Been there, done that. This is what many people think when another road trip is proposed. That’s due, in part, to the fact that so many of the obvious choices — like Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway — have become so popular they are practically cliches. Fortunately, they aren’t your only options. There are, in fact, many roads are that are considered “best-kept secrets.”
So, if you are truly a “path less taken” type of person, one of these lesser-known trails is likely just what you’ve been looking for. If you find yourself inspired to hit the open road, share this with any friends who may want to go along for the ride.
1. Badwater Road, California
From Furnace Creek to Shoshone, this paved road covers about 72 miles. Badwater Road is one of the main roads that pass through Death Valley and possesses many of the most popular attractions the Park has to offer.
Some of the most popular stops along the way include Mushroom Rock and Devil’s Golf Course. One of Death Valley’s most renowned locations is the Artist Palette, which—as its name implies—is a spectacular area of multi-colored beauty. Perhaps the most famous areas, however, is Badwater Basin itself, which at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest spot in the western hemisphere, as well as one of the world’s hottest places.
2. Barbecue Trail, South Carolina
One of the many locations that boasts the “World’s Best BBQ,” South Carolina is actually where the popular cooking style began.
The South Carolina Barbecue Map allows travelers to plan their road trip to visit as many of the 250 BBQ eateries in the area as they want. This is the dream day-trip for those who consider themselves barbecue connoisseurs or — the more contemporary title — foodies.
3. Big Bend Scenic Loop, Texas
From Presidio, through western Texas along the Mexican border to the Rio Grande Village, this trip follows a 250-mile route.
The loop passes through the rugged Big Bend Ranch State Park, which has over 300 species of birds. Many people, however, spend their time experiencing the desert wilderness with horseback riding, ATV riding, biking and hiking, fishing, rafting, and canoeing.
4. Bourbon Trail, Kentucky
Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Maker’s Mark are but a few of the bourbons that you can taste at distilleries along the trail. This trip connects Lousville, Bardstown, and Frankfort on the Bourbon Trail.
Besides learning the history and manufacturing processes of these famous spirits, there are many other activities you can enjoy. Horseback riding, hiking, ATV riding, ziplining, spelunking in caves, or taking a riverboat cruise are just a few of the other options for your enjoyment.
5. Colorado Scenic Byway
Wolves, bears, and eagles are just a few of the animals you can expect to spy during your drive. Additionally, you can fish, boat, or hike, and visit the Hot Sulphur Springs to indulge yourself at the natural spa.
6. Dalton Highway, Alaska
This is a trek for the fearless. A mostly gravel road with few stop-offs, it is frequented by many over-the-road 18-wheel trucks and several posted warnings of bears, falling rocks, and avalanches.
The 414-mile road passes from Fairbanks to Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean. The wildlife in this area includes caribou, wolves, and grizzly bears. Since the journey is potentially dangerous, it is a good idea to bring food and water. There is no cellphone service on this remote route.
7. Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway, Utah
Available from spring to autumn, the 480-mile circular Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway starts at the Colorado state line in the village of Dinosaur.
The journey passes by several dinosaur museums including Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center, as well as various national parks, such as the famous Arches National Park. Then, you join the Colorado Scenic Byway to complete the three- to four-day road trip.
8. Eureka, California to Coos, Oregon Road Trip
The 250-mile trip along the Oregon coastline from Eureka to Coos rivals the beauty of the renowned Pacific Coast Highway. Starting in the fabulous Redwood Empire of California, it passes sand dunes, white sandy beaches, and a familiar forested area where part of the movie “Jurassic Park” was filmed.
Along the way — after viewing the giant redwoods — you can visit historic towns and aesthetically pleasing wineries, as well as areas to hike, fish, or kayak.
9. Hana Coastline, Maui, Hawaii
The winding 52-mile drive to Hana begins in Kahului and follows the Maui coastline. The road is nearly at the edge of a cliff with thick jungles and steep cliffs towering over it on one side and the black-sand beaches of the ocean on the other.
Along the drive, you will be presented with dramatic waterfalls and rock pools. Fresh fruit is available from roadside vendors. To add to the enchantment, visit Pua’a Ka’a State Park, which is on the way. Although this trip is one that requires a bit more planning than some, it is definitely worth it.
10. Lake Michigan Gold Coast, Michigan
Miles of white, sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, lakeside wineries, and historic villages make up this. Beginning at Grand Rapids, the drive up the Gold Coast is one of the best-kept secret road trips.
The drive from Michigan City, which is just east of Chicago, to Mackinaw City is about 550 miles when you take the coastal road. With various activities along the way, such as fly-fishing and hiking through the forest, this tour can take as long as you want it to.
11. Montana to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park — one of the most magnificent locations in the country — spans 135 memorable miles. The trip begins at the geothermal hot springs in Bozeman, Montana. The vast skyline in the panoramic scenes that you pass provides constant photo opportunities.
There are several trails along the way with waterfalls and wildlife abundantly present. Look for black and grizzly bears, as well as the prevalent moose and bison. Your journey ends at the historic Old Faithful geyser in Wyoming. Approximately once an hour, the geyser shoots 8500 gallons of water up to 145 feet in the air. It is truly a climactic completion to the epic road trip.
With dangerous Hawaiian and Alaskan passes along with the laid-back Bourbon and Barbecue trails, it is apparent that you haven’t seen all this country has to offer. From beaches and waterfalls to wildlife and wilderness, the U.S. Landscape is a feast for the eyes. Please share with any friends and family members who like to be reminded of the vastness of this land “from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters.” Journeying along these “roads less traveled by” truly can make “all of the difference.”