The 14 Best Winter Road Trips in the U.S.

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Whether you love driving through a winter wonderland or you just want to escape the cold, here are 14 essential road trip routes across the U.S.A.
Keep in mind that winter travel plans are always subject to change due to inclement weather and road closures. Be sure to research your driving route before you head out, and make sure you have the right tires if you’ll be driving in the snow.
It’s also a good idea to invest in roadside assistance before you head out on your road trip. During the winter months, breakdowns can be especially risky. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in roadside assistance with Jerry before you head out on your trip. Jerry’s membership program gives you access to industry-leading roadside assistance for as little as $4.16 a month.
Now that you’re ready for any roadside emergency, it’s time to choose the best road trip for your winter vacation.

Best road trips for winter scenery

For those of us who just want to live inside a snowglobe, here are some of the most scenic winter road trips in the U.S.A.

Great Smoky Mountains: Asheville to Pigeon Forge

Wreaths and Christmas decor line a room with a glass ceiling at the Biltmore Estate.
The Biltmore Estate, Asheville
In the winter, Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. The drive from Asheville, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee takes you through the wintry wilderness until you end up in Pigeon Forge for some serious holiday fun.
Highlights:
  • Biltmore Estate (Asheville): The largest home in the country will take your breath away. Explore the incredible rooms and gardens of this Gilded Age mansion, as well as the 100 hand-decorated Christmas trees scattered across the estate for the holidays.
  • Ober Gatlinburg: Take the scenic aerial tramway up to this mountain park for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating. The views from the chairlift alone are worth it. 
  • Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas (Pigeon Forge): Dolly Parton’s amusement park celebrates the holiday season with Christmas shows, fireworks, twinkling lights, and decorated rides.
  • The Incredible Christmas Place (Pigeon Forge): Get all your holiday shopping done in one go with a visit to the largest Christmas store in the South. 

Vermont Route 100

A red covered bridge against the snow on a sunny day.
Stowe, Vermont
This scenic trip will take you from Weston to Stowe through the Green Mountain National Forest with plenty of stops in quaint Vermont towns along Route 100. Skiers and snowboarders have several points of interest along the way, including Killington Ski Resort, Sugarbush Resort, and Stowe Mountain Resort.
Highlights:
  • Vermont Country Store (Weston): Make a pit stop at this family-owned country store for Vermont specialties, cozy holiday gifts, and the perfect souvenirs from  your trip.
  • Ben & Jerry’s Factory (Waterbury): It may be freezing, but that won’t stop you from touring Ben & Jerry’s famous factory! Don’t forget to visit the Flavor Graveyard, where you’ll learn about the company’s shorter-lived flavors, like Tennessee Mud and the SNL-inspired Schweddy Balls.

Utah’s National Parks

A tall geologic arch towers above tourists visiting Arches National Park, Moab, on a sunny day.
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
Winter is a great time to visit some of Utah’s most popular parks. In addition to avoiding the summer crowds, you’ll also be treated to stunning views of the famous red rock and sandstone formations sprinkled with snow.
Depending on the weather and your timeline, you can choose to visit just one of these parks or make an extended tour. Here are the parks you’ll pass on a drive from Moab to St. George:
  • Arches National Park: The Arches Scenic Road is open year-round, and driving this route will earn you views of Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and Devils Garden, to name a few. 
  • Canyonlands National Park: You won’t have to worry about overcrowding when you visit Canyonlands in the winter. While not all roads are open, you can usually still visit The Needles and Island in the Sky during the winter.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: Wake up early for a beautiful view of Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point. The snow highlights the incredible complexity of the hoodoo rock formations that make this park famous.
  • Zion National Park: The winter light turns Zion into a magical scene, especially for photographers. You can drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive during the winter months and hike The Watchman without too much foot traffic.

New Mexico: Santa Fe to Taos

Pointy green trees stick up along a ski route in Taos, New Mexico.
Taos, New Mexico
Take the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway for stunning vistas and side trips to several historic towns and ancient pueblos in New Mexico. You’ll start your trip with sites of holiday traditions in Santa Fe, followed by a beautiful drive through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Highlights:
  • Canyon Road Farolito Walk (Santa Fe): If you’re in town for Christmas Eve, this is a very special tradition to attend. The annual nighttime walk will take you down Canyon Road and other side streets to admire the farolitos (little lights in paper bags) that light up the dark streets.
  • San Francisco de Asís Mission Church (Rancho de Taos): This church is over 200 years old and inspired many famous artists and photographers, including Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.
  • Taos Ski Valley: End your trip by hitting the slopes at Taos. Besides skiing and snowboarding, you can also go snow-shoeing or ice skating, take a hot air balloon ride, or wander further out of town for a soak in one of New Mexico’s famous hot springs.

