Perfect Itinerary for an Epic USA Roadtrip (48 States At Once)

Do you like roadtrips? You might know that it’s a very “American” tradition… and we have the perfect itinerary to visit every State in the Continental U.S. during one epic roadtrip.

Since the summer around-the-world itinerary we posted a few weeks ago was very popular, let’s stick to the same theme, with this longer trip suggestion for those of you who have a lot of time off to go on an epic trip but want to stay closer to home.

Also, a lot of people ask for summertime deals. If you read our article on which weeks to choose for your summer vacation of you want to travel, you know that summer airfare deals (at least those at the very low prices we like to share on our cheap flight deals page) are very rare, so you won’t find as many (don’t miss our upcoming post about how to save money on summer airfares soon).

So one alternative is planning a roadtrip, because driving doesn’t become more expensive in peak travel times, unlike flights. Personally, I love roadtrips and I hit the road as much as I can, despite being an aviation geek: you can like both right? What matters is traveling and seeing new places, no matter how.

So if you like roadtrips, here’s one you’ll definitely enjoy: traveling to all 48 continental US states in one epic continuous loop, seeing some of the country’s top natural landmarks. Many people don’t realize that the US have a lot of very varied landscapes, it’s a huge country (even larger than Canada when considering land area alone).

So here’s the map of the itinerary in honor of summer fast approaching… and a bonus new alternative version below.

Epic 48-State Roadtrip

If you aim to eventually visit every state, this is as good as it gets. The only two states you’ll have left to visit after this roadtrip will be Hawaii and Alaska.

I’m on the quest to visit all 50 myself, I’m not doing too bad with 46 already… but let’s just say it would’ve been much quicker to get to 48 with this roadtrip.

Here’s the itinerary:

Itinerary (credit: Randy Olson)

It was conceived by American PhD student Randy Olson, on his blog, and it was done scientifically: each stop represents a National Park or a Point of Interest.

So you’re not just seeing every state, you’re seeing cool parts of every state (which sadly wasn’t our case in North Dakota during our very random 1,200-miles-nonstop-in-two-days Flytrippers roadtrip across the Midwest).

Good times. Roadtrips always make for great stories.

Anyway, the itinerary has also been optimized to be as efficient a route as possible to see all 48 states, so you can rest assured you won’t be wasting any time. If you only stop to sleep, you can complete this roadtrip in only 9 days, but we recommend taking at least a couple of weeks to explore all these places.

And gas is significantly cheaper in the US in case you were wondering. You can start anywhere, it’s a continuous loop, and it passes through many spots near the Canadian border. You can even take a shortcut from Michigan to Vermont through Canada, as the stop in Cleveland is only to keep Americans without a passport from crossing into the Great White North.

Here is the complete list of all landmarks (48 states + Washington, DC + a bonus stop in California):

1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, D.C.
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, DE
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV

These are all very enticing attractions, for the most part. It seems I’ve only seen 14 of those, so maybe I should hit the road again after all.

How about you? Tempted?

New City-Centric Alternative

As mentioned, the original itinerary focuses mostly on natural landmarks. If you’re more of a city-slicker, the map’s author has created a second version that routes you through amazing cities instead.

Here is the itinerary:

City itinerary (credit: Randy Olson)

It is slightly shorter but quite as impressive: it makes you go through the “Best City to Visit” in each state, according to TripAdvisor.

But you won’t have all the lower 48 states unlike the other itinerary. That’s because no city in Vermont, West Virginia or North Dakota made the top 400 cities to visit ranking unfortunately.

Here is the complete list of all cities:

  1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Wichita, Kansas
  3. Denver, Colorado
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  5. Phoenix, Arizona
  6. Las Vegas, Nevada
  7. San Francisco, California
  8. Portland, Oregon
  9. Seattle, Washington
  10. Boise, Idaho
  11. Park City, Utah
  12. Jackson, Wyoming
  13. Billings, Montana
  14. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  15. Omaha, Nebraska
  16. Des Moines, Iowa
  17. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  19. Chicago, Illinois
  20. Indianapolis, Indiana
  21. Louisville, Kentucky
  22. Columbus, Ohio
  23. Detroit, Michigan
  24. Cleveland, Ohio
  25. Manchester, New Hampshire
  26. Portland, Maine
  27. Boston, Massachusetts
  28. Providence, Rhode Island
  29. New Haven, Connecticut
  30. New York City, New York
  31. Ocean City, New Jersey
  32. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  33. Wilmington, Delaware
  34. Baltimore, Maryland
  35. Washington, D.C.
  36. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  37. Charlotte, North Carolina
  38. Charleston, South Carolina
  39. Orlando, Florida
  40. Atlanta, Georgia
  41. Nashville, Tennessee
  42. Birmingham, Alabama
  43. Jackson, Mississippi
  44. New Orleans, Louisiana
  45. Houston, Texas
  46. Little Rock, Arkansas
  47. Branson, Missouri

I do a little better in this list, with 29 already visited. And I don’t even consider myself a city-slicker, oh well. How about you?

By the way, many of you have taken advantage of the Marriott Bonvoy Card‘s welcome bonus and while we do recommend you use the 60,000 Points for two free 5-night stays (10 free nights total) for nice hotels in affordable countries (or even 15 free nights when off-peak pricing goes live later this year), if you prefer you can also find good uses for the Points in the US, but in more remote locations.

Not ideal for an average trip (it’s an expensive country after all), but since you will pass by many of these on this epic itinerary you’ll at least get 8 completely free nights. Get a card each and you and your roadtrip buddy would get 16 free nights. Not as nice as 20 free nights in Spain for a romantic getaway, but not bad either.

Summary

So if you were looking for an excuse to go on a roadtrip, this is it. And since we always enjoy giving you more for your money, we think 48 States instead of only one or two is something you’ll enjoy!

What’s the coolest roadtrip you’ve ever been on? Tell us in the comments below.

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Featured image: the itinerary (credit: Randy Olson)

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Posted May 29th, 2018; updated April 30th, 2019

Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about travelling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself, he aims to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveller, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to Travel Hacking... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 45/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Do you know the total distance of this itinerary? At what moment of the year doing this trip would be the best? Thanks!

  2. Crappy itinerary! Does not even include Zion National Park… and so many stops in the North Eastern states?? Nobody cares about those places except maybe a couple of places.

    1. As explained, the PhD student who built the itinerary wanted to have one stop per state, and there are many states in the North-East so that’s why there are many stops there. I agree that Zion is an iconic spot, but his goal was also to optimize a routing that was as short as possible so that’s why it’s billed as an itinerary to see all lower 48 states at once and not an itinerary to see *the best spots*. But those interested in doing this can definitely adapt it and add many interesting stops for sure 🙂

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