Highway Adventures: Memorable Road Trips for the 50+ Explorer

50 Plus Hub Research Team

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Road tripping allows you to set your own agenda, wander backroads, and discover places at your own pace. After 50, you finally have the time to explore this vast country. Cross some classic routes off your bucket list or venture into the unknown – the open highway awaits!

Iconic American Road Trips

Some journeys are so iconic, they must be experienced at least once. These classic road trips should top every 50+ traveler’s list:

Route 66

Historic Route 66 connected Chicago to Los Angeles along 2,400 miles of two-lane highways from 1926 until 1985 when it was decommissioned. Trace its path today driving segments like the Grand Canyon to Santa Monica. Highlights include retro diners, neon signs, and kitschy Americana.

Pacific Coast Highway

This epic drive down the California coastline provides nonstop Pacific Ocean vistas. Cruise along beaches, cliffs, lighthouses, and charming coastal towns like Big Sur and Carmel. Try to spend multiple days – rush and you’ll miss the magic.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

This 50-mile feat of engineering winds through the heart of Glacier National Park in Montana, crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet. Expect jaw-dropping scenery around every curve. Aim to travel in July-September when the road is fully open.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Traversing mountain ridges across North Carolina and Virginia, the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is America’s longest national park unit at 469 miles. Stop frequently to hike, absorb vistas, and explore Appalachian towns.

Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys

Hop off the mainland to island-hop across 42 bridges linking Key Largo to Key West, Florida. This 113-mile route offers relaxing coastal vibes, delicious seafood, and picture-perfect sunsets.

Epic Scenic Drives

Looking to feast your eyes on nature’s beauty? Add these stunning drives to fully experience diverse landscapes across America:

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

This high-altitude road tops out at 12,183 feet above sea level in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Enjoy breathtaking vistas of craggy peaks and alpine tundra. Have your camera ready – bighorn sheep, elk and moose sightings are common.

Columbia River Gorge

Follow the mighty Columbia River past gushing waterfalls like Multnomah Falls, sheer cliffs, and rows of apple orchards. Make stops in Hood River and The Dalles for whitewater rafting, windsurfing, and wine tasting.

Road to Hana, Maui

Hawaii’s most famous drive offers lush jungle scenery, dramatic seascapes, and over 50 one-lane bridges. With 620 curves and turns packing into 52 miles, it’s less about destination than enjoying the unforgettable journey.

Top Road Trips for Nature Lovers

Immerse yourself in incredible landscapes and potential wildlife sightings driving these nature-filled roads:

Wildlife Loop, Yellowstone

Spot bison, bighorn sheep, elk, bears, coyotes and more against the backdrop of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. Early morning and dusk are best for catching animals.

Badlands National Park

South Dakota’s rugged Badlands stretch across 244,000 acres of otherworldly scenery. Spot bison and bighorn sheep roaming the prairies, canyons and buttes. Set up a telescope at night – this Dark Sky Park provides phenomenal stargazing.

Haleakalā Highway – Maui, Hawaii

This winding 36-mile ride takes you nearly 10,000 feet up a dormant volcano through multiple climate zones. Watch for endangered Nene geese and the elusive silver sword plant which grows nowhere else.

Monterey to Big Sur – California

Cruise along the rocky Pacific Coast passing elephant seals, sea otters and migrating whales (seasonal). Hike among towering redwoods and waterfalls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Scenic Train Journeys

Experience nostalgic rail travel through scenic landscapes across North America:

The Canadian Rocky Mountaineer – Watch peaks, glaciers and rushing rivers while traveling between Vancouver, Banff, and Calgary. Dome seating offers 270o mountain views.

Verde Canyon Railroad – Ride along a dramatic canyon stretch of the Verde River near Sedona, Arizona. Peer down 200 feet from open-air cars.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad – Historic coal-fired steam locomotives chug across mountain passes and high desert on 64-miles of track between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado.

Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic – Follow the ocean from Anchorage to Seward with whales, glaciers and mountains in view. Combine with an interior route like Denali for a comprehensive Alaskan train tour.

Napa Valley Wine Train – Enjoy a delicious multi-course meal paired with wines while taking in lush vineyards and rolling hills. Definitely treat yourself to first-class!

