Ultimate American Road Trips

How do the classic American road trips stack up when modern data is brought into the equation?

The concept of a road trip is as American as apple pie, and yet, devising the “ultimate” driving route was a bit of a head scratcher until data firm Geotab decided to take on that challenge. Using review ratings, traffic data, and a country-wide survey, Geotag rated 50 classic road trip routes.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best road trip is a five-day Monument Valley Trails route in the Southwest. 

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Awe-inspiring views of the rock formations of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, and the Natural Bridges National Monument are enough to make this road trip an all-time classic,” Geotab’s Road Trip Ratings report. “The route heads out on Highway 163 then follows a counter-clockwise loop, with detours for Hovenweep National Monument, Blanding, and the natural bridges.”

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This transplanted piece of Mars is home to giant red rock towers you’ve seen in a hundred movies. If you want to do more than just gawk at Monument Valley’s weird grandeur, take a tour with a Navajo guide and learn about the ancient and modern inhabitants.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A hidden gem with scenery similar to that of nearby Monument Valley, the Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles, and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Natural Bridges National Monument features three huge, stream-carved natural bridges as well as Ancestral Puebloans ruins. The multi-colored bridges can be seen from overlooks along a nine-mile paved loop road. The bridges have Hopi Indian names: delicate Owachomo means “rock mounds”, Sipapu (the second largest natural bridge in the world) means “the place of emergence”, and massive Kachina means “dancer.”

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character, Hovenweep National Monument was once home to more than 2,500 people in 900 A.D. The name Hovenweep is Paiute/Ute word meaning “deserted valley”.

Howenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Geotab used TripAdvisor data to rank trips based on attractions, accommodations, and where to eat; traffic data to figure out how busy roads are, and a survey to determine the length of each trip.

Mokee Dugway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The company collected road trip itineraries from a variety of sources including Lonely Planet, National Geographic, National Parks Service, tourist boards of individual states, and travel publications.

Canyonlands National Park, Needles Unit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ratings for attractions and restaurants were collected from TripAdvisor. Traffic data represents Annual Average Daily Traffic across the roads included in the route. Duration was scored by using Google Surveys to ask 1,000 U.S. residents their preferred road trip vacation length. Research was conducted in April 2019.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other routes rounding out the top 10 included three in the Rocky Mountains, two more in the Southwest, and several in the Pacific Northwest, among others.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What noticeably didn’t perform well on the list? The much-lauded Route 66, which landed at No. 44 out of 50 trips studied.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“With so much variety to choose from, settling on one route can be a seriously tough task,” Maria Sotra, the vice president of marketing at Geotab, said in a statement. “We created this study to see how U.S. road trips stacked up when data is brought into the equation.”

Other highlights of the ranking: 

  • The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway in the Pacific Northwest ranked highest in terms of attractions, while New Mexico’s Two Roads to Taos trip scored the highest in terms of food.
  • Road trips in the study on average take about five days. The longest road trips are 14 days long: Route 66 and The Best of California. The shortest trips are only two days long: Lake Champlain Byway and Maryland’s Historic National Road.
  • For those looking to avoid traffic, it’s best to skip the Disneyland and Orange County route.
Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Road trips have beginnings and ends, but it’s what’s in between that counts.