More
    HomeTravel20 Epic Budget Road Trips Under $500 in the USA

    20 Epic Budget Road Trips Under $500 in the USA

    Published on

    As a travel blogger with a passion for budget-friendly adventures, few things excite me more than epic American budget road trips you can pull off for under $500. From winding coastal drives to scenic mountain byways, I’ve road-tripped far and wide across this beautiful country on a budget.

    If you’re looking to hit the open road without breaking the bank, you’ve come to the right place! Grab your sunglasses and road trip playlist – we’re going on an adventure! Below I’ve mapped out 20 of my favorite epic road trips across the USA you can easily do for less than $500.

    budget road trips

    1. Pacific Coast Highway – California

    Arguably one of the greatest American budget road trips, the Pacific Coast Highway delivers unparalleled views of crashing ocean waves, quaint beach towns, and seaside vistas. Drive the 100-mile stretch from Monterey to Morro Bay for awe-inspiring scenery, stopping for seafood and beachcombing along the way.

    Gas: $50
    Lodging: $225 (camping/budget motels) Food: $100
    Attractions: $25 (parks, beaches, hikes) Total: ~$400

    2. Going-to-the-Sun Road – Montana

    For mountain grandeur, drive this 50-mile route through Glacier National Park in Montana. Pass alpine meadows, sweeping valleys, and the shimmering Lake McDonald with the dramatic Rockies as your backdrop. Don’t miss stops at Logan Pass and Hidden Lake.

    Gas: $60 Lodging: $100 (camping) Food: $120 Entry Pass: $30
    Total: ~$310

    3. Overseas Highway – Florida

    Turn your drive to the Florida Keys into an adventure by road tripping the Overseas Highway. This 100-mile route crosses 42 bridges over the Gulf of Mexico waters before ending at Key West. Top down and tunes on!

    Gas: $75 Lodging: $150 (camping/budget hotels) Food: $100 Attractions: $50
    Total: ~$375

    4. Columbia River Gorge – Oregon

    Cruise the Columbia River Gorge for unbelievable panoramas of waterfalls, peaks, and evergreen forests. This 80-mile Oregon route includes stops at Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam, Hood River, and the historic highway itself.

    Gas: $35 Lodging: $100 (camping) Food: $90 Attractions: $20 Total: ~$245

    5. Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina & Virginia

    America’s favorite scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway travels 469 miles through the Appalachian Highlands. The peaceful drive winds past wildflower meadows, descending valleys, and endless vistas ideal for leaf-peeping.

    Gas: $90 Lodging: $120 (camping) Food: $150 Attractions: $20 Total: ~$380

    6. Natchez Trace Parkway – Mississippi

    History buffs, this 444-mile wooded drive follows an old Native American trail from Nashville to Natchez. Encounter fascinating battlefields, emerald mounds, and antebellum mansions. The serene drive itself feels transported back in time.

    Gas: $75 Lodging: $125 (camping/budget hotels)
    Food: $120 Attractions: $20 Total: ~$340

    7. Route 66 – Arizona

    Get your kitschy Americana road trip fix driving the world-famous Route 66. Cruise endless stretches of Mother Road in northern Arizona like the Petrified Forest, Oatman, and Williams. Play retro tunes and stop at old-school diners.

    Gas: $80 Lodging: $100 (budget motels) Food: $120 Attractions: $25
    Total: ~$325

    8. Million Dollar Highway – Colorado

    For a scenic mountain road trip, drive the Million Dollar Highway connecting Colorado’s Silverton to Ouray. The 25-mile portion south of Silverton hugs sheer cliffs and waterfalls for nonstop gorgeous views.

    Gas: $45 Lodging: $100 (camping) Food: $100 Attractions: $20 Total: ~$265

    9. Woodward Dream Cruise – Michigan

    Every August, vintage car lovers converge for the Woodward Dream Cruise along Woodward Ave in Detroit. Experience automotive history watching 50,000 classic beauties cruise past, then cruise the route yourself.

    Gas: $50 Lodging: $200 (budget motel) Food: $100 Attractions: $0
    Total: ~$350

    10. Road to Hana – Hawaii

    Soak up dreamy tropical scenery and curry fried saimin along the winding Road to Hana in Maui. The legendary highway stretches 64 miles past lush rainforests, dramatic cliffs, and secluded waterfalls. Pure magic!

    Gas: $100 Lodging: $250 (budget inn) Food: $100 Attractions: $20
    Total: ~$470

    11. Trail Ridge Road – Colorado

    Wind through the clouds on this 48-mile route through Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge Road summits at 12,000 feet showcasing breathtaking alpine scenery. Have your camera ready around each bend!

