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Northern U.S. Road Trip
The Northern Road Trip Route, from Washington to Maine
When planning a road trip in the United States, there are two popular options: the northern route and the southern route . We'll be analyzing the northern route here, covering the states from Maine to Washington state. If a road trip is in your future, you can easily cover two different routes on your trip.
This route will cover the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Michigan, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington. It will also give you a good idea of what to expect when driving through these states, where to stop, and what to do.
Photo of Jordan Pond, Acadia, by kds4850 on flickr.
Open up that Atlas!
Plan out your road trip route!
The Road Trip Lens Series:
Or, open up that Google Map. Now, figure out where you live on the big old map of the United States. Your beginning point should be as far east or west as you can make it to cover the most ground and see the most area. Heading directly east or west is best.
Northern States Poll
The northern states covered in this lens number at 21.
How many of the states covered in this lens have you visited?
The Bulk of this Route
will be covered by only two interstates-- I-90 and I-84, as well as parts of I-5, I-15, and some smaller interstates in Wyoming.
What can you Expect to See on this Route?
Sites on the Northern Road Trip Route
This route will wind through the backroad areas New England has to offer, and shoot down to Manhattan and up New York state to see the Big Apple. From there, you'll head upstate to see the Catskills and Adirondack region. Once over those mountains, you'll proceed to Niagara Falls and across the cities of Erie, Pennsylvania, and over to Cleveland. This industrial area will lead to open prairie land until you reach the city of Chicago, which will turn back into prairie once leaving (very quickly, too!).
Wisconsin and Minnesota landscape on the southern side will be flat farm land, but to the north lies some excellent parks and boreal forests. Once across Minnesota, you will enter the barren state of South Dakota. This will progressively become the Badlands region, culminating with Badlands National Park. This arid region transforms into the dry plains region of eastern Wyoming.
Half-way across Wyoming, you will reach the Continental Divide, which abruptly separates the state. As the interestate becomes less and less crowded, you'll visit the national parks of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. A slow descent and over Hells Canyon in Idaho will bring you to Washington state. The high, mountainous region contains many national parks. This road will seemingly slant directly towards Seattle and the Washington shore. A trek down the Washington coast is an amazing journey, perfectly complimented with the high cliffs and waterfalls of Oregon.
Sunset behind Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
Starting in Maine
The northermost point, where your road trip begins (or ends!)
Maine and Washington are beautiful destinations to set your trip to. The rugged coastline of Maine is unlike the rest of the east coast, as you will quickly notice if you visit the rest of the eastern seaboard. Craggy shores lined with pines and firs make for dramatic New England scenery and a relaxing vacation spot.
Maine is famous for a number of old lighthouses...over 60 to be exact! These antique maritime navigational aids are easy to reach from Route 1. Just like the Pacific Coast Highway of California, Maine's Route 1 provides outstanding views and the most direct route to all of the shoreside destinations of Maine. A few lighthouses you may recognize in particular. The massive Portland Headlight is the oldest in the United States (1791). At the top of the state, right on the US-Canada border, is West Quoddy Head Light. This striped red and white lighthouse is on the easternmost point of the United States.
The weather in Maine is very cool, nearly all year long. Temperatures rarely crest over 80Â° due to the high latitude and closeness to the cool Atlantic air. Expect nighttime temperatures to take a drop. Bring sweatshirts with you everywhere towards the end of the day or on the open ocean.
Starting at Acadia National Park, you can take Route 1 south along the coast to see all of the small Maine towns like Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Kittery, the capital of Portland, Rockland, Freeport, Kennebunk and Wells. From Portland, I-302 will take you directly into the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
What's cool: The small beach communites, rocky shores, great food and unique seascapes.
You would think that everything is completely settled and concrete in terms of boundaries between the United States and Canada.
Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine and New Brunswick is still disputed as being part of either country.
Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The Tax Free State!
New Hampshire is just a short drive from Maine. It is a small state, but has plenty of sites to see in this small area. The White Mountains are the state's primary destination, which are located in the middle of the state. From Maine's I-302, you will be dropped right into the middle of the White Mountains and the town of North Conway. Nearby is New England's highest peak, and reportedly the windiest area of North America, Mt. Washington. From North Conway, be sure to visit Franconia Notch and the famed Kangamangus Highway. This road winds through the White Mountains National Forest and is of "National Park" proportions. For a real treat, see this area in the peak fall foliage times of late September-early October.
