Road Trip Guide: Traveling Cross-country on U.S. Route 6

What to know before you hit the road.

The sign post to signify the start of Highway 375, known as the ET Highway in Nevada,USA
Photo: PETER UNGER/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

If you dream of taking a cross-country road trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic, then you should definitely consider heading west on U.S. Route 6. As the longest, continuous transcontinental highway in America, this 3,200-mile-long stretch of road takes you through 14 states, starting in California and terminating in Massachusetts.

Also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, U.S. Route 6 is unique in that the towns and cities it intersects are pretty arbitrary — many of the places you drive through feel almost forgotten. And while traveling along one of the oldest and longest roads in the country, you may feel a bit like a pioneer, rediscovering overlooked corners of America.

Where to find U.S. Route 6

US Route 6 is a diagonal route that’s been largely modified over the years. Currently, the route begins in Bishop, California, and officially ends in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Where To Stop

Pass through farmlands and ranches in California’s valleys as you head northeast. For your first pit stop, pull over at the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Sparks, Nevada. With more than 6 million acres of mountains juxtaposed with deep desert canyons, it’s the largest national forest in the lower 48 and, undoubtedly, one of the most breathtaking.

It’s not simply beautiful, though. This National Park packs some serious history. It’s estimated to contain upwards of 100,000 prehistoric archeological sites, and has volcanic peaks that date back to an even older time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Certain areas of this park allow overnight camping if a permit is granted, so be sure to plan ahead for a night under the stars.

While passing from Utah to Colorado, you’ll be driving alongside Interstate 70 until you reach Denver. This is a great place to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Catch a game at Coors Field — the home of the Colorado Rockies — or, for the musically inclined, get tickets for a show at the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, which boasts unbeatable views of the Rocky Mountains. Another point of interest in Denver is Union Station, a still-working public transportation hub built in 1917. Union Station is also praised for its dining and shopping scene, meaning there are ample opportunities to refuel.

The next few states will be marked primarily by rural landscapes, though we encourage you to pull over in any of the small towns you encounter. There, you’ll meet friendly locals and villages brimming with American history. Take in the prairie lands of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, as well as the blocks of pioneer homes that date back to a simpler, easier times.

Travelers on Route 6 can confidently stop at any eclectic roadside shop or museum and find something unusual or entertaining.

After leaving Indiana, you’ll enter Ohio, where you can visit Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though it’s largely a tourist destination (some 9 million visitors have entered since its opening in 1995), it should not be overlooked for those who idolized and embraced the musical phenomenon and the artists that led its evolution. After all, it's home to the largest collection of rock and roll artifacts in the world.

After Cleveland, you'll approach the final group of states that make up this behemoth road trip — and find yourself officially on the East Coast. While driving 400 miles across Pennsylvania, the most tourist-oriented of the Route 6 states, you'll encounter Pine Creek Gorge (also known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon) and the Kinzua Skywalk: a walkable railroad bridge that was once the world’s longest and highest of its kind.

Don't miss the Dark Sky Preserve in Cherry Springs State Park, where you can enjoy incredible views of the Milky Way, thanks to the area's light pollution-free night skies.

After passing through New York’s Orange County, the suburbs of Connecticut, and the city of Providence, Rhode Island, you’ll reach your final destination: Provincetown, Massachusetts. It’s here you’ll find the Pilgrim Monument, a 252-foot tower that was completed in 1910 to commemorate the Mayflower passengers. Climb the tower and take in the beautiful, hard-earned views of the Cape.

Good to know

U.S. Route 6 is an easy drive, so you can accomplish the route fairly quickly (about three weks). But if you rush from one oceanside town to another, you'll miss some of the more interesting roadside attractions. Budget at least six weeks to do this trip properly. And with any interstate road trip, be sure to keep a close eye on road signs, as speed limits and traffic rules can vary wildly across the United States.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles