U.S. Highway 395: Connecting southern California with the Canadian border, this 1,300-mile scenic drive traverses the high deserts and mountain valleys through a large portion of the picturesque West. The highway runs in a north-south direction through some of the most beautiful, but uncrowded sections of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The best portion is arguably California’s Owens Valley that bisects two major mountain ranges. Stop in the small town of Lone Pine, Calif., where numerous Western movies were filmed nearby. Side trips include Death Valley National Park and Lake Tahoe before stopping in Reno for inexpensive lodging and entertainment. The drive through northern California, Oregon, and Washington passes through small towns and offers great vistas on an uncrowded highway that on three occasions crosses the mighty Columbia River.
Kid stops: Bodie State Historic Park, a ghost town near Bridgeport, Calif.; Virginia & Truckee Railroad train ride from Carson City to Virginia City, Nev.; Reno’s Discovery Museum; Pendleton (Ore.) Family Aquatic Center; Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Pasco, Wash.; Spokane’s Mobius Kids Children’s Museum & Science Center.
Other Road Trips to Consider
U.S. Route 50: Spanning nearly 3,000 miles from coast to coast, the quality of this road trip is neck and neck with U.S. Highway 2. Start in Ocean City, Md., and head west through Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Sacramento. Stop in Mesa Verde National Park along the way. Included is a stretch following the old Pony Express trail across central Nevada that Life magazine called “The Loneliest Road in America.” We have driven it several times and Life magazine had it exactly right.
Natchez Trace Parkway: The parkway is administered by the National Park Service and stretches 444 miles from Natchez, Miss., to just south of Nashville, Tenn. Stop in Tupelo, Miss., and visit the King of Rock and Roll’s birthplace home. Not as scenic a drive as the Blue Ridge Parkway, but still a pleasant two- or three-day road trip through some beautiful country.
Trans-Canada Highway: Lots of time is required to complete this 5,000-mile trip across our northern neighbor. Stretching from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia, the highway crosses all 10 of Canada’s provinces, but none of its three territories. As with U.S. Route 2, it is the western portion, the part through Alberta and British Columbia, that is the most scenic stretch. We spent two summers in Newfoundland and found it to be like no other place we have visited and truly a world of its own. We highly recommend it as a vacation destination.
U.S. Route 1 (Connecticut to Maine): This 800-mile stretch of Route 1 follows the Atlantic Coast of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, ending at Fort Kent on the Canadian border. It is the rugged Maine coast that makes this such a great road trip. Acadia National Park and Roosevelt Campabello International Park are each a short distance off Route 1. Take time to stroll through Camden, Maine, a picture-perfect New England village.
U.S. Route 66: OK, “America’s Main Street” is on nearly every traveler’s bucket list so we include it, but keep in mind that much of the original “Mother Road” is long gone. A considerable portion of the highway that stretched nearly 2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica has been covered by a series of interstates. Still, buildings and sites remain to be savored and there is the feeling of following in the footsteps of Tod and Buz. Stay overnight in Holbrook’s (Ariz.) Wigwam Motel. Route 66 Museum in Kingman’s (Ariz.) old powerhouse building is a fun stop. Don’t miss the beautifully restored Harvey House in Barstow, Calif. Acquire a good guidebook because much of the original road can be difficult to locate.
This article by David and Kay Scott was published in USA Today and USA Weekend and is reprinted with permission of Gannett Company, Inc. that holds the copyright. The Scotts live in Valdosta and are the authors of “Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges” (Globe Pequot).