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The 10 Best Road Trips

The 10 Best Road Trips, Ranked By Geotab

By Andrew Cherney

Well, we missed National Road Trip Day because we were, uh, on the road (is it a coincidence the date is pretty much on top of Memorial Day weekend?). Apparently National Road Trip Day was May 24, and to celebrate the event, telematics provider Geotab waded through gobs of TripAdvisor data to rank 50 iconic road trips in the US (as determined by sources like National Geographic and Lonely Planet). Each itinerary was rated for its attractions, accommodations, and places to eat. As big road-trip fans, we were instantly intrigued, even though you can’t help but notice that most of these jaunts are meant for car-based travel, rather than bikes. With that thought in mind, we added some of our own observations and caveats for each entry.

And wouldn’t ya know it, the ol’ bucket-list standby Route 66 ranked a lowly 44th on the list, being topped by lesser-known routes like Vermont’s Scenic Route 100 and Minnesota's Route 61. Which wasn’t all that surprising—as iconic as the Mother Road may be, it’s more about vintage kitsch than sweeping turns. That said, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are the Top 10 Road Trips—plus a couple more—as ranked by Geotab, with copious notes from us.

1. Monument Valley Trails

It’s no surprise to us this dusty classic nabbed the top slot with its rugged red landscapes punctuated by colossal sandstone masterpieces. It also earned the title of “Ultimate Road Trip” on the list, thanks to the awe-inspiring views of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, and the Natural Bridges National Monument. As described, the five-day route heads out on Highway 163 then loops counterclockwise, with detours for Hovenweep National Monument, Blanding (Utah), and the natural bridges. Think John Wayne and Wile E. Coyote, and pack the water bottles. This one gets thumbs-up for motorcycle riding too; the views as well as the roads are absolutely stunning, which probably explains its top overall total score of 92.

2. Yellowstone And The Tetons

For true outdoorsy types, it probably doesn't get much better than the canyons, lakes, and geysers of these two national parks. Geotab allots seven days for this trip, which feels about right. US 89 is a glorious road that eventually takes you into Grand Teton National Park and then again right up to Yellowstone National Park. Nearby is US Route 212, or the Beartooth Highway, a must-ride for motorcyclists; it's consistently rated one of the top motorcycling roads in the country. The route is also highly rated for its natural attractions, and you can check out our latest experience on it here.

3. Mesa Verde And San Juan Mountains

Epic vistas and world-class roads await on this route tracing a good chunk of the San Juan Skyway in Colorado, and that's why—again—we highly recommend it for motorcyclists. Geotab via TripAdvisor give it high scores for its attractions, which include dozens of funky old mining towns, the upscale scenery of Telluride, the classic old West vibe of Durango, and the prehistoric ruins of Mesa Verde National Park, so you'll probably use all seven of the recommended days to take it in. We'd be happy to revisit the nonstop sweepers and hairpins of US Route 160 and the fabled US Route 550—the Million Dollar Highway—from Silverton to Ouray anytime soon.

4. Along The Missouri River

You’d figure the longest river in North America would have some interesting roadways lurking in its shadow, and this would be one, according to the Geotab survey. Starting at the towering Gateway Arch in St. Louis, you then get a feel for the music scene in Kansas City and Omaha before heading northwest across the Great Plains, tracing the path of Lewis and Clark through Kansas and the Dakotas. Most of the attractions are man-made, with rolling roads, lively cities, and historic sites galore. And who doesn’t love themselves some Kansas City barbeque? This seven-day trip got high marks for history and culture as well as accommodations and food, for a total score of 88.3. Giddyap.

5. Blue Ridge Parkway

Maybe we're infatuated with the Blue Ridge Parkway because we've ridden it so many times, but, damn, does this road tickle our fancy. Historically, scenically, and geographically, it's a fascinating trip on North Carolina's finest byway stretching through the lush topography of the Appalachian Mountains. It passes interesting attractions en route, helped along by impressive feats of engineering like the mile-high footbridge at Grandfather Mountain (the tallest in America) and the 1,200-foot-long Linn Cove Viaduct (built so as to flow with the natural environment). See? Impressive. Geotabs gives the five-day ride consistently high marks for attractions, food, and accommodations; about the only downside we can think of are the excruciatingly low speed limits on the parkway. Check out more here.