Best road trips for fleeing the cold

If you’re tired of bundling up every time you want to leave the house, it might be time to leave the snow behind and take a road trip to warmer climates.

Florida Keys: Miami to Key West

An expanse of sand and bright green grass jut out into the blue water of Key West.
Key West, Florida
If you live on the East Coast, consider heading to Florida for warmer weather, relaxing beach days, and stunning views when you drive across the Seven Mile Bridge from the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys.
Highlights:
  • Blond Giraffe Key Lime Factory (Tavernier): You can find key lime pie at dozens of restaurants and diners throughout the Keys, but many agree that Blond Giraffe has the best.
  • John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park (Key Largo): Explore the country’s first undersea park from a glass-bottom boat, or get closer to the action by snorkeling or scuba diving. One of the park’s most popular attractions is the giant bronze Christ of the Abyss statue standing among the coral reefs under the water’s surface.
  • Bahia Honda State Park (Big Pine Key): Spend the day relaxing on white-sand beaches, bird watching, or snorkeling. If you stay past the magnificent sunset, you can enjoy stargazing from the Old Bahia Honda bridge.

California Desert

A dry desert scene at Joshua Tree, California. Desert plants sprout from the tan-colored land.
Joshua Tree, California
Although the desert certainly gets chilly at night, these California destinations are still a wonderful escape from snowy regions of the country. Start your trip among the midcentury architecture of Palm Springs before heading out to Joshua Tree and Death Valley.
Highlights:
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Take in the views atop the world’s largest rotating tram car. The tram travels through Chino Canyon to Mountain Station, where you can look out at Mt. San Jacinto State Park and explore over 50 miles of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: Hike through the park for views of California’s iconic Joshua trees and whimsical rock formations.
  • Death Valley National Park: Death Valley is at its least crowded between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the high season starts to pick up after that. Temperatures in the summer are unbearable, so take advantage of your chance to hike Zabriskie Point or Darwin Falls while the weather still allows it.

Southern California Coast: San Diego to Santa Barbara

Nothing says “warm weather getaway” like a road trip through Southern California. Start your trip in sunny San Diego with stops in Orange County on your way to Santa Barbara via the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re in need of some R&R, there are plenty of resorts along the way.
A holiday lights display at Disneyland in California.
Disneyland's It's A Small World Christmas
Highlights:
  • Christmas at Disneyland (Anaheim): The holiday season at Disneyland is truly special for visitors of all ages. From November to January, you’ll be treated to magical decor, parades, firework shows, and festive rides at the Happiest Place on Earth.
  • Newport Beach Boat Parade: You can watch one of SoCal’s most popular holiday traditions from aboard a holiday light cruise. Marvel at the homes, yachts, boats, and kayaks covered in Christmas lights that pass through Newport Harbor once a year.
  • Beach trips: When you drive up the coast, you’ll pass some of the most famous beaches in the world. Take advantage of California’s sunny beaches with a trip to Coronado, Santa Monica, or Zuma — or hit all three!

Best road trips for holiday festivities

If you’re getting overwhelmed by the thought of untangling your twinkle lights and trimming your tree, head out on one of these holiday road trips. They’re guaranteed to bring a smile to your face (no assembly required).

Louisiana Trail of Lights: Shreveport to Alexandria

This annual celebration in north Louisiana features eight towns that go all out for the holidays from Thanksgiving to January. You can explore this route a number of different ways, but we recommend making stops in Shreveport, Minden, Natchitoches, and Alexandria. Most of the festivities occur at night, so keep that in mind when you plan your trip.
Highlights:
  • Christmas in Roseland (Shreveport): Roam the grounds of the expansive American Rose Center, which gets a total Christmas-themed makeover starting the day after Thanksgiving. 
  • Christmas on Caddo Fireworks Festival (Caddo Lake): Just north of Shreveport, you can enjoy a festive fireworks display over Caddo Lake in early December. The event is free and perfect for the whole family. Rumor has it that Santa might make an appearance.
  • Old World Christmas Lights Spectacular (Minden): You’ll enjoy exploring Minden’s historic downtown district any time of day, but especially in the evenings. With over 100 life-size nutcrackers lining the streets and lighted wreaths on the doors, Minden turns into a true winter wonderland during the holidays.
  • Natchitoches Christmas Festival (Natchitoches): More than 300,000 lights illuminate this charming town throughout the holiday season. With an impressive fireworks show over Cane River and tours of historic decorated homes, Natchitoches may be your favorite stop on the trip. 
  • Holiday Lights Safari (Alexandria): If you can’t go on an actual safari this holiday season, the Holiday Lights Safari at the Alexandria Zoo will be a pretty jolly alternative. Take the kids to see the animal light displays, then enjoy hot chocolate and sweets with Santa.

