One Epic U.S. Road Trip: 50 States by Plane, Train and (mostly) Automobile

One Epic U.S. Road Trip: 50 States by Plane, Train and (mostly) Automobile

One year. One couple. One small car… Fifty states.

We hadn’t originally set out to explore our entire home country, but location independence is a beautiful thing. See how our 6-state plan turned into a 50-state quest on our 2015 road trip in the U.S.!

Our Trip at a Glance

auto plane train
Distance:
20.2K miles

Time:
309 hours

Destinations:
All 50 states except Oregon and Washington

Cost:
$2.2K*

Distance:
12.4K miles

Time:
30 hours

Destinations:
Los Angeles to Seattle (one-way), Anchorage, and Kona

Cost:
$2.1K

Distance:
1.2K miles

Time:
35 hours

Destinations:
Seattle to Los Angeles via the Coast Starlight

Cost:
$450

*Includes cost of gasoline ($1.4K) throughout our road trip, 3 oil changes ($200) for our Yaris, plus car rental ($600) in Hawaii (1 week) and Alaska (2 weeks).

An Evolving U.S. Road Trip Itinerary

How, exactly, does one decide to embark on a 50-state quest?

In the beginning, our destination was just St. Louis. Coming from California, we set out early to see some places on the way, but my friend’s wedding was the end of the planned itinerary.

And then I wanted to visit my twin brother in Chicago.

I’d seen too little of my twin since graduating high school — Yes, I have a twin. No, we’re not identical. — so it was high time we caught up. After some quality twin time in the Windy City Ian and I took a short trip around the northern U.S. to go camping with friends over in Yellowstone National Park. It was some time around then that I got the crazy idea we should visit all fifty states. I really wanted to see the East Coast. And visit New York City. And get totally soaked at Niagara Falls.  And we didn’t have any upcoming travel plans to stop us. As we made our way back to Chicago, we let the idea settle in.

We then came up with a general route plan and made it our official mission to continue on and visit all fifty states in one year’s time.

Our Route

Before we knew it, we were eating chocolate in Hershey, Pennsylvania, visiting family in Virginia and Florida, airboating in the Everglades, and booking flights to both Hawaii and Alaska.

One Epic U.S. Road Trip: 50 States by Plane, Train and (mostly) Automobile

blue = car, yellow = plane, light blue on the left= train

We reached each of the 50 states in the following order:

1. CA
2. NV
3. AZ
4. NM
5. TX
6. LA
7. MS
8. TN
9. AR
10. MO
11. IL
12. WI
13. IA
14. SD
15. NE
16. WY
17. MT
18. ID
19. ND
20. MN
21. MI
22. IN
23. PN
24. OH
25. NY
26. NJ
27. CT
28. RI
29. MA
30. NH
31. ME
32. VT
33. DE
34. MD
35. VA
36. WV
37. KT
38. NC
39. SC
40. GA
41. FL
42. AL
43. KS
44. OK
45. CO
46. UT
47. AK
48. OR
49. WA
50. HI

In that year, we reached the easternmost point of the U.S. at West Quoddy Head (photo), the southernmost point of the contiguous 48 in the Florida Keys, and the southernmost point of the entire U.S. on Hawaii’s Big Island, where I jumped off a cliff into the ocean (which was f***ing crazy, in hindsight). We didn’t make it to Point Barrow in Alaska (the northernmost point), but Alaska’s absolutely amazing, so I don’t doubt we’ll return to do that soon.

Trip Highlights

I’ve written posts about some of these — more to come soon!

We took so many photos on this trip — way too many to squeeze in here.  Luckily I was organized and created a hashtag for this trip, so you can view our favorite road trip moments on Instagram.

Major U.S. Road Trip Destinations by State

ALABAMA

  • Mobile


ALASKA

  • Anchorage
  • Seward
  • Talkeetna
  • Whittier
  • Hatcher Pass
  • Portage
  • Matanuska Glacier

ARIZONA

  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park


ARKANSAS

  • Little Rock

CALIFORNIA

  • Los Angeles
  • Mojave National Preserve
  • Lake Tahoe
  • San Francisco
  • Trona Pinnacles

COLORADO

  • Colorado Springs
  • Great Sand Dune National Park

Who can guess which state we’re in? HINT: Look for the wildlife! #NTSroadtrip2015

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


FLORIDA

  • Orlando
  • Universal Studios
  • Universal Islands of Adventure
  • Celebration
  • Tampa
  • Clearwater
  • Fort Myers
  • Sanibel Island
  • Everglades National Park
  • Key West

GEORGIA

  • Savannah

HAWAII

  • Kona
  • Volcanoes National Park
  • South Point


IDAHO

  • West Yellowstone

ILLINOIS

  • Chicago

Exploring Downtown Chicago today on #NTSroadtrip2015 — This is the biggest, most sprawling downtown I’ve ever seen!

