The Best Way To Take A Cross-Country Road Trip

Maybe you went on one or two road trips as a child or teenager. Maybe you never did, but have always wanted to since entering adulthood. Whatever the case, road trips can be some of the best travel experiences of our lifetimes. But if they’re not planned properly, they can also be some of the most stressful.

Thankfully for us, that’s where Tracy Staedter comes in. The writer and Discovery News alum sought the help of data expert Randal Olson in order to create the most logical and efficient route for a road trip across the United States.

Here was Tracy and Randal’s criteria for the road trip:

1. The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous United States.

2. The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.

3. The trip must be taken by car and never leave the United States.

After agreeing on the rules, Tracy compiled a list of 50 major U.S. landmarks. “The result was an epic itinerary with a mix of inner city exploration, must-see historical sites, and beautiful natural landscapes,” Randal explained. “All that was left was to figure out the path that would minimize our time spent driving and maximize our time spent enjoying the landmarks.”

Randal then got to work on researching the shortest route by car between all of the intended stops. After a bit of trial and error, Randal discovered an algorithm that could make a complete road trip of the United States in only 13,699 miles of driving.

Wondering what the route looks like? Here are all of the stops from start to finish:

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Pikes Peak, Colorado

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The Alamo, Texas

The Platt Historic District, Oklahoma

Toltec Mounds, Arkansas

Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Tennessee

Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

USS Alabama, Alabama

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia

Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina

Lost World Caverns, West Virginia

Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, North Carolina

Mount Vernon, Virginia

White House, Washington, DC

Colonial Annapolis Historic District, Maryland

New Castle Historic District, Delaware

Cape May Historic District, New Jersey

Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania

Statue of Liberty, New York

The Mark Twain House & Museum, Connecticut

The Breakers, Rhode Island

USS Constitution, Massachusetts

Acadia National Park, Maine

Mount Washington Hotel, New Hampshire

Shelburne Farms, Vermont

Fox Theater, Detroit, Michigan

Spring Grove Cemetery, Ohio

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

West Baden Springs Hotel, Indiana

Abraham Lincoln’s Home, Illinois

Gateway Arch, Missouri

C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, Kansas

Terrance Hill Governor’s Mansion, Iowa

Taliesin, Wisconsin

Fort Snelling, Minnesota

Ashfall Fossil Bed, Nebraska

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Fort Union Trading Post, North Dakota

Glacier National Park, Montana

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

San Francisco Cable Cars, California

San Andreas Fault, California

Hoover Dam, Nevada

For a full map of the route and other information regarding this genius road trip idea, click here!