10 Best States for Summer Road Trips — Did Yours Make the List?

summer road trip

The United States is the country for road trips, and summer is the season to enjoy them.

With gas prices the lowest they’ve been in years, there’s no better time to get out and explore America through your four-wheeled adventure.

To help you figure out where to go, WalletHub analyzed the best states for a summer road trip — based on costs, safety, and activities.

Find out if your state is among the top 10, as well as our tips for saving money no matter which one you choose.

10 best states for a summer road trip

To figure out the best states for road trips, WalletHub analyzed the following:

  • Costs, including gas, hotels, tolls, and car repairs.
  • Safety, including population density, road quality, vehicle fatalities, and violent crimes.
  • Activities, including attractions, national parkland, and scenic byways.

WalletHub then ranked all 50 states from best to worst; you can see the results by hovering over the map below.

Source: WalletHub

Ready to head out on the road? Here are some summer road trip ideas for the top 10 states listed below.

1. Oregon

I have to agree with WalletHub here: Driving along Oregon’s coast was one of my favorite road trips ever. If you like rocky beaches, you’ll have your pick of stunning places to camp.

Don’t miss: Sea Lion Caves, a series of caverns filled with (you guessed it) hundreds of sea lions.

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2. Utah

With five national parks within its borders, this state is a must-visit for nature lovers. Its tourism board calls them “The Mighty 5” — and even offers suggested itineraries on its website.

Don’t miss: Zion, an incredible national park with hiking and climbing galore. But if you’re afraid of heights, avoid Angel’s Landing at all costs! Trust me, I speak from experience.

3. Washington

Great seafood, quaint islands, and whale watching? You’ve got it all when driving along Washington’s spectacular coast.

Don’t miss: La Push Beach. Yes, it was made famous by the “Twilight” series — but it’s seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

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4. North Carolina

I always enjoy driving through North Carolina, especially during the fall. Because of its location, the leaves and warm weather stick around a lot longer than in the northeast.

Don’t miss: Hanging Rock State Park, a gorgeous park with opportunities for hiking and paddling.

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5. Louisiana

Although it might be a tad hot in the summer, you can road trip through Louisiana deep into the fall and winter. History buffs will love driving through Plantation Country to learn about the state’s complex past.

Don’t miss: New Orleans, a waterfront city that needs no introduction. You’ll be able to enjoy fabulous music, tasty food, and a culture you won’t find anywhere else.

6. Texas

I once road-tripped through Texas. In August. Without air conditioning. Though I wouldn’t recommend that, I would highly recommend traveling through this massive state (and eating lots of BBQ on the way).

Don’t miss: Austin, the live music capital of the world. If you take a night out on the city’s famed Sixth Street, you’re bound to hear tunes everywhere you go.

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7. Nevada

Although you might only think of it as being home to Las Vegas, Nevada is filled with parks and wild-west ghost towns that make for a fantastic summer road trip.

Don’t miss: The Mount Rose Highway, a winding 24-mile road that travels from the stunning shores of Lake Tahoe to the quirky city of Reno.

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8. Minnesota

If you’ve never been to Minnesota, you’re missing out. This affordable state has more than 227,000 acres of parkland and 1,030 miles of hiking trails — without the crowds of more touristy areas.

Don’t miss: The International Wolf Center, an organization dedicated to researching wolves and education the public about them. And yes, you’ll see wolves!

9. California

Is there any road trip more quintessential than Highway 1? Perhaps Route 66, but I’d argue the former is more beautiful.

Don’t miss: Big Sur, a spectacular region on the central coast. You can hike, you can eat — and best of all, you can just relax.

10. Colorado

I lived in Colorado for three years, and it remains one of my favorite states. Although famous for its ski resorts, you’ll find many summer activities here, including hiking, mountain biking, and river rafting.

Don’t miss: Breckenridge, an adorable mountain town just a few hours west of Denver. In the summer, it has cool weather and tons of festivals.

5 ways to save money on road trips

Whichever state(s) you travel through on your summer road trip, saving a little extra money never hurts. Here are some tried-and-true tips, along with suggestions from your fellow road warriors.

1. Download a gas-comparison app

GasBuddy is the best. You simply open it up, click “gas near me,” and it pulls up prices of all the gas stations nearby. Saving a few cents a gallon over a long road trip is worth it.

2. Obey traffic laws

OK, so you should follow the rules wherever you are.

But it’s especially important on road trips, according to Jamie Cattanach, because you won’t be able to defend yourself in court!

3. Look for free events

Instead of forking out for tickets to museums or theme parks, check online for free happenings in your destination.

Thanks to late summer sunsets, many cities have events — such as food festivals, outdoor movie nights, and live music — nearly every night of the week.

4. Bring a tent and sleeping bag

Let’s face it: Roadside motels can make for some fun stories, but they’re often not worth the price of admission.

Spend time on peaceful country roads — and not massive interstates — by camping. Not only will you save big bucks on accommodation, you’ll also get to see locations you might’ve missed otherwise.

5. Pack snacks

Although it might not seem like a big deal to stop at a convenience store or fast-food joint every few hours, those little costs add up. Not to mention, eating like that will have you feeling icky in no time.

Instead, stop at grocery stores to fill your cooler with healthy snacks like carrots and hummus, apples and natural peanut butter, and rice cakes or tortilla chips.

Feeling ready for that summer road trip? (I sure am.)

Download some podcasts, fill up your tank, and get on your way!

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