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One for the road: Top 5 USA road trips

Big Sur bridge California Ocean Road

The United States is a continent blessed with just about every landscape.

There’s so much to discover from soaring mountains to great plains, from historic sites to wilderness areas, and beaches with golden sands to deserted gold rush towns.

A great way to explore the USA is by taking a road trip. With so many routes to choose from, here’s a selection of the best road trips you can take.

California’s Pacific Coast Highway – State Route One

California State Route One (SR1), also known as Highway One Classic, twists and turns as it hugs the Pacific coast between Dana Point, north of San Diego, to Leggett, just north of San Francisco.
The route is 656 miles long and you can choose to tackle it all or pick the sections that interest you the most.

Whichever you choose be sure to allow plenty of time. There are loads of outlook points along the way for dramatic views of the ocean thundering onto the shore.

One of the most famous sections is Big Sur which runs for about 90-miles between San Simeon and Carmel-by-the-Sea. It includes Bixby Bridge, which is one of the most photographed spots on the drive. Enjoy another ‘million dollar view’ at Ragged Point – here, it’s not just about the blue sky or the sea, you’ll find yourself distracted by the busy, beautiful humming birds.

Overseas Highway – Florida Keys

Over on the Atlantic coastline is the Overseas Highway (US Route 1) which runs through the Florida Keys, not stopping until it gets to Key West. Forty-two bridges gracefully arch over the sea, linking the white sand islets that drip into the ocean like a string of pearls.

Start from Miami, head to Key Largo then just follow the road, named an All-American Road, south. The area is popular for hiking, snorkelling, bird-watching and kayaking. Stop to fish if you want to, seek out sea-food restaurants and enjoy a slice of key-lime pie.

This is a breathtaking drive, 113 miles long. Apparently you can do it in about four hours, but, trust me, you won’t want to be in so much of a rush.

Cascade Loop – Washington State

For a huge variation of places and attractions try the Cascade Loop in Washington State. It’s a 440- mile circular trip from just north of Seattle, through the Cascade Mountain Range to the foothills and valleys beyond.

On the coast you can drive across Deception Pass Bridge and enjoy the natural beauty of Whidbey Island. Watch a massive, modern aircraft being put together on a factory tour of the Boeing Future of Flight centre in Everett.

There’s Leavenworth, an old lumber town that turned itself into an alpine Bavarian town (complete with a Nutcracker Museum). Winthrop is an old Wild West town – if you want to see cowboys (and girls), visit during the ‘49er days’ event in May.

King of Roads – Historic Columbia River Highway – Oregon

Known as the King of Roads, the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon runs alongside the Columbia River Gorge. This highway was America’s first scenic paved road and opened in July 1916. Designed with tourists in new-fangled automobiles in mind, the plan was to open up as many scenic vistas as possible. The curvaceous 72 mile road wove its way, often very dramatically, between Troutdale (just east of Portland) and The Dalles. Gradually bigger cars meant larger roads were needed and the highway fell into disrepair – until 2006 when large sections of the road were restored.

It’s now looking good again, it runs through tunnels blasted out of rock, there are culverts, bridges, viaducts and figure of eight loops. You will pass 77 bridges, countless waterfalls and endless photo-opportunities.

Highway to the Sky – Trail Ridge Road – Colorado

For one jaw-dropping view after another, try U.S. Highway 34, the Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

This is the highest continuous paved road in the US and was completed in 1933. Known as the ‘Highway to the Sky’ it goes from Estes Park to Grand Lake, and is 48 miles long with a section that climbs above the treeline. Stopping places along the way include Many Parks Curve which looks over Bighorn Mountain and Fairview Curve with views over the wonderfully named Never Summer Mountains.

At Milner Pass you’ll come across the Continental Divide. Running north to south along the crest of the mountains, it’s east meets west with attitude (and altitude); rivers on the west side will flow into the Pacific Ocean, rivers on the east will find their way into the Gulf of Mexico.

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