If the great outdoors is calling you, we suggest you pick up the phone. Even if you don’t consider yourself an outdoorsy person, spending time in wide open spaces—or, really, any place with lots of greenery—has been shown to reduce stress and lower your risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Stuck on where to go? We have your back. We’ve teamed up with Chase Auto, who wants to help you make the most of your next big adventure, to bring you five nature-filled road-trip ideas to add to your bucket list. Since the journey is just as important as the destination, choose your best travel buddy below to find the route for you.
1. Your Best Travel Buddy (a.k.a. Your Car)—The Pacific Coast Highway
Our cars do so much more than just transport us—they’re a significant part of our lives. A 2017 survey by Chase Auto found that 48 percent of millennials have had their longest relationship with a car and 56 percent of Americans say their vehicle is like a family member. The love is real.
If it’s just you and your BFF, you want a long, open road and stunning views you can see from your car. Our top choice? The Pacific Coast Highway (also known as California State Route 1 or the PCH), which stretches from California’s northern border all the way down to San Diego for a whopping 655.8-mile trip.
Whether you decide to tackle the whole shebang or just a piece, we suggest starting up north so you’re closest to the ocean as you drive. The highway will take you through major cities such as San Francisco, L.A., and San Diego, but the real gems are the off-the-beaten-path sights along the way.
Don’t miss the 17-Mile Drive, a scenic loop in Pebble Beach, where you’ll see stunning cliffs, the Lone Cypress, and white-sand beaches. Swing through the cute town of Carmel before heading down to Big Sur for a Big Little Lies photo op and a burger at Nepenthe. Stop off in San Simeon for a tour of Hearst Castle and elephant-seal watching, Pismo Beach for clam chowder, and Santa Barbara for wine tasting. Then hit the beach: Meander down through Ventura, Malibu, Long Beach, and La Jolla before arriving in San Diego.
2. Your Group of Friends Who Used to Be Camp Counselors—The Adirondacks
Wanna get back into the team spirit with your old camp counselor cohort? Pile into the car and head to the Adirondack Mountains. Not only is upstate New York gorgeous, but you’ll also have endless camp-worthy activities at your fingertips.
Your first stop will be Lake George, but if you’re coming from the south, drive through the charming Hudson Valley towns of Kingston, Saugerties, Red Hook, and Hudson. Have more time? Head west into the Catksills to tour hippy-dippy Woodstock (where the namesake festival was supposed to be held), go for a hike, or pick your own strawberries/apples/pumpkins/whatever’s in season.
You’re too old for bunk beds. Upgrade to Posh Primitive, a glamping spot in Lake George where you’ll be one with nature but not too one with nature. Be sure to plan a group canoeing or kayaking trip around the lake for old time’s sake.
Take the scenic route up to Lake Placid so you can stop at the Adirondack museum (plus, it’ll give you more time to sing camp songs in the car). Then let the games begin: Try your hand at bobsledding or extreme tubing before tackling Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York State. (But don’t worry—it’s not so challenging your crew will give up after the third mile.) Finish things off with a beer at Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. We guarantee it’s a vacation worth repeating.
3. Your Frugal S.O. Who Only Has 10 Vacation Days—Acadia All-American Road
Need a quick escape with your budget-conscious one-and-only? Maine’s Acadia All-American Road is a historic 40-mile byway that winds along the coast and loops through Acadia National Park, offering breathtaking views that set the right tone for a romantic getaway.
It’s a three-hour drive without stopping, so you can customize the trip based on how much time you have. Start early to avoid the crowds (even better if you hit Cadillac Mountain for sunrise). You’ll head from Trenton onto Mount Desert Island (keep an eye out for moose!) and down the jagged coast to Bar Harbor. Split blueberry pancakes and a McThisWay egg sandwich at Café This Way or BYO picnic down to Sand Beach. You’ll need the fuel for a bike ride along the park’s carriage roads or a hike up Champlain, Beech, or Cadillac Mountain.
As you make your way down the coastline, pit-stop at Thunder Hole and the Otter Cliffs before arriving at the Jordan Pond House for tea and popovers with blueberry jam overlooking a glacial lake (be sure to make a reservation).
4. Your Zen BFF Who Doesn’t Go Anywhere Without Their Yoga Mat—Feathered Pipe Ranch
Whether your bud’s chakras are out of whack or you both could just use some room to breathe (consciously), plan a Big Sky Country road trip to Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, MT.
If you’re coming from the south, start in Jackson, WY (don’t miss the National Elk Preserve), so you can take in the dramatic Tetons. Short on time? Hit U.S. Route 20, throw on a podcast, and enjoy the awe-inspiring landscape. For a longer (but definitely worthwhile) trek, drive through Yellowstone National Park, stretching your legs at Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, the Grand Canyon, and Mammoth Hot Springs—and keeping an eye out for moose, bears, elk, and bison along the way.
From the north, you don’t want to miss driving along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The 50-mile, twist-and-turn stretch (you might recognize it from The Shining) takes you through myriad landscapes (waterfalls, glaciers, mountains). Once you’re out of the park, cruise over to Whitefish, an old-timey Western town with saloons, souvenir shops, and restaurants like Buffalo Café. Then take your pick of U.S. Route 93 or Montana Highway 83 (also known as the Seeley-Swan scenic drive) to get down to Helena.
Once at the ranch, you’ll ohm and exhale in a lush forest setting and forget all about updating Insta every minute (cell service is unreliable and phones are discouraged for obvious reasons). Choose from chalet-style rooms, cabins, yurts, tipis, or tents, and curate your own yoga schedule from a variety of classes or sign up for a retreat package. It’s time to disconnect from the world and connect with the earth.
5. Your Dog With the Travel Instagram—Sawtooth National Forest
If your dog is in need of a new grammable adventure, there aren’t many parks more photogenic than Sawtooth National Forest Campgrounds in Idaho, which is home to mountain goats, elk, and bighorn sheep.
Start your journey in Boise, where you can check out an abundance of pet-friendly parks and restaurants with patio seating. When you’re ready to hit the road, dip down to Shoshone to explore the Indian Ice Caves and other gorgeous trails that your dog will love (just be sure to keep her on leash).
From there it’s an easy three-hour journey through Sawtooth Scenic Byway to your destination. Make sure your tank is full and you’re stocked on water and food. The drive isn’t long, but it is remote (one of the reasons it’s so beautiful). Stop at Redfish Lake or Sawtooth Hatchery for shots of pristine lakes and rivers (and maybe catch a glimpse of some wild salmon!) before completing the trek through miles of trees and jagged peaks so picturesque, you’ll think you’ve fallen into a postcard.