The Route of All Happiness
Route 66 isn’t a road. It’s a mecca, a 2,448-mile tarmacadamed hymn to freedom. But it isn’t the only road that captures the spirit of America. Here are six American road trips that aren’t Route 66. Take these roads less travelled and you’ll find glory at every turn.
- Pacific Coast Highway, California
Hugging rugged coastline from Monterey to Morro Bay, you could drive this 1000-mile route in 10 hours flat. But then you’d miss the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Heights, Big Sur, Sonoma Wine Country, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Cruz… we could go on. The list of places this road runs through or close to is extraordinary.
Do stop for: Stunning coastal views. World-famous cities. Seaside villages.
- Great River Road, Minnesota & Louisiana
Following the Mississippi all the way from chilly Northern Minnesota down to the steamy Gulf of Mexico, this 3,000-mile epic tracks the Big Muddy through forests, prairies and swamps. And because it follows the river, you’ll rarely find a straight stretch making this trip a driver’s dream.
Do stop for: The food. From hearty dishes in the north to Cajun cooking in the south, this trip offers up a culinary smorgasbord.
- Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia & North Carolina
Often called America’s Favourite Drive, this 469-mile ribbon of a road unspools its way through 80,000 acres of Appalachian landscape, all the way from Shenandoah National Park, Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina. Slow-paced and relaxing, this drive reveals extraordinary at every turn.
Do stop for: The diverse wildlife. Incredible views. Old-timer history.
- Going-to-the-sun Road, Montana
It’s only a short road. Just 50-miles long. Narrow, too. But what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in drama. Winding through the glacial valleys, rich forests and alpine tundra of Montana’s Glacier National Park, you’ll cross the Continental Divide at a giddy height of 6,646ft high. There’s a chance you may spot all 24 glaciers along the way. But drivers may want to watch the road. Especially the parts carved into sheer vertical cliffs.
Do stop for: Virginia Falls, St. Mary Lake and Jackson Glacier.
- Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington
Pull out of Olympia, the start and end of this 330-mile-long loop that encompasses nearly 1 million acres of National Park and Forest, and you know you’ve come somewhere special. Picturesque shorelines, mossy woodlands, shimmering lakes, towering snow-capped peaks, temperate rainforests… they all take star billing in the quiet corner of America’s northwest.
Do stop for: Hiking trails, deserted beaches and Olympic Rainforest.
- San Juan Skyway, Colorado
Known as ‘The Million Dollar Highway’, the trip is worth every dollar. This winding road – another loop – weaves through no less than three National Forests: San Juan, Grand Mesa, and Uncompahgre. But it’s the 14,000ft snow-capped San Juan Mountain peaks that take the breath away. That and the sharp turns with no guard rails.
Do stop for: wildflowers in spring, stunning waterfalls, ancient ruins and historic towns.
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