Monday, June 14, 2010

High School Grad -- Summer Road Trip Celebration!

Hey Jamie,

I recently graduated high school and my sister and I are planning a road trip across the country for two and a half weeks this summer. She is a photographer, so we are looking for a drive with exceptional scenery. We were looking at the Pacific Coast Highway, but were thinking about driving a road less taken. Is the PCH really what it's built up to be?

Our start and end point is Louisiana, though we would prefer to take 2 different routes, out and back. We would like to include Montana in our itinerary if possible. We enjoy the outdoors and would prefer outside hands-on activities. Any advice or ideas?




Hello Margaret -

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and congrats on your graduation! If you are looking for a drive with exceptional scenery, there are certainly some great stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway. The section thru "Big Sur", between San Lis Obispo and Monterey, is absolutely one of the world's great drives; it's also a lovely place to get out of the car and walk, with miles of hiking trails along rivers, thru redwood forests, and some rugged but beautiful beaches. (If you make it out there, look out for Pfeiffer Beach -- it is gorgeous and never crowded!)

The drive along "PCH" north of San Francisco is also fantastic, with many amazing state parks and national seashore areas -- so yes, PCH really is as lovely as everyone says.


There are countless ways to get out west from Louisiana -- I really enjoy the route I call "Southern Pacific", especially the stretches across southern Arizona, through towns like Bisbee and Tombstone, and the pretty caves at Kartchner Caverns.

On the way back, well, Montana is not exactly "on the way", but it is definitely gorgeous -- I love the Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula, and in fact the whole length of US-93 from there into Idaho is fantastic -- this is all "Lewis & Clark" country, and hardly changed in the 200+ years since they walked across the country, from St Louis to Oregon and back. Once you hit Twin Falls, though, it starts to feel like a desert; that said, Great Basin National Park, further south along US-93 in central Nevada, is a pristine piece of nature's handiwork, and you won't have to share it with as many people as you will in California (or in Yellowstone, which you might also like to see on this trip).

So there is a lot of exceptional scenery all over the western US -- and while a road trip is great fun, getting out of the car is by far the best way to see and appreciate it all.

I hope these notes help you and your sister plan a great trip -- be safe, and have fun.

With best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA



Anonymous Hal Walker said...

We live in Kansas City and would like to travel from here through nH, VT and Maine before traveling down the coast to Hoboken for a wedding. We have about ten days and thought we'd head east to Penn. and then North through NY and opn. We do not want to travel interstate from Pennsylavania to portland, Maine by way of the above. Got any recommendations? Thanks

Hal Walker
kansas City

12:30 PM  

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