6 Less-Traveled U.S. Road Trips Worth the Drive

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Everyone loves a good road trip — the scenic views, the custom playlists, the local landmarks and stops along the way. But once you’ve driven historic Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, what’s next? Here are six road trips in the U.S. that are a little less traveled but still worth the drive. They vary in length and they’re all over this country — from New England all the way to Alaska.

Boston to Rockport, Massachusetts

View of Rockport, located at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula.
Credit: DenisTangneyJr / iStock

While only about 40 miles in length, the drive from Boston to Rockport is a charmer, journeying along the rugged coastline and past picturesque seaside towns. Along the way, you can stop in Salem to learn more about the city’s haunting past, and Peabody for its fantastic Peabody Essex Museum. Further north, Marblehead is a gorgeous, 18th-century village with a yacht-filled marina, while Gloucester, a fishing town with well-known beaches and whale-watching tours, looks like a movie set. (A Perfect Storm, the nonfiction book and hit movie, actually takes place in Gloucester.)

Your final destination is the postcard-perfect town of Rockport, which offers galleries, a bookstore, excellent restaurants, and traditional candy shops near the iconic Bradley Wharf. Pack a picnic and visit nearby Halibut Point State Park, featuring rocky beaches with views of Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire.

Wisconsin Highway 57

Winding Road at Autumn in Door County of Wisconsin.
Credit: Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

Wisconsin’s Door County has been dubbed the “Cape Cod of the Midwest” — for good reason. This idyllic stretch along the coast of Lake Michigan features historic lighthouses, too many beaches to name, fish shacks, and numerous parks offering hikes with sweeping lake vistas. To fully explore the region, begin your journey in Milwaukee and travel 191 miles north on scenic Wisconsin Highway 57.

Highlights on the trip include the town of Gills Rock, where divers can explore infamous shipwrecks, and the town of Sturgeon Bay, which is home to both vineyards and breweries. Nature buffs will love Whitefish Dunes State Park, which offers a trail that highlights locally unearthed fossils, and Newport State Park, Wisconsin’s only wilderness-designated state park featuring thousands of forested acres.

Austin to Marfa, Texas

Old car in Marfa, Texas in front of a white house.
Credit: luana rigolli / iStock

A slightly different take on a traditional Texas trek, the route from the Texan capital to the artsy desert colony of Marfa, near Big Bend National Park, starts with lonely stretches of Texas highway (U.S. 290 and I-10) that feature big sky views. Stop in the historic German settlement town of Fredericksburg for a tasting at one of the many local wineries, or hike the famous Enchanted Rock — an ancient, pink limestone mound considered sacred by Native Americans and located just 20 minutes from downtown Fredericksburg.

End the trip in Marfa and be sure to see Prada Marfa — an art installation modeled after the designer brand’s storefront in the middle of the desert. Marfa is also home to a series of art exhibits and galleries, in addition to a diverse dining scene including coffee roasteries, Southwestern taco stands, and backyard Texan barbecue joints. And because it’s in the middle of nowhere, Marfa offers incredible hiking across the rugged desert landscape, wilderness ranches with horseback riding tours, and ample opportunities for stargazing. You can also see the famous Marfa Lights — an unexplained series of blue, red, and white lights that have randomly appeared in the night sky since the 19th century.

Seward to Anchorage, Alaska

A roadside shot of the Seward Highway in Alaska on a spring evening with the Chugach mountains in the background.
Credit: Joesboy / iStock

Alaska’s Seward Highway was designated an All-American Road by the U.S. government, which means this 127-mile stretch is as much a destination as it is a means of transportation. Beginning in Anchorage, the scenic highway runs south along the Pacific Coast across the Kenai Peninsula before reaching Resurrection Bay and the port city of Seward.

Just outside Anchorage, Potter’s Marsh offers up-close views of migratory birds and soaring eagles. Further along the route, Bird Creek is a fishing hotspot where sportsmen catch wild salmon and spectators can watch anglers and otters from a series of viewing platforms. Nearby, Bird Point is famous for beluga whale sightings, while the vacation town of Girdwood is a gorgeous destination for seeing the wildflowers and flower gardens bloom during Alaska’s long stretches of summer daylight. Turnagain Pass and Canyon Creek are ideal for winter sports enthusiasts, and finally, the charming town of Seward offers fresh seafood, boat tours, and kayak rentals to finish the Alaskan adventure of a lifetime.

Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia

Americas's Historic East road.
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This road trip is a must for history buffs. Running 180 miles from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Charlottesville, Virginia, the route is both a scenic byway and a national heritage area. It offers access to the homes of eight U.S. Presidents and 13 national parks, as well as a glimpse at historic sites from American history, including Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields.

Start at the Gettysburg National Military Park and Museum to learn more about the infamous battle and former President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Heading south, stop in the charming city of Frederick, Maryland to visit the home of Francis Scott Key before journeying to Leesburg, Virginia, to visit the Marshall House, home of General George C. Marshall — architect of the Marshall Plan and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. In Culpeper, Virginia, you can tour the Brandy Station Battlefield, the site of the largest cavalry battle in North American history, as well as James Madison’s estate and tomb. Finally, end the epic, historic road trip at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s famous estate outside Charlottesville. The route offers easy access to Washington, D.C., as well, in addition to wineries throughout northern Virginia, orchards, and plenty of hiking or horseback-riding trails.

Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway, Oregon, to Cascade Loop, Washington

High viewpoint of the North Cascades Scenic Byway in Washington State on an overcast day.
Credit: Melissa Kopka / iStock

Save this trip for summer because you won’t want to miss driving the stunning Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway to Bend, Oregon, which is only open from April to November. The 66-mile stretch traverses Deschutes National Forest and travels around deep-blue lakes, past the dramatic, snow-capped peaks of the Cascades Range. From Bend, you can continue along the full Cascade Loop, a scenic, 440-mile circuit that encompasses several picturesque towns in the Pacific Northwest, nestled among acres belonging to orchards and wineries, ponderosa pine forests, and rocky cliffs.

Highlights along the way include the historic Mukilteo Lighthouse, the antique shops of Snohomish, Washington, and the coastal city of Everett, Washington, where visitors can tour a massive Boeing manufacturing facility. Further along, the Iron Goat Trail offers over six miles of hiking along decommissioned Great Northern Railroad tracks. A stretch of Highway 2 near the small town of Gold Bar, Washington, also boasts access to four stunning waterfalls. And don’t forget the Bavarian-style resort town of Leavenworth, Washington, to enjoy German beer and bratwursts after a day of outdoor activities.

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