stops along the way include the Liard River Hot Springs, the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum in B.C., and the sign post forest, above, in Watson Lake in the Yukon.

Photo: Reinhard Tiburzy/ Shutterstock

Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway

Stretch this road trip out even further by driving another 487 miles from Fairbanks to Anchorage, past Denali National Park, home to North America's highest peak, shown here. From Anchorage you can also traverse the beautiful Kenai Peninsula on Hwy. 1 to Homer, Alaska, where you can see Orcas in the bay.

Photo: Shutterstock

Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway

2. Blue Ridge Parkway

This 469-mile drive that connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina is controlled by the U.S. National Parks System. It takes you on a cultural trip of the region's living traditions -- Appalachian crafts and music, Cherokee traditions, agricultural history. Above, the Linn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

Photo: Shutterstock

Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway

There's abundant scenery and wildlife, and plenty of historic sites along this trip. Above, Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park.

Photo: Shutterstock

Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway

Along the way, see some of the oldest mountains in the world, Whitewater Falls, and Linville Gorge. Above, a crescent moon shines above a primitive church in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Photo: Shutterstock

Canada to Mexico
Canada to Mexico

3. Canada to Mexico

Jamie Jensen, author of Road Trip USA, recommends this trip from the Canadian Rockies to the Sonora Desert, through Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona. 

Start in Canada's Jasper National Park, above, taking in its crystal blue glacial lakes.

Photo: Shutterstock

Canada to Mexico
Canada to Mexico

Stop in Whitefish, Montana, a resort town in the Rockies and gateway to Glacier National Park.

Photo: Shutterstock

Canada to Mexico
Canada to Mexico

The route takes you through the Flathead Indian Reservation, and the Flathead National Forest. The area is filled with opportunities for fishing, camping, mountain biking and hiking.

Cross the Salmon River in Idaho and take a side trip to Craters of the Moon National Park. 

Photo: Shutterstock

Canada to Mexico
Canada to Mexico

Through the high desert of Nevada, past the Great Basin National Park, the route takes you to Las Vegas, where you can get your fill of urban pleasures before heading to Arizona.

Photo: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock

Canada to Mexico
Canada to Mexico

In Arizona, see Hoover Dam, the Titan Missile Museum, and the Biosphere II in Oracle, Arizona, above.

Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans
The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans

4. The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans

Travel bloggers Laurence and Jessica Norah detail this trip from Charleston to New Orleans, taking in the history and cultural traditions of the deep South. Starting in Charleston, S.C., above, savor the flavors and sights of this historic city, sun on the beach, and get a tee time at one of the many outstanding golf courses.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans
The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans

This route takes you to Savannah, Ga., one of the most charming and beautiful cities in the country, and a popular tourist destination. Above, a tree-lined road at the historic Wormsloe Plantation in Savannah.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans
The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans

The route has a fun and historical itinerary as you visit Atlanta, Ga. and Mobile, Ala., then on to Selma, where you can visit the Old Cahawba Ghost Town just outside of Selma on the Alabama River. Stop at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, above, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and marchers met with violent resistance in the Selma to Montgomery march, part of a series of civil-rights protests in 1965.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans
The Deep South: Charleston to New Orleans

This trip ends in New Orleans, where you can visit the French Quarter, check out the old cemetaries, see the riverboats, and enjoy the music and fine food. To see the full Deep South itinerary, visit FindingtheUniverse.com.

Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Denver to Glacier
Denver to Glacier

5. Denver to Glacier

You can get scenery overload on this epic journey from the mile-high city, all the way to Yellowstone National Park. If you've got the time and the grit, continue on from Yellowstone, visiting the old boomtowns of southeast Montana, and on to Glacier National Park. Above, Denver's Chalk Art Festival, which takes place this year in June.

Photo: Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

Denver to Glacier
Denver to Glacier

The route takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park, above, crossing the Continental Divide on the country's highest paved road. From there, head to Estes Park, Colo. and on to Laramie, Wy., Wind River County, and Jackson, Wy. 

Photo: Shutterstock

Denver to Glacier
Denver to Glacier

Jackson is the gateway to the Grand Tetons, above, and Yellowstone National Park.

Photo: Shutterstock

Denver to Glacier
Denver to Glacier

Pass through towns like Virginia City, and Missoula in Montana, and visit Fairmont Hot Springs on your way to Glacier National Park. There, you'll take Going to the Sun Road, above, into the park, one of the most scenic roads in America.

