Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.Erol Ozan
There’s nothing quite like a good ole American road trip. Having visited and done half of these roads trips I can definitely say they’re worth it. Nothing makes you forget just how cold it is when you look out your car window and see the most incredible wintry landscapes and vistas. Are these the only winter road trips you should take? Hell no, but temperatures are dropping more and more and we’re getting a bunch of snow this week, so I wanted to get everyone excited for winter with a few of the best road trip ideas I know of.
I’m the type of person who starts shivering when temperatures drop below 70, but these destinations make me want to leave my house and brave the cold. Some of the drives are longer than others, but it’s not about the distance. It’s about experiencing the beauty of winter and that’s not something most people take the time to do. Let’s start making 2020 less of a dumpster fire and start thinking about how we can make it a positive adventure. I think an epic winter road trip is just the thing for that.
Seward Highway, Alaska
The Route: 49 miles. Travel along the Seward Highway from Anchorage to Portage. If you want to experience even more winter wonderland, keep driving until you reach Fairbanks.
What You’ll Experience: You can’t get more winter wonderland than Alaska. Where else can you see moose along the highway, more snow than you ever thought possible, icicles on every surface, frozen lakes and rivers, reindeer, and the most gorgeous snow-covered mountains you’ve ever seen in your life? Alaska is so painfully beautiful that it almost looks fake. It’s that incredible.
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
- Snow mobiling tours in Anchorage
- Turnagain Arm
- Denali National Park
- Northern Lights
- Antique Auto Museum
- North Pole
- Museum of the North
- Large Animal Research Station (LARS)
Yosemite National Park, California
The Route: 46 miles from Groveland to Yosemite Valley on CA-120
What You’ll Experience: If you want to experience the park without the tourists, a winter road trip to the park is a great option. Snow coats every available surface and the waterfalls become frozen sheaths of ice. While there are annual road closures in the winter, there are many roads that remain open and accessible. Wawona Road, El Portal Road, and Big Oak Flat Road and Hetch Hetchy Road typically remain open year round.
- Badger Pass Ski Area
- Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
- Tunnel View
- Merced River
- Yosemite Falls
- El Capitan
- Half Dome
- Glacier Point
Skyline Drive, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
The Route: Start in Front Royal, Virginia and travel approximately 105 miles along the infamous Skyline Drive.
What You’ll Experience: The Blue Ridge Mountains are something special to behold no matter what time of year you visit, but there’s just something magical about it in the winter. As a native Virginian, I’ve gone many times and can personally vouch for its awesomeness. You’ll drive up and around the mountains and get some of the best view of the Shenandoah Valley and may even get to see frozen waterfalls.
- Hike any of the 500+ miles of trails in the park
- Stop at any or all of the 70 overlooks along the drive
- Snowshoe or ski at one of the many trails designated for those activities
- Stop at a cidery or winery outside of the park for a warm way to end the day
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
The Route: Begin your road trip in either Incline Village, Nevada or South Lake Tahoe, California. From there you’ll drive the 72 miles around the perimeter of the lake.
What You’ll Experience: Picture the Sierra Nevada Mountains covered in snow and their reflection bouncing back towards you from the glassy surface of the lake. It’s impressive in any season, but Lake Tahoe is magical in the winter. The lake itself never freezes, but it will always offer mind-boggling reflections of the landscape, making it one of the prettiest places for a road trip.
- National Scenic Byway (stop everywhere possible because it’s that gorgeous)
- Sand Harbor
- Hike, snowshoe, or ski the trails around the lake
Northern Door County, Wisconsin
The Route: Start in Green Bay, Wisconsin and travel 85 miles along Highway 57 to Gills Rock.
What You’ll Experience: If you want the small-town winter vibes, this road trip is for you. You’ll get to visit coastal towns with lots of local shops and restaurants all while covered in a layer of snow. While making the trek to Gills Rock is an adventure, it’s definitely worth it for the gorgeous scenery. It’s also a great road trip for disconnecting from everything. You can even stop in a designated dark sky park to stargaze without light pollution.
- Newport State Park (stargazing and cross-country skiing)
- Cave Point County Park
- Snowmobile, showshoe hikes, or ice skate
- Winter Festival
- Pond Hockey
- Walk all of the beaches
- Sleigh Rides
- Candlelight Hikes
Taos Scenic Byway, New Mexico
The Route: Travel the 56 miles from Santa Fe through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains towards Taos.
What You’ll Experience: There’s nothing quite like the rugged terrain of the American southwest. Everything seems to be different shades of brown with rolling hills and then suddenly you’re faced with mountains of epic proportions. Whenever snow falls here the brown always seems to break through, giving the landscape a speckled and unique look you really don’t see anywhere else. Top that off with gorgeous views of the mountains and the valleys below and you will never forget this road trip.
- Santa Fe
- Santuario de Chimayó
- Scenic overlooks
- Taos (especially for skiing)
Bonus: Florida’s East Coast
The Route: 470 miles. Start in Key West and journey along the overseas highway towards Miami. If you want a longer trip, Start in St. Augustine or Miami and drive along I-95, then switch to the Overseas Highway in Miami towards the Keys.
What You’ll Experience: If you truly hate the cold and never want to experience it, even from the comfort of your car, Florida is the place for you. Enjoy the consistently warm weather while you enjoy the historic sites in St. Augustine and the picture-perfect sites of beaches throughout the entire drive.
- St. Augustine
- Cape Canaveral
- Palm Beaches
- Florida Keys (don’t miss the seven mile bridge)