Road trip across America on highway 50

December 8, 2011

I am planning a trip from 2012-05-19 to 2012-06-25. I need suggestions for what all I should see, give me only offbeat & local stuff. I am traveling alone. Photographer humanitarian

December 9, 2011

Vaishnavi's answer about road trip in United States

Hi there
From the Atlantic to the Pacific, is how one often describes the coast to coast trip across the United States. I'm excited to plan this trip for you, because there is so much to see and take in on the Route 50, over a month. 

Route 50 (Source: Sit Stay)

Before we begin, here's a little about Route 50 from Wikipedia:
U.S. Route 50 is a major east-west route of the U.S. Highway system, stretching just over 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from Ocean City, Maryland on the Atlantic Ocean to West Sacramento, California. Until 1972, when it was replaced by Interstate Highways west of the Sacramento area, it extended to San Francisco, near the Pacific Ocean. The route mostly remains separate from Interstates. It generally serves a corridor south of Interstates 70 and 80 and north of Interstates 64 and 40. 

 (Source: U.S. Route 50 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

During this trip, starting from Virginia and ending in Sacramento, CA, you will cover around 3000 miles. This map should give an idea of the terrain you'll be covering on your road trip:

Now let's hit the road!

Road trip on the U.S Route 50

The route itself covers 12 states between California and Maryland, but since you're starting your trip in Virginia, over the course of your travel period you will be travelling across 11 states namely Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, in that order. 


(Source: AlishaV)

The US Route 50 runs through mostly rural desert and mountains in the Western United States, rural areas of farms as well as a few large cities in the Midwest and passes through the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia. Notable cities that you will be crossing include Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Kansas City. 

Let's now go into detail into the places where you should stop on the way!

1. Route 50 in Virginia

Here's a detailed map of the Route 50 in Virginia:

Route 50 in Virginia

 (Source: US-50)

Start your trip in Virginia, at Arlington. The Route passes for a short distance in Virginia, so there won't be much to do on the highway. You can stop at Chantilly, the site of the Battle of Chantilly during the American Civil war. Visit the Sully Historic Site, a county historical park spanning 120 acres

Route 50 in Virginia - 1

Chantilly - Sully Plantation (Source: roger4336)

If you're willing to go off the Route, take a diversion and head to Old Town Alexandria, which is 10 miles from Arlington. Market Square in Old Town is believed to be one of the oldest continuously operating marketplace in the United States,and was once the site of the second-largest slave market in the U.S. You'll also get a great view of the Potomac River!

Route 50 in Virginia - 2

Potomac River (Source: taberandrew)

19 miles from Chantilly is the famous town of Shenendoah. The town is nestled between the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains and the Massanutten Ridge in Page County. Shenandoah is 8 miles west of Shenandoah National Park,  which is another place that you can visit. 

Route 50 in Virginia - 3

Blue Ridge Mountains (Source: JSmith Photo)

Make a stop at Middleburg, a small but interesting town with a tiny  business district packed with antique shops and art galleries. Middleburg is especially famous for its colonial buildings. Visit the Red Fox Inn and Upper Crust Bakery, to savour some local flavors

Route 50 in Virginia - 4

(Source: andrechinn)

2. Route 50 in West Virginia

Here's a detailed map of the Route across West Virginia:

Route 50 in West Virginia

 (Source:  US-50)

West Virginia's section of the Route is about 150 miles long and bends across the Allegheny Mountains. This part of West Virginia is mostly rural, until you reach the western part of it where you will hit a fairly nice freeway. You will pass a few towns, that reflect the simple, hard working lives people lead in West Virginia, but most of what you see will be an abundance of nature, populated with beautiful rivers and gorgeous waterfalls which should be perfect for some photography!

Route 50 in West Virginia - 1

West Virginia (Source: dougtone)

A must stop is the Eastern Gateway, which is right at the junction of west Virginia, Virginia and Maryland near the Cheat and Gauley Rivers. You'll be very close to the Monongahela National Forest- a great place to visit for nature lovers!

Route 50 in West Virginia - 2

Lower falls, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia (Source: ggallice)

Since you love nature, head straight to Cathedral State park. In fact, the route runs right through it!

