Hitting the road is one of the best choices for traveling right now, as long as you follow local and state coronavirus measures. No wonder, then, that 75 percent of Americans surveyed recently by Cars.com still planned to take short road trips this year.
“Americans love the freedom car ownership provides,” says Cars.com Editor-in-Chief, Jenni Newman. “Now, more than ever, we see more and more families turn to their personal vehicles to safely escape after months of quarantine.”
To fuel your wanderlust for a driving escape, here are four road trips tailored to fit different interests. Find your perfect match, bring your mask, and start rolling.
For the Adventurers: Grand Teton-Yellowstone Loop
Make your next amazing adventure a 330-mile ramble through majestic Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The route starts and ends in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, launching pad for whitewater rafting down the Snake River Canyon. Bring your bike or kayak to easily pull off the road and explore more.
The drive initially winds north past the National Elk Refuge. Bike or walk the refuge’s multi-use pathway to spot majestic elk and bighorn sheep. Continue on to Grand Teton National Park where you can go kayaking surrounded by jagged mountain peaks on crystal-clear Jenny Lake. Hike the lake’s 7.6-mile loop trail to venture into glacial-carved Cascade Canyon and the backcountry. Pitch a tent in John. D. Rockefeller, Jr. National Memorial Parkway, the natural area linking Grant Teton and Yellowstone.
In Yellowstone National Park, go west on the Grand Loop Road to see hydrothermal moonscapes like Mammoth Hot Springs and Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful. If time permits, take a half-day hike into one of Yellowstone’s deepest canyons on the Osprey Falls Trail.
As you drive through the park, watch for Yellowstone’s world-famous wild things, such as grizzly bears, moose, and bison. Male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (nearly as heavy as a light compact car) and can run as fast as 30 miles per hour, so use a clip-on zoom lens or binoculars for safe, respectful viewing and photography. Exit the park at West Yellowstone, Montana, before meandering back to Jackson Hole via Idaho’s spectacular Mesa Falls and Teton Scenic Byways.
For the Outdoor-Lovers: White Mountain Trail-Kancamagus Loop
Combining two National Scenic Byways—the White Mountain Trail and the Kancamagus—this 127-mile loop winds through New Hampshire’s rugged White Mountains. The route crosses mountain passes, snakes past waterfalls, and, during fall foliage season, is awash in brilliant colors.
Start and end at the White Mountains Visitor Center in North Woodstock. From here, follow the White Mountain Trail north to Franconia Notch State Park, open for day-use activities like fly fishing and hiking. Make reservations to walk the Flume Gorge trail along roaring waters, over covered bridges, and through mossy woods.
Continue rolling through White Mountain National Forest, stopping at the Mt. Washington Scenic Vista for views (on clear days) of the 6,288-foot summit. At the 53-mile mark in Glen, consider a side trip north to earn the iconic “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker on the historic Mt. Washington Auto Road.
The trip’s final leg covers all 34.5 stunningly-scenic miles of the Kancamagus, considered one of the nation’s top fall leaf-peeping drives. Park at multiple overlooks to soak in the awe-inspiring scene: rivers, gorges, and mountains as far as the eye can see.
For the Foodies: Pacific Coast Highway To-Go
Indulge in a rolling, east-to-west feast on Southern California’s fabled Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH. Running about 100 miles between Orange and Los Angeles Counties, the route passes through seaside towns offering COVID19-safe takeout and patio dining for local eats. Add a side of ocean air by bringing to-go picnics to the closest beach.
Begin with a breakfast burrito at Proud Mary’s overlooking Dana Point Harbor. In Newport Beach, work up an appetite with socially-distant outdoor activities before eating lunch at any restaurant offering expanded outdoor dining. Or, make the short hop up to “Surf City USA,” Huntington Beach for takeout from Ruby’s Diner on Huntington Beach Pier.
Save room for a decadent dessert in Manhattan Beach. The signature Geladough (a warm donut or croissant stuffed with handcrafted gelato) from Gelato and Angels tastes extra sweet when devoured beachside.
Stay overnight near the Venice Boardwalk or Santa Monica Pier to order delivery from a local dinner favorite like Fritto Misto. Or, reserve a patio table at Water Grill on Santa Monica’s famed Ocean Avenue. Before heading on in the morning, grab breakfast-to-go from The Win-Dow at American Beauty.
From here, the drive serves up 21 miles of coastal-hugging Malibu scenery. Get takeout from John’s Garden or Marmalade Cafe to savor surf, cliff, and rock arch views from a blufftop perch at Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach.
For the Beach Bums: Cruisin’ the Mid-Atlantic Coast
Celebrate the golden days of late summer and early fall by cruising down the New Jersey Shore and southern Delaware coast. The route covers about 150 land miles—mostly on barrier islands—and includes an interstate ferry crossing. Begin at the northernmost tip of the Jersey Shore in the Sandy Hook section of Gateway National Recreation Area.
Take a socially-distanced beach walk before driving south on Route 36/Ocean Boulevard. Pass through quaint shore towns on the way to Asbury Park, home of The Stone Pony, the venerated venue that helped launch Bruce Springsteen’s career.
In Manasquan, hop onto Route 35, stopping to stroll the historic boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach. Continue south, crossing the causeway at Seaside Heights to connect to Route 9. As you drive, look across Barnegat Bay for “Old Barney,” the 1858 beacon at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Cross back onto the barrier island route at Ocean City, then meander south through the neighboring Seven Mile Beach towns of Avalon and Stone Harbor.
Stay overnight in the postcard-perfect Cape May, a National Historic Landmark city. Make reservations for a morning Cape May-Lewes Ferry ride to Delaware. The early start leaves more time to explore pristine Cape Henlopen State Park and experience Delaware coastal life in Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach. End the trip at Fenwick Island State Park to witness a spectacular sunset over Little Assawoman Bay.