1 Week Road Trip in the USA: Epic Ideas for Your Trip

The United States offers a vast and diverse landscape, making it an ideal destination for memorable road trips. Whether you’re into coastal drives, mountain scenery, or historical landmarks, the U.S. has a road trip for everyone.

I’ve been lucky enough to go on two cross-country road trips and many other 1-week road trips in the US. The US has so much to offer, and as such a large, diverse country, driving is a great way to see a lot of places in a short amount of time. Below I list out 18 of the top 1 week road trips in the USA recommended by category.

Table of Contents

Note: I’ve done many of these drives myself in one week. These are itineraries for a one-week road trip, but many of these can easily be combined depending on what part of the US you are in or if you want to fly from one coast to another! I’ve included information on region to make this easier in case that’s helpful to you.

Tips for Planning a Successful 1 Week USA Road Trip

Plan Ahead, but Stay Flexible

Research attractions, accommodations, and potential stops along the way while still allowing for spontaneity and detours to explore unexpected gems.

The way I recommend doing this is to choose anchor spots to stay and plan a few activities in each that you know you don’t want to miss. Have ideas of other things to do, but don’t over-pack your itinerary so you still have space to discover things!

Essentials to Pack

  • Foldable BackpackCarry essentials like maps, snacks, water, and a first aid kit in a day pack you can easily grab in your car. You don’t want to have to unpack your whole bag looking for something.
  • Reusable Water Bottle : Good for the environment and means you stay hydrated at all times! Most places in the US will have an easy place to fill up your water bottle on a trip.
  • Portable Charger with Fast Charging TechnologyEven if you think you don’t need it because your car has a plug, I still recommend bringing an additional charger. You want to make sure you have the ability to navigate and get help if needed.
  • Sunglasses: While you might think that drinking into the sunset sounds romantic, it’s not easy on your eyes. Get some good sunglasses!
  • Collapsible Cooler: Keep drinks, snacks, and leftovers cold with a collapsible cooler for easy storage and setup when needed. It fits easily in a suitcase!

Subscribe to access my editable road trip packing checklistDiscover what to pack for an international trip here too.

Renting a Car in the US

Renting a car in the United States is a straightforward process, but it’s important to be aware of certain requirements and considerations. Here’s a general guide to help you navigate the car rental process in the U.S.:

  • You must have a valid driver’s license from your home country. International visitors may use their home country’s driver’s license if it’s in English. Otherwise, an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be required.
  • The minimum age to rent a car varies by company and state, but it’s typically 21 or 25. Drivers under 25 may be subject to a “young driver” surcharge. Make sure you check the car rental company you’re using because the fees vary.
  • A credit card in the renter’s name is generally required for the reservation and payment. Debit cards may be accepted, but typically if they accept a debit card, there will be a large hold on your card (over $1000). Even when using a credit card, companies almost always place a hold on funds of around $200. Check the company you are using specifically, though, as fees vary.
  • Major car rental companies in the U.S. include Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and Alamo. Compare prices, terms, and customer reviews before making a reservation. I’ve found the best deals typically by booking through Southwest Airlines or using Turo.
  • It’s advisable to make a reservation in advance, especially during peak travel times. This allows you to secure the type of vehicle you need at the best rate.
  • Car rental companies do not require you to purchase insurance, However, damages can easily be over $1000 even for a small accident. Rental car insurance options include Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Liability Insurance for a daily fee.
  • Most companies provide a car with a full tank of gas and require you to return it with a full tank. Some companies offer a prepaid fuel option, but it’s often more cost-effective to fill up the tank yourself.
  • If multiple people will be driving the rental car, additional drivers may need to be added to the rental agreement. There is usually an extra fee for each additional driver.
  • Pay attention to mileage limits, return policies, and any additional fees. Most traditional rental car companies offer unlimited mileage.
  • Before leaving the rental lot, thoroughly inspect the car for any existing damage. Note and document any scratches, dents, or issues with the rental company to avoid being held responsible.
  • Return the car on time to avoid additional charges. Fill the tank to the agreed-upon level and return the car in the same condition you received it.
  • If needed, you can request a GPS or other additional equipment. Be aware that these may come with extra charges.
Coastal Drives

1. Pacific Coast Highway (California)

  • Route: California State Route 1 (CA-1)
  • Highlights: Stunning coastal views, Big Sur, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Hearst Castle, and the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge.
  • Region: West Coast

For this road trip, I’d recommend starting in either Los Angeles or San Fransisco and driving along the coast from there. You’ll want to spend at least three days in Los Angeles, two days in San Fransisco, and the rest of your time at the stops listed above in between.

