The Best Cross-Country Route, According To Science

One special Michigan State University doctoral student, Randy Olson, was called upon by Discovery News to construct a map that would not only show potential roadtrippers the best way to go through every state on the contiguous United States, but find the most efficient way to do so!

The team made sure that the stops were either at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks or National Monuments, to have the best all-encompassing view of the United States!   The road trip Randy and the Discovery team designed is perfect for anyone wanting to see our incredible country firsthand.   Randy Olson's algorithm came up with a complete trip around the U.S. in only 13,699 miles.   Please click on his blog above (link to original article) for an explanation.



Following the map, these are the cities and attractions you'll pass by along the way:
(I have added pictures of the sites that Gram and Pops have visited)

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, DE


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






To recap, here’s the full list of landmarks in order:

Grand Canyon, AZ
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
Yellowstone National Park, WY
Pikes Peak, CO
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
The Alamo, TX
The Platt Historic District, OK
Toltec Mounds, AR
Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
USS Alabama, AL
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
Lost World Caverns, WV
Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
Mount Vernon, VA
White House, Washington, DC
Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
New Castle Historic District, Delaware
Cape May Historic District, NJ
Liberty Bell, PA
Statue of Liberty, NY
The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
The Breakers, RI
USS Constitution, MA
Acadia National Park, ME
Mount Washington Hotel, NH
Shelburne Farms, VT
Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
Gateway Arch, MO
C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
Taliesin, WI
Fort Snelling, MN
Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
Mount Rushmore, SD
Fort Union Trading Post, ND
Glacier National Park, MT
Hanford Site, WA
Columbia River Highway, OR
San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
San Andreas Fault, CA
Hoover Dam, NV





If you’re more of a city slicker, the road trip above may not look very appealing to you because it involves spending a lot of time outdoors.   But don't worry, Randy Olson created a second road trip that stops at the TripAdvisor-rated Best City to Visit in (almost) every contiguous U.S. state.

This road trip will more-or-less follow the same path as the major U.S. landmarks trip and covers a slightly shorter 12,290 mile route.   You may note that cities from North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia are missing, so you don't really visit all 48 contiguous states.   Out of the top 400 recommended cities to visit on TripAdvisor, none were from North Dakota, Vermont, nor West Virginia.



Here’s the full list of cities in order:

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Wichita, Kansas
Denver, Colorado
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Phoenix, Arizona
Las Vegas, Nevada
San Francisco, California
Portland, Oregon
Seattle, Washington
Boise, Idaho
Park City, Utah
Jackson, Wyoming
Billings, Montana
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Omaha, Nebraska
Des Moines, Iowa
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Chicago, Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana
Louisville, Kentucky
Columbus, Ohio
Detroit, Michigan
Cleveland, Ohio
Manchester, New Hampshire
Portland, Maine
Boston, Massachusetts
Providence, Rhode Island
New Haven, Connecticut
New York City, New York
Ocean City, New Jersey
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wilmington, Delaware
Baltimore, Maryland
Washington, D.C.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Orlando, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Nashville, Tennessee
Birmingham, Alabama
Jackson, Mississippi
New Orleans, Louisiana
Houston, Texas
Little Rock, Arkansas
Branson, Missouri