Yellowstonepark.com outlines this route as two loops, with itineraries and the best places to stop. 

Photo: Shutterstock

The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe
The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe

6. The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe

Road Trip USA outlines this route as all the way from Maryland to San Francisco, but this 1,066-mile leg from Pueblo, Colo., heading west to Lake Tahoe, should satisfy your scenery craving. It takes you over the Rockies, past Crested Butte, above, and Colorado's Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. See snow-covered peaks, blue lakes, and alpine meadows of wildflowers along the way.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe
The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe

From Colorado you'll enter Utah, which is loaded with national parks, including Arches, above, and Canyonlands.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe
The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe

Nevada's U.S. Highway 50 earned the name "Loneliest Road in America" because it passes through a vast barren landscape that is mostly uninhabited, according to travelnevada.com. The emptiness makes it a favorite among motorcyclists. You'll pass a number of mountain ranges, old mining towns and Sand Mountain, above, in Fallon, Nevada.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe
The Loneliest Road: Colorado to Lake Tahoe

Stop in historic Virginia City, Nevada, above, before heading into the Sierra Nevada to the deep blue waters and snow-capped mountains of Lake Tahoe.

Photo: Dan Holm / Shutterstock

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail

7. The Oregon Trail

This is a designated national historic trail that traverses west across six states for 2,000 miles, starting in Independence, Missouri, and ending in Oregon City, which is south of Portland. You can still see the wagon wheel ruts where pioneers with wagons walked for weeks on end in search of lush farmlands of the west.

Above, the Oregon trail parkway in Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail

Learn the history of these determined pioneers and the Native Americans who lived here. Visit Fort Laramie, above, in Wyoming. Near Guernsey, Wyo., stop and see Register Cliff, one of three large "registers of the desert" where western-bound emigrants carved their names on rock.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail

Cross the Snake River at Glenns Ferry, Idaho, above. In 1869 Gustavus Glenn built a ferry boat so that his wagons and others could cross the Snake River. At this time, traffic on the Oregon trail was heavy in both directions.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail

In eastern Oregon, visit the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, where Earth's history is preserved in one of the most complete fossil records on the planet. See the colorful rock formations and walk through the painted hills, above.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail

Finish up in lively Portland, where you can visit the museums and enjoy the coffee shops, microbreweries, restaurants and galleries.

Head on over the the National Park Service site for a detailed description of the 2,000 mile Oregon trail.

Photo: Joshua Rainey Photography / Shutterstock

Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West
Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West

8. Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West

This is a shorter road trip, just 150 miles from Miami through the Florida Keys on Route 1 ending in Key West. Above, colorful artwork on display along the popular Calle Ocho in Miami's historic Little Havana.

Photo: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West
Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West

Route 1 takes you through the Keys and across the Seven-Mile Bridge, above, which is just one of 42 bridges you'll cross.

Photo: Shutterstock

Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West
Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West

Don't rush this trip -- enjoy the beaches and fine hotels on the Florida Keys, have a piece of key lime pie, and adapt to the laid-back lifestyle. Finish in Key West, above.

Photo: Shutterstock

Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon
Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon

9. Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon

Start in Washington's capital, Olympia, above, in the shadow of Mt. Ranier. You'll actually head north, not south, on Hwy. 101 to drive the loop around the Olympic Peninsula. See lavender fields in Sequim, veer west past Dungeness, where there is an abandoned fishing community from the 1890s. You'll then turn south down the coast and toward the Oregon border.

Photo: Shutterstock

Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon
Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon

There's plenty of scenery and hiking opportunities. Within the Olympic National Park itself, you can drive through the lush Hoh Rainforest, above, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S.

Photo: Shutterstock

Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon
Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon

Take in the lonely coastline of Washington. Near the Washington-Oregon border, you reach Cape Disappointment State Park, a 1,882 acre camping park at the south end of the Long Beach Peninsula with two miles of beach, two lighthouses, an interpretive center and hiking trails. Above, Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. Visit this site for a list of attractions and stops along the route.

Photo: Shutterstock

Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon
Olympic Peninsula-Pacific Coast Washington/Oregon

The second leg of the trip, down the coast of Oregon is another 363 miles. In Oregon, Hwy. 101 hugs the coast the whole length of the state. Stop in Newport along the way, and visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which has a glass tunnel into the open sea, above. 

