A highway bend overlooks a stand of pine trees in front of a mountain range.

Summer Road Trip Ideas: The Road Less Traveled

Summer is the perfect time to make a playlist, grab a friend, roll the windows down and drive. Road trips are practically a rite of passage in America, and it’s no wonder. It’s a truly splendid country to see, full of history, diverse in terrain and cultures, and home to plenty of surprises awaiting intrepid motorists with a bit of fuel to burn — and up-to-date maintenance, of course.

Brainstorming summer road trip ideas can be almost as fun as driving them. Of course, there are the old standbys like California’s breathtaking Highway 101 or the famed Route 66, but why not check out a lesser-known (and lesser-traveled) route? Here’s a few from each corner of the country to consider.

Jackson, WY to Glacier National Park, MT; 9 hoursSummer Road Trip Ideas: The Road Less Traveled

So you enjoy the outdoors, do you? Summertime is a perfect time to explore the north. This route takes you through five national parks, where you can see wildlife galore, swim in sun-warmed rivers and lakes, and stop off at any of several craft breweries along the way. There’s also world-class hiking, rafting and rock climbing should you get tired of driving through all that natural beauty.

New Orleans, LA to Austin, TX; 8 hours

The American South is full of history, culture and quirks. What’s so great about this route is you get all three, plus really great live music. New Orleans is a jazz-filled party any time, but Louisiana also offers Baton Rouge (the Vegas of the South?) and cozy Lafayette, both of which deserve exploration.

Next you’ll pass through Houston, an industrial powerhouse quickly developing a thriving arts and culture scene. Eventually you’ll end up in Austin for terrific live bluegrass, folk and country, and some of the best barbecue the country has to offer.

Philadelphia, PA to Gatlinburg, TN; 10 hours

This track boasts both American history and stunning natural views. You’ll start out with historical Philly and Washington D.C. before making your way down through the small towns nestled in the Appalachians, where thick forests and mountains await.

Pick up some homemade jam from one of hundreds of mom ‘n’ pop shops. The Smokey Mountains offer great hiking and views, as well as the peculiar city of Gatlinburg — near Dollywood and almost a theme park in itself. The town suffered from serious forest fires a few years back, but it’s back on its feet again and ready for business.

Santa Fe, NM to Salt Lake City, UT; 10 hours

More than your standard dose of nature, this region is spectacular in its terrain: great red, jagged outcroppings, perilously perched boulders, wind-worn sculptures and deep canyons for hiking or rafting. Enjoy authentic Mexican food in Santa Fe and learn about the country’s oldest inhabitants, Native Americans.

As you head north, grab your camera and prepare to say “ooh” and “ahh” around every turn. Spend some time in Moab chasing adventure before making your way to Salt Lake City. There you’ll find all the creature comforts of a big city at the doorstep of several mountain ranges, and outdoor pursuits of all stripes.

No matter where the road takes you, drive safely and be prepared by adding a portable jump starter to your packing list. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting stranded out in the wild because someone left the lights on. Prepare well and enjoy your trip!

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on summer road trip ideas, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

about author

Blair Lampe

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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