All about winter road trips
While most Americans consider the summer to be road trip season, the more hardy among us aren't afraid to hit the roads during the winter. So where are the best spots for beautiful winter road trips? Here are a few of our favorites:
If you're looking for some beautiful country in the Northeast, check out Route 100 in Vermont - it will take you more than 200 miles through the state from top to bottom - or bottom to top, depending on your starting point. One of Route 100's most notable features is its series of picturesque bridges, like the Big Eddy and the Lincoln Gap.
For small-town charm, consider Maine's U.S. Route 1. Beginning at the southern-most point, Kittery, this historic highway runs along Maine's east coast through Portland, Calais and terminating at Fort Kent. The scenic drive will bring you through national and state parks, plus all sorts of historic buildings like forts and lighthouses.
Though you may picture sunny beaches when you think of the West Coast, there is plenty of beautiful winter scenery to be found, as well. If you have a vehicle that is reliable in the snow and are feeling adventurous, consider exploring the continental divide. It can be found in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and is some of the most beautiful wilderness in the country. While this is true of all winter road trips, don't overestimate your car's ability to handle some rough conditions and be sure to check for closures before setting out.
The Pacific Coast Highway runs down nearly the entire coast of California. While this isn't your traditional winter road trip - don't expect to see many snow-capped peaks, especially once you start getting into Southern California - it's a great option for those looking to hit the road in the off-peak months but don't want to fight through harsh weather. Consider driving this particular highway from north to south, which will keep you close to the coast for the entirety of your drive. San Francisco is a popular starting point, though the highway stretches up into Oregon, and it runs down the coast to San Diego.
Depending on the part of the country you're in, there are a few special considerations to make before setting off. If you're planning a road trip during the winter, here are a few tips to make sure your drive is safe and enjoyable:
Plan your route
If you're driving in the warmer months of the year, spontaneity is a bit easier. However, if you're setting out on a trip during the winter, it will behoove you to be a little bit more diligent in your planning. With today's technology, planning out a route complete with designated stopping points is easy - there are a number of websites that will help you with this. Keep in mind that there are far fewer hours of daylight in the winter, so this may restrict the time that you feel comfortable driving, particularly on snowy roads.
Make a contingency plan
Though you'll likely be watching weather reports like a hawk in the days leading up to your trip, you never know when a winter storm is going to move in unexpectedly. There are plenty of cases that you'll have to change plans on the fly, so make sure there's always a second option - the last thing you need is to be stuck in a remote area with no where to stay the night during a blizzard.
Protect your belongings
During a road trip, it's likely that you'll have more valuables with you than on an average day. It's a good idea to make an investment to keep these items safe. A portable safe, for example, is a great option to secure valuables like passports or firearms while you're on the road - many come with security cables so no one can make off with them. Car roof racks are great for storing luggage and other belongings so they don't take up space in your car. Look for one with a solid lock system to deter would-be thieves.
It's hard to overstate the importance of being prepared for any problem you may encounter during a road trip, and this is especially true for long drives in the winter. A broken-down car can be a major inconvenience in the fall, but down-right deadly in the winter. Check the weather frequently in case any unexpected storms develop. Also, have your car packed with an emergency kit. This should include the following:
- lots of drinking water
- long-lasting foods like protein bars
- a first aid kit
- a blanket
- jumper cables
- a flashlight
- an ice scraper and a shovel.
Make sure your car is fully tuned up before you set out, and consider investing in heavy-duty windshield wipers.
Remember, always keep a charged mobile phone so you have a line of communication in the case of an emergency.