Updated: Aug 13, 2019
This road trip has something for everyone whether you are traveling in a group or with family. Driving from east coast to west coast or west coast to east coast would take approx. 42 hours if you drive non-stop to cover the distance of 2,790 miles. However, this road trip isn't something you haste, instead it's for fun and thrill.
Over 7 days you will drive through 12 different states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona (optional) and California.
Arizona is optional if you wish to pass through. I love Arizona for its vivid landscape - Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, hence I extended my trip to drive through Arizona.
Horseshoe Bend, most beautiful and unique place in the world.
You will be driving through 4 different timezones (EST,CST,MST,PST), probably the longest road trip which you can imagine in United States and trust me you will love it. Road trip is always a fun for people who love driving and if you are driving in a group it will be more memorable.
I have mentioned the hotels, locations, routes and drive hours which I followed. You can tweak it if you have any other plans in mind. Unfortunately, I was the only driver for the whole trip. But I was not alone, my wife helped me to keep myself awake with her poor jokes ;)
You can add/subtract extra day in between if you like/dislike the place. Don't book hotels in advance, instead book it on same day so that you are always free to change your plan.
Roam New York
Day 1: New York to Chicago, IL
Extra day to roam Chicago
Day 2: Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE
Day 3: Omaha, NE to Rocky Mountains, CO
Extra day to roam Colorado
Day 4: Rocky Mountains, CO to Page, AZ
Extra day to roam Arizona
Day 5: Page, AZ to Las Vegas, NE
Extra day to roam Vegas
Day 6: Las Vegas, NE to Los Angeles, CA
Roam Los Angeles
Day 1. New York to Chicago, IL (11 hours, 745 miles via I80)
Eleven hours drive is too much, isn't it? Yes, I planned to drive maximum on first day because first day I was full of energy, also stopping at Chicago wasn't a bad idea at all.
However, you can split this drive into two days (7+5 hours drive) making a stop at Cleveland, OH if eleven hours drive is too much for you. You can visit Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you get some time in the evening, it's located on the shore of lake Erie in downtown Cleveland and it's very beautiful.
I have already visited Cleveland couple of times so I didn't had much to explore there.
Anyways, I stayed at Cool Springs Inn, Michigan City approximately an hour drive from Chicago due to couple of reasons. First reason was cost, hotels in Chicago were too expensive, approx. 3-4 times costlier than what I paid in Michigan City ($45). Secondly, Chicago is hardly an hour drive from this place. So you can wake up little early in the morning and roam Chicago if you want.
You can visit Navy Pier, Willis Tower, Cloud Gate, John Hancock Center, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago etc. There is a lot to do in Chicago (in fact a day is not enough for Chicago) so get a city pass and try to explore as much you can.
At the end of the day you can drive back to Cool Springs or book another hotel nearby. Palmer House is a good option if you want to spend more time in Chicago downtown, I had been there couple of times. It's little costlier (~$150/night), also you have to pay extra for parking (~$50) but place is awesome.
Day 2: Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE (7.5 hours, 466 miles via I80)
Well I didn't stop at Omaha (Horizon Inn Motel) according to my initial plan, instead I drove another 8 hours to stop at Rocky Mountains, CO which was actually my day 3 stop. It sounds crazy but yeah I drove over 15 hours to reach Colorado. I was more interested in hiking and roaming Colorado, basically with extra 8 hours driving I saved a day for Colorado.
However, there is lot to do in Omaha as well if you stick to initial plan. If you have interest in Zoo and America's largest indoor rainforest, visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium with its incredible indoor desert and rainforest.
Day 3: Omaha to Rocky Mountain, CO (8 hours, 568 miles via I76)
Colorado is too big to be explored in a single day. So I stayed for couple of days there, first stop at Coyote Mountain Lodge. Started the day with Rocky Mountain hiking and drove through Garden of Gods.
Second day stoped at Estes Park and visited Royal Gorge bridge (shown below) & then amazing Great Sand Dunes National Park.
I haven't seen landscape like Great Sand Dunes in my entire life. You will find lake, desert and snowy mountain at same place. It's mesmerizing!
Day 4: Sand Dunes, CO to Page, AZ (7 hours, 426 miles via US160)
Arizona is also too big to be explored in one day. But you can visit Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and drive through Zion National Park or Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon itself need couple of days if you want to visit it's all corner.
Below is my random picture from Zion National Park, lost while driving. It's very beautiful, don't miss drive through if you are nearby.
Antelope canyon at noon, shines bright orange in sunlight (try to visit around noon).
Day 5: Page, AZ to Las Vegas, NE (4 hours, 272 miles via US89 & I15)
Las Vegas is self explanatory and I don't think this place needs any explanation.
You can try different food, drinks, enjoy street walk, night life, enjoy rides and roam around. Saturday night is the most popular there so plan your trip accordingly.
Day 6: Las Vegas, NE to Los Angeles, CA (4 hours, 270 miles via I15)
You can cover this distance on 5th day itself if you don't like Vegas. But I believe thats not the case, there are very few who wants to skip Vegas.
Southern California has tons of things to do - Universal Studio, San Diego Zoo, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, tons of beaches etc etc.
However my favorite is Potato Chip Rock Mountain, it's little mountain hike near San Diego county if you get some extra time. Here is the pic,
Things to remember before you start
Have full servicing of your vehicle before you plan this trip like engine oil change, tire condition, lights, breaks etc. I wasted many hours due to oil change in Arizona so be careful.
Don't book hotel in advance. But try to book it before 3:00 pm if you are booking on same day otherwise it will be very costly. I had to cancel one pre-booking due to change in plan.
Keep extra blankets and pillow in your car in case you need rest.
Don't overload your vehicle, always keep extra space for yourself.
Take continuous break while driving. I was taking break every 3-4 hours of driving.
Don't drive more than 8 hours per day. Well sorry guys I didn't follow this rule myself.
Keep warm clothes (Jackets) in your car. Weather will be changing a lot with such long distance tour. When I started the trip it was 25 degree Celsius in New York and when I reached Colorado it dropped till 2 degree Celsius.
Keep plenty of water and food supply in your car.
Keep a tire inflator in your car (at Amazon, you will find it for $15).
Avoid driving between 6 pm to 7 pm due to sunset. As you are driving towards west, you will face Sun every evening.
Most important - Enjoy your trip, don't haste!
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