6. Oregon's Pacific Coast

Geotab uses phrases like “dramatic cliffs,” “vast beaches,” and “lighthouses” to describe this mostly coastal route and that’s totally accurate, but we also wouldn’t call it a great motorcycling road. You’ll pass some amazing scenery and encounter awesome kinks and twists for short stretches along the way, but much of Highway 101 is a straight road that occasionally parallels the water, though there are some fun detour opportunities. And, gawd yes, it is beautiful, but we really don’t think you’ll need seven days to see the highlights. Also, do this ride in summer, and you’ll be creeping along at 40 mph behind RVs and trailers, with few opportunities for passing. Not fun.

7. Colorado's Rockies

This one’s another doozy, and from Denver it’s very nearly a straight shot west into the Rockies with their layers upon layers of mountain riding. You know what that means—lots of turns and old historic mining towns along the way. You really can’t take a bad road around here. Wind lazily through the classic ski town of Breckenridge, hit up historic Leadville, and kick it in laid-back Keystone and all the other cool little burgs along the way while breathing in that fresh Rocky Mountain air and taxing your brake levers the whole time. Highly recommended for motorcycles.

8. Grand Canyon

Anything more classic than a visit to the Big Ditch? Probably not, but plan carefully as you’ll be competing with tour buses and RVs all heading to the same iconic natural landmark in high season. Routes 89 and 180 comprise most of the sections of this trip; 89 is a reliably scenic route running from Flagstaff, Arizona, all the way north to Lake Powell. Of course, it’s good fun running south from Flagstaff as well, so you really can’t go wrong. Detours around the area include portions of Route 66, and Highway 89A then Highway 67 to the North Rim, which offers a less crowded (and more fun to ride) alternative to mobbed Route 64 running into Grand Canyon Village.

9. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

The main attraction in this part of the country is the Wallowa Mountains range, known as the “Alps of Oregon,” with 19 peaks rising above 9,000 feet. Cruising east you’ll run into eye-searing Hells Canyon and the Snake River’s wild waters, before finishing up in charming Baker City where more than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. This horseshoe-shaped route around Oregon’s northeast corner tends to be closed in winter due to heavy snowfall, so make sure you check in with Oregon DOT or local visitor centers before heading out into this sometimes harsh country. Hells Canyon makes for some great riding, but don’t forget to stock up on water out here.

10. Bryce And Zion National Parks

Ground zero for red-rock country means a landscape so ridiculously out of this world that you can't help but troll along in second gear just to catch all the sights. State Route 9 wriggles through fantastic Zion National Park, but the wild terrain and its freaky forms follow you well after leaving the park. Meanwhile, Highway 12 winds through the surreal crimson shapes and shadows of Bryce Canyon before blazing into the cool Dixie National Forest on Highway 24. It's breathtaking stuff that makes you want to pull over after every turn to take it all in. We've made several trips through this area over the years and loved it so much we're going back next week for another go-round.

Bonus: Two Roads To Taos
The survey also called out several trips for their high scores in specific areas. Monument Valley was “the Ultimate Road Trip,” and another one that caught our eye was the Two Roads to Taos route, called out as the “First For Food.” It got the highest TripAdvisor ranking in the food and drink category. The route forms a counterclockwise loop, with the outbound “high road” trip rising through villages and forests to the Taos Plateau before returning via the “low road” on Highway 68 through the rugged Rio Grande Gorge. Taos, New Mexico, itself is a fiercely quirky art town, with spectacular sunsets and a nice variety of restaurants dishing out local and organic food.
As for the methodology, the road trip itineraries were gathered from a variety of sources including Lonely Planet, National Geographic, National Parks Service, tourist boards of individual states, and travel publications. The ratings for attractions, hotels, and restaurants were collected from TripAdvisor by Geotab; the traffic data represents Annual Average Daily Traffic across the roads included in the route. Duration was scored by using Google Surveys to ask 1,000 US residents their preferred road-trip length.
Raw scores for duration, attractions, accommodation, food, and traffic were assigned percent weights, giving each trip a score out of 100. "Good for…" categories were determined based on share of attractions from TripAdvisor. See the full list here and start planning, but be sure to check with the local DOT or national park sites for road closures as well.

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