    Gas: $50 Lodging: $100 (camping)
    Food: $120 Entry Pass: $30 Total: ~$300

    12. Highway 12 – Utah

    Arguably Utah’s most scenic drive, Highway 12 winds 124 miles through striking red rock country from Torrey to Bryce Canyon. Gawk at Capitol Reef National Park and the iconic red hoodoos of Bryce Amphitheater.

    Gas: $50 Lodging: $100 (camping) Food: $100 Attractions: $25
    Total: ~$275

    13. Hana Highway – Hawaii

    Soak up jungle scenery and roadside fruit stands driving the legendary 64-mile Hana Highway in Maui. The lush coastal route’s 600+ curves reveal breathtaking ocean vistas. Take it slow and enjoy the magic!

    Gas: $75 Lodging: $200 (budget B&B)
    Food: $100 Attractions: $20 Total: ~$395

    14. Big Sur Coast – California

    Cruise down the Pacific along California’s winding Big Sur coastline for epic ocean views. Drive from Monterey to Morro Bay under towering redwoods on this dreamy central coast route.

    Gas: $75 Lodging: $175 (camping/budget hotels) Food: $100
    Attractions: $20 Total: ~$370

    15. Great River Road – Minnesota to Louisiana

    Follow the mighty Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. See small river towns, blues clubs, and historic sites along the way.

    Gas: $250
    Lodging: $100 (camping) Food: $100 Attractions: $20
    Total: ~$470

    16. Turquoise Trail – New Mexico

    Drive the historic Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway through the high desert, mining towns, and art galleries of central New Mexico. This well-preserved mother road links Santa Fe to Albuquerque.

    Gas: $35 Lodging: $125 (budget motel) Food: $80 Attractions: $15 Total: ~$255

    17. Schoodic Peninsula – Maine

    For quintessential New England coastline, take the scenic loop around Maine’s Schoodic Peninsula. The drive tours quiet Acadia National Park shoreline dotted with lighthouses, lobster shacks, and village charm.

    Gas: $50 Lodging: $175 (budget inn) Food: $100 Attractions: $20 Total: ~$345

    18. Alaska Highway – Alaska & Canada

    For the ultimate wilderness road trip, drive the Alaska Highway traversing 1422 rugged miles from Dawson Creek, Canada to Delta Junction. Wildlife sightings, vast boreal forests, and the Arctic Circle await!

    Gas: $500
    Lodging: $200 (camping/budget motels) Food: $200 Attractions: $40 Total: ~$940

    19. Highway 101 – Oregon

    On Oregon’s gorgeous 101-mile Pacific coastline drive you’ll find stunning sea stacks, rocky tide pools, sandy beaches, and charming seaside towns perfect for whale watching and fish tacos.

    Gas: $80 Lodging: $175 (budget inn) Food: $120 Attractions: $30 Total: ~$405

    20. Acadia All Around – Maine

    There’s no prettier summer drive than looping around Maine’s Acadia National Park. Its 27-mile Park Loop Road hugs granite cliffs and dense forests, delivering nonstop coastal magic.

    Gas: $45 Lodging: $180 (budget hotel) Food: $90 Entry Pass: $30 Total: ~$345

    budget road trips

    Tips for Epic Budget Road Trips

    Now grab your keys and hit the open road, my fellow wanderers! To recap, here are my top road trip tips:

    • Pack food and cook at campsites to save
    • Share driving and lodging costs with friends
    • Use an efficient car that maximizes gas mileage
    • Download offline maps to limit cell data needs
    • Bring a National Park pass if visiting multiple
    • Avoid toll roads when possible
    • Use free campgrounds on federal and state land
    • Travel off-season to get lower rates
    • Ask about local discounts wherever you go
    • Take scenic routes instead of bland interstates
    • Download playlists and podcasts to stay entertained
    • Always have an emergency fund just in case

    Let me know in the comments which epic route is first on your budget road trip bucket list!

    Have a look at 21 BEST SEASONAL HOLIDAYS AROUND THE WORLD WORTH VISITING

    Latest articles

    DUBAI Airport comes down in world’s busiest airports ranking

    In the ever-evolving landscape of global air travel, the rankings of the world's busiest...

    Abu Dhabi Is Building a Billion-Dollar Esports Island

    In a bold move to solidify its position as a global hub for the...

    JFK Airport Crowned as the Most Luxurious in the US

    Traveling can often be a hassle, from dealing with long lines at security to...

    How to Apply for an Italy Digital Nomad Visa?

    In a move that is sure to excite digital nomads and remote workers around...

    More like this

    DUBAI Airport comes down in world’s busiest airports ranking

    In the ever-evolving landscape of global air travel, the rankings of the world's busiest...

    Abu Dhabi Is Building a Billion-Dollar Esports Island

    In a bold move to solidify its position as a global hub for the...

    JFK Airport Crowned as the Most Luxurious in the US

    Traveling can often be a hassle, from dealing with long lines at security to...