What is the Best Time of the Year to Go On a Road Trip?

Those who prioritize comfort will most likely agree that there is no better and more fun way of traveling than road trips. After all – you have the chance to stop wherever you want, whenever you want. The US is full of exciting and scenic rides you can take, but if you pick the wrong time of year, you may be in for a much different experience than you expected. No one wants their trip to be ruined by an unwanted storm or road closures. So which is the best time to go on a road trip? Keep reading this article to find out the answer.

Keep in mind that the US is a vast country. Therefore, the weather and overall climate can vary considerably throughout all seasons. If you head to Southern California or Arizona, you may expect roads to be free of ice, even in December. But when visiting New York or Idaho, you may have to drive carefully and be much more cautious; when it comes to summer, if driving along the Gulf Coast, you may expect heavy summer rains, which, of course, have an impact on the quality of the roads. In spring, you might experience some snow, even in the South. 

This article will break down the best time to head out on some of the country’s most famous scenic drives. But always remember the weather, of course, can be unpredictable. One of our most memorable trips was driving towards Kingman, Arizona, after spending a day at the Grand Canyon. While the sky was pretty clear above us, there were thunderstorms in all directions around us. It was amazing but a little unnerving.

When to drive the Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway is undoubtedly one of the most famous drives in the United States and is constantly ranked among the most scenic. But, of course, a lot depends on whether you plan to stay just in California or you want to include any of the Washington and Oregon coasts in your trip as well. If you wish to explore the whole of the Pacific coast, finding the perfect weather is a bit more challenging.

When driving the highway in Washington and Oregon, keep in mind that the further north you go, the worse the winter weather will be. Therefore, extra caution should be taken if you plan to travel during the winter months. But, of course, if you don’t mind snow and rain during your adventure, the winter is going to be far less crowded. In my opinion, the best time to plan the PCH drive is during the summer months of June through to September. You might still have to pack a raincoat and umbrella, but usually, you are good to go.

If you are only planning to drive in California, you have more considerable flexibility to make your plans. In the South, the weather is milder in winter. You may have heard the song “It never rains in Southern California,” which is actually quite accurate over the last few years, unfortunately. Typically, there is a lot of sunshine, and experiencing rain is pretty unlikely. However, California may have some storms during winter, which seem to have been especially bad in recent years – something better to be avoided if you can. Also, beware around the Big Sur stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, where mountains come down to the sea.

When to discover Route 66

There is no road like Route 66 – stretching more than 2,400 miles, it connects urban and rural communities from Chicago, Illinois, to its end in Santa Monica, California. Although part of its magic is the ideation of the past, it is still a unique adventure to experience. Like most of the tourist attractions around the world, Route 66 has its high and low seasons. If you are trying to avoid crowds, it is best to travel during the low season, which unfortunately is the same time of the year when the weather isn’t as great. For weather, the period of the year, which spans from the middle of spring until mid-fall, is the best time to discover the famous route.

Because of how long Route 66 is and the varying terrain it covers, in my opinion, the early fall is the best time as you are unlikely to hit snow in the midwest yet, and the deserts of the southwest won’t be as hot.

When to explore the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Those chasing stunning views will surely want to experience the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is considered one of the top scenic drives in the whole country. The route travels through Glacier National Park and is an excellent way to explore the park with almost no effort. As you may guess, the road can be hectic in Glacier National Park, and finding a parking lot can be pretty tricky. Between 9:30 AM and 4 PM, you may expect road delays and trouble finding a place to leave your car. Therefore, it is best to get there before 9:30 AM. What is more, then you will also have a bigger chance of spotting some wildlife, since they are more active in the morning. Parts of the road are open all year long, but the best time to visit is from late June to early October to avoid possible closures.

When to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Driving through the Blue Ridge Parkway is an experience unlike any other. As you take the relaxing drive, admire the incredible vistas and views of mountains and surrounding pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. There is no doubt – the region is quite special. The best time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway is from spring to fall because the weather is pleasant, and the possibility of closures on the road is much lower. What is more, during fall, you will get the chance to notice the changing leaves, while in spring and summer, you may enjoy blooming wildflowers, which typically last until October. For a more comfortable experience, make sure to start your trip early and avoid weekends (then the roads get busier). Winter is not the best time to discover the Blue Ridge Parkway since some sections may close due to severe weather conditions.

When to explore The Loneliest Road in America

Highway 50 through Nevada is called The Loneliest Road in America, and while that was probably true at one point, travel on it has picked up over the years. Still, you can go quite a while without seeing people. It’s no secret that Nevada is hot in the summer, and the weather can actually get pretty nasty on some parts of Highway 50 in the winter. Spring or fall would be the ideal time to travel the Loneliest Road.

We visited in the fall last year, and the weather was still a little warm but pleasant, and there was certainly not much in the way of crowds. There are very few hotels along Highway 50, so that is something to keep in mind if you travel during peak season, but then again, peak season on the Loneliest Road is still probably a fraction of what you may find elsewhere.

Bonus Tip

A tip to see if wherever you are heading might be more crowded than usual is to check hotel prices. Look at the prices when you want to go, but also look at them a month or two in either direction. Usually, prices go up when there is more demand, so if you see the prices are higher, you can probably expect more in the way of crowds.

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