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How to Take the Perfect U.S. Road Trip, According to Science

Looking for the perfect U.S. road trip that doesn’t miss our nation’s best landmarks? This map may have your solution.

Discovery News blogger Tracy Staedter sought to put an end to tedious roads trip last year 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), 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?”

To create the perfect road map across the country, 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 the U.S.

Randy Olson

All of the stops are in the Continental United States, which is ideal for traveling by car. The route can be started from any state, and would be 9.33 days worth of driving. Olson reassures that, in actuality, the round trip would take around 2-3 months.

Staedter handpicked the stops, which she thinks provide a “nice mix of history and natural wonder”. Sounds like the perfect combination for the spirited traveler.

Here are the 50 landmark stops she picked:

  1. Grand Canyon, AZ
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  3. Craters of the Moon, ID
  4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
  5. Pikes Peak, CO
  6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
  7. The Alamo, TX
  8. The Platt Historic District, OK
  9. Toltec Mounds, AR
  10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
  11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
  12. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
  13. USS Alabama, AL
  14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
  15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
  16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
  17. Lost World Caverns, WV
  18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
  19. Mount Vernon, VA
  20. White House, Washington, DC
  21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
  22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
  23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
  24. Liberty Bell, PA
  25. Statue of Liberty, NY
  26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
  27. The Breakers, RI
  28. USS Constitution, MA
  29. Acadia National Park, ME
  30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
  31. Shelburne Farms, VT
  32. Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
  33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
  34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
  35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
  36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
  37. Gateway Arch, MO
  38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
  39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
  40. Taliesin, WI
  41. Fort Snelling, MN
  42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
  43. Mount Rushmore, SD
  44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
  45. Glacier National Park, MT
  46. Hanford Site, WA
  47. Columbia River Highway, OR
  48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
  49. San Andreas Fault, CA
  50. Hoover Dam, NV

Olson also created a bonus map that hits all of the major U.S. cities, for those craving even more travel.

This post was originally published on January 22, 2019.