Last updated on September 20th, 2022 at 05:40 pm
As a travel blogger who dreams of traveling the world, all too often I find that many Americans take the freedoms of our great country for granted–and its amazing domestic travel adventures.
But thankfully, we have national holidays to reflect on and celebrate traveling around the United States.
When most of us dream of traveling, we take mental vacations to far-off, exotic lands. I am all for that, and guilty of it myself, but the great thing is that we don’t have to shell out loads of money or fly halfway around the world for a memorable adventure.
With plane travel continuing to rise in cost (and frustration), you don’t even have to get to experience the country.
Top 5 US Travel Routes
1. Route: Los Angeles to Chicago on the Southwest Chief Train
Duration: About 40 hours
This 2,256-mile trip starts in congested Southern California but within hours climbs through Cajon Pass into the lonely beauty of the Mojave Desert en route to Arizona. Then come Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois as the train passes through the backyards of small towns–peer guiltily into windows of countless homes at night–and the downtowns of big cities.
Noteworthy: Miles and miles of the Painted Desert east of Flagstaff, Arizona, interspersed with dusty towns; from June to August, the train delivers thousands of Boy Scouts to the Philmont Scout Ranch through the stop at Raton, New Mexico; as part of the Trails and Rails program, National Park Service guides from Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (La Junta, Colorado), Pecos National Historic Park (Pecos, New Mexico), and Petroglyph National Monument (Albuquerque, New Mexico) tell stories on the train between Albuquerque and La Junta, Colorado.
2. Route: Anchorage to Seward, Alaska
Duration: 4½ hours
The Alaska Railroad system covers 500 miles of some of the world’s wildest landscapes–with this 114-mile stretch through the Kenai Mountains by far the most impressive section, says Susie Kiger of the Alaska Railroad. Leaving Anchorage, the route hugs the coast of the Turnagain Arm to a stop at Girdwood; overnight if you wish at the Alyeska Resort.
From there the train veers away from the scenic Seward Highway to areas inaccessible by car, traveling through five tunnels, past cool blue glaciers, and over a river gorge. Watch for moose and bears. Overnight in Seward or simply explore the village and return to Anchorage for a perfect day trip.
Noteworthy: Beluga whales, bald eagles, moose, and Dall sheep along Turnagain Arm; the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward; passing within 800 feet of Bartlett Glacier; sunsets over Cook Inlet on the return trip; the Glacier and Wildlife Cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park.
3. Route: Williams to the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Duration: 8 hours 15 minutes, round-trip
This rail trek has been offered, on and off, since 1901, taking passengers to the South Rim of the world’s most famous canyon. You have your pick of options to deliver you to the Grand Canyon for a just-under-four-hour stopover to take in the sights. Or overnight in a lodge on the rim.
Noteworthy: Views en route of the 12,000-foot-plus San Francisco Peaks; the twisting switchbacks of Coconino Canyon, where passengers can see the curving train out the window; an Old West theme with cowboy musicians and mock train robberies by the Cataract Creek Gang.
4. Route: Highway 1 on the California Coast
There are several parts to the Highway 1 route along the California Coast. There is what is considered the “north part” north of San Francisco and the “south part” starting southwest of San Francisco and heading towards Los Angeles. I have driven the northern route many times, but one of my favorite stretches is spending a day wine tasting in the Russian River Valley west of Santa Rosa and then heading west on River Road towards Pacific Coast Highway 1 through Guerneville and Monte Rio down through Bodega Bay south to San Francisco.
Noteworthy: Martinelli’s Winery on River Road. Fishermans Cove Seafood restaurant Bodega Bay. Old Western Saloon in Point Reyes Station.
5. Route: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
This offers some great driving and spectacular views, and it hosted the Press-On-Regardless Rally for many years.
Heading east from Hiawatha National Forest near Escanaba, Routes 2, 149, 94, 28, 123, and 221 take you through scenery that looks something right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Other great routes are the 26-mile stretch of SR-35 from Negaunee to Gwinn and US-41 and SR-26 from Houghton to Copper Harbor and back on the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Noteworthy: Mackinac Island for the famous Mackinac Island fudge. Brown Fisheries Fish House in Paradise. Whitefish Point with its operating lighthouse on Lake Superior. The town of Marquette.
To read more on the Top US dream travel routes see Autoweek’s 50 best U.S. driving routes.
Katie Eigel is a world traveler and self-proclaimed “Wine Geek In Training” who spends her days writing for various wine and travel publications.
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