Embarking on a road trip is the perfect way to explore the vast landscapes and hidden gems of the Midwest. With its picturesque countryside, charming small towns, and iconic routes, the region offers a multitude of options for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.
From scenic drives along the Great River Road to the historic Route 66, the Midwest is home to some of the most captivating road trip routes in the country. Whether you’re seeking breathtaking views, cultural experiences, or outdoor adventures, these road trips will take you on a journey filled with unforgettable memories.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Midwest as you traverse through rolling hills, shimmering lakes, and expansive prairies. Discover quaint towns steeped in history, indulge in regional cuisine, and connect with the diverse communities along the way.
So buckle up, hit the road, and get ready for an extraordinary journey through the heartland of America. In this article, we will explore the 7 best Midwest road trips that will inspire your wanderlust and leave you with a sense of awe.
The Great River Road
Stretching for over 2,000 miles along the Mississippi River, the Great River Road offers a spectacular journey through 10 states in the Midwest. This iconic route showcases the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historic significance of the region.
Starting in Minnesota and ending in Louisiana, the Great River Road takes road trippers through picturesque towns, scenic overlooks, and numerous historic sites. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to explore charming riverfront towns, indulge in delicious regional cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the Midwest.
Highlights of this road trip include the stunning river views from the bluffs in Iowa, the majestic riverboats and antebellum architecture in Mississippi, and the lively music scene of New Orleans, Louisiana. As you drive along the Great River Road, make sure to stop at the various interpretive centers and museums that offer insights into the region’s history, wildlife, and natural wonders.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Great River Road provides ample opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and birdwatching. You can also embark on boat tours, visit national wildlife refuges, and enjoy water sports like kayaking and canoeing.
Don’t miss the chance to witness the changing landscapes as you journey along the Great River Road. From the rolling farmlands of Minnesota to the swamps of the Deep South, each state along the route has its own unique charm and attractions.
So pack your bags, follow the meandering path of the Mississippi River, and experience the unrivaled beauty and cultural richness of the Great River Road.
The Sunflower State Scenic Byway
Get ready to be mesmerized by the golden fields of sunflowers as you embark on the Sunflower State Scenic Byway in Kansas. This 202-mile road trip takes you through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the Midwest.
The route begins in the bustling city of Wichita and winds its way through the heart of Kansas, showcasing the state’s natural beauty and rich history. As you drive along, you’ll be treated to breathtaking scenery, charming small towns, and fascinating attractions.
One of the highlights of this road trip is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the prairie and spot a diverse range of plant and animal species. Take a hike along the nature trails or join a guided tour to learn about the history and conservation efforts of this unique ecosystem.
Continue your journey to the rolling Flint Hills, where you’ll be captivated by the vast expanses of tallgrass prairie, dotted with grazing cattle. Make a stop at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan to learn about the region’s geology, wildlife, and Native American heritage.
As you drive through the Sunflower State, be sure to visit the quaint towns that line the scenic byway. Explore the historic attractions of Abilene, including the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, or indulge in the Wild West charm of Dodge City, known for its rich cowboy history.
Don’t forget to savor the local flavors along the way. Kansas is renowned for its barbecue, so be sure to sample some mouthwatering ribs, brisket, or burnt ends at one of the many BBQ joints you’ll encounter on your journey.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, the Sunflower State Scenic Byway will take you on a memorable road trip through the heart of Kansas.
The Lake Michigan Circle Tour
Experience the beauty of the Great Lakes as you embark on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, a scenic road trip that takes you around the entire circumference of Lake Michigan. This 1,100-mile journey will lead you through four states and showcase the stunning landscapes, charming towns, and sandy beaches that surround the lake.
Starting in either Chicago, Illinois, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour offers a diverse range of experiences. Drive along the eastern shore of the lake in Michigan to visit picturesque towns like Saugatuck and Traverse City, known for their sandy beaches, wineries, and vibrant art scenes.
Continue your journey through Wisconsin to explore the Door County Peninsula, famous for its lighthouses, cherry orchards, and charming waterfront communities. Take a ferry to Washington Island and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this secluded paradise.
As you cross into the scenic Upper Peninsula of Michigan, be prepared to be awestruck by the natural beauty of places like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Hike along the breathtaking cliffs, take a cruise to see the colorful rock formations, and marvel at the power of the cascading waterfalls.
