Who doesn’t love a good road trip?
One of the many great things about our country is that you can experience so many unique and amazing things by just jumping in a car.
The challenge is that with so many cool spots to visit, where do you even start?
Thankfully, writer Tracy Staedter took on the challenge. She enlisted data expert Randal Olson to create the ideal and most efficient road trip route across the United States. If you’re considering a road trip, don’t leave home without reading this.
The parameters were a) the trip must stop in each of the 48 contiguous states, and b) every stop must be a national landmark, historic site, national park or national monument.
Staedter came up with a list of 50 major landmarks in nearly every state. Then, Olson set to work planning the route.
“The result was an epic itinerary with a mix of inner-city exploration, must-see historical sites, and beautiful natural landscapes,” Olson wrote on his website. “All that was left was to figure out the path that would minimize our time spent driving and maximize our time spent enjoying the landmarks.”
He found the shortest route by road between every landmark, a total of 2,450 possibilities. He used some expert coding to get the job done in no time.
Next, Olson had to solve what’s known in mathematics as “the traveling salesman problem,” which describes the dilemma a fictitious salesman faces when trying to visit a certain number of cities in the shortest amount of time and for the least amount of money.
He used an algorithm to help him solve the puzzle.
“After less than a minute, the genetic algorithm reached a near-perfect solution that makes a complete trip around the U.S. in only 13,699 miles (22,046 km) of driving,” Olson wrote.
Ready to get packing? Here’s the full list of landmarks in order:
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Pikes Peak, Colorado
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
The Alamo, Texas
The Platt Historic District, Oklahoma
Toltec Mounds, Arkansas
Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Tennessee
Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
USS Alabama, Alabama
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina
Lost World Caverns, West Virginia
Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, North Carolina
Mount Vernon, Virginia
White House, Washington, DC
Colonial Annapolis Historic District, Maryland
New Castle Historic District, Delaware
Cape May Historic District, New Jersey
Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania
Statue of Liberty, New York
The Mark Twain House & Museum, Connecticut
The Breakers, Rhode Island
USS Constitution, Massachusetts
Acadia National Park, Maine
Mount Washington Hotel, New Hampshire
Shelburne Farms, Vermont
Fox Theater, Detroit, Michigan
Spring Grove Cemetery, Ohio
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
West Baden Springs Hotel, Indiana
Abraham Lincoln’s Home, Illinois
Gateway Arch, Missouri
C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, Kansas
Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, Iowa
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Ashfall Fossil Bed, Nebraska
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Fort Union Trading Post, North Dakota
Glacier National Park, Montana
Columbia River Highway, Oregon
San Francisco Cable Cars, California
San Andreas Fault, California
Hoover Dam, Nevada
This route is a total of 13,699 miles and would take over nine days of actual drive time. Here is a full explanation of how they came up with the trip along with official Google Maps links.
We’re curious: Would you consider hitting the open road for a well-planned trip like this?