The 10 Most Romantic American Road Trips for Couples
Nothing brings two people together quite like planning a road trip and discovering America’s most beautiful attractions side by side. Luckily, the U.S. is home to thousands of miles of scenic roadways with numerous national parks, beaches, and mountain vistas along the way. For the ultimate bonding experience, gather your favorite road trip snacks, sync your playlists, and embark on one of these romantic road trips for couples.
New England Route: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont
Start your journey in Acadia National Park, where 47,000 acres of hiking, biking, and wildlife await. Then, head to Camden, Maine — the self-described “Jewel of the Maine Coast.” Here, you can shop downtown, picnic at the beach, and see some important lighthouses. Speaking of lighthouses, next up is Portland, a city where “grey flannel and plaid flannel coexist companionably,” just like you and your significant other. During your visit, check out the breweries, art galleries, and of course, lighthouses, like the historic Portland Head Light along the shores of Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Afterward, head west to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, where you can spend the night at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. This resort is New Hampshire's largest ski area and a favorite New England retreat for presidents past and present, artists, and celebrities seeking a peaceful mountain getaway. Finally, pay a visit to Waterbury, Vermont, where you can tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory and share a pint of their One Love ice cream.
Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo
Start your journey in glamorous Los Angeles and spend a day exploring iconic landmarks like the Hollywood Sign before taking Highway 101 up to Ventura. Here, try your hand at surfing, or ride the ferry to Santa Cruz Island, one of California’s Channel Islands, to hike and explore. From Ventura, you’ll hug the coastline up to Santa Barbara, where you can check out the Funk Zone and its urban wine trail. Spend the night at historic Hotel Californian and depart the next morning to take Route 154 through the winding mountains and vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley. Make a detour to the quaint Danish town of Solvang and enjoy authentic European pastries like homemade ebelskivers. On your way back to Highway 101, stop at OstrichLand to buy the most enormous eggs you’ve ever seen. From here, you’ll travel up through Los Alamos and the Santa Maria Valley vineyards, passing through the shoreside city of Pismo Beach, and finally ending your trip in San Luis Obispo for a variety of outdoor adventures and diverse culinary experiences.
America’s Northwestern National Parks
Begin your journey at Yellowstone National Park, where more than 10,000 hot springs and geysers, including the famous Old Faithful, can be found. Following Yellowstone, stop at Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming, which boasts a majestic mountain landscape, stunning alpine lakes, and vast grassy plains. Spend a night at Lost Creek Ranch & Spa to experience the romanticism of the Old West against the backdrop of Teton views. Here, rustic-luxe log cabin accommodations are coupled with classic ranch activities like horseback riding. Next up on the itinerary is Arches National Park, with its 18-mile scenic drive and over 2,000 distinctively named arches, including the iconic Delicate Arch. Last on the list is Canyonlands National Park, which includes three major areas for all adventure levels: the less accessible, backcountry Needles region; the isolated, off-road Maze section; and easily reachable Island of the Sky, with a paved scenic drive featuring views of buttes, fins, and water-carved canyons.
The Kancamagus Highway: New Hampshire
This 34.5-mile scenic drive along Route 112 in northern New Hampshire is best known for its spectacular fall foliage, but it’s an idyllic adventure any time of year, especially when the snow blankets the ground and transforms the mountainside into a winter wonderland. On this journey, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the breathtaking White Mountain National Forest, Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge. The Kanc, as it’s affectionately known by locals, takes you up to an elevation of just under 3,000 feet. Its highest point brings you to Kancamagus Pass on the flank of Mount Kancamagus near Lincoln, New Hampshire. Start your trip in Conway and stop at the Saco Ranger Station just west of town to pick up a map and plan your points of interest. Key attractions include the Albany Covered Bridge, built back in 1858, and picturesque Sabbaday Falls. The route will end in Lincoln, where you can stay overnight at The Mountain Club on Loon, which is open year-round and perfect for ski season.
Historic Route 66: Chicago to Santa Monica
Stretching from Chicago to the end of the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, this 2,500-mile route is often called the “Mother Road” — a nickname coined by author John Steinbeck. An ultimate American road trip experience, the 38-hour drive can be turned into a romantic week-long trip filled with fascinating stops along the way. Start your journey in Chicago, where you can share a deep dish pizza and admire the masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago, before heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to visit the Blue Dome Entertainment District, a nine-block area with trendy eateries, local pubs, indie shopping boutiques, and nightlife venues. Another highlight here is the Blue Dome building, a revitalized 1920s-era Gulf Oil station. Next, stop at Cadillac Ranch in Texas (don’t forget your spray paint!), and in New Mexico, soak in Albuquerque's unique vintage shops, hitting the historic Route 66 neon sign for photo ops. In Arizona, check out the Petrified Forest National Park, but don’t take any of the wood — it’s bad luck for your romance. Finally, end your journey in sunny California at the Santa Monica Pier. Now that you’ve made it to the Golden State, reward yourself with a luxurious stay at the newly opened Santa Monica Proper, which epitomizes the quintessential, laid-back Californian lifestyle. Pro tip: Visit any and all diners that pop up roadside, so you can share a soda pop with your sweetheart, just like they do in the movies.