Photo: Steve Estvanik / Shutterstock

Pacific Coast Highway, California
Pacific Coast Highway, California

10. Pacific Coast Highway, California

Driving the entire coast of California from Crescent City to San Diego is over 1,000 miles and takes you to some of the most famous and scenic places in the state, including towering redwoods, picturesque beach towns, world-famous cities and beach-side rollercoasters. Above, the town of Mendocino, Calif.

Photo: Alison de Grassi/visitmendocino.com

Pacific Coast Highway, California
Pacific Coast Highway, California

Technically, California's Route 1 doesn't go the whole length of the state; in some places you'll be on Hwy. 101 and Interstate 5 to complete the trip. But you will come to the Golden Gate Bridge, above, where you can park and cross it on foot, taking in the views and ocean breezes. Spend some time in San Francisco: dine in the world-class restaurants and enjoy the many sites and shopping in unique neighborhoods.

Photo: Shutterstock

Pacific Coast Highway, California
Pacific Coast Highway, California

There are dozens of spots along the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego to watch the surfers in action. Above, a pro surfer competes in the Mavericks Invitational Surfing event near Half Moon Bay.

Photo: Jeff Smith - Perspectives / Shutterstock

Pacific Coast Highway, California
Pacific Coast Highway, California

Ride the rollercoaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and have a margarita in the seaside town of Capitola, above.

Photo: Shutterstock

Pacific Coast Highway, California
Pacific Coast Highway, California

As you continue south, stop at The National Steinbeck Center, a museum and memorial dedicated to the author John Steinbeck, in Salinas. Go for a hike in Big Sur, and take a tour of Hearst Castle in San Simeon. You'll veer from the coast for awhile, but return to it and enjoy the beach towns of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Santa Monica, above. The entire route takes you through Los Angeles and San Diego, near the Mexico border.

Photo: Shutterstock

West Virginia's Midland Trail and the New River Gorge
West Virginia's Midland Trail and the New River Gorge

11. West Virginia's Midland Trail and the New River Gorge

Leave the interstate behind on the 180-mile Midland Trail, which traverses west to east, border to border, across West Virginia on the historic Route 60. Above, the New River Gorge bridge.

Photo: Shutterstock

West Virginia's Midland Trail and the New River Gorge
West Virginia's Midland Trail and the New River Gorge

The Midland Trail is rich with scenery, waterfalls, pioneer history, outdoor adventure, local arts and crafts and great West Virginia food. You'll pass through the capital city of Charleston and Hawks Nest State Park to White Sulphur Springs on the Virginia border. Above, the Glade Creek grist mill at Babcock State Park near Fayetteville W.V.

Visit the West Virginia tourism bureau for more info. 

Photo: Shutterstock

Route 66: Chicago to California
Route 66: Chicago to California

12. Route 66: Chicago to California

No road trip list is complete without this one, of course. At over 2,500 miles, Route 66 may well be America's most iconic highway, evoking memories of the early era of the automobile, steeped in the nostalgia of roadside motels, mom-and-pop gas stations and open expanses free of strip malls. Start in Chicago, where many people launched their trip with coffee and breakfast at Lou Mitchell's Restaurant, above.

Photo: StockPhotoAstur / Shutterstock

Route 66: Chicago to California
Route 66: Chicago to California

Route 66 crosses eight states. From Illinois, where you can stop at a variety of historic gas stations, you drive through Missouri, cross the Meramec River, and pass the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba and the 66 Drive-In theater in Carthage. In Kansas, you'll see fun stops like this restored station in Galena.

Photo: StockPhotoAstur / Shutterstock

Route 66: Chicago to California
Route 66: Chicago to California

There are dozens of historic spots as you cross Oklahoma, then enter Texas. Above, the Historic U-Drop Inn, in Texas, a former diner built in 1936 features art deco architecture. The U-Drop's distinctive architecture appears as an autobody and paint shop image in the 2006 animated film "Cars."

Photo: T photography / Shutterstock

Route 66: Chicago to California
Route 66: Chicago to California

After crossing the Texas panhandle, you'll drive across New Mexico and Arizona. Above, the historic US Post Office in Oatman, Arizona. Along this route, you could take side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.

Photo: Michael Urmann / Shutterstock

Route 66: Chicago to California
Route 66: Chicago to California

In the deserts of California, you'll pass through Needles and Barstow, and drive past the Amboy Crater. You could take another side trip to Death Valley National Park. The route ends in the Los Angeles area. Above, a sign marks the end of Route 66 at the Santa Monica Pier. The National Park Service has a list of historic sites along Route 66, state by state, with information on each one.

Photo: Daniel Vine Photography / Shutterstock

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This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

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