Charleston to St. Augustine

Saint Augustine, Florida houses decorated with lights and Christmas decor at night.
St. Augustine
Take a driving tour of the Southeast’s most colorful Christmas towns. Start off in Charleston, South Carolina, then head down the coast for a stop on Jekyll Island, Georgia before ending your trip in St. Augustine, Florida. You’ll see jolly Christmas displays while enjoying some warm weather. It’s the best of both worlds!
Highlights:
  • Charleston Holiday Festival of Lights: From mid-November through December, take this three-mile driving tour of the approximately two million lights decorating this historic city during the holidays.
  • Charleston Holiday Boat Parade: This free annual event features a procession of festively decorated boats that sail through the Charleston Harbor from the Cooper River to the Ashley River. Watch the parade from The Battery or bring your own boat and join the fun!
  • Jekyll Island Historic District: Just off the Georgia coast, enjoy a trolley tour or a Christmas twilight tour of Jekyll Island’s historic district. You’ll be treated to beautifully decorated historic homes and twinkling lights on the sprawling oak trees across the city.
  • St. Augustine Night of Lights: Every night from late November through January, enjoy the holiday display that draws thousands of visitors each year. With more than three million lights to see, specialty trolley tours, and plenty of other events to keep you busy, St. Augustine is the perfect winter destination.

Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

Philadelphia City Hall stands behind a pink and yellow glowing sculpture of a city.
Philadelphia City Hall
This trip will take you through the most festive spots in Pennsylvania. Start your drive in Philadelphia, and make your way through Hershey and the small town of Indiana, known as “Christmas Tree Capital of the World”. 
  • Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest (Philadelphia): Go ice skating on the Delaware River waterfront at this seasonal park. Off the ice, you can also enjoy cocoa, cider, and comfort food at the open-air lodge.
  • Christmas Village (Philadelphia): Enjoy a German-style Christmas market right in the heart of Philadelphia. Visitors can peruse the wooden booths, enjoy gingerbread and mulled wine, and wait in anticipation for a special visit from Phil the Reindeer.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life Festival: As the hometown of Jimmy Stewart, Indiana pays homage to this classic Christmas movie over and over again throughout the holidays. At the Jimmy Stewart Museum, you can learn behind-the-scenes tidbits from the film, admire a LEGO recreation of the house from the movie, shop at a very niche gift shop, and more.
  • Christmas Candylane (Hershey): Hersheypark turns into a land of Christmas treats during the holiday season. Enjoy an incredible light display, a cocoa-themed roller coaster, and visits from Santa at the sweetest place in the country. 
  • Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower Show (Pittsburgh): This conservatory turns an already stunning flower exhibit into a Christmas spectacular full of lights, decorated trees, and beautiful displays.

Best road trips for winter sports enthusiasts

Whether you ski, snowboard, sled, or just slide down the nearest bunny hill hoping for the best, here are the top road trip destinations for winter sports enthusiasts.

Lake Tahoe

The 72-mile drive around Lake Tahoe is beautiful year-round, but there’s something magical about making the journey in the winter. Between the clear blue waters and the snow-capped mountains, you’ll have a picture-perfect view at every turn as you travel around this lake straddling the California-Nevada border.
You can easily turn Lake Tahoe into a scenic road trip destination without wandering up the mountain. But skiers and snowboarders will want to hit the slopes at Heavenly, Northstar, or Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley).

Utah

With some of the best snow in the world, a winter road trip to Utah is pretty much a no-brainer. You can’t go wrong with your ski resort selection, but we would recommend heading to Park City, especially if you’re traveling during the holidays. Main Street gets all dolled up with Christmas lights, and you’ll want to decorate your car for the Park City Electric Light Parade.
For fun at higher speeds, head to Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort, and Woodward Park City. But keep in mind that Deer Valley is  a skiers-only resort.

Colorado

When it comes to exploring the Rockies, you’ll find that many of Colorado’s top resorts are located just off I-70, making trips from Denver pretty convenient. Between the après-ski options, stunning vistas, and seasonal events like Vail Snow Days, you’ll want to make your Colorado road trip as lengthy as possible. 
Along this route, you can access world-class skiing and snowboarding at Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen Snowmass, and Telluride.

New England

In addition to the ski resorts located along Vermont’s Route 100, New England offers destinations in Maine and New Hampshire that would make a great road trip for residents of the less mountainous areas of the Northeast.
Head up to Bretton Woods, Sunday River, or Sugarloaf for your winter sports road trip in New England.

Roadside assistance for winter driving

If you’re looking for roadside assistance at a great price, try Jerry. Jerry’s membership provides you with industry-leading roadside assistance, including benefits like towing, lockout service, and a mechanics hotline. To find out if you’re eligible, you can check the app or call one of our friendly agents. You may qualify for a special rate of $50 for your first year! 

Holiday savings on car insurance

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