Complete your circle tour by driving through the southern shore of Lake Michigan, stopping at iconic cities like Grand Rapids and South Bend. Enjoy world-class museums, indulge in delicious cuisine, and experience the vibrant culture of these urban destinations.
Throughout the journey, you’ll have ample opportunities to relax on sandy beaches, go fishing or boating, and sample delicious local cuisine, including the famous Michigan cherries and Wisconsin cheese.
The Lake Michigan Circle Tour is not just a road trip; it’s an adventure that will leave you with unforgettable memories of the stunning landscapes and vibrant communities that surround this magnificent Great Lake.
The Black Hills Loop
Get ready for an incredible journey through the rugged beauty of the Black Hills as you embark on the Black Hills Loop road trip. Located in South Dakota, this scenic route takes you through iconic landmarks, historic sites, and breathtaking natural wonders.
Start your adventure in Rapid City and make your way to the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the faces of four American presidents are carved into the granite mountainside. Immerse yourself in the history and significance of this remarkable monument.
Continue your journey through the Black Hills National Forest, where you’ll encounter towering pine trees, sparkling rivers, and abundant wildlife. Take a scenic detour to Custer State Park, known for its herds of bison that freely roam the prairies.
Don’t miss the opportunity to drive through the Needles Highway, a stunning road that winds through narrow tunnels and offers breathtaking views of towering granite spires. Stop at the iconic Sylvan Lake for a picturesque picnic or a leisurely hike around the tranquil waters.
As you drive through the Black Hills, make a visit to the historic town of Deadwood, famous for its connection to the Gold Rush era and Wild West legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Explore the casinos, enjoy live entertainment, and immerse yourself in the town’s rich history.
For a unique experience, venture into the underground world of Wind Cave National Park. Take a guided tour through the labyrinthine cave system and marvel at its intricate formations.
End your Black Hills Loop road trip by visiting the otherworldly formations of Badlands National Park. Drive along the scenic Loop Road to witness the rugged beauty of the eroded cliffs, deep canyons, and unique wildlife that call this park home.
The Black Hills Loop road trip is a captivating journey through the heart of South Dakota’s natural and cultural treasures. From historic landmarks to stunning landscapes, this road trip is sure to leave you in awe of the Black Hills region.
The North Shore Scenic Drive
Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Lake Superior as you embark on the North Shore Scenic Drive in Minnesota. This picturesque road trip takes you along the North Shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world, showcasing stunning cliffs, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns.
Begin your journey in Duluth, a vibrant city known for its scenic harbor and the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge. Take a stroll along the waterfront, visit the Great Lakes Aquarium, and explore the historic Canal Park district before heading north.
As you drive along Highway 61, be prepared to be mesmerized by the breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the rocky shoreline. Stop at Split Rock Lighthouse, a historic beacon perched on the cliffside, and learn about its fascinating maritime history.
Continue your drive to Gooseberry Falls State Park, where you can hike along the trails and witness the cascading waterfalls that have made this park famous. Enjoy a picnic by the river or venture out to explore the surrounding forested areas.
Further up the coast, you’ll come across the charming towns of Grand Marais and Tofte. Take a break and explore the local art galleries, enjoy a meal at a lakeside restaurant, or simply relax on the picturesque beaches.
The North Shore Scenic Drive is also known for its breathtaking fall foliage. During the autumn months, the dense forests of maple, birch, and oak trees transform into a vibrant tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s a spectacular sight not to be missed.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the North Shore offers numerous recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, kayaking, and even surfing on Lake Superior. Explore the Superior Hiking Trail, paddle on the calm waters of the inland lakes, or simply take in the serenity of nature.
Whether you’re seeking jaw-dropping views, outdoor adventures, or a relaxing escape by the water, the North Shore Scenic Drive delivers it all. Get ready to be enchanted by the rugged beauty and tranquility of Lake Superior’s North Shore.
The Route 66 Adventure
Embark on the ultimate American road trip as you journey along the iconic Route 66. Known as the “Main Street of America,” this historic highway stretches from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, taking you through eight states and over 2,400 miles of pure adventure.
Begin your Route 66 adventure in Chicago, where you can visit the Art Institute of Chicago, explore Millennium Park, and indulge in Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. As you hit the open road, you’ll pass through the charming small towns and rolling farmlands of Illinois.