The California Coast is absolutely gorgeous, and you get a great mix of cities and beautiful outdoor spaces on this road trip.

2.  The Great Lakes Seaway Trail (New York to Ohio)

  • Route: Follows the shores of Lake Erie and the Niagara River.
  • Highlights: Niagara Falls, charming waterfront towns, lighthouses, and vineyards.
  • Region: Midwest

The trail begins in Massena, New York, near the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and follows the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron. It ends at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. If you’d like to combine this with a city, I’d recommend continuing on the drive to Chicago and flying back from there.

One of the most iconic stops on this road trip is Niagra Falls. But the Great Lakes also have plenty to offer themselves. The trail passes by numerous historic lighthouses, picturesque harbors, and charming waterfront communities. Sodus Point, Oswego, and Fair Haven are among the coastal towns worth exploring.

Photo by Savannah Rohleder on Unsplash

3. New England Coastal Tour (Maine to Connecticut)

  • Route: Boston to Maine, bulk of your 571-mile (or more) journey is on Highway 1
  • Highlights: Niagara Falls, charming waterfront towns, lighthouses, and vineyards.
  • Region: Northeast

The tour can start in Boston, Massachusetts, and extend north along the coast, covering parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and possibly even venturing into Rhode Island or Connecticut.

I’d recommend spending the majority of your week in Maine, which offers some of my favorite coastal views in the US. After a few days discovering the history of Boston, visit coastal towns like Rockport and Gloucester, MA, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before finishing up your time in Maine. I recommend the towns of Portland and Bar Harbor, plus Acadia National Park.

Make time for plenty of seafood, exploring lighthouses, and shopping in cute coastal towns while on this trip!

4. Florida Keys Overseas Highway (Miami to Key West)

  • Route: U.S. Route 1 from Miami to Key West
  • Highlights: Coral reefs, turquoise waters, the Seven Mile Bridge, and the laid-back atmosphere of the Florida Keys.
  • Region: Southeast Coast

Start this road trip by flying into Miami and driving through the Florida Keys. Key West’s unique history, beautiful historic homes, incredible blue water, and amazing nightlife make It the perfect spot for a road trip.

This is one of the most relaxing road trips on this list. The drive is just about 4 hours, but there’s plenty to do in Miami and great spots to stop along the drive to Key West. Don’t skip making time for Dry Tortugas which takes some additional planning but is an amazing national park off the coast of the Keys.

5. Route 101 (California to Washington)

  • Route: Route 101—which becomes California State Route 1
  • Highlights: Amazing coastlines, wineries, national parks, and incredible views of the coastlines.
  • Region: Pacific Northwest

This road trip is a continuation of the earlier Pacific Coast Highway road trip. There are so many options for where to stop along Route 101. Start off in San Fransisco and go through Yosemite, Sanoma, or Napa for some wine, then head to the Oregon Coast for more wineries, stunning coastlines, and then head to national parks like Olympia. Finish of the trip in the Seattle area.

The Pacific Northwest is so beautiful, and it makes the perfect road trip to explore one of the most unique areas of the US, filled with rainforests and beautiful mountains.

Mountains and Outdoors

6. North Arizona Loop (Arizona)

  • Route: Las Vegas or Phoenix through Grand Canyon, Page, and Grand Escalante
  • Highlights: Epic red rock formations, the largest canyon in the world, and sacred Native American sites.
  • Region: Southwest

While this road trip won’t be on a single or famous road, driving around the North Arizona is a great road trip in the USA. Arizona offers a diverse and stunning landscape, making it a perfect destination for a memorable road trip. Here’s a suggested itinerary for an Arizona road trip covering some of the state’s iconic natural wonders and cultural attractions.

Start off in Phoenix or Las Vegas and drive through Sedona, Flagstaff, and on to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After visiting the Grand Canyon, head north to Page and on to the Wave or Coyote Buttes South. You’ll pass through some of the most beautiful places in the American Southwest!

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

7. The Big Five National Parks (Utah)

  • Route: Loop through the five national parks of Utah – Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Park
  • Highlights: Stunning landscapes, unique rock formations, and diverse ecosystems.
  • Region: Mountain West

The term “Big Five” is often used to refer to five iconic national parks located in the state of Utah, USA. These parks are relatively close to each other, and its possible to visit all five in a week, but you’ll want to plan ahead which parks to spend more time in.