From the White Mountains area, hop onto I-302 again west until you reach I-91 south. Heading south on I-91 will hug the Vermont-New Hampshire border until you reach the town of White River Junction. At this point, head north on I-89 to visit some small Vermont towns.
What's cool: The unmatched New Hampshire fall foliage, the easily accessible mountains, and the clean pine air.
The Mayflower II in Plymouth Harbor, Massachusetts
New England Guide - A recommended synopsis of what to do, see, where to stay and go in New England
There are so many things to see in New England, it can be helpful even for a native to have a guide to see the best areas. This guide provides some of the best areas, well-known and hidden, to navigating the six states of New England. This will definitely enhance your trip.
Rosecliff, a Newport Mansion in Rhode Island
Bear Mountain Bridge in the Hudson River Valley of New York
Manhattan Video Tour
The Sears Tower in Chicago
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was 2nd busiest airport in the world in 2005!
Northern Midwest Videos
Just Weird: An upside down White House called "Top Secret" in the Wisconsin Dells
Vintage Road Atlases
Don't bring this on your road trip! Unless you're hunted down old, extinct roads, this won't do you much good. But they look really cool!
Despite its Attractions...
...Wyoming is the least populated state in the country at around 522,000. By comaprison, New York City's population is 15 times greater than the entire state.
Scenic Driving in Wyoming
A Guide to the Pacific Northwest
Like the cover of this book states, mountains, wine tours, markets, islands, seafood and wildlife are all included. The DK Eyewitness Guides has a unique advantage of being the "guides that show you what others only tell you." With excellent reviews, you can rest assured this book will compliment your trip to the Pacific Northwest perfectly.
Mount Rainier, Washington
Need More Road Trip Info?
Visit our US Road Trip lens for packing tips, gas saving methods, hotel strategies, pictures and facts!
Don't Get Lost on your Road Trip! - Garmin Navigators, don't leave home without them!
Find your way around the country in a snap! Don't settle for gas station directions, huge foldout maps, or guesswork ever again! Highly rated by customers, Garmin makes an excellent system to navigate you across the country so you'll be lost much less.
- Wallpaper by Design
A cool free image site that you can download a desktop screensaver or use images to your site as long as you link back to them!
It's Rare, but it does Happen!
A five star book on Amazon and over 35 people have reviewed it? It's true! Check this book out for it's amazing pictures...read the reviews and you'll see how great this book really is!
Quick Directions Across the North
Here are some easy, quick directions across the northern portion of the country, hitting many national parks, state parks, coastlines, attractions and cities. We'll start off in Maine...
- Starting at West Quoddy Head at the Canadian border, you'll be on Interstate 1. This road travels the entire coastline of Maine. Follow Route 1 south approximately 95 miles south to Mount Desert Island. In the town of Ellsworth, take I-3 south down the peninsula to Acadia National Park.
- After visiting Acadia, travel north back up I-3 to I-1 (Acadia National Highway). Follow this beautiful highway south all the way to the town of Brunswick, Maine, and merge onto I-95 south towards Portland.
- Once in Portland, the White Mountains of New Hampshire are your next stop. Travel north up I-302 65 miles towards North Conway. You will pass by Mount Washington on this route. From North Conway, travel south on Highway 16 to Highway 112, the Kancamagus Highway.
- From the end of Highway 112 in Lincoln, enter I-93 north. A few miles north is Franonica Notch State Park. From here, travel back south on I-93 for 19 miles to Plymouth, New Hampshire. Take Exit 26 towards Rt. 25, then Route 118 towards I-89 north. Follow I-89 north to the I-4 exit in White River Junction.
- On I-4, you will quickly reach Vermont and the Queechee area. Follow I-4 to the town of Woodstock and through the Killington peak area. I-4 will merge with I-7 at Rutland.