Cross-Country Road Trip Ideas

Epic journeys spanning the entire length of the U.S. allow you to fully appreciate this country’s diversity. Unique routes to try:

Southern Transcontinental Route

Link Miami and Los Angeles driving beneath Spanish moss, through Cajun country, across the Texas plains, and over desert landscapes. Highlights include Everglades National Park, New Orleans’ French Quarter, music spots in Austin and Memphis, Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon.

Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys

Hop off the mainland to island-hop across 42 bridges linking Key Largo to Key West, Florida. This 113-mile route offers relaxing coastal vibes, delicious seafood, and picture-perfect sunsets.

Million Dollar Highway – Colorado

This adventuresome drive through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains thrills with steep drop-offs, scenic peaks, and historic mining towns like Silverton, Ouray and Telluride.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Leisurely drive 444 miles along a historic Native American trail from Nashville to Natchez passing ancient earthwork mounds, cypress swamps, and simple log cabins along the wooded path.

Cabot Trail – Nova Scotia

Cruise along the rocky Canadian coastline through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Stop to hike forest trails, whale watch, and sample authentic east coast music and seafood.

Utah’s Scenic Byways 12 and 24

Marvel at the rock formations, canyons, arches, and sweeping landscapes of Utah’s iconic national parks interconnected by these two breathtaking byways.

Columbia River Gorge – Oregon/Washington

Follow the mighty Columbia River past gushing waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and rows of apple orchards. Make stops in Hood River and The Dalles for water sports and wine tasting.

Great River Road – Mississippi

Explore Mississippi River history and lively Delta music scenes driving from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca through 10 states down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Turquoise Trail – New Mexico

This backroad linking Santa Fe and Albuquerque winds past the Cerrillos Hills, Madrid’s quirky galleries, and the mining town turned artist colony of Cerrillos.

Hawaii’s Road to Hana

Hawaii’s most famous drive offers lush jungle scenery, dramatic seascapes, and over 50 one-lane bridges. With 620 curves and turns packing into 52 miles, it’s less about destination than enjoying the unforgettable journey.

The Jazz Track – Louisiana

Follow the Mississippi River south from New Orleans through Cajun country to jazz-filled Baton Rouge stopping to hear live blues and sample fiery Cajun dishes.

Highway 61 – Minnesota

Cruise below towering bluffs, through vineyards, blues hotspots, and river towns traveling from Duluth to Wyoming along the Mississippi River.

Trail of the Ancients – Colorado/Utah

This Four Corners region loop provides a deep immersion in native cultures past and present with ancient ruins, cliff dwellings, and vibrant modern pueblos.

Northern Tier Coast to Coast

Follow the Great Lakes and Northern Border through quaint towns, Midwest history and Badlands’ stunning geology enroute from Bar Harbor, Maine to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Loneliest Road – Highway 50

Traversing Nevada, this route lives up to its nickname passing ghost towns and vast solitude. The barren beauty has a certain mystique. Dare to drive it at night when the Milky Way illuminates the pitch blackness.

Pacific Northwest Grand Tour

From Washington down to Northern California, explore rugged Pacific coastlines, ethereal old growth forests, and volcanic peaks including Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. The region’s beauty recharges the soul.

Final Road Trip Planning Tips

Follow these suggestions for a smooth journey:

  • Allow Plenty of Time. Don’t rush – reduce driving segments to under 300 miles per day.
  • Make Reservations in Advance. Book hotels/campsites, rental cars, popular tours and railroad tickets weeks or months out.
  • Leave Room for Spontaneity. Have a loose plan, but stay flexible for unexpected opportunities and discoveries. Part of the magic is wandering!
  • Pack a Cooler. Bring snacks, sandwiches and drinks to reduce costs and time spent stopping.
  • Verify Vehicle Readiness. Check tires, fluids, belts, battery to reduce the chance of breakdowns. Carry emergency kits.
  • Share Your Itinerary. Provide family/friends with your route and contact info in case of emergency or schedule changes.
  • Download Offline Maps and Playlists. Spotty cell service is common in rural areas. Preload navigation apps and tunes.

At 50+, you finally have the time to undertake that epic road trip you’ve dreamed about. Venture near or far – the highways offer endless adventure. Happy trails!

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