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


KANSAS

  • Wichita
  • Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark

KENTUCKY

  • Daniel Boone National Forest

LOUISIANA

  • New Orleans

MAINE

  • Acadia National Park
  • West Quoddy Head Lighthouse
  • Campobello Island (Canada)
  • Bangor
  • St. Croix Island International Historic Site

Today was a long, foggy day. After some nice, hot, two-dollar showers at the camper supply store near Seawall Campground, we spent about an hour at Seawall Beach tiptoeing around the barnacles (and spiders!) just taking in the peace and quiet with the fog in our eyes and the ocean in our ears. From there we hit up Thurston’s, a local lobster restaurant with a harbor view and then set out for Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Park loop drive, which would take us the rest of the day to complete. We just picked up some camp dinner fixin’s (where we had our first celebrity moment — one of our blog followers, Tim, recognized us from social media — cool, huh?) and we’re now headed back to camp for the night. Tomorrow I think we’ll head east to the eastern-most point of the United States, but we’ll see what we feel like doing in the morning… #NTSroadtrip2015 #maine #acadianationalpark #seawall #yoga #treepose #beach #eastcoast #roadtrip #usa #ocean #thegreatoutdoors #calm #quiet #serenity #peace #nomadlife #lovemylife #happiness #stylishtravelgirl

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on

MARYLAND

  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Ocean City

MASSACHUSETTS

  • Mystic Seaport
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Boston

Summer dreamin’ in Cape Cod at Wellfleet’s Pleasant Point #NTSroadtrip2015 #massachusetts #worldphotographyday #WorldTravelPics

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


MICHIGAN

  • Ann Arbor

MINNESOTA

  • Minneapolis

MISSISSIPPI

  • Jackson

MISSOURI

  • St. Louis
  • Johnson Shut-Ins State Park

MONTANA

  • Missoula
  • Glacier National Park
  • Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada)


NEVADA

  • Las Vegas
  • Valley of Fire State Park
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area
  • Hoover Dam
  • Reno


NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • Franconia Notch State Park

NEW MEXICO

  • White Sands National Monument

Wanderlust and White Sands: Roaring wind. Rippling sand. Rolling dunes. All were present on the night we backpacked out to our backcountry campsite at White Sands National Monument. As luck would have it, we’d gotten the last available site. And we were grateful. Otherwise we’d’ve had to backtrack 30 miles toward Las Cruces and the nearest campground. More about this photo: northtosouth.us/sunset-hike-white-sands-national-monument/ #wanderlust #whitesands #NTSroadtrip2015 #backpacking #hike #sunset #dunes #worldtravelbook #worldtravelpics #NTSshotoftheweek #travel #getoutside #thegreatoutdoors #newmexico #usa #clouds #landscape #backcountry #camping #nature #beauty #worldtraveler

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


NEW YORK

  • New York City
  • Adirondacks
  • Old Forge
  • Niagara Falls

NORTH CAROLINA

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Asheville


NORTH DAKOTA

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

OKLAHOMA

  • Oklahoma City

“Oooooo-klahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…” What comes next??? #NTSroadtrip2015 #oklahoma

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


PENNSYLVANIA

  • Pittsburgh
  • Hershey’s Chocolate World

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Myrtle Beach

SOUTH DAKOTA

  • Badlands National Park

I think I’ll just hang out here for awhile… #NTSroadtrip2015 #southdakota

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


TENNESSEE

  • Knoxville

TEXAS

  • Big Bend National Park
  • Austin

UTAH

  • Mexican Hat

VIRGINIA

  • Washington D.C.


WASHINGTON

  • Seattle
  • Mt Baker
  • Crystal Mountain

WEST VIRGINIA

  • Seneca Rocks
  • Charleston

WISCONSIN

  • Oshkosh

Thar she blows! Old Faithful, in all her geyser glory #NTSroadtrip2015 #AroundTheWorldPix

A photo posted by Diana Southern + Ian Norman 👫 (@northtosouthtravel) on


WYOMING

  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park

While we didn’t make any major stops in 10 states on this trip (Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont), we drove through and experienced each and every one!

Weekly Recaps and Posts from the Road

One day I will finish these. I promise. But until then, you can view a portion of our weekly U.S. road trip re-caps or view all of my posts from our U.S. road trip.


How many U.S. states have you visited? Which one was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author

Diana Southern
In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.

2 Responses

  1. Tara October 17, 2016 / 4:12 am

    Wow, what an incredible trip, and I love the way this post is set up, linking to all of your articles about different highlights. We have taken two similar trips, but never for a whole year! I can’t wait to read more about your trip – where are you off to next?

    • Diana Southern October 17, 2016 / 7:03 pm

      Thanks, Tara! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      We’re in Australia now and will be heading to Fiji in a couple days. I’m excited!

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