Route 50 in West Virginia - 3

Cathedral State Park (Source: cm195902)

3. Route 50 in Ohio

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Ohio:

Route 50 in Ohio

 (Source:  US-50)

Cross the Ohio river and cross the country to the lovely hills and valleys of Western Ohio.

Head to Athens (no, not the one in Greece!) Athens is a lazy little town that has established itself around Ohio university, since its establishment in 1809

Route 50 in Ohio - 2

Ohio State University ~ Old Main (Source: Vasenka)

Your next destination should be Hillsboro, located approximately 60 miles east of Cincinnati and 40 miles west of Chillicothe. It is the biggest and busiest town along the way. Visit the Greek Revival landmark Highland County Courthouse, second-oldest in Ohio.

4. Route 50 in Indiana

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Indiana:

Route 50 in Indiana

(Source:  US-50)

The landscape of Indiana is immensely varied; hilly on the east and flat on the west. Indiana has plenty to offer from interesting limestone quarries, to well preserved Ohio towns. Stop first at Rising Sun, which has the state's biggest riverboat casinos, completely worth a try! Of course, none of the gambling has fazed the historical side of the town. Take a walk around for some great photos, and pop a visit to the Ohio County Historical Museum

Route 50 in Indiana - 1

Horseshoe Casino and Riverboat (Source: Arete13)

Along the Route 50, you'll hit Bedford, an industrial town nicknamed “Stone City” because it holds some of the largest and most famous limestone quarries in the country. Bedford’s main attraction is Bluesprings Caverns where you can descend into a cave and take an hour-long boat tour along the largest underground river in the United States.

Route 50 in Indiana - 2

Bedford, USA (Source: RebekahSue)

5. Route 50 in Illinois

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Illinois:

Route 50 in Illinois

(Source: US-50)

US-50 runs across over 150 miles of Illinois’ flat farmlands—acres of corn and soybeans as far as your eye can see, with small towns dotting the roadside every 10 miles or so. It's a different set for a photographer and you'll enjoy stopping every now and then to click some lovely pictures.

Route 50 in Illinois - 1

Farm Land (Source: ilovebutter)

Halfway into Illinois stop at Salem, a historically fascinating city. It is the  birthplace of William Jennings Bryan, Charles W. Bryan, the G. I. Bill of Rights, and Miracle Whip salad dressing. That's some variety for a small town! It has some great places to eat as well. 

Route 50 in Illinois - 2

(Source: Rob Shenk)

Ever wanted to tell your friends that you've visited an exotic place like Lebanon? Well, now you can. Lebanon, IL that is, and that's not the only reason to stop at this town! Located 20 miles east of the Mississippi River it is an attractive town, with a number of stately, Victorian-era commercial buildings now housing antique shops.

Route 50 in Illinois - 3

(Source: Adamwithoutanyhands)

6. Route 50 in Missouri

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Missouri:

Route 50 in Missouri

 (Source: US-50)

Visit Jefferson City. Ok, it's not really a city. It's a small town, that strangely sleepy! A must see is the neoclassical state capitol,  modeled on the U.S. Capitol. It is the central landmark, and rises above the river at the heart of town.

Route 50 in Missouri - 1

Fountain by Jefferson City Capital (Source: Dakota Kingfisher)

Make a stop over at Independence, the hometown of U.S President Harry Truman. The city-run National Frontier Trails Center is one of the best museums dedicated to America’s pioneers

7. Route 50 in Kansas

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Kansas:

Route 50 in Kansas

 (Source: US-50)

It's a pretty long stretch across Kansas, covering close to 500 miles just in one state. Plenty to see , plenty to do!

Route 50 in Kansas - 1

Kansas Sunrise (Source: Roy Montgomery)

A must stop on the Route 50 is the Tallgrass Prarie National Reserve. Few roaring waterfalls or towering cliffs to take your breath away and make you pull out the camera characterise this place.

Route 50 in Kansas - 2

Buffalo on the Kansas Prairie (Source: Lauren Wellicome)

Take a little trip to heaven and visit the Garden of Eden, one of the country’s oldest and oddest folk-art environments. Located in the tiny town of Lucas, Kansas it is a front-yard forest of Biblical scenes —Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, —created out of concrete from around 1910 to 1930 by one Samuel Dinsmoor.

