It’s not too soon to start thinking about Spring road trips!
- 1 It’s not too soon to start thinking about Spring road trips!
- 2 Joshua Tree National Park, California
- 3 Miami to Key West, Florida
- 4 Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- 5 Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana
- 6 Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon
- 7 Rapid City to Badlands National Park, South Dakota
- 8 New York, New York to Cape May, New Jersey
- 9 New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- 10 San Antonio to Austin, Texas
- 11 Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona
- 12 Monterey to San Luis Obispo, California
- 13 Looking for more ideas for spring road trips?
We’re guessing many RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers are doing that very thing. Assuming the COVID-19 travel restrictions start to ease up soon, we have some great spring road trips to suggest for you after this long winter comes to an end!
But when it comes to mapping out your springtime road trips, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out where to go.
Rest assured, there’s something for everyone, whether you prefer scenery (mountains, deserts, forests, plains, or coastal views) or historic sites, food, or wineries.
With some help from Travel+Leisure, here’s a list of 11 great road trips to consider as soon as the weather warms up.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
The scenic drive through Joshua Tree National Park covers about 70 miles if you drive straight through, but it’s recommended that you plan on spending at least four hours because you’ll want to take detours for enjoying panoramic views, climbing on massive rock formations, strolling through the cactus garden, marveling at an oasis, and finding the perfect Joshua Tree for your photos.
Abundant rain can lead to a good season for wildflowers.
Drive East on I-10 for about an hour to Cottonwood Springs Road (exit 168) and the park’s south entrance. Your first stop will be the Visitor Center, and then on through the Colorado Desert environment, around sea level. You’ll see ocotillo featuring tall branches tipped by bright red blossoms.
Of course, you must see the “tree” that gave the park its name, coined by early Mormon settlers who likened its branches to arms outstretched in prayer.
Miami to Key West, Florida
Covering about 150 miles, take US-1 south, heading through historic Coconut Grove, past the University of Miami, and on along either South Dixie Highway (US-1) or Ronald Reagan Turnpike (toll road), past the farms of Homestead to Florida City and US-1 South, which turns into the Overseas Highway.
Start at Mile Marker 126 and count down the distance to Key West. Key Largo will be the northernmost of the Keys and offers a place to call your first stop.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the country, offers, among other things, snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass-bottom boat tours. Islamorada begins in the middle Keys and is a favorite of fishing fans and a place to browse for souvenirs.
Marathon Key, actually 13 islands, is known for loggerhead turtles and its Dolphin Research Center. South of Marathon, US-1 crosses the Seven Mile Bridge linking Marathon with the Lower Keys.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Seventy-five miles from the heart of Washington, D.C. lies an oasis that’s as serene as the D.C. metro is crowded. Shenandoah National Park has more than 500 miles of trails.
Many of the trails take you through miles and miles of quiet and peaceful wilderness. Other trails take you to beautiful waterfalls or stunning viewpoints overlooking the trees and the Appalachian Mountains in the distance.
The park sits on 200,000 acres of protected land. It allows back-country camping for the truly adventurous. Up for a challenge? Make this one of your spring road trips.
Take the 8-mile hike up Old Rag Mountain, a popular route because of the stunning views at the peak. You can camp in one of four campgrounds during every season except winter.
If you want to backcountry camp, you’ll need to get a free permit. Be sure to check out this RV Lifestyle report for more details on RVing in the area.
Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana
Separated by a mere 100 miles, it’s possible to visit them both with one spring road trip. Of course, truly exploring the parks would require at least a few days, but still, you might want to take advantage of this two-for-one vacation.
Grand Teton National Park, at about 300,000 acres, is near the Wyoming town of Jackson. Just north, Yellowstone National Park covers over two million acres. Yellowstone is a favorite destination of ours, so please be sure to check out our extensive coverage here.
Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon
After dining on seafood, strolling through Pike Place Market, and seeing the sights of Seattle, head southwest towards the Oregon coast and the town of Astoria.
This spring road trip begins on I-5 and is about 180 miles, passing enormous pine trees, green forests, and quaint towns, taking about five hours until you cross the four-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River into Oregon to enter Astoria.
Set out from Astoria along US-101 heading south along Oregon’s coast, and take advantage of many stops along the way at observation points, towns, state parks, beaches, or simply to enjoy breathtaking views of rugged coastline and crashing waves.
Rapid City to Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Rapid City is a great spring road trip destination with art galleries, life-size bronze sculptures of presidents, restaurants, and historic sites. It’s also the gateway to Mount Rushmore, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Badlands National Park. Fossil beds, rugged mountains, wildlife, and striking rock formations create a unique environment.
The park is 75 miles east of Rapid City, and South Dakota Route 44 is the scenic road through open prairie, farms, small towns, and ranches along Rapid Creek, a tributary of the Cheyenne River. You’ll drive through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland before reaching the entrance to Badlands National Park, two miles north of the town of Interior on Highway 377.
From there, the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD-240) takes you through the park along 31 miles of stunning scenery that includes buttes, cliffs, spires, and overlooks where you’ll be amazed by the stretch of the landscape before you.
