Who doesn’t appreciate winding drives through lovely countryside? But for a truly memorable road trip, choose a location and route that aligns with your passions. To help, we asked some well-known travelers to put together itineraries for specific interests, from a car enthusiast’s outing (your guide: Michael Strahan) to a spiritual journey (Deepak Chopra) to a biker’s odyssey (environmentalist and author Bill McKibben).
Find a journey that suits your interests, including…
Stunning national parks
- How to plan an epic road trip
- Explore Southern Arizona
- Experience California's Highway 1
- South Carolina adventure
- Scenic Hells Canyon in Oregon
- Washington's San Juan Islands
- Michigan coast
- Art in the Hudson Valley
- Unique Southwest hotels
- Road trip quiz
- Money-saving tips
- 8 travel pros' trip ideas
- Travel news and vacation ideas
Driver: Patricia Schultz, 69, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and Why We Travel, coming in September
Where to: Utah
Tales from the road: I have a couple hundred favorite road trips, but I always come back to Utah, and the “Mighty Five,” which is what they call the five magnificent national parks you can visit on a hamster’s loop around the southern part of the state in roughly one week’s time. I had never really heard much about Utah until my junior year abroad in Spain, when a local student told me all he wanted to see of the U.S. was Times Square, New Orleans and “Oo-ta.” He waxed on about the incredible parks there, and he planted a seed. When I finally did visit, I felt like I was viewing them through his eyes.
Itinerary: Starting out of Salt Lake City, the first park you hit is Zion, the oldest and maybe most beautiful park in Utah, and that’s a big statement. Zion is huge and mystifying, and you understand immediately why it awed the travelers who left these rock faces and canyons with place-names like Angels Landing and the Great White Throne. Many visitors combine Zion with a trip to Bryce Canyon, which is more of a pocket park. Bryce has limestone hoodoos, or pillars, that are eroding over time, and you can go down into the depths to a trek called Wall Street, an unforgettable trail through towering natural skyscrapers.
If you continue north from Bryce, there’s Capitol Reef, the second biggest of the Mighty Five but one that too often gets overlooked. It follows a 100-mile fold in the Earth’s crust and has everything you want in a national park visit: old settlements, amazing hikes, orchards where you can pick fruit in season, and some great places to stop and eat, like the Capitol Reef Inn & Café. Right off Highway 24, you come upon petroglyph figures on a sheer face that runs parallel to the road.
Canyonlands National Park is Utah’s biggest, and you could spend days getting lost in the 527 square miles of river canyons and mesas, but the Island in the Sky area is the most accessible by car. Pick almost any spot and just gawk at the miles of mesas and sandstone cliffs.
The town of Moab is a fantastic base for exploring this whole area. It’s considered the adventure center of the Southwest because there is so much to do: bike riding and hot-air ballooning and trekking and more. Families love to go with multiple generations because some people can meander on easy hikes while others do whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.
I don’t need to say much about Arches National Park. It’s legendary, with more than 2,000 red sandstone arches. Driving is the best way to see much of the park, but don’t just stay in the car. Balanced Rock needs you to get up close to take a look. The boulder on top resembles a mushroom cloud.
One of my favorite places to stay is Sorrel River Ranch. It’s the full dude ranch experience. There’s even a spa. It’s the kind of idyllic place you never want to leave.
A deeper consciousness
Driver: Deepak Chopra, 75, mindfulness guru whose latest book is Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth
Where to: The healing energy spots of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert
Tales from the road: I’m mostly in New York City these days and I enjoy walking my 10,000 steps, but it’s noisy, and the crowds can trigger anxiety if you’re not self-aware. In Arizona, I feel the calm inside and out. The desert areas have been a sacred space for centuries for Indigenous populations, and you can still experience the mind-body power of those rituals and ceremonies in whatever way you choose, even if it is simply by driving and really noticing what’s around you.
Itinerary: The area around Sedona, to me, looks like it’s not on planet Earth. The towering red and orange rock formations have the same kind of cosmic energy and ability to uplift the spirit as sacred sites that attract spiritual travelers and pilgrims at places like Glastonbury or Stonehenge in England. Sedona is natural, though, not built, and driving around there is almost like visiting a vast open-air cathedral. You will find people meditating at different spots near Sedona. Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon are the most popular.
It's two hours from Sedona to Phoenix, with beautiful desert scenery. In the area of Carefree, where my company has a mind-body center, there are desert gardens where you can see native plants of the desert. The ancients, and those who follow their practices today, used herbal medicine and psychedelic mushrooms to reach higher states of consciousness. If that calls to you, great. But you can achieve these altered states through other contemplative practices as well: observing the senses, observing your thoughts, observing your surroundings and recognizing that, ultimately, reality is within yourself as much as it is out there. Whether you’re in Manhattan or Phoenix, the one thing that stays continuous is inside you. It is consciousness.
Driver: Lesley Stahl, 80, correspondent for CBS’ 60 Minutes
Where to: A loop through history and good taste in SoCal
Tales from the road: When Ronald Reagan was president, I was CBS’ correspondent at the White House, and part of the press corps that followed him on vacation. Reagan usually went to his ranch in the mountains around Santa Barbara, and we stayed in town, along the ocean.
In those years, my husband, young daughter Taylor and I drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at, for instance, San Simeon, where William Randolph Hearst built a sumptuous castle. Once, we got out of the car and walked down to the beach to watch massive sunbathing elephant seals with their fabulous floppy noses. Years later, Taylor got married at the beautiful Foley vineyard in Santa Ynez, and her husband now makes his own wine. She and her family continue our tradition of exploring the Pacific Coast.