- Traveling up I-7 will bring you to beautiful Lake Champlain. A ferry ride across or a quick drive around the lake will lead to New York state. I-2 will drive across the islands of Lake Champlain and along the border of Canada, into New York state. I-2 will merge with New York I-87. Take this road south to the Adirondack region.
- I-87 south will travel along breathtaking Adirondack scenery and parks. South to Albany you will find I-90. Take I-90 east towards Massachusetts and the Berkshire region.
- On I-90 (the Mass Pike), take I-7 north towards the country towns of Lenox, Lee, Williamstown and North Adams. In Williamstown, take I-2 east towards North Adams. This is the scenic Mohawk Trail. Follow for about 35 miles to I-91 in Greenfield south to the Springfield area and I-90 (the Mass Pike) east.
- Follow I-90 east to Boston, an approximate 90 mile drive. From Boston, you can take I-93 south to Braintree. Take Rt 3 south approximately 25 miles south to historic Plymouth and Cape Cod. Rt 3 will become Rt 6 once crossing the Sagamore Bridge. Follow Rt 6 to Cape Cod destinations like Chatham, Hyannis, Provincetown and Truro.
- Follow Rt 6 back all the way back across the Sagamore Bridge to Rt 6 west alongside the Cape Cod Canal. Follow this road to Rt. 25, which will become I-495. Take I-195 west towards New Bedford and Fall River approximately 24 miles.
- From the Fall River area, take Rt 24 south to Rhode Island. 24 will become Rt 114. Follow this road all the way to Newport, Rhode Island.
- From Newport, take Rt 138 across the Newport Claiborne Pell Bridge, then across the Jamestown Bridge. Continue along 138 towards I-95 south. I-95 south will bring you to Mystic, Connecticut.
- Manhattan is approximately 125 miles to the south of Mystic on I-95. I-278 south will bring you directly towards Manhattan. From the Holland Tunnel or over the George Washington Bridge, you will find the state of New Jersey.
- At this point in the trip, you can either head north along I-87 towards the Hudson River Valley or south on I-95 towards Philadelphia. A fun side-trip is Cape May, New Jersey, on the very end of the peninsula. To reach Cape May, follow I-95 south towards I-9 and the Garden State Parkway. The Garden State Parkway leads directly to Cape May, a 3-hour drive.
- To reach Philadelphia, travel north on the Garden State Parkway to the Atlantic City Expressway. This expressway will merge with Rt 42 north towards I-76 and I-676.
- Philadelphia is about 6 hours from Niagara Falls, New York. Follow I-76 west towards I-476 north. In Scranton, take I-81 through New York State towards Syracuse. Follow I-90 west towards Niagara Falls and Buffalo. I-290 and I-190 will take you directly to the falls.
- Cleveland is an easy 3 hour drive south along I-90. From here, you can decide to take the trek up the Michigan peninsula, or towards Chicago. Of course, you can do both! To reach Chicago, stay on I-90 west for about 5 hours.
- 90 minutes to the north of Chicago is Milwaukee. Take I-94 north towards this city in Wisconsin. I-94 will lead directly towards Minneapolis. From here, take I-90 west towards the Wisconsin Dells.
- The plains area is a nice scenic drive, with rural farmland, but can get redundant. Bring out the music for this portion of your trip along I-90 towards South Dakota and the Badlands.
- After a 10 hour drive, you will reach South Dakota's Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park.
- Follow I-90 west to Wyoming towards Devil's Tower National Monument. I-14 north will lead directly to Devil's Tower. An approximate 8 hour drive across Wyoming's back country will lead to Yellowstone National Park. Take I-14 back south towards I-90. I-90 west will lead to I-14 in Rachester, Wyoming. Take I-14 south towards Cody, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park.
- From Yellowstone, travel south to I-191 to the Grand Tetons National Park and Jackson, Wyoming. In Jackson, I-26 will lead directly to Idaho Falls, Idaho. From here, I-15 south will lead to I-86 west. This will merge to I-84 west to Boise, Idaho.
- I-84 west will lead directly towards Washington State. Take I-82 north across the state towards Seattle. From Seattle, follow 104 towards Olympic National Park. I-101 will lead to most of the attractions of the park.
- Follow I-101 to the coast of Oregon and enjoy the seaside vistas.