8. Route 50 in Colorado

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Colorado:

Route 50 in Colorado

 (Source: US-50)

Driving on the US-50 in Colorado takes you through almost every landscape North America has to offer. From the the alpine meadows, river canyons, and snow-covered peaks of the southern Rockies fading away into the flat,  prairies that stretch east across the middle of the country to the geological wonderland of the Colorado River plateau, which endlessly heads west into Utah, Colorado will give you the experience of a lifetime!

Route 50 in Colorado - 1

(Source: Ken Lund)

Pike's Peak and Manitou Springs is the first place I'd recommend you stop. One of the highest points you can drive to in the continental United States, Pike’s Peak has been a road trip destination since 1901 when the first car made its way to the  summit.

Route 50 in Colorado - 2

 (Source: cassandracox)

Another must see in Colorado is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Some of the  oldest rocks on planet earth form the walls of 2,000-foot-deep Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the deepest and most impressive canyon in the state. The river cutting through the canyon falls faster than any other in North America.

Route 50 in Colorado - 3

 (Source: gudi&cris)

9. Route 50 in Utah

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Utah:

Route 50 in Utah


For most  your trip across Utah, the I-70 freeway has replaced Route 50, but since you have time, take a couple of detours you’ll be rewarded with some of the most fabulous scenery in the world.

Route 50 in Utah - 1

 (Source: indigoprime)

Visit the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, both breathtakingly beautiful and , an arid wilderness of high plateaus and deep canyons.

Route 50 in Utah - 2

Arches National Park (Source: MoabAdventurer)

Take a detour to Salt Lake City, an hour north of Springville. Founded by Mormons in 1847, Salt Lake City is quaint, and unusual enough to merit a detour. Most of what the sights to see have to do with the Mormons, better known as the Church of Latter-day Saints, who have their worldwide headquarters at the Temple Square

Route 50 in Utah - 3

 (Source: Casey Serin)

10. Route 50 in Nevada

Here's a detailed map of the Route in Nevada:

Route 50 in Nevada


US-50 crosses more than 400 miles of Nevada’s countryside, climbing up over a dozen distinct mountain ranges while passing through four mining towns and the capital, Carson City.

Ten miles east of Fallon, the extraordinary grouping of petroglyphs at Grimes Point is not to be missed. Just 100 yards north of US-50, a self-guided trail leads past hundreds of images etched into the lichen-covered, brown boulders.

Route 50 in Nevada - 2

Grimes Point Petroglyph Trail (Source: Ken Lund)

Stop at the Nevada Beach and Zephyr Cove, where you can take a cruise across the lake.Midway along the lake’s eastern shore, US-50 turns sharply and climbs up and over Spooner Summit, all the way giving great views of the lake below. At the summit, take a hike on the Tahoe Ridge Trail

Route 50 in Nevada - 3

Nevada Beach (Source: chris runoff)

11. Route 50 in California

Here's a detailed map of the Route in California:


Route 50 in California

(Source: California)

The last state in the Route 50 path, California , at this juncture , will be much of a relief to reach after all that travel. But let that not bring you down! Head for your last leg of sightseeing!


Route 50 in California - 1

California redwoods (Source: phault)

One of the biggest and deepest  lakes in the country, and at 6,220 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is a beautiful sight from every angle.To get away from it all, head along Hwy-89 around the west side of the lake to the magnificent state parks around Emerald Bay

Route 50 in California - 2

south lake tahoe (Source: tylerserif)

Your final destination has been reached. Welcome to Sacramento! Sacramento is not what most would expect of the capital of the Golden State. Green and suburban, with only the state capitol and a few modern towers rising over fine Victorian houses Sacramento is a relatively quiet city!

Route 50 in California - 3

Sacramento , California, USA - 2000 - Patrick Nouhailler © (Source: Patrick Nouhailler)

Let's take a quick recap at your trip!

I hope this helps! If you'd like any help with accommodation or more information in detail about any of these places, please do write back and we'll be happy to help you!

Have an awesome trip!



Answered by Travelling city roads every day, making a new itinerary from life's experiences. Vaishnavi Prasad

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