Plan to spend several hours to experience the varied terrain and scenic beauty of the park. Hike one of the many trails and stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to learn more. Travel+Leisure recommends you don’t leave without a stop at Pinnacles Overlook, especially striking at sunset. For your return to Rapid City, take SD-240 north to the town of Wall and then head northwest on I-90 for a quicker route.
New York, New York to Cape May, New Jersey
After you’ve had your fill of the best pizza and bagels in NYC, hit the road by heading south along the Jersey Shore. You’ll likely leave the city via the Holland Tunnel to cross under the Hudson River to New Jersey.
Stay on Route 78 and then take I-95 after you cross Newark Bay. After Perth Amboy, take the Garden State Parkway for a more scenic drive closer to the coast. You’ll then be out of the city.
This entire spring road trip route is around 160 miles, and you’ll pass through some well-known beach towns that are worth a jaunt off the Parkway, so allow plenty of time.
There’s Asbury Park, where Bruce Springsteen got his start, and other beach towns. Long popular as summer getaways are Belmar, Spring Lake, Point Pleasant, and towns on Long Beach Island, a narrow barrier island that parallels the coast.
For a more scenic route closer to the ocean, take Route 9 when it branches off around Toms River. After Atlantic City, you’ll find Cape May, which offers Victorian-style homes, quaint cottages, boutiques, galleries, and history dating back to the 1600s.
New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana
After you’ve had your fill of New Orleans, think about a spring road trip to Louisiana’s capital. It’s only about 110 miles, but with so much history and beauty along the way, plan on making it a full day trip.
Take I-10 west out of town, and after about an hour, you’ll reach an interesting stop, Destrehan Plantation, said to be the oldest plantation house in the area. Tours are available.
From there, take I-310 south to LA-18, a scenic road that hugs the Mississippi, curving along with it to Evergreen Plantation, about an hour away. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the complex covers 37 buildings, including 22 slave cabins.
A walking tour is available, though reservations advised.
Continue on scenic LA-18, and stop along the way at cemeteries, churches, and picturesque places that catch your eye. Cross the river at Route 70 after White Hall and take the I-10 north for about an hour to Baton Rouge.
San Antonio to Austin, Texas
Ah, San Antonio in April! Don’t miss Fiesta Days for parades, flowers, food, and entertainment, but the city is fun all the time, especially in springtime. Head north on I-10 out of the city, and then west on I-410 to TX-16 north (Bandera Road) for a scenic drive through Hill Country.
The town of Bandera, home to dude ranches and farms, was once a center for cattle drives, thus its title as “Cowboy Capital of the World.” From there, head north on TX-173 and TX-16 to Fredericksburg, a Texas city with a German heritage dating back to its first settlers in the mid-1800’s. Wineries and authentic German cuisine make this an attractive stopping point.
If you have time, stop in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to see its pink granite dome and striking rock formations.
Austin is about 80 miles east on US-290, but if there’s time for one more detour on your spring road trip here, you might want to visit Pedernales Falls State Park just six miles north of US-290 about halfway to Austin. Known for entertainment, food, and nightlife, Austin is called the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
When it’s time to leave, you can take a direct route back to San Antonio on I-35 south, making the trip in under two hours.
Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona
Spring is lovely in Phoenix, with April temperatures in the mid-80’s and heading higher as summer nears. Flagstaff, at 7,000 feet of elevation, sees cooler temperatures in the low 60’s during Spring.
This spring road trip drive begins on I-17 north through the Sonoran Preserve and continues through the desert landscape for nearly one hundred miles before reaching the suggested stop of Montezuma Castle National Monument.
These well-preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings were the homes of the Sinagua people for over 400 years. Continue northeast on I-17, then take AZ-179 north to Sedona along the Red Rock Scenic Byway, about seven miles of stunning scenery that includes rugged sandstone rock formations tinted red by the presence of iron.
Spend some time in the small town, explore the shops and restaurants, or hike among the rocks to feel the energy some refer to as vortexes.
Take AZ-89A north towards Flagstaff, but don’t miss Slide Rock State Park, especially during wildflower season. In a bit more than 30 minutes, you’ll arrive in Flagstaff, set in the world’s largest Ponderosa Pine forest.
the historic downtown on a walking tour and rest there for the night before heading back to Phoenix or on to Grand Canyon National Park, Wupatki National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, or one of the other national or state parks accessible from the gateway of Flagstaff.
Monterey to San Luis Obispo, California
Travel+Leisure says no list of scenic spring road trips would be complete without one of the most beloved — California’s Big Sur and Highway One. Reopened in 2018 after damage from a mudslide, the famed trip takes drivers along the state’s central coast between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains for 90 miles of breathtaking views. We begin in Monterey, about two hours south of San Francisco.
If there’s time to spend in Monterey, consider the 17-Mile Drive that will take you around the peninsula for both coastline and inland landscapes, world-famous golf courses, pine forests, fabulous homes, and the iconic Lone Cypress. Stop at the Cypress Point Lookout for a view of the coast and the Point Sur Lighthouse.
Join Highway One in Carmel for your drive south along Big Sur. You’ll come to the Bixby Creek Bridge, where there are turnouts for safe parking perfect for taking photos. The highway continues past Hearst Castle in San Simeon and on to the college town of San Luis Obispo, past wineries, beaches, cliffs, and all the way to Los Angeles and beyond.
Looking for more ideas for spring road trips?
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
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