Car Culture

Top 10 Best Budget Road Trips In The U.S. [UPDATED]

10 best road trips in the U.S.
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Looking for a fun, affordable vacation that won’t break the bank? It’s road trip time!

Road trip season has begun! We’ve taken your suggestions and expanded our original list of 5 destinations to the 10 best road trips in the U.S., including parts of the country that we missed before. Read on to see what’s good near you or where you plan to travel this year.

Northeast: The Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Scenic Byway

Nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, “The Kank,” as the locals call it, is Route 112 between I-93 in Lincoln to North Conway. You’ll wind over and around the mountains with their beautiful scenery. There are numerous places to pull over and take it all in, as well as several campgrounds along the way if you wish to stay a bit longer. North Conway is well-known for its wide variety of shopping outlets as well.

There are other interesting sites in the area as well, including the many mountains to climb. Bear Notch Road, which is closed during winter, offers tight, twisting curves ideal for driving enthusiasts and motorcycle riders. When Bear Notch is closed, you can visit the ski areas such as  Loon Mountain located right along the Kank in Lincoln.

Midcoast: Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway

This is one of the most scenic drives in America, especially in the fall. As leaves start to change, you’ll get a chance to see the Appalachians smothered in red, gold, and green. The Parkway runs from Virginia all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina.

With breathtaking overlooks and no large trucks allowed, it’s no wonder this is considered one of America’s favorite drives. It offers tourists an opportunity to slow down for a little while and simply enjoy the views. 

You’ll also find plenty of trailheads for hiking and exits where you can soak up the art, culture, and crafts native to the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains.

Southeast: Savannah River Scenic Byway, South Carolina

Clean out your car interior and get ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views.

The Savannah River Scenic Byway winds more than 100 miles through four counties along the shores of three major lakes on the border between South Carolina and Georgia. This byway tells the vibrant story of the South’s evolution and culture. There are locations of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, military history, local arts and crafts, agricultural traditions, and the state’s rich African-American heritage along the way.

The scenic highway provides access to 59 recreation areas and 104 recreational access sites that have boat ramps, campgrounds, welcome centers, shoreline access points, and other points of interest. Some of the recreation areas accessible from the scenic highway include the five state parks associated with the freshwater coast.

Southwest: Escalante, Utah

Escalante, Utah

This is a joy ride you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Escalante is located along Utah’s “All-American Road:” Scenic Byway 12 in southern Utah. Whether it’s spring, summer, or fall, you’ll find sun-drenched canyons, cool rivers, miles of soft-sand hiking trails, and evidence of humans who walked the same land centuries ago.

Nearby is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument featuring other-worldly rock formations and abandoned Western movie sets. From hiking, camping, overnight backpacking, and paddle boarding, to taking a drive along the area’s abundant scenic backways, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. 

Plus, it’s a great drive for Jeep enthusiasts!

Midwest: Route 66 Via St. Louis, Missouri

Route 66 St. Louis Missouri

We couldn’t forget to include the Main Street of America in our top 10 budget road trips. And the city of St. Louis makes a great place to start (or end) your Route 66 epic adventure. From delicious, yet surprisingly affordable eateries to the iconic Gateway Arch, the tallest man-made monument in the U.S., this city is full of fun surprises.

During baseball season, you can catch the Cardinals playing at Busch Stadium, then head over to Bailey’s Range for burgers and shakes (it’s worth splurging this one time). Kids of all ages will freak over The City Museum, which is more like a 10-story, 600,000-square-foot playground than a museum.

After you’ve got your kicks in St. Louis, hop on Route 66, which will take you along a scenic drive all the way to Chicago!

North Central: Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway, dedicated in 1913, was the very first road across the United States, stretching over 3,000 miles from New York to San Francisco. US and Interstate highways have all but replaced it over the past 100+ years, but parts of it remain to this day, particularly through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. This road was the brainchild of Carl Fisher, the man who built Indianapolis Motor Speedway and started the Indy 500 race.

Many interesting sites remain commemorating the Lincoln Highway along its original routes, which changed over the years. In Illinois there is an excellent classic car museum in Canton, as well as several monuments in Bucyrus and historic buildings in Van Wert. 

Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the home of the fabled log cabin of Abraham Lincoln. Continue west to Dyer and you can still see the Lincoln Highway “ideal section,” one mile built at the beginning of the project to serve as an example of what this road could be. Illinois houses the Lincoln Highway Association in Franklin Grove. An information center all about the road is in the windmill near the crossing of the Mississippi River into Iowa.

South Central: Talimena Scenic Drive from Oklahoma to Arkansas

Here’s one suggested by a FIXD fan: The Talimena Scenic Drive is one of the first National Forest Scenic Byways established by the U.S. Forest Service. It winds 54 miles along the crest of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain through the Ouachita National Forest, lazily linking the towns of Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas. 

The actual drive time is just over an hour, but there are so many scenic overlooks and historic towns to explore that you could spend all day. The shortleaf pine and hardwood forests are a sight to see, plus there are many exhibits about the area’s history.

Rocky Mountains: Trail Ridge Road in Colorado

Trail Ridge Road, Colorado

When you visit the Rockies, you expect mountainous vistas at high elevations. Trail Ridge Road will not disappoint. Reaching elevations of over 12,000 feet, it’s one of the highest points you can reach in a car in all of North America, rendering some the most exquisite views you’ll ever see.

The route starts at the doorstep of the Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, traveling west through mountains and across the Continental Divide along U.S. Highway 34 for 48 miles (11 of which are above treeline) until finally reaching the city of Grand Lake. Be prepared for cooler temperatures, even in the middle of summer. Watch for pikas, marmots, ptarmigans, and bighorn sheep, as well as 200 species of tiny alpine plants.

Pacific Northwest: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Columbia River Gorge

If you’re in the mood for scenic backdrops and world-class wineries, the Columbia River Gorge is a truly gorgeous road trip. 

From Portland, you’ll pass through Oregon and Washington along I-84 East and WA-14 on your way to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Following the river on its way to the Pacific, you’ll find plenty of photo ops in the Cascade Mountains, as well as waterfalls and hiking trails.

California: Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

Also known as Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway is exactly what it sounds like, a highway along the California coastline. Starting at US 101 in Leggett, the PCH hugs the coast all the way through San Jose, San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and Los Angeles, all the way down to San Diego. 

Like the Lincoln Highway, you don’t need to drive the entire 655 mile length of the Pacific Coast Highway to enjoy it. You can simply work a piece of it into your trip, wherever in California you happen to be, and enjoy the coastal views. Just be sure to check for road closures due to landslides before you begin your trip in case you need to reroute.

Get Road Trip Ready with FIXD

No matter where your destination is or what vehicle takes you there, be sure you’re road trip ready by bringing the FIXD sensor and app along for the ride. This must-have tool is always available for on-the-go check engine diagnostics, and FIXD Premium even gives you access to on-call mechanics for DIY repair assistance and information. Not able to get a DIY job done in a hotel parking lot? FIXD will help you locate trusted RepairPal-certified shops to get you back on the road. 

Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.

Justin Hughes
Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.

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    4 Comments

    1. Too far away from home. Anything closer to San Francisco?

    2. There is also a very nice scenic drive, if you start at Talihina, Oklahoma, and take the “Talamena Drive”,
      it ends in Mena , Arkansas. But it’s a very scenic mountain top drive, any time of the year.

    3. I live in the Texas panhandle. How about something closer

    4. West coast please

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