Plan a Road Trip Down These Million Dollar Roads and Get Your Kicks!


Route 66

Famous Road to Plan a Road Trip Around
Route 66
From Flagstaff, AZ to Los Angeles, CA
Wait! Where is this famous road on the map? Unfortunately, the last remaining section was made into an interstate highway in 1984, so if you’re going to go down this well-known road, you’ll be going down a road by another name. Still – many consider it a rite of passage and an all-American institution so I don’t blame you if you want to plan a road trip focused on Route 66.

If you want to try to follow the path of this route from Chicago to Los Angeles exactly, you’ll need to purchase one of the many great guidebooks out there. Another option is to check out one of the websites dedicated to Route 66. I've heard from many road-trippers that this can be a difficult and frustrating process, though.

My recommendation is to visit some of the towns that once lined it and still have some of the preserved attractions and other nostalgic remnants from the route’s glory days. The ideal towns for this drive into the past are all located in Arizona and each of the towns have made it a mission to hold on to their history.

Williams, Arizona still has many of the original stores that lined the route including an old soda fountain, a converted gas station (now a restaurant), and much more. Other towns that also honor their storied past are Kingman, AZ (great museums, old signs, old cars) and Seligman, AZ (cool old billboards, funky cafes, and the famous Snow Cap Drive-In). Continue on I-40 and you’ll go straight through the Mojave Desert. A great road trip plan would be to start at the Grand Canyon and then travel on to and through these old Route 66 towns. If you have more time, head on to Las Vegas, which is fairly close by.

This route is all about a journey into the past, and whether you attempt to plan a road trip that rides it faithfully using a guidebook or just hit the towns that best retain the feeling of the Mother Road, you can still "get your kicks" and have a great road trip!

For more details, a great online resource for Rt. 66 is www.theroadwanderer.net (opens in new window). Not only do you get the history of this famous route, Guy Randall (founder of the site) gives you a state by state rundown with every detail you could wish for. What makes it really stand out is the obvious love that Guy has for this great route as well as his willingness to give out information for free (many sites won't give you a thing until you cough up some cash). Thanks, Guy!

Famous Road to Plan a Road Trip Around
Route 550 – "The Million Dollar Highway"
From Durango, CO to Ouray, CO
Part of this route (between Silverton and Ouray, CO) is nicknamed "The Million Dollar Highway". Although there’s a lot of dispute over the origin of the name, I think the real reason is the million-dollar views all along this route. This great road trip road through the mountains of Colorado is famous for its awe-inspiring views.

Although part of this route is considered treacherous as it winds along cliff edges sans guardrails, you’ll be safe on the inside lane if you travel from Durango to Ouray, rather than the opposite direction. If you’re going to plan a road trip on this stretch of road, stick to this original plan or you’ll have a hair-raising experience! Of course, if you like to be scared to death, be my guest…

Start in Durango and experience one of my favorite sights in Colorado – Mesa Verde National Park. These incredibly cool cliff dwellings remaining from the vanished Anasazi civilization (600 AD) are tucked into a cliff-side and almost entirely intact. Definitely get out of your car for this one and go on a tour. While you’re in Durango, check out their historic downtown area which has some of the feeling of the Wild West with many of the original buildings still there. Another must see is the Railroad Museum. You can easily spend a day or two in Durango.

Next, hop on Route 550. For the portion from Durango to Silverton, you’ll be riding alongside the famous Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s tracks for a good portion of the time. If you’re lucky, you can ride alongside this coal-fired, steam powered locomotive (though stay alongside towards the front or you’ll be riding in a black cloud of soot!). You’ll get all the great views of canyons and open wilderness that this train is famous for from your car. If you want to get to Silverton before the huge crowd from the train, plan to leave earlier and get to Silverton by 11:00 to enjoy the town minus the hubbub. It’s about an hour’s drive.

When you arrive in Silverton (an old silver mining town as you might have guessed from its name), you’ll find a downtown area marketed to the travelers from the railroad with lots of restaurants and shops. The buildings are Victorian-style and painted in many bright hues. It’s a fun town to explore for an hour or two. Plan on having lunch here – the Pickle Barrel and Handlebars Restaurant and Saloon are both big favorites.

Hop back on Rt. 550 and you’ll be on the Million Dollar Highway portion of this route which boasts some of the best scenery in Colorado. Here you’ll pass through Uncompahgre Gorge and Red Mountain Pass, hugging the inside lane where you can see the views safely. It’s a gorgeous sight with mountains rising up all around you, pine trees everywhere, and views of the valleys below.

Ouray has a distinct mountain-village feeling with a charming Victorian-building filled downtown perched in the mountains. It’s no surprise Ouray is known as “the Switzerland of America”. This town also has some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Colorado as well as natural hot springs.

When you plan a road trip on the Million Dollar Highway, make sure it’s between May and October. Colorado has long and bitter winters and driving this route then isn’t fun. Also, the railroad only runs during those months, so you’d miss the sight of it chugging along to and from Silverton.

This outstanding road trip route is a must-do for anyone who loves the mountains. Railroad aficionados will go crazy for Durango and the famous railroad. Even if you’re not into railroads, anyone who wants to take in some breathtaking natural beauty must plan a road trip on Rt. 550.


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