Winter road trips in the United States come in many forms and colors. It can involve sun baking the windshield as you roll into the Mojave Desert en route to Joshua Tree or gliding on the winding mountainous road of Utah or Vermont. Hitting the highways of the United States during the winter season can lead to well-loved chilly destinations or even to hot, dry areas of the country where the temperatures are just right to bask in the golden glow of the sun.
Moreover, during January the prices of many famous tourist destinations in the United States come down and therefore offer opportunities to explore the areas without budget worries and crowds. If you are thinking of hitting the great American highways this winter then consult our article on the best winter road trips in the USA and pick the one that intrigues you the most.
Winter Road Trips in the USA
Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
1. Explore California – Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
Starts From – Los Angeles
Ends At – Joshua Tree National Park
Total Distance – 150 miles
Recommended Time – 4 to 5 days
No matter the season, the Pacific Coast Highway of California is a treat, however, take a detour and head inland to experience the Golden State’s desert. As it is winter you will be able to explore its golden vastness without the overbearing heat. Start from Los Angeles, and head east for about 100 miles on I-10 all the way to Palm Springs.
And if time is not an issue, try I-60 as it is a slightly longer, more scenic route and passes through Riverside, which calls itself home to the historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa. The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa dates all the way back to 1876. You can opt for a lunch break at any of its half-dozen photogenic dining spots.
From Riverside, it will take you an hour to get to the desert oasis of Palm Springs. Consider staying here for at least two nights for a more immersive experience. You can opt for a stay at Arrive by Palisociety which is a hip adult-only hotel, residing in the Uptown Design District, harboring 32 rooms. Or if you are traveling with kids, you can consider staying at the family-friendly Hyatt Regency Indian Wells which houses on its premises seven outdoor pools. If a more upscale wellness retreat is in the books, you can book a stay at the Sensei Porcupine Creek in nearby Rancho Mirage.
After you have had your fill of this tony town, change gears and make your way to the Joshua Tree National Park. The Joshua Tree National Park is a 1,242 square mile park that many visit to see and admire its namesake twisted prickly trees. Consider an overnight stay at a Joshua Tree area Airbnb to explore the area in depth.
The accommodation options here are numerous and whimsical, you will find here everything from renovated Airstreams to a luxury high desert lodge that is designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé. When in Joshua Tree National Park, consider going for a hike, or grabbing a cold drink to sip as you sit on the patio beneath the stars, contemplating life and whatnot.
2. Traverse through Vermont’s Snowy Mountains – Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
Starts From – Stowe
Ends At – Woodstock
Total Distance – 130 miles
Recommended Time – 3 days
The best winter road trips in the USA are the ones that are taken through its snowy mountains. And that is why Vermont is well associated with winter road trips in the USA. In the fall, many take a road trip through Vermont for its leaf-peeping opportunities. However, when winter comes around and its mountains don the fuzziest coat of pure white snow, locals and tourists alike make their way to Vermont to bask in its wintery glory. This winter consider a New England road trip and book your stays in Stowe and Woodstock which are applauded for harboring the best-known ski resorts in the state.
Start your trip at Stowe and consider staying there for a while to enjoy its 116 ski trails that are spread across the resort’s terrain. You can also enjoy an après ski session of raclette and whiskey at WhistlePig Pavilion off Spruce Peak. If you are in for some dinner with live music, make your way to Stowe stalwart the Matterhorn which has been a part of Stowe since 1959. There are numerous accommodation options in Stowe that range from Austrian-inspired Trapp Family Lodge which is a family-friendly resort and harbours an outdoor hot tub that seats 20, to well-regarded Airbnbs.
From Stowe drive around 40 miles east on I-89 and head to Burlington. Burlington is a cozy lakeside town with a population of 45,000. This quaint town is the ideal place to catch your breath and rest for a while after spending a day skiing on Stowe’s slopes. Here you can also get your fill of other winter activities like viewing the holiday lights on Church Street or staking in Arthur Park. As winter is the high season in Burlington, accommodations can be limited. Therefore. If you plan on staying here, make sure to book your lodgings in advance.
On the last day of your road trip, drive 9 miles via Highway 89 to make your way to Woodstock. Woodstock is a cozy town that lies near one of the oldest ski areas in the United States. As you make your way to Woodstock you will be surrounded by views of glorious mountains like Mansfield Mountain. Along the way you will also come across the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, so make sure to make a pit stop there.
3. Follow Florida’s Floating Highway All the Way to Key West – Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
Starts From – Miami, Florida
Ends At – Key West, Florida
Total Distance – 165 miles
Recommended Time – 2 to 3 days
The scenic stretch of U.S. Route 1 runs from Miami and goes all the way south and west to the tip of the Florida Keys. The route follows the course of the historic Florida and East Coast Railroad and is absolutely glorious. In 1935, a hurricane knocked out the tracks but later the route was reinaugurated as a highway. These days this route is known by many names like the Floating Highway, Overseas Highway, and the Highway of 42 Bridges. Lying suspended over the archipelago of some 1,600 islands, the route fully justifies all these appellations. This stunningly scenic route whisks its visitors past palm trees, crocodile habitats, beaches, and coral reefs.
Start your road trip from Miami, mapping toward Florida city and the beginning of “the Stretch” which makes up 18 miles of Highway 1 and connects mainland Florida to Keys. From here some people tend to take a detour to Card Sound Road to enjoy conch fritters at the well-known local/bike beach bar known as Alabama Jack’s. So, if you are a lover of Conch Fritters, make sure to make this detour.
Arrive in Key Largo via the Jewfish Creek Bridge which is a 65-foot-high beam bridge in Florida Keys and spans both Jewfish Creek and Lake Surprise. This bridge offers its visitors sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Bay. Once you arrive in Key Largo you will be compelled to try a bite of key lime pie from Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, which is a local rustic oasis established in the year 1979 by Jeff MacFarland, who named its after his mother.
From Key Largo make your way to Islamadora which is a village of six keys and has one of the biggest downtowns between Miami and Key West. Residing within this downtown is Morada Way Arts and Culture District. Morada Way Arts and Culture District is a nexus of galleries and shops and is also home to one of the Keys’ liveliest Art Walks that hold late night gallery openings, along with live music from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every third Thursday.
In Islamadora you can opt for a stay at the Postcard Inn Resort and Marina and in the morning grab a hearty shrimp and grits breakfast at the town’s favorite Green Tuttle Inn before continuing with your road trip. If you are traveling with kids make sure to make a pit stop in Marathon, Florida which calls itself home to the Aquarium Encounters where you can feed, touch as well and tank dive with coral reef creatures. Also make sure to visit the Marathon Wild Bird Center, where you will see birds being rehabilitated before they are released into the wild world.
The final destination of your road trip also known as Mile Marker 0 is Key West. Here you can shop, kiteboard, snorkel, and kitsch to your heart’s content. Key West harbors experiences that suit the taste of everyone. Here you can visit the Hemingway Home and Museum to seek out the six-toed cats or join a Key West Food Tour to venture off the beaten path.
4. Visit Historic Cities of the South – Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
Starts From – Charleston, South Carolina
Ends At – New Orleans, Louisiana
Total Distance – almost 750 miles
Recommended Time – 10 to 14 days
Another one of the best winter road trips in the United States that has our whole hearts is venturing into the historic cities of the South. Lying in the South of the United States, New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston are some of the major cities that go through a low season during the winter months. You can take advantage of the low season prices as well as the smaller crowds to explore these cities in depth. Tour the French, Gothic, antebellum, and other influences that give these cities their unique characteristics.
Start your road trip from Charleston, where the food scene is out of this world. If you are a foodie or even if you aren’t, make sure to take up Charleston Culinary Tours, you will not be disappointed. Apart from the food the biggest star of the city these days is the striking new International African American Museum that is set at Gadsden’s Wharf, the very place where about 40% of enslaved Africans entered the United States.
For an honest look into the past of the city, pair your trip to the International African American Museum with a visit to the Old Slave Mart Museum. Apart from its history Charleston also harbors its fair share of stylish, top-notch boutique hotels.
When you are done exploring Charleston, make your way to Savannah, Georgia, by driving south on U.S Highway 17 and I-95 for about 100 miles. Savannah is the kind of city that resonates with a haunting vibe, harboring oak trees dripping with Spanish moss that adds to its gothic atmosphere. Even the hotels and restaurants that Savannah houses have heaps of character.
To truly experience the energy of Savannah, opt for a stay at the Thompson Savannah which houses within its walls 193 rooms. This hotel opened its doors to the public in August of 2021 and was designed to be perpendicular to the Savannah River in order to maximize views. The Thompson Savannah is also home to the highest rooftop in the city.
Opening in early 2024 is another hotel called Hotel Bardo that comes under the people who were behind Perry Lane Hotel. Its Italian restaurant, Saint Bibiana however is ready to serve you scrumptious meals. The locals of Savannah also flock to the Wyld, Common Thread, Strangebird, Dottie’s Market, and Brochu’s because of their delectable food, and amazing vibes.
From Savannah, make your way to the Big Easy also known as New Orleans, passing cities like Macon and Montgomery, where you can make pit stops. When in New Orleans make sure to dedicate a few days to this gothic city to truly get the feel of it. Opt for a stay at the Hotel Peter and Paul in the neighborhood of Marigny. Set out to explore the key markets on the Civil Rights Trail and bask in the art and music of the glorious city.
5. Tour Texan Christmas Towns – Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
Starts From – Grapevine
Ends At – San Antonio
Total Distance – 355 miles
Recommended Time – 4 to 5 days
Winter road trips are not complete without visiting the shimmering Christmas towns. During winter the bigger and better spirit of Texas does not hibernate in fact it goes into more frenzy when Christmas injects its towns and cities with a merry and lively essence. Start the Christmas festivities from Grapevine a government-official Christmas Capital of the State of Texas.
The city celebrates 40 days filled with merriment and joy with the North Pole Express and Christmas markets. Even though right now the North Pole Express might be sold out, you can still get in the merry spirit by visiting the Christmas market in the Town Square Gazebo. Visiting this market will also give you a chance to mingle with the locals and have a talk with local makers and artists.
Once you have had your fill of Christmas fun you can make your way to Dallas for an overnight stay at the iconic Uptown hotel, the Rosewood Manson on Turtle Creek. This hotel used to be a private estate but was turned into a luxe hotel. If Rosewood Manson is too much for you, you can opt for a stay at the contemporary artful downtown boutique hotel called the Joule.
Wake up the next morning, grab a hearty breakfast, and make your way from Dallas to Fredericksburg in search of the Christmas Spirit Fredericksburg lies 262 miles south of Dallas and the I-35 S will take you there. Along the way you will pass Waco, so make sure to spare some time to stop at Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Market.
When in Fredericksburg you will be engulfed by a different kind of Christmas Vibe. The historically German town tends to put a European twist on Christmas with a traditional German Christmas Pyramid and Christmas Nights of Lights that are held each evening in the Marketplatz. When in Fredericksburg, shop till you drop along Main Street, and for some shut-eye, make your way to Barons Creekside. Barons Creekside is a Swiss log cabin village with a Texan twist and is set on a beautiful vineyard.
The next day, make your way to the final destination of your road trip, San Antonio by driving 70 miles south from Fredericksburg via U.S. 87 and I-10. When December rolls around, it transforms San Antonio’s River Walk into one of Texas’ most iconic holiday destinations. When in San Antonio, take a stroll along the beautiful riverside, and bask in the glow of multicolored lights. Opt for a stay at the Canopy by Hilton which celebrates Christmas in its own unique style. Consider a stay in one of its 195 colorful rooms that pay homage to the city’s history and culture.
6. Bask in the Beauty of Utah’s “Big 5” National Parks – Best Winter Road Trips in the USA
Starts From – Zion National Park
Ends At – Arches National Park
Total Distance – 380 miles
Recommended Time – 7 to 10 days
Zion National Park is Utah’s most visited National Park and according to the National Park Service, most of the people tend to visit the park between the months of April and September. However, during winter from December through February, Zion National Park only receives 2 to 3 percent of its annual visitors.
Therefore, when embarking on a winter road trip, make sure to head to this beloved national park as during winter the park will be void of crowd, there will be ample parking, and the prices at the stellar Camp Sarika by Amangiri will be much lower. Moreover, other hot glamping spots like AutoCamp will also offer accommodation at lower prices during these months. Furthermore, winter visitors might get the chance to witness the red rocks of the national parks in contrast with the white snow. Start your road trip from Zion National Park and make AutoCamp Zion your base.
Then make your way east and drive two hours to the Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon National Park is a lot smaller than the other national parks in Utah, but it harbors the most concentration of otherworldly hoodoos on Earth. Opt for a stay at Bryce Canyon Lodge to get some shut-eye. Before making your way to Capitol Reef.
Lying two hours northeast of Bryce Canyon National Park, the Capitol Reef is a more compact but equally stunning national park. Found residing fifteen minutes west of the Capital Reef National Park is the Lodge at Red River Ranch where you can take some rest after a tiresome day of exploring the park. Complete your pursuit of the state’s Big Five at the Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Although these parks don’t harbor lodges of their own the nearby Moab offers several options.