Well, we missed National Road Trip Day because we were, uh, on the road (is it a coincidence the date is pretty much on top of Memorial Day weekend?). Apparently National Road Trip Day was May 24, and to celebrate the event, telematics provider Geotab waded through gobs of TripAdvisor data to rank 50 iconic road trips in the US (as determined by sources like National Geographic and Lonely Planet). Each itinerary was rated for its attractions, accommodations, and places to eat. As big road-trip fans, we were instantly intrigued, even though you can’t help but notice that most of these jaunts are meant for car-based travel, rather than bikes. With that thought in mind, we added some of our own observations and caveats for each entry.
And wouldn’t ya know it, the ol’ bucket-list standby Route 66 ranked a lowly 44th on the list, being topped by lesser-known routes like Vermont’s Scenic Route 100 and Minnesota's Route 61. Which wasn’t all that surprising—as iconic as the Mother Road may be, it’s more about vintage kitsch than sweeping turns. That said, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are the Top 10 Road Trips—plus a couple more—as ranked by Geotab, with copious notes from us.
It’s no surprise to us this dusty classic nabbed the top slot with its rugged red landscapes punctuated by colossal sandstone masterpieces. It also earned the title of “Ultimate Road Trip” on the list, thanks to the awe-inspiring views of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, and the Natural Bridges National Monument. As described, the five-day route heads out on Highway 163 then loops counterclockwise, with detours for Hovenweep National Monument, Blanding (Utah), and the natural bridges. Think John Wayne and Wile E. Coyote, and pack the water bottles. This one gets thumbs-up for motorcycle riding too; the views as well as the roads are absolutely stunning, which probably explains its top overall total score of 92.
2. Yellowstone And The Tetons
For true outdoorsy types, it probably doesn't get much better than the canyons, lakes, and geysers of these two national parks. Geotab allots seven days for this trip, which feels about right. US 89 is a glorious road that eventually takes you into Grand Teton National Park and then again right up to Yellowstone National Park. Nearby is US Route 212, or the Beartooth Highway, a must-ride for motorcyclists; it's consistently rated one of the top motorcycling roads in the country. The route is also highly rated for its natural attractions, and you can check out our latest experience on it here.
3. Mesa Verde And San Juan Mountains
You’d figure the longest river in North America would have some interesting roadways lurking in its shadow, and this would be one, according to the Geotab survey. Starting at the towering Gateway Arch in St. Louis, you then get a feel for the music scene in Kansas City and Omaha before heading northwest across the Great Plains, tracing the path of Lewis and Clark through Kansas and the Dakotas. Most of the attractions are man-made, with rolling roads, lively cities, and historic sites galore. And who doesn’t love themselves some Kansas City barbeque? This seven-day trip got high marks for history and culture as well as accommodations and food, for a total score of 88.3. Giddyap.
5. Blue Ridge Parkway
Maybe we're infatuated with the Blue Ridge Parkway because we've ridden it so many times, but, damn, does this road tickle our fancy. Historically, scenically, and geographically, it's a fascinating trip on North Carolina's finest byway stretching through the lush topography of the Appalachian Mountains. It passes interesting attractions en route, helped along by impressive feats of engineering like the mile-high footbridge at Grandfather Mountain (the tallest in America) and the 1,200-foot-long Linn Cove Viaduct (built so as to flow with the natural environment). See? Impressive. Geotabs gives the five-day ride consistently high marks for attractions, food, and accommodations; about the only downside we can think of are the excruciatingly low speed limits on the parkway. Check out more here.
6. Oregon's Pacific Coast
Geotab uses phrases like “dramatic cliffs,” “vast beaches,” and “lighthouses” to describe this mostly coastal route and that’s totally accurate, but we also wouldn’t call it a great motorcycling road. You’ll pass some amazing scenery and encounter awesome kinks and twists for short stretches along the way, but much of Highway 101 is a straight road that occasionally parallels the water, though there are some fun detour opportunities. And, gawd yes, it is beautiful, but we really don’t think you’ll need seven days to see the highlights. Also, do this ride in summer, and you’ll be creeping along at 40 mph behind RVs and trailers, with few opportunities for passing. Not fun.
7. Colorado's Rockies
8. Grand Canyon
Ground zero for red-rock country means a landscape so ridiculously out of this world that you can't help but troll along in second gear just to catch all the sights. State Route 9 wriggles through fantastic Zion National Park, but the wild terrain and its freaky forms follow you well after leaving the park. Meanwhile, Highway 12 winds through the surreal crimson shapes and shadows of Bryce Canyon before blazing into the cool Dixie National Forest on Highway 24. It's breathtaking stuff that makes you want to pull over after every turn to take it all in. We've made several trips through this area over the years and loved it so much we're going back next week for another go-round.