Map Shows the Perfect U.S. Road Trip, According to Science

It is possible to curate the perfect road trip across the U.S. that won't miss any of our nation's best landmarks? Believe it or not, it is. And this map will show you how.

How Science Created the Perfect American Road Trip Map

Young man outside car looking at road map for directions exploring national parks and nature ready for adventure

swissmediavision via Getty Images

A few years ago, Discovery News blogger Tracy Staedter sought to put an end to tedious roads trips after discovering a road map that claimed to route all of the nation's major landmarks. Staedter realized the map wasn't just inaccurate (more than a few states were missing), but it was also terribly inefficient.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have a map that hit landmarks in every state and not only that?" she mused. "Wouldn't it be great if the map represented the optimal, most efficient route across the country?"

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So to create a timeless, perfect road map across the United States, Staedter contacted Randy Olson, a Michigan State University doctoral student. Olson used an algorithm to generate the map, factoring in logistics for traffic, turns, and alternate routes. Even though the route isn't technically "perfect," it's about as close as the curious adventurer can get to the most efficient roadmap across America.

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Science's Itinerary for the Perfect Road Trip Across the USA

Randy Olsen via Google Maps

All of the stops are in the continental United States, which is expected for traveling by car. The route can be started from any state and would total around 9.33 days worth of driving. But Olson also explains, in actuality, that the round trip should probably take around two- three months.

The data scientist handpicked all 50 stops ranging between national landmarks and historical sites, hoping to offer a "nice mix of history and natural wonder"- a seemingly perfect combination for the spirited traveler. And although you won't hit Alaska or Hawaii (for obvious reasons), you can't go without visiting our nation's capital or hitting at least two places in California.

So here is the perfect U.S. road trip itinerary according to science:

  1. Grand Canyon, Arizona
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  3. Craters of the Moon, Idaho
  4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  5. Pikes Peak, Colorado
  6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  7. The Alamo, Texas
  8. The Platt Historic District, Oklahoma
  9. Toltec Mounds, Arkansas
  10. Elvis Presley's Graceland, Tennessee
  11. Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
  12. French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
  13. USS Alabama, Alabama
  14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
  15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
  16. Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina
  17. Lost World Caverns, West Virginia
  18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, North Carolina
  19. Mount Vernon, Virginia
  20. White House, Washington, DC
  21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, Maryland
  22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
  23. Cape May Historic District, New Jersey
  24. Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania
  25. Statue of Liberty, New York
  26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, Connecticut
  27. The Breakers, Rhode Island
  28. USS Constitution, Massachusetts
  29. Acadia National Park, Maine
  30. Mount Washington Hotel, New Hampshire
  31. Shelburne Farms, Vermont
  32. Fox Theater, Detroit, Michigan
  33. Spring Grove Cemetery, Ohio
  34. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
  35. West Baden Springs Hotel, Indiana
  36. Abraham Lincoln's Home, Illinois
  37. Gateway Arch, Missouri
  38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, Kansas
  39. Terrace Hill Governor's Mansion, Iowa
  40. Taliesin, Wisconsin
  41. Fort Snelling, Minnesota
  42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, Nebraska
  43. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
  44. Fort Union Trading Post, North Dakota
  45. Glacier National Park, Montana
  46. Hanford Site, Washington
  47. Columbia River Highway, Oregon
  48. San Francisco Cable Cars, California
  49. San Andreas Fault, California
  50. Hoover Dam, Nevada

Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 22, 2019.

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