5 Scenic Road Trip Routes

5 Scenic Road Trip Routes

These 5 road trip routes offer spectacular views and fun pit stops for the whole family.

By: Kristine D.

Is there any greater freedom than hitting the open road? The scenery whipping by the window, the winding path ahead, the kids asking, “Are we there yet?” and kicking against the back of your seat. OK, as much as I enjoy a road trip, I know they can be challenging when you have kids in tow. So I’ve assembled a list of our family’s top five road trip routes, which offer worthwhile sights and fun attractions that will please every member of your family.

Arizona: Sedona to Page

As you drive the route betweenSedona and Page, Arizona, you’ll navigate through long stretches of landscape where there’s little to see. Considering that I just promised you sights for everyone in the family, I realize this is a strange way to kick off the list. But interestingly, these expanses of bare landscape were fascinating to my two suburban kids. They simply didn’t realize how much they’d gotten used to congestion. To see vast, wide-open land was not only soothing, but it also spawned interesting discussions about life and city planning.

From the red rocks of Sedona to the hues of brown in and around Lake Powell, the landscape is rugged and in places feels almost otherworldly. It also reveals miraculous natural wonders like Lower Antelope Canyon, a stunning, mystical slot canyon located on Navajo land. Make sure to stop at Horseshoe Bend, a dazzling sight that comes with some dizzying heights, including a 1,000-foot drop into the Colorado River. And don’t miss a stop at the Grand Canyon! The south rim is located halfway between Sedona and Page.

Driving Time: Approximately 3 hours

2. California: Eastern Sierra

Steeped in equal parts history and breathtaking wilderness, California’s Eastern Sierra is where Native Americans flourished before the advent of the Gold Rush. Rough and tumble outposts took root, filling with settlers hoping to strike it rich. Telltale signs of these histories still exist today.

Head to Bodie State Historical Park, home to a California gold-mining-era ghost town. Visitors can wander its abandoned streets, peering into windows and peeking into exterior building cracks at remnants of the town’s past. Visit Mono Lake, estimated to be more than 1 million years old. Tufas, calcium-carbonate pillars and knobs of varying heights and sizes, protrude the lake’s surface and stand guard around its shoreline.

Next, head to Mammoth, a wholly appropriate name given the size of the mountains there. No visit would be complete without a ride in the mountain resort’s scenic gondola. After reaching an elevation of more than 11,000 feet and traversing some pretty spectacular landscape, you’ll arrive at one of the most stunning 360-degree views in the state.

If that wasn’t enough awe for you, then check out the Devil’s Postpile, a geological wonder of columnar basalt. Cap off this adventure with a visit to Yosemite National Park. Watch climbers positioned on the granite face from along the road, let the sparkling waters of Tenaya Lake tempt you to skip rocks across its surface, and take in the colorful carpet that is Tuolumne Meadows during the summer months. But the sight that really left us in awe was Half Dome. You can get a great look at the northern side of the massive dome from Olmsted Point.

Driving Time: Approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes

3. Louisiana: New Orleans to New Iberia

If you can tear yourself away from the New Orleans jazz scene and the city’s seemingly constant celebratory nature, an exploration into the heart of French Louisiana is well worth the time. Acadiana is the cultural enclave born of the enduring spirit of the Cajun and Creole people. Trace the history of these two vibrant and colorful groups by visiting either Vermilionville or Acadian Village. Both are living-history experiences that allow visitors to walk through the lives of early settlers. The kids will enjoy hands-on learning experiences at the Children’s Museum of Acadiana.

Another not-to-be-missed destination is the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. Stretching across 14 parishes, it is one of the most culturally rich and ecologically varied regions in the country. Alligators, raccoons and even bears roam the area, while more than 200 species of birds take to the skies. Catfish, shrimp, oysters and crawfish come from the waters in this region.

If your posse is made up of adventurous foodies, then this road trip will be your nirvana. Stop in Breaux Bridge, the legislatively named “Crawfish Capital of the World.” On Avery Island, tour the factory where Tabasco sauce is produced. A foodie culture has sprung up around the world-famous peppery concoction. The Tabasco Culinary Tour showcases the local fare in and around New Iberia. For a three- to four-hour visit, visitors are encouraged to come hungry and ready to try classic Louisiana fixings like gumbo, Boudin sausage, hog’s head cheese and cracklins!

Driving Time: Just under 3 hours


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4. Vermont: Highway 7 from Burlington to Bennington

Set out on this route during the early fall and you’re in for a treat. A kaleidoscope of color awaits as Highway 7 winds its way through beautiful areas like Champlain Lake and the Green Mountain National Forest. This is maple syrup country, and it is full of idyllic settings like covered bridges, historic towns and small townships founded in the 1700s. 

The kids may have different ideas than taking in all of this history, though. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is a 30-minute drive from Burlington. See how the cleverly named line of ice creams are produced, and get closure for a favorite but discontinued flavor by visiting the Flavor Graveyard.

Keeping in the factory theme, stop at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory for a look at how the adorable plush bears are brought to life. If you’re lucky enough to visit during production time, you’ll likely see activity at the cutting station, where the 20 different fur parts needed to make a bear are cut with precision, and the sewing station, where 14 bears are sewn at the same time. Whether or not production is in full swing, your family can conduct some retail therapy in the Bear Shop or create a custom teddy in the Make a Friend for Life Factory.

Driving Time: Just under 3 hours

5. California: Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1)

It does not escape me that two California drives sit at the top of my top five. What can say? I’m a California girl at heart. Seriously, though, it is my humble opinion that no road trip list is complete without including the Pacific Coast Highway, particularly the storied section stretching 147 miles along the coast fromCarmel to Morro Bay.

Rugged beauty with coastal and forest access abound during the 90-mile drive through Big Sur. Stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to take in a breathtaking 80-foot waterfall splashing onto the sand below. Watch gray seals at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Have your camera ready for the many photo ops along the way! The Bixby Bridge arching over Big Sur’s churning surf is a sight to behold. Hearst Castle in San Simeon is a great place to stop, stretch your legs and fend off house envy.

The most picturesque views are located along the Big Sur Highway and San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway. Just be aware that a road trip on the two-lane Highway 1 also comes with hairpin turns, dramatic drop-offs, fog and bikers. (Note: The winter of 2017 took a toll on the Big Sur Highway, temporarily interrupting the coastline with a massive landslide. Crews are working diligently to clear it. It’s always a good idea to check road conditions before you depart to see what has reopened.)

Driving Time: Approximately 3 hours

You may also enjoy:

  1. A Kid-Friendly Guide to New Orleans
  2. 3 Unique Day Trips from Sedona, Arizona
  3. 10 Tips for Visiting Yosemite National Park
  4. Historic Highway 1 – California Family Road Trip

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

Kristine writes for Hilton Mom Voyage and lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house, traveling is a competitive sport. Married to a triathlete, with a soccer star and a baseball player in the house, what else could one expect?

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