Start this trip off in Park City, Utah, or Las Vegas, NV, and loop around to the five different parks. Exploring the Utah Big Five National Parks is a remarkable adventure, offering a diverse array of geological wonders and outdoor activities. Each park has its own unique charm and should be on the bucket list of any nature enthusiast or outdoor adventurer.

8. Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia to North Carolina)

  • Route: Connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
  • Highlights: Scenic mountain views, hiking trails, waterfalls, and the charming town of Asheville.
  • Region: East Coast

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a famous historic drive that goes through two famous sections of the Appalacian Mountains and National Parks – Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains.

I’d recommend starting this trip off in Washington, DC or Ashville, NC (or vice versa) and spending a few days in either city on the ends of this trip. The entire drive takes about 8 hours and is beautiful. Make plenty of time for hiking and exploring the mountains on this trip. There are plenty of scenic stops and day hikes you can do or you can camp for a few days.

Some must see stops are the Natural Rock Slide just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville and bear watching. I’ve seen bears several times in this region!

9. Rocky Mountain National Park Loop (Colorado)

  • Route: A loop through Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Springs, and Denver
  • Highlights: Majestic mountain views, alpine lakes, wildlife viewing, and Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S.
  • Region: Mountain West

A Rocky Mountain National Park Loop is a spectacular road trip that allows you to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is one of those states I could visit over and over again. It’s just stunning.

Begin your journey in Denver and spend some time in Boulder before you head northwest to Estes Park, the gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park. After exploring Estes Park, spend at least two to three days exploring different parts of Rocky Mountain National Park before heading down to Colorado Springs, where you’ll visit the Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon.

10. Glacier and Yellowstone (Wyoming and Montana)

  • Route: Drive through amazing national parks Glacier, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone
  • Highlights: Majestic mountain views, alpine lakes, wildlife viewing, and Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S.
  • Region: Mountain West

A road trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park has got to be on everyone’s list. I’m confident this is one of the top three prettiest places in the United States (it’s up there with California and Arizona for me). This itinerary will take you through three national parks in Montana and Wyoming: Glacier, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone.

I recommend flying into Bozeman for this trip and making a loop down to Wyoming and back up to Northern Montana, where Glacier is located. You can also build in time to make stops at beautiful places in Idaho, like Sun Valley and Stanley.

11. East Coast Fall Foliage (New York to Vermont)

  • Route: Drive through New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont leaf peeping in the fall.
  • Highlights: Colorful leaves, charming farms, amazing fall foods such as apple and pumpkin treats, and charming small colonial towns.
  • Region: Northeast

Fall on the East Coast is stunning, and there’s no better place to experience it than in the Northeast. Autumn in New Hampshire begins in mid-late September and runs through the end of October. By November, the foliage is gone.

For this itinerary, I’d recommend flying into Boston and making a loop through Western New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and back to Boston. The Finger Lakes are a great option for New York, in New Hampshire, go through the White Mountains and in Vermont, make sure you stop in Stowe!

12. Great Alaska Road Trip (Alaska)

  • Route: Drive in a loop from Fairbanks to Seward
  • Highlights: Rugged beauty, soaring mountains, ancient glaciers, and a plethora of wildlife.
  • Region: Alaska

Fly into Fairbanks and visit Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Kenai Fjords, and Anchorage. This road trip should be done in the summer when the weather is clear, and you won’t have a risk of getting caught in the snow.

The great state of Alaska is a majestic wonderland. It’s a faraway place, best known for its rugged beauty, soaring mountains, ancient glaciers, and plethora of wildlife. Considering its vast size and many remote and wild places, the roads and highways connecting Alaska’s top natural attractions are easily accessible, exceptionally maintained, and unbelievably scenic.

Historical Places and Drives
Photo by Yifu Wu on Unsplash

13. Route 66 (Chicago to Santa Monica)

  • Route: Historic U.S. Route 66
  • Highlights: Iconic Americana, quirky roadside attractions, the Grand Canyon, Cadillac Ranch, and the Santa Monica Pier.
  • Region: Midwest to West Coast

A Route 66 road trip is a classic American adventure, offering a nostalgic journey through iconic landscapes and roadside attractions. Start off this trip in Chicago and drive the historic route south through eight states and approximately 2,500 miles; the historic highway is punctuated with pops of kitsch and classic Americana from a bygone era. 

