6 Best Cross Country Routes East To West (2024)

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Want to know all the best cross country routes East to West? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

Taking a road trip out West is a quintessential experience for all US travelers.

No matter where you’re starting out on the East Coast (or Midwest), there are cross country road trip options that will take you to many bucket list destinations across the US.

We’re sharing routes that take you through National Parks, historic sites, cultural sites, major cities, and routes that are just the most direct way to get from East to West.

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Best Cross Country Routes East To West

These are the best cross country routes East to West that we most recommend.

1. The Classic Route 66 Road Trip (From Chicago To Santa Monica)

Route 66, often referred to as the “Main Street of America,” holds a cherished place in American history and culture.

Route 66 stretches over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois, in the east to Santa Monica, California, in the west.

This iconic highway was officially established in 1926 as part of the U.S. Highway System.

Route 66 cross country route east to west

Route 66’s motels, diners, and roadside attractions became iconic landmarks, forever etching their images in the collective imagination.

Despite its official discontinuation in the 1980s, Route 66 remains a beloved symbol of Americana.

Many portions of the original route are still drivable, allowing modern-day travelers to experience a nostalgic journey through history.

Radiator Springs on Route 66 - cross country route east to west

Highlights Of Route 66

Starting in Chicago, the Windy City’s vibrant energy sets the tone as travelers venture through classic Midwestern towns.

Roadside attractions such as the World’s Largest Rocking Chair and the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac, Illinois, add a touch of whimsy.

The open vistas of the Texas Panhandle lead to Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch, a surreal art installation of buried vintage cars.

Continuing west, the landscapes transition to where the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert showcase the natural wonders of Arizona.

Petrified Forest National Park

The kitschy charm of Winslow, made famous by the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy,” offers a nostalgic pause.

Standing on the Corner Monument in Winslow, Arizona

The journey through New Mexico introduces travelers to the historic town of Santa Fe and the intriguing pueblo culture.

Undoubtedly, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon awaits, a must-see landmark along the route.

Grand Canyon sunrise

The Mojave Desert’s vastness beckons with the Joshua Tree forests, and the eccentricity of the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino adds to the character.

Joshua Tree National Park

Finally, the journey concludes in Santa Monica, California, at the famous Santa Monica Pier, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Santa Monica Route 66 End of the Trail

2. The Great Northern Road Trip (From Maine To Washington)

The Great Northern Road Trip presents an enchanting journey from the scenic coasts of Maine to the beauty of Washington.

This cross-country route traces its roots to when the popularity of automobile travel sparked the need for a well-connected transcontinental route.

The Great Northern Road Trip begins its 3,500-mile odyssey in Kittery, Maine, known for its historic charm and picturesque harbor.

The Great Northern Road Trip from Maine to Washington - cross country route east to west

Highlights Of The Great Northern Road

From there, it winds its way through charming New England towns, offering glimpses of colorful fall foliage and historic landmarks.

Paul Revere's House in Boston - cross country route east to west

As the journey progresses, travelers are treated to the vibrant landscapes of Boston and New York City.

New York City Skyline

Continuing westward, the route traverses the Great Lakes, allowing travelers to explore Chicago and the beauty of the Midwest.

The open plains of the Dakotas and the grandeur of Montana’s Glacier National Park await further along the path.

Highlighting the road trip’s allure is the rugged grandeur of the Rocky Mountains as it winds through Idaho and Montana.

The route then continues through the wide-open landscapes of the Northern Plains before arriving at the final destination.

The road trip ends once you’ve made it to Seattle and the surrounding area.

3. The Oregon Trail Road Trip (From Cape Cod To The Oregon Coast)

The Oregon Trail Road Trip presents a 3,500 mile journey that retraces the steps of pioneers seeking a new life in the West.

Starting on the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this cross-country route pays homage to the early American spirit of exploration and migration.

The Oregon Trail Road Trip from Cape Cod to Oregon - cross country route east to west

Highlights Of The Oregon Trail Road Trip

As your road trip begins, you’ll visit places like Niagara Falls, Cleveland, and Chicago.

When you begin your way out West, you’ll stop at places including the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This includes iconic sites like Mt Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower and more.

As the route progresses, it leads from Yellowstone to the Rocky Mountains, where you can soak in the landscapes.

Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park - cross country route east to west

Finally, as you reach the Oregon Coast, the Pacific Ocean stands as a symbol of triumph, mirroring the pioneers’ arrival at their destination after an arduous journey.

4. The Loneliest Road Trip (From Maryland To San Francisco)

The Loneliest Road Trip offers travelers an unforgettable 3,000 mile journey across the vast expanses of the United States.

Beginning in the coastal charm of Ocean City, Maryland, this cross-country route winds its way to Sacramento, California.

The moniker “Loneliest Road” originates from a 1986 Life Magazine article that characterized a stretch of U.S. Route 50 through Nevada as desolate and remote.

As you venture westward, you’ll encounter the expansive landscapes of the Great Plains.