Continue westward, crossing the Mississippi River into Missouri, where you’ll encounter classic Route 66 roadside attractions like the Chain of Rocks Bridge and the famous “Gateway Arch” in St. Louis. Explore the historic Route 66 towns of Cuba and Springfield, and immerse yourself in the nostalgic atmosphere of a bygone era.
In Oklahoma, make a stop in Tulsa, known for its vibrant art deco architecture and the iconic Blue Whale landmark. Visit the Route 66 Museum in Clinton to learn about the history and significance of this legendary highway.
As you travel through Texas, make sure to experience the unique blend of Texan and Mexican culture in Amarillo, and don’t miss the quirky Cadillac Ranch, featuring a row of half-buried Cadillacs adorned with graffiti.
In New Mexico, explore the vibrant city of Albuquerque, home to the historic Old Town and the iconic Route 66 Diner. Don’t forget to visit the stunning landscapes of the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park.
As you cross into Arizona, marvel at the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona. Visit the historic towns of Flagstaff and Winslow, and make a pilgrimage to the famous “Standin’ on the Corner” statue commemorating the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy.”
Complete your Route 66 adventure as you reach Santa Monica, California, where you can dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean and celebrate the end of an epic road trip. Experience the lively atmosphere of the Santa Monica Pier and soak in the California sunshine.
The Route 66 Adventure is more than just a road trip; it’s a nostalgic journey through the heart of America. Along the way, you’ll encounter the remnants of a bygone era, experience the hospitality of small towns, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
The Great Lakes Seaway Trail
Embark on a scenic road trip along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a 518-mile route that winds its way through the beautiful landscapes and charming communities of New York and Pennsylvania. This journey offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure.
Starting in the city of Buffalo, New York, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail follows the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, offering stunning views of the water and access to numerous recreational activities. Explore the vibrant city of Rochester, known for its historic sites, museums, and picturesque waterfront.
As you continue along the trail, make a stop at the breathtaking Niagara Falls, one of the world’s most famous natural wonders. Feel the mist on your face and witness the sheer power and beauty of the cascading waterfalls.
Indulge in the region’s rich history by visiting the War of 1812 historic sites, such as Fort Niagara and Old Fort Niagara, where you can learn about the battles that shaped the region’s past. Explore the charming towns of Sackets Harbor and Oswego, with their well-preserved architecture and maritime heritage.
Take in the beauty of the Thousand Islands region, with its countless islands dotting the St. Lawrence River. Take a boat tour to explore the islands, visit Boldt Castle, or try your hand at fishing in these pristine waters.
As you reach the eastern end of Lake Ontario, you’ll drive through stunning wine country, with vineyards lining the hillsides. Stop at local wineries to sample award-winning wines and enjoy the peaceful countryside.
Continue your journey to the vibrant city of Syracuse, New York, known for its rich cultural scene and historic architecture. Visit the Erie Canal Museum, or explore the vast green spaces of Onondaga Lake Park.
As you make your way into Pennsylvania, experience the beauty of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, with its sandy beaches and breathtaking sunsets. Enjoy water sports, hiking trails, or simply relax by the water’s edge.
The Great Lakes Seaway Trail offers a diverse range of experiences, from picturesque landscapes to historic landmarks. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural immersion, or simply a tranquil escape by the Great Lakes, this road trip will exceed your expectations.
Embarking on a road trip through the Midwest is an incredible way to discover the hidden treasures and stunning landscapes of this region. From the meandering Mississippi River to the breathtaking shores of Lake Michigan, each road trip offers a unique experience filled with adventure, history, and natural beauty.
Whether you choose to travel along the Great River Road, explore the scenic byways of Kansas, or cruise along the North Shore of Lake Superior, these road trips will take you on a journey of a lifetime. Immerse yourself in the local culture, indulge in regional cuisine, and soak in the beauty of the landscapes as you drive from one destination to another.
Along the way, make sure to explore the charming small towns, visit historic landmarks, and connect with the friendly communities that make the Midwest so special. From the quaint shops and museums to the outdoor recreation opportunities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a scenic getaway, the Midwest has it all. The open roads are waiting for you to embark on your next adventure, where you can create lasting memories and experience the beauty of the heartland of America.
So grab a map, plan your route, and hit the road. Let the Midwest road trips take you on a journey of discovery, exploration, and breathtaking views. Start ticking off the 7 best road trips in the Midwest and get ready for an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the region’s rich heritage and natural wonders.