Charles Kuralt once echoed John Steinbeck by writing, “The interstate highway system is a wonderful thing. It makes it possible to go from coast to coast without seeing anything or meeting anybody. If the United States interests you, stay off the interstates.” RV traveling is more satisfying when you stick to the 2-lane roads as much as possible. Where Interstate highways offer a faster way to get between points, they lack the scenic beauty of America’s open roads.
There are Many Reasons To Avoid Interstates
Interstate highways are indispensable if you have vehicle problems or need major shopping areas, but the back roads and scenic byways offer quite a few advantages and are seldom far from the major roadways. Some of the best reasons to avoid the interstates include:
- Traffic Congestion – Because they run alongside the Interstate system state roads and U.S. highways have a lot less traffic and tractor-trailers are a rare occurrence. If you are trying to avoid rush hour and large commercial vehicles, the 2-lane roads are ideal for RV drivers.
- Lack of Scenic Stops – As mentioned, you can now travel the country without seeing much. Since the RV lifestyle is all about seeing the sights and experiencing localities, RV traveling on the 2-lanes is the way to get to historic markers as well as state and national parks.
- Point-to-Point Travel – The interstates are all about getting you from one location to another in the shortest possible time. Some offer exits into small towns, but many times the villages and burgs that have made America great are secluded from the Interstates. U.S. highways tend to wind through these small towns, where rustic storefronts filled with mom and pop businesses are still the order of the day.
San Simeon and Big Sur
Route 1 along western California widens frequently, but in between, it is a 2-lane road that follows the coastline. The RV parks through Big Sur and San Simeon fill with whale watchers between October and April. You will also find historic sites like Hearst Castle and experience natural features like the Redwood forests. North America’s only elephant seal population is only found along Route 1 in San Simeon, where RV resorts are often the only inhabited areas. Fill your tanks before San Simeon because prices at the coastal resorts are astronomical.
California 89 and 99
Cutting inland above Monterey Bay allows the RV traveler to avoid San Francisco’s heavy traffic. California’s connecting state roads, 89 and 99, widen briefly in places like Redding and Red Bluff but narrow down to 2-lanes as they take you through the northern part of the state. There are beautiful state parks, and Burney, California offers a casino, RV parks, and majestic Burney Falls. The tiny town of Mount Shasta sits a short distance off I-5, but State Road 99 is the town’s Main Street. You will find ample sites for recreational vehicles, world-class skiing, marvel at the backdrop of a towering dormant volcano, and drink from the headwaters of the fabled Sacramento River in the town’s City Park.
Oregon’s Valleys and Badlands
From Newport, Oregon to Boise, Idaho, U.S. 20 is a mostly 2-lane road every RV driver will love. The views are spectacular, and communities like Sisters and Sweet Home are little more than wide spots on the 2-lane road with RV parks, skiing, and recreational opportunities that are one-of-a-kind. Outside of Bend, Oregon, you will cross the Oregon Badlands, a National Park renowned for its high desert ecosystem.
Like most small roads, the 2 lanes give way to larger highways as they pass through larger towns, but those are few and far between, and even the biggest ones take only a few minutes to pass through. U.S. 20 traverses almost every type of terrain, from lowlands in the West to forested mountains, high desert, and plains as you go eastward.
Florida’s A1A is primarily a 2-lane open road following the entire eastern coastline of the state, avoiding both I-95 and U.S.1. For beach lovers, the First Coast Highway should not be missed because it goes through Fernandina Beach, the famous surfing town of Cocoa Beach, and many others. Scenic stops along the way include the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, closeup rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, and the coral reef of Key Biscayne. From Spanish history to world-renowned sport fishing, A1A is a 2-lane road the RV driver will love. Our Content Director used to travel A1A from Juno Beach, FL all the way to Ft. Lauderdale – just for relaxation.
You can rush across Texas on I-10, but that will eliminate many of the best views and locations the state has to offer. A better idea is to take the 2-lane roads across Texas, experiencing winding hills, breathtaking vistas, exotic animal ranches, and quaint communities like Junction, the halfway point between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Texas 105 allows the RV driver to bypass Houston and Austin and connects to other scenic roads. U.S. highways 190 and 290 cross the Texas Hill Country on 2-lanes.
Eventually, westbound RV travel will take you back to I-10, but a majority of western Texas has 2-lane service roads and ranch roads that parallel the interstate and have very little traffic on even the busiest days.
The King’s Road Through Maine
U.S. 1, known as the King’s Road, is a major thoroughfare through the southern states but transforms into a scenic country road as it follows the Atlantic coast through northern Maine. There are plenty of RV parks along the way, and exceptional opportunities to discover everything Maine has to offer. Along the open road, you’ll find beaver dams, taste the state’s famous lobster rolls, stroll rock-strewn beaches, and much more.
The road is wider and more congested in cities such as Saco, but the beauty of locations like Machias makes it worth taking the scenic route. If you want to visit West Quoddy Head, Maine, the easternmost point in the U.S., the King’s Road is the only way to go, and the track eastward from it is little more than a country road.
Which ones have you traveled?
Let us know in the comments or in our social media posts! Which ones do we need to add to this list?
Ready to Plan an RV Trip? Here's the tool we use:
Planning an RV Trip has never been easier than with RV TripWizard. It is a comprehensive tool that Jennifer and I use whenever we are planning a trip. It works seamlessly with all our devices and gives us access to the info we need on where to stop, what camping is nearby and what we should do in an area.
Best of all, you can try it for free to see how it will fit into your trip planning process.
Looking for Expert RV Trip ideas and RV Travel suggestions?
We've written a library of RV Travel books that lay out seven-day guided explorations of scenic areas of the US that we'’ve explored and think would make an excellent RV trip for you.
In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.
You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.
Planning an RV trip can be very time-consuming so that’s why we’ve done the research for you! Just take our guides and use them, we’re sure you’ll have an RV trip for the ages! Instant download. CLICK HERE for information on our RV Travel Guides