The Loneliest Road Trip from Maryland to San Francisco - cross country route east to west

Highlights Of The Loneliest Road Trip

As the Loneliest Road Trip progresses, the route takes travelers through the intriguing emptiness of the Great Basin Desert.

Great Basin National Park - cross country route east to west

Crossing the barren beauty of Nevada, the route leads to the stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Along the way, you can immerse yourself in the charms of small towns and historic landmarks.

5. The Highway 80 Road Trip (From Georgia To San Diego)

The Highway 80 Road Trip offers a 2,400 mile journey that spans the US, connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Originating in the idyllic shores of Tybee Island, Georgia, this cross-country route winds its way westward to San Diego, California.

Originally known as the “Dixie Overland Highway,” Highway 80 was one of the earliest transcontinental routes, envisioned to link the East and West Coasts.

The Highway 80 Road Trip from Georgia to San Diego - cross country route east to west

Highlights Of The Highway 80 Road Trip

As the Highway 80 Road Trip unfolds, adventurers pass through historic Southern cities like Savannah and Montgomery, each offering a glimpse into the country’s past with their antebellum architecture and civil rights landmarks.

Savannah, Georgia - cross country route east to west

The route then leads travelers through the vast landscapes of Texas, with highlights including the vibrant city of Dallas and the music-rich hub of Austin.

Crossing into the southwestern states, the road trip encompasses the unique blend of cultures found in New Mexico’s Albuquerque and Arizona’s Tucson, as well as the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert.

Tumacacori National Historical Park

The Highway 80 Road Trip’s crescendo comes as travelers traverse the awe-inspiring beauty of the southern California coastline, arriving in San Diego with its laid-back charm and Pacific vistas.

Balboa Park in San Diego

6. The I-10 Southernmost Road Trip (From Jacksonville To Santa Monica)

Stretching over 2,400 miles, this cross-country route begins its journey in the vibrant city of Jacksonville, Florida, and concludes in the iconic locale of Santa Monica, California.

Interstate 10 is often referred to as the “southernmost transcontinental highway”.

It was established as part of the U.S. Interstate Highway System in the 1950s to provide a seamless and efficient connection between the east and west coasts.

We’ve personally driven this route about a half a dozen times.

My sister used to live in San Antonio, Texas and much of my family lives in Florida, so we would make this cross country drive 1-3 times a year to visit everybody and do some sightseeing along the way.

I-10 Southernmost Road Trip from Jacksonville to Santa Monica - cross country route east to west

Highlights Of The I-10 Southernmost Road Trip

Our favorite places to stop along the way begin with Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

From there, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso are the best places to stop when driving across Texas.

A short detour through New Braunfels, Texas is highly recommended.

It’s home to the number one water park in America, historic downtowns, authentic German foods, and wine tasting.

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas - cross country route east to west

During the last segment of the drive, you’ll want to stop in Tucson and Phoenix as you’re driving through Arizona.

Historic Old Town Scottsdale

Once you’ve made it to California, Palm Springs is an essential stop before finishing off your drive to Santa Monica.

Palm Springs, California

How Long Does It Take To Cross The Country From East To West?

The duration to traverse the United States from its East to West coast can vary based on factors such as route, stops, and driving speed.

On average, a cross-country road trip from East to West typically takes around 4 to 7 days of driving, covering approximately 2,400 to 3,000 miles depending on the chosen route and the number of stops made along the way.

We’ve personally done some of these drives across as little as 3 days when we do 12-14 hour driving days.

Our preference now though is not driving any more than 8 hours in a day, so that makes these drives take 4-5 days.

However, the exact time can fluctuate based on individual preferences and the amount of time spent exploring attractions, cities, and landmarks en route.

If you’re driving straight through with the help of 1 or 2 other drivers, you can make your way across the country in about 36-40 hours.


What Is The Best Month For A Cross Country Road Trip?

The best month for a cross-country road trip in the US often depends on personal preferences and the specific regions you plan to travel through.

However, generally, the months of late spring (May and June) and early fall (September and October) tend to be popular choices.

During these months, the weather is generally milder, with comfortable temperatures and less extreme conditions compared to the peak summer and winter months.

July and August are also great months for many of these routes as long as your car has air conditioning.

They may be busier, but you don’t usually have to worry about natural disasters during these times of the year as much as during other months.

This can make for a more pleasant and enjoyable driving experience, as well as provide better visibility and road conditions.

Keep in mind that weather patterns can vary across different regions of the country, so it’s important to research the specific areas you’ll be traveling through and plan accordingly.

Additionally, consider factors like popular tourist destinations and peak travel seasons, which can impact road congestion and accommodation availability.

Almost all of these routes are not recommended during the Winter months.

Most of the time, you can drive I-10 during the Winter without encountering any snow, but the other routes all pass through mountainous regions that regularly get snow storms and close their roads.


Conclusion: Best Cross Country Routes East To West

These are the best cross country routes East to West no matter where you want to travel in the US.

They all take you to a variety of National Parks, historical sites, major cities, and more.

Depending on the time of year you want to travel, the types of destinations you want to visit, and where you ultimately want to end up, there are some great road trips that can be taken in the US.