You won’t have time in one week to see everything on Route 66, but you can see the highlights! Major highlights include:

  • St. Louis Arch in Missouri
  • Meramec Caverns in Missouri
  • Route 66 Museum in Oklahoma City
  • Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
  • Santa Fe
  • Old Town in Albuquerque
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Painted Desert
  • Grand Canyon
  • Santa Monica
comfortable harness while on a road trip with your dog
14. Great River Road (Mississippi River)
  • Route: Follows the course of the Mississippi River through multiple states.
  • Highlights: River towns, antebellum plantations, scenic bluffs, and the cultural richness of the Mississippi Delta.
  • Region: Southeast

The Great River Road passes through ten states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The road spans over 3,000 miles from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

While this could also easily be multiple weeks, a few highlights are:

15. The Oregon Trail (Missouri to Oregon)

  • Route: From Oregon to Wyoming, retracing the historic Oregon Trail.
  • Highlights: Historical landmarks, the Columbia River Gorge, Craters of the Moon National Monument, and Grand Teton National Park.
  • Region: Pacific Northwest

The Oregon Trail is a historic route that played a crucial role in the westward expansion of the United States during the 19th century. Today, you can follow parts of the Oregon Trail on a road trip that takes you through scenic landscapes, historic sites, and charming towns.

You’ll pass through five states (Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Oregon) along this drive. This Oregon Trail road trip offers a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, allowing you to trace the footsteps of the pioneers who sought a better life in the American West. Adjust the itinerary based on your interests and the time available for a rewarding and educational adventure.

16. Historic Cities of the East Coast (DC to Massachusetts)

  • Route: DC to Boston along I-95
  • Highlights: Historical landmarks, colonial history, amazing food, and the cities of DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston
  • Region: East Coast

If you want to learn about the origins of the United States as a country or visit some of its biggest and most iconic cities, then this is the right road trip for you.

Start this trip off by spending a few days in Washington, DC, the Capitol of the USA, and driving on to Philadelphia, the original capitol, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. From there, visit New York City and finish off the trip in Boston, where many of the founding fathers and colonial history can be found.

17. Texas Road Trip (Dallas to Houston)

  • Route: A loop through the scenic Texas Hill Country
  • Highlights: Wildflowers in spring, cowboy experiences, German-influenced towns like Fredericksburg, wineries, and natural beauty.
  • Region: South

Texas is a unique state with plenty of places to explore. If you’re looking for a unique US experience, a road trip through Texas is an excellent option. I’d recommend starting this trip off in Dallas or Houston and driving either north or south on I-35 from there. In Houston, explore NASA and the amazing food scene, and explore the Alamo and riverwalk in San Antonio. Make a stop in the Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin, the capitol, or Texas.

From there, head to DallasForth Worth; make sure to stop in Waco, the birthplace of Dr Pepper and Magnolia Farms. Explore cowboy history in Forth Worth and enjoy the big city of Dallas at the end of this trip.

Photo by Josh Collesano on Unsplash

18. Bourbon Trail (Kentucky)

  • Route: A loop through the scenic Texas Hill Country
  • Highlights: 46+ distilleries, beautiful mountains, and charming towns.
  • Region: Southeast

The Bourbon Trail in Kentucky is a fascinating journey that takes you through the heart of America’s bourbon country, allowing you to explore the distilleries, learn about the bourbon-making process, and savor the flavors of this iconic American spirit.

Begin your Bourbon Trail adventure in Louisville, where you can visit the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience or the Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company. Head south to Bardstown, known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.”Drive to Lexington and explore the historic city known for its horse farms and bourbon culture.

Additional towns with Bourbon distilleries to explore are Versailles, Frankfort, Lawrenceburg, Owensboro, and Henderson.

In addition to tasting bourbon, make time to explore the mountains in Kentucky, vibrant history, and city sites along the trail.

Discover epic 1 Week Road Trip USA itinerary ideas. From stunning coastal drives to mountain scenery, and historical landmarks. Start your adventure now!

Discover epic 1 Week Road Trip USA itinerary ideas. From stunning coastal drives to mountain scenery, and historical landmarks. Start your adventure now!

I hope these 1-Week Road Trip USA itinerary ideas inspire you and help you find the perfect one-week road trip to the US! There are so many amazing places to explore in the US.

Meghan

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 comments