Stop In A Dozen Different States On This Popular Road Trip Route Through Middle America

A road trip along The Loneliest Highway in America doesn't have to reflect the name of this remote, transverse route. Stretching 3,000 miles, the transcontinental highway spans from coast to coast and cuts through a dozen states on a voyage through the great American wilderness. Life Magazine was first to coin the term, "The Loneliest Highway," popularizing U.S. Route 50 among writers and road trippers consumed by wanderlust.

From Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland, the desolate highway navigates travelers through the Wild West of Nevada, the Colorado Rockies, and Indiana's agricultural capital. The barren stretch of road tracing through the dunes of Northern Nevada has been noted as a dangerous trek, garnering the highway its nickname. Therefore, only solo travelers with the proper "survival skills" and valiance should attempt to road trip across this strip of highway. Alternatively, have a friend in the passenger seat, a decent supply of snacks, and a full tank of gas before embarking on this epic road trip.

Week one: California to Missouri

The route begins in the northern part of the Golden State before ascending into the Sierra Nevada mountain range — the gateway to adventure. Its high peaks and captivating terrain are home to four national parks, including Yosemite and Sequoia. The road skims the southern perimeter of Lake Tahoe, a freshwater lake bordering California and Nevada. Trace the steps of the mounted riders who followed the old Pony Express Route hundreds of miles from the coast of California to the Midwest Plains. Along the way, stop at neighboring towns to learn about the history of the Wild West. On the road through Nevada, travelers can forge through the Valley of Fire, formed during the Jurassic period. The highway weaves through the plummeting canyons in Utah, where visitors can stop to admire the serene rock formations in Arches National Park.

East of Utah, the route climbs the culminating peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The historic town of Salida, Colorado, is a great exploratory platform for sightseeing before heading toward Pueblo, a city rich with Spanish heritage. Located southwest of Colorado Springs, the San Isabel National Forest houses tumbling waterfalls and pine-covered valleys. Road trippers can watch from the window as the Great Plains give way to gently rolling pastures in the Sunflower State. This stretch of Route 50 runs through the heart of Syracuse, Kansas, and skirts above the border of Wichita. Stop for some famous K.C. barbecue in Kansa City, where the locals are known for their love of jazz and eclectic foodie scene.

Week two: Illinois to Maryland

On the back half of the journey, the Mississippi River and iconic Route 66 are just a few landmarks housed on the road through Illinois. Farmlands dotted with grazing cattle and flourishing crops characterize much of the neighboring Hoosier State. Known as the Crossroads of America, its agricultural roots make for a scenic drive through the backcountry of this state. If time allows, stop in Hoosier National Forest, Indiana's only national forest. During the harvest months, the primitive landscape is drenched in red and gold foliage — a sight not to be missed. Road trippers can follow Route 50 from the agricultural plains of Indiana into the lowlands of Ohio, home to Hocking Hills State Park. Beautiful in every season, the park is teeming with flowering gorges in spring and vibrant vermillion foliage in fall.

Further east, the highway directs travelers through the beauty of the Appalachian foothills and Shenandoah Valley, the birthplace of the American Frontier. Within the vast wilderness, land and sky seamlessly blend on a canvas of towering mountains draped in a sea of wildflowers. The final stretch of the enduring trek creates the perfect opportunity for squeezing in a tour of the nation's capital in Washington, D.C. The mingling aroma of sea and salt blowing in from the Atlantic signals the final destination. Enjoy a peaceful stroll along Ocean City's boardwalk to celebrate a road well traveled.