There's nothing like a road trip out west.
From the abundant national parks to the mythical ghost-town studded deserts to the cursed, alien-ridden highways and the awe-inspiring vistas of the Pacific Northwest, the American west has a kind of pull that's hard to resist.
And few forms of travel are more hallowed than the American road trip. Short of a cross-country odyssey, the American west might be the most iconic place to hit the road with an eye for the sublime. Here are eight of the best road trips you can take in the American west.
1. Historic Route 66
Historic Route 66
If you're a nostalgia or Americana junkie, you probably already know about Route 66, AKA the Mother Road. The highway from Chicago to Los Angeles is studded with tales of gritty American lore, and today it's a tour of neon signs and kitschy roadside attractions. Be sure to stop at the Miramec Caverns and the Painted Desert, and keep your eyes peeled for ghostly cowboys and fallen spaceships along the way.
2. Utah's Route 12 Scenic Byway
Spanning a route of 123 miles in southern Utah, this road traverses some of America's wildest and most untamed landscapes. Passing through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and ending at Capitol Reef National Park, it's an unforgettable journey through America's magnificent wilderness. Start your trip at Panguach, a small town located along Highway 89, and wind past the marbled arches of Cottonwood Canyon and the hairpin turns of the Hogsback until you reach the open vistas of Capitol Reef.
3. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Highway 101, Oregon
Enjoy this stunning 363-mile trek from Astoria in the northwest corner to Garibaldi in the south. You'll pass by sandy beaches, trading posts, lighthouses, and fishing boats on this nautical adventure, which is an ocean lover's paradise.
4. Pacific Coast Highway, California
Pacific Coast Highway
This infamous road trip will take you alongside Monterey and Big Sur. Placing you between the Pacific and a wall of extraordinary redwoods, passing by waterfalls, purple sand beaches, beach towns, and castles, this trip is an unforgettable adventure we should all take before we die (or before California is engulfed by flames and/or the rising sea).
Travel from San Diego to Seattle, and in between, take in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and whatever calls your name along the way.
5. The Sun Road and Beartooth Highway, Montana
Sun Road and Beartooth Highway
This 50-mile highway divides Glacier National Park and crosses the Continental Divide, offering stunning glimpses of wildlife and the magnificent alpine mountains.
6. The Loneliest Road, Nevada
The Loneliest Road
If you're looking to get in touch with your lone wolf side, Nevada's Loneliest Road—AKA Highway 50—might be the place to do that. Snaking through a barren section of Nevada, the Loneliest Road follows the Pony Express route, so you'll see plenty of skeletal mining camps along with juniper and pine forests, untouched lakes, and some of the darkest skies you can see in the continental U.S.
7. The Southwest: Utah to Arizona
Southwest Road Trip
This 860-mile trip takes you from the Grand Canyon, past the Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, all the way to the vibrant domes, hoodoos, and yes, arches of Arches National Park.
8. West Coast National Parks Road Trip
West Coast National Park
This road trip is more labyrinthine and winding than the others, but how else are you going to see so many national parks in one trip? Start in Los Angeles and pay a visit to Channel Islands, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Yosemite, the Redwoods, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, and the North Cascades before settling in Seattle.