The 16 Best Winter Road Trips in the USA You Should Take This Year

Embarking on a winter road trip across the USA is an adventure like no other. As the chilly air sets in, the land transforms into a shiny, beautiful place covered in snow. It’s a great time to go on an exciting cross-country odyssey.

In this guide, we’ll explore the 16 best winter road trips, taking you through captivating destinations and unveiling the beauty of winter travel.

Key Takeaways

  • A winter road trip from New York to Pennsylvania and driving to Georgia and South Carolina are awesome and underrated adventure ideas. 
  • Maui, Hawaii, offers panoramic vistas, lush rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, all basking in the warmth of the sun amidst the winter months.
  • The best road trip ideas in December include Key Largo to Key West, Route 100, and New Orleans.
  • Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, San Francisco to San Diego, and Maui, Hawaii, are some of the best winter road adventures you can experience on the West Coast. 

Best December Road Trip Ideas in the US

1. The Florida Keys: Key Largo to Key West

A must-try winter road trip is the Key Largo to Key West journey along the captivating Florida Keys. Enjoy water adventures in Key Largo, from jet skiing to scuba diving. Also, discover marine life at Robbie’s Waterfront, the Dolphin Research Center, and the Turtle Hospital. 

End your 157.2-kilometer journey in Key West, exploring Dry Tortugas National Park, savoring Key Lime Pie, and visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home.

2. New York City to Pennsylvania

A winter road trip from New York City to Pennsylvania can be an exciting adventure. The distance between the two is approximately 354 kilometers, and it would take around 4 hours to drive without traffic. 

It’s a great way to visit popular stops along the way, like Liberty State Park, Penn State University, and Hershey Chocolate World.

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New York City, USA

3. Georgia and South Carolina

Ever wondered about a beautiful winter road trip through Georgia and South Carolina? Picture this: visits to charming savannas, parks like Amicalola Falls State Park, and historical spots like the Georgia Museum of Art.

The best part? Cozy beds and breakfasts at luxurious hotels are waiting. As you travel, savor tasty Southern cuisine and soak up the breathtaking scenery of the southeastern United States.

4. New Orleans

Winter in Louisiana is a perfect time for a road trip, with nippy weather that can drop to 17 degrees Celsius. Start your adventure in lively New Orleans, where a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour unveils top sites. Then, savor famous eats at Commander’s Palace, try a ghost tour for spooky tales, and enjoy the lively Palace Market at night.

You can also venture into the bayou for a rural experience and explore small towns like Houma and Thibodaux for a glimpse of everyday Louisiana life. 

5. Route 100, Vermont

Vermont’s Route 100 is a winter wonderland journey in quintessential New England. Known as “Vermont’s Main Street,” it winds through charming scenes—country stores, snowy forests, and white-steepled churches. 

The Green Mountains and Mad River Valley provide excellent skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and fishing at the lakes. As you explore Route 100, pause to buy maple syrup and taste Vermont cheddar cheese.

Related: Best Fall Vacations in the USA

6. Highway 101, Oregon Coast

Oregon’s Highway 101 hugs the Pacific with stunning ocean views. Winter unveils a stormy, moody scene with crashing waves on sea stacks. 

Check out roadside wonders like a drive-thru tree and quirky museums. Also, visit a cool college town called Eugene, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and Cannon Beach with the iconic Haystack Rock.

7. The Catskills and Hudson Valley, NY

Escape NYC chaos with a 69-kilometer road trip to the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. Once a refuge, it is now accessible for day or week trips.

Fall brings vibrant colors—ideal for a long weekend of hiking or apple picking in the crisp air of picturesque villages. Go ahead and check out artists’ communities, whitewater rafting, and the Borscht Belt’s history.

8. Smoky Mountains, North Carolina

Winter in the Smoky Mountains is perfect for a road trip with snowy peaks, scenic drives, and fun activities like skiing and snowshoeing. Enjoy winter festivals like Winterfest in Gatlinburg and spot wildlife like deer and elk. You can stay in cozy cabins or luxury resorts—there’s something for every budget.

9. Hocking Hills, Ohio

The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway is a 26.4-mile road that links six Hocking Hills State Park sites, making it popular. Even though the drive is short, it’s awesome for a day trip with cool stops and short hikes along the way. 

Check out some must-see spots on the scenic byway, like the Rockbridge State Nature Preserve and the Cantwell Cliffs.

Related: The Best Romantic Winter Getaways for Couples

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA Downtown
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA downtown city skyline at dusk.

Best Winter Road Trips on the West Coast

10. Salt Lake City to Las Vegas

Did you know a winter road trip from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas is about 643.74 kilometers? The adventure takes 5–5.5 hours, so it’s best to check road conditions and weather forecasts for smooth travel. 

Tour Arches National Park, Zion National Park, and the Hoover Dam along the way. Don’t forget warm clothes—temperatures can drop a lot in winter.

11. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is awesome for a winter road trip. It’s mesmerizing, with waterfalls and big mountains. In the winter, fewer people visit, so you can take your time on the trails and see everything. Just remember warm clothes, although sometimes roads close because of snow.

12. Las Vegas to Los Angeles

If you’re planning a winter road trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, you will need to consider potential snow and ice along the way, so be sure to check the weather forecast and bring appropriate gear. 

The drive is about 434.5 kilometers and takes around 4-5 hours without traffic. You can either take US-93 S or I-15 S, with the latter being the shorter route. Along the way, you can stop at attractions such as the Grand Canyon and Lake Havasu City. 

13. Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii, is a cool winter getaway with nice weather and beautiful views. A road trip is a fun way to explore the island, like the pretty Hana Highway, Haleakala National Park, and nice beaches in Kihei and Lahaina. 

Check out cultural spots too, like Lahaina town and the Haleakala Sunrise Tour. Pack warm clothes for cooler nights, around mid-15 degrees Celsius, and wear comfy shoes for walking around and seeing everything.

14. Zion National Park to Moab National Park, Utah

A winter road trip from Zion to Moab promises snow-capped mountains, beautiful landscapes, and winter fun. Enjoy activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

Visit the unique rock formations in Arches National Park and visit Canyonlands National Park for stunning views. Also, don’t miss the Moab Giants Monument, featuring life-size dinosaurs—an exciting attraction along the 492-kilometer drive.

15. Phoenix, Arizona, To Death Valley

Ever wondered how close Death Valley is to Phoenix? Just a three-hour drive takes you through national parks and scenic routes. Don’t miss activities at Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park—all near Death Valley.

16. Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego

The iconic Pacific Coast Highway spans around 3,218 kilometers of California’s coast. Winter drives offer cool weather, fewer crowds, and lower hotel rates. 

Experience the beauty of dark cliffs, expansive beaches, and winding coastal roads. Notable stops include Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Hearst Castle, Malibu, and Santa Monica.

Related: Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

FAQs:

What is the best time of year to do a road trip in America?

The winter months provide a unique charm for road trips in the USA, with fewer crowds and stunning winter landscapes.

What is the longest road trip in the USA?

The Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego offers an extended coastal journey, showcasing the beauty of the West Coast.

How do I plan a road trip in the US?

Start by selecting your desired destinations, planning your route, ensuring your vehicle is winter-ready, and packing accordingly for a smooth and enjoyable road trip.

How many days do you need for an American road trip?

The duration depends on your chosen route, but a week-long road trip allows for a well-paced and immersive experience.

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Victoria

Victoria Omololu is a fashionista exploring the world on a budget. She co-founded Only Earthlings in 2023 to show her travels in North America, Europe, Africa, and everywhere else. Victoria loves writing about travel tips, itineraries, packing guides, and taking photography from all over the world.

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