Thanks to the rise of #vanlife on Instagram, the American road trip is now firmly etched on every intrepid traveler’s bucket list. And it’s no wonder: from the glorious Great Plains to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, the USA isn’t short of kaleidoscopic scenery and sites that are ripe for exploring. As long as you have a map app, a tank of gas, a decent playlist and an open mind, you can expect the adventure of a lifetime.
For an epic route, look no further than this trip mapped out by data scientist Randy Olson. Described as the “optimal road trip across the US,” it covers 48 out of 50 states and provides the shortest route by road between an impressive 50 landmarks across most states. The 13,699-mile (22,046-kilometer) trip would take about 224 hours of driving to complete – or two to three months – but it’ll be a rare opportunity to tick off national American treasures such as:
This geological marvel is the result of ancient volcanic activity that’s given the landscape a moon-like, otherworldly quality. The monument’s cavernous lava tubes are worth roaming for hours, or you can attempt to follow The Great Rift – a 62-mile-long (100 kilometers) crack in the earth.
Not only is this impressive structure the tallest man-made arch in the US, but you can ride to the top of it to catch a stunning view of St. Louis. The newly revamped museum below the arch is also a big hit with visitors.
You may or may not want to catch sight of the alligators that call Okefenokee Swamp Park home – but thankfully the snappy predators aren’t the only residents of the beautiful wildlife refuge. Keep your eyes peeled for rare birds, otters and black bears (from a safe distance, of course).
Not your typical caverns, this national landmark looks like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park. Journey 120 feet (37 meters) below the Earth’s surface at your own pace to appreciate the Lost World’s winding network of tunnels, waterfalls and rock formations – including the Snowy Chandelier, a 30-ton stalactite said to be the largest in the country.
Few parks are as breathtakingly beautiful as Acadia, a 47,000-acre (19,000-hectare) national treasure on the coast of Maine that’s known for its picture-perfect scenery, woodland, rocky beaches and rewarding hiking trails. It’s also home to Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the East Coast.
Visit these landmarks and more using this handy map from Roadtrippers: