Top Summer Road Trips in Our Favorite Cars

Finding the Right Car for Your Family's Needs

It's summer, which means the trees are green, and the asphalt is nice and toasty. It's time to cash in some vacation days and hit the road ... but not just any road, and not just in any car. After all, if you wanted to sit in gridlock in a Prius, you could just move to L.A. and do it every day of the week.

But don't fire up your Google Maps app just yet. To save you time, our automotive experts have put together a choice selection of their favorite drives all over the country, and the best cars to enjoy them in. Think of it like a wine and cheese pairing, but with more wind in your face and fewer French words. Now it's time to hit the road and soak up some sun. Allons-y!

Best Road Trips

You don't have to drive that lonesome road by yourself, because we drove it for you. Here you'll find the crème de la crème of American roads, everywhere from California to Tennessee, matched up with the perfect car for each. Your summer getaway starts right here.

Road Trip Ideas and Destinations

Natchez Trace Parkway to Nashville

Road Trip Car: Ford Mustang

In the summer, when the trees are green, the Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the most beautiful roads in the country. It features several stretches of immaculate blacktop lazily snaking through pristine woodland, and opportunities for great scenic vistas. Hop in a Mustang GT convertible, put the top down, and crank the cooled seats to chase off some of the heat. I'd put it in sixth gear and let that burly V8 idle me down the road. And if I wanted to cut loose a little, there's no shortage of technical backroads along the route.

Start all the way down in Natchez, Mississippi, if you're feeling adventurous and want to explore some historic sites or small nature preserves, or closer if you just want to make a day of it. Try to time it so you cross the Double Arch Bridge at sunset for a stunning view, then head into downtown Nashville for hot chicken at Hattie B's and bluegrass at the Station Inn. Followed by more hot chicken.

Road Trip Tip: Have a light lunch to leave room for more hot chicken. Oh, and bring insect repellent.

Kickoff Song: "Freight Train Blues," Mississippi Fred McDowell

— Will Kaufman, staff writer

2018 Ford Mustang Overview and Pricing
Read Edmunds' long-term test of the 2015 Ford Mustang GT

Riding Horses, Old West Style

Road Trip Car: Jaguar F-Type SVR

Pioneertown nestles about 30 miles north of Palm Springs, California, on the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park. What began life as a set for Western movies featuring Roy Rogers has morphed in a hip getaway destination just two hours' drive from L.A.

There's a traditional saddle-maker in the town center. But if you prefer your horses under a hood, there are some great driving roads nearby. I took the Jaguar F-Type SVR from Edmunds' long-term test fleet and it was the perfect choice. The growl of the big V8 bouncing off the rock formations was a constant source of amusement, while I loved the juxtaposition between the Jag's feline curves and the timber shacks.

On your getaway, be sure to stay at the Pioneertown Motel. When you're kicking back in your room, you'll swear you're Billy the Kid.

Road Trip Tip: Dine at Pappy and Harriet's, where Paul McCartney (yes, the Beatle) played a secret concert.

Kickoff Song: "Band on the Run," Paul McCartney & Wings (see above)

— Alistair Weaver, VP of Editorial and editor-in-chief

Stargazing in the Southwest

Road Trip Car: Volvo XC60

On this road trip, I'm looking for painted desert, fossilized wood and hoodoos (pinnacles of weathered rock) in Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. And after a five-hour drive east (partly on bad, unpaved roads), I'll explore history and archaeology in Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.

But what I'm really after is a glimpse of the infinite. Both parks have been named Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark Skies Association. Petrified Forest National Park became the world's newest site in June. Chaco has an observatory and an extensive night sky program.

The 2018 Volvo XC60 is perfect for the journey. It has plenty of room for photo and camping gear, a comfortable ride for those long distances and a big, panoramic sunroof to look out of. Thanks to all-wheel drive and the XC60's optional air suspension (which lifts the body for more off-highway ground clearance), it will be easy to reach my destination: the stars.

Road Trip Tip: For a unique souvenir, don't get the usual coffee mug or hat. The Petrified Forest National Park gift shop sells a miniature replica skull of phytosaur Smilosuchus gregorii, a crocodile-like critter that hunted its prey in Arizona 220 million years ago. At 26 feet, this critter was 11 feet longer than our car. Yikes.

Kickoff Song: "Starry Eyed Surprise," Paul Oakenfold

— Carroll Lachnit, director, consumer content

2018 Volvo XC60 Overview and Pricing

Back Roads of Maine

Road Trip Car: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 4WD

Honor pie! Picture a wooden roadside stand in the forests of New England where baked goods sit unattended. You can pack your trunk (and face) with maple whoopie pies and fresh berry cobblers, then put your cash in the lockbox — all on the honor system. The stand was robbed once … by a bear.

The back roads of Maine offer spectacular scenery along with being a magical, trusting place where the only thieves are woodland animals. It's not just pies and lobster rolls, either. Maine is famous for winter skiing, summer hiking and an off-road rally. To make the most of it, I'd go in a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 4WD. It's a capable and sporty car that's fun to drive and offers plenty of space for gear and dessert. Even better, with an MSRP under $30,000 and a combined mpg of 28 mpg, the Alltrack will leave plenty of cash in your wallet for exploring the mountains and coastlines.

Road Trip Tip: Watch out for clowns in the sewers! Maine is the home state and inspiration for horror writer Stephen King. Head to Bangor, Maine, if you're a fan, and see how many landmarks you can recognize from his novels. Then sleep with the light on.

Kickoff Song: "Mary Jane's Last Dance," Tom Petty

— Elana Scherr, special correspondent

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Overview and Pricing

Breathing in the Beauty of Zion National Park

Road Trip Car: BMW 3 Series Wagon

I like getting out of the city to see nature, so a visit to Zion National Park in Utah is high on my road-trip wishlist. This place has it all: scenic drives, day hikes, horseback rides, museums and camping spots — all surrounded by beautiful mountains, trees and rivers.

My road-trip priorities are comfort, efficiency and fun factor. The 2018 BMW 328d wagon checks off all those boxes. I chose the fuel-efficient diesel version of this wagon to reduce the number of trips I'd have to make to the gas station. The 328d is sporty enough to keep the driving interesting, has plenty of luxury features to be comfortable on the road, and has more than enough room for my weekend bags.

Road Trip Tip: Bring some wipes with you for the gas station. Diesel fuel pump handles are often grimy and will have you smelling like you've been working on cars all day.

Kickoff Song: "Summer in the City," Xuitcasecity

— Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor

2018 BMW 3 Series Wagon Overview and Pricing

Colorado Big Sky

Road Trip Car: Chevrolet Tahoe

I'm a city boy — it's true. But give me some wide-open spaces and some untouched nature under clear skies and I'm happier than parents who've just dropped the kids off at summer camp. Boulder, Colorado, is my destination. Boulder has that outdoorsy vibe that I dig, but it's city enough that I can still get some chicken wings and catch a game at a sports bar if need be.

Between Los Angeles and Boulder lies some pretty gorgeous landscape. To make the most of the trip, I'd want something comfy, roomy and capable. So for me, choosing the2018 Chevy Tahoe is a no-brainer. Whether I'm getting dirty in the backwoods off the highway, pulling a trailer over the Rockies, or just taking my crew to dinner, the Tahoe could do it all. And in style. That's what I'd expect from my road-trip ride.

Road Trip Tip: Plan your bathroom breaks well in advance. One section of highway goes 100 (!) miles with no exit.

Kickoff Song: "Ride Like the Wind," Christopher Cross

— Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Overview and Pricing

Foodies' Tour of Los Angeles

Road Trip Car: Tesla Model 3

I've been a foodie before the word "foodie" existed. I also spend a lot of time on the road creating content for Edmunds, and making sure to take in the local food scenes when possible. When I am back in my native Los Angeles, the thought of a road trip isn't particularly appealing. Instead, I prefer to feed my passion for food, whether it's satisfying a craving for street cuisine, enjoying some fine dining or hunting down ingredients across L.A. for an epic home-cooked meal.

I've paired up with Edmunds' creative video strategist and fellow foodie Rich Kuras to tour Southern California in an effort to show viewers our favorite eateries. We've decided to make use of our long-term Tesla Model 3, which should get around town in quiet comfort.

Our freeform excursion will take us all over the Southland, sampling a dizzying variety of cultures and culinary influences.

Road Trip Tip: There's a lot more to food in L.A. besides kale and quinoa.

Kickoff Song: "I Love L.A.," Randy Newman

— Mark Takahashi, senior writer

2017 Tesla Model 3 Overview and Pricing
Read Edmunds' long-term test of the 2017 Tesla Model 3

Asheville to Knoxville on One of the Best Roads in the Country

Road Trip Car: Porsche 911 Carrera S

I'd start my day in Asheville, North Carolina, exploring the River Arts District and checking out some of the incredible local art. After a morning of taking in the sights, it's time to point my Porsche 911 Carrera S west out of town to find Route 63 and follow it to the Trust General Store where I'd grab a few road treats (sour gummy candies of any sort are my go-to) and snap a few Americana photos around the store.

After the quick visit to the general store, I'd make an immediate left and follow Route 209 as it winds up past the soft sloping shoulders of Crabtree Bald, keeping on until I met back up with Interstate 40 and spent a few miles dodging big rigs. I'd then hop off at Waterville Road and look for Route 32. From there it's time to ease into the fluid hairpins and challenging twists of one of the most perfect roads in the country.

Such a road calls for something driver-centric but balanced and a Porsche 911 Carrera S is the perfect vehicle for it. Comfortable for two with enough room in the front trunk for a pair of overnight bags, the enjoyment won't be limited to just the person behind the wheel.

After a day of winding roads, I'd spend the evening in Knoxville, Tennessee, ambling down to the Historic Old City in search of great food and drink.

Road Trip Tip: The full route takes about three and a half hours, but if you are so inclined there are plenty of places to pull off and take in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Be sure to bring plenty of road-trip snacks.

Kickoff Song: "Free Fallin'," Tom Petty

— Abigail Bassett, senior director, Video & Photo

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera Overview and Pricing

Summer Camping Amid the Sequoias

Road Trip Car: Subaru Crosstrek

Some people enjoy a beach trip in the summer, but I prefer to avoid the heat by finding higher elevation. Mountains and rivers are my go-to for staying cool and, fingers crossed, there's a dirt road along the way. Sequoia National Park and the Inyo National Forest have just the place: Monache Meadows. It's only accessible via an off-road trail (no heavy-duty rock-crawling stuff), which means you'll need some significant ground clearance. Enter the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek.

The Crosstrek is essentially an Impreza with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which is perfect for this area of central California. In certain places, where Inyo meets the Sequoias, you're at around 8,000 feet of elevation, which means temperate days and cool nights. The road up to the Inyo National Forest is amazing, too, with lots of twists and turns to put the Crosstrek's well-sorted chassis to the test.

Road Trip Tip: Bring some bungees or elastic tie-downs. This is a bumpy road and you'll want to keep your camping supplies from jumping around in the trunk.

Kickoff Song: "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack

— Travis Langness, staff writer

2018 Subaru Outback Overview and Pricing

The Road to Hana, Hawaii

Road Trip Car: Mazda MX-5 Miata

There are fantastic roads to explore all over the continental U.S., but for a taste of something truly exotic — yet passport-free — I'm starting on the island of Maui and taking a famous road that winds along its northern coast to a small plantation-era town called Hana.

The original Hana "highway" was a one-lane gravel road completed in 1926. Today it's a 52-mile stretch of (mostly) two-lane, (mostly) paved, and very curvy road, brimming with sandy coves, Insta-worthy waterfalls, local eats and rich Hawaiian history.

With over 600 scenic corners ahead, my perfect car is something airy, agile and effortless to wield: the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Its lightweight soft top allows me to go from shade to sun, and back, in 5 seconds flat. And it's perfectly sized to fit only the essentials, such as towels, sunscreen, bug repellent, rubba slippahs, and a companion who's hopefully bendy-road friendly.

Road Trip Tip: The road to Hana is estimated to take 2.5 hours each way without stops, so don't make too many other plans. For lunch, I'd hold out for the Huli Huli Chicken plate next to Koki Beach, but I'd be sure to grab a couple Spam or hot-dog musubis from the local 7-Eleven to keep me fueled on the way in.

Kickoff Song: "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai," Hapa

— Jonathan Elfalan, road test manager

2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Overview and Pricing
Read Edmunds' long-term test of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Exploring the Southern Oregon Coast

Road Trip Car: Ram 1500

Oregon's southern coast doesn't get half as many visitors as it deserves. Every overlook is a picture postcard, each sunset a potential jaw-dropper. And the views only get more spectacular if you hike to a hidden beach or follow a cliff-hugging spur of the Oregon Coast Trail.

My recommended trip starts just over the border in California's Redwood National Park, then winds north past the cliffs of Oregon's Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor and the rocky monoliths of Meyers Creek Beach. I'll roam as far north as the uniquely beautiful Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a fascinating transition zone between lush pine forest and towering sand dunes.

I like to hop between campgrounds with a travel trailer in tow. At each campsite, Edmunds' long-term 2019 Ram 1500 pickup will be free to explore — or pop into town for s'more ingredients. The Ram is perfect for this, with an ample crew cab featuring reclining rear seats and a stout Hemi V8 that will pull our trailer with confident ease.

Road Trip Tip: Fans of classic roadside attractions (and uncommonly large bumper stickers) might want to wander a bit farther north to visit the Sea Lion Caves or stray farther south to explore Trees of Mystery.

Kickoff Song: "Long Line of Cars," Cake

— Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing

2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Overview and Pricing
Read Edmunds' long-term test of the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup [coming soon!]