Oregon’s Scenic Coast
While driving up Route 101 along the Oregon coast, your first stop will be the scenic Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Here, 12 miles of lush forest come up to untouched beaches, massive jagged rocks, and clear, blue water. Visit Arch Rock Picnic Area and Natural Bridges before making a stop at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Stay overnight at Hallmark Resort in Newport, where rooms come with oceanfront balconies. The property also has a public path that leads directly to the beach. Next up, drive the Three Capes Scenic Loop and admire Haystack Rock, an impressive 235-foot sea stack on Cannon Beach. Then, pay a visit to Ecola State Park before holding a nighttime bonfire at Cannon Beach. End your journey in Seaside and enjoy its historic arcade, old-fashioned carousel, bumper cars, and indoor miniature golf. The loser has to buy the winner some signature Seaside saltwater taffy.
The Overseas Highway: Miami to the Florida Keys
The Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West offers a drive like no other. Suspended over water nearly the entire time, this 113-mile roadway crosses 42 bridges from Miami to the southernmost point of the U.S. (You’ll be closer to Cuba than you are to Miami.) You’ll first hit Key Largo, home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. You can enjoy a view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour or get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling at this underwater playground. Next up is Marathon, where you’ll find the 1000-acre Curry Hammock State Park and the Dolphin Research Center. Then, you’ll hit the Seven Mile Bridge — a pure, green-blue ocean drive — before arriving at Big Pine Key. Here, you can catch a glimpse of the elusive Key deer and spend the night at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, just off Big Pine Key on Little Torch Key. Now, you’re only 45 minutes north of Key West, but you’ll want to stop at Mangrove Mama’s, a landmark restaurant on Sugarloaf Key that serves fresh local seafood. End in Key West at Mallory Square, just in time for the most romantic event of the evening: Sunset Celebration.
Montana’s Glacier Country
Mountain biking, hiking, and some of the world’s best skiing are just a few of the offerings in Big Sky Country. Begin your road trip in Missoula, Montana’s cultural hub and home to the University of Montana. Spend some time exploring one of the nearby natural hot springs or visiting River City Brews Rafting Tours for a guided trip down the river with stops at local breweries, cideries, and taprooms. After that, make the drive up to Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, with over 200 square miles of water for sailing, fly-fishing, and waterskiing. For remarkable views of Flathead Lake, spend the night at Mountain Lake Lodge in Bigfork. Continue another 32 miles north to Whitefish, which offers prime hiking and skiing opportunities. Here, you can also enjoy a coffee-roasting tour by Montana Coffee Traders. Cap things off at Glacier National Park for some majestic mountain and lakeside scenery.
Utah’s Scenic Byway 12
Scenic Byway 12 in Utah presents 120-plus miles of designated “All-American Road.” At its summit of 9,000 feet, you can appreciate sweeping vistas of the Henry Mountains, Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, and shimmering red rocks of Capitol Reef National Park. Begin your drive in Panguitch and explore the scenery of Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park. Next, take in the views at Kodachrome Basin State Park before spending a night at world-class glamping destination Escalante Yurts. The stars in the light-pollution-free Utah sky are undeniably romantic. Make a point to visit the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park and grab an espresso and pastry at Kiva Koffeehouse. And before concluding your journey, spend an afternoon exploring Capitol Reef National Park.
Pacific Coast Highway: San Luis Obispo to San Francisco
Nothing says California dreamin’ like seaside scenery combined with the tranquil ambience of Big Sur on the drive from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco. Start in San Luis Obispo, heading up Highway 1 through the seaside town of Morro Bay. Be sure to check out the majestic Morro Rock, and stop for vegan and vegetarian fare at Shine Cafe or a latte at dog-friendly Top Dog Coffee Bar. After soaking up the vibes in this artsy enclave, drive up to Cambria and take a look at Nitt Witt Ridge, a quirky Registered Historical Landmark. Farther up the coast is Ragged Point, where you can catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring Big Sur coastline. Spend the night at Ragged Point Inn and Resort and hike down Ragged Point Trail for unparalleled views of the sea and a hidden waterfall. Enjoy the atmosphere of this laid-back, two-lane highway and make stops at McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach, where the sand turns purple after the rain. Leaving Big Sur, you’ll hit Monterey County, where you can walk along Cannery Row and check out its historic antique shops, or share an ice cream at the very first Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop opened outside of San Francisco. Then, embark on the scenic 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach for more incredible coastal views. Bonus points if you can hit Santa Cruz and its sturdy redwood forests as well as Half Moon Bay’s tide pools before reaching your final destination. Finally, upon arriving in San Francisco, check out the romantic views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the adjacent Marin Headlands.