5 Memorable Road Trips of the 1970s That You Need to Try

Taking a road trip in the 1970s meant experiencing the open highways like never before.

Families piled into their station wagons, ready for adventure and singing along to cassette tapes or the radio.

It was a time when the journey was just as important as the destination.

What makes these road trips memorable is the connection with the simpler, good old days and the unique adventures they offered. Whether you were cruising down Route 66 or exploring national parks, road trips in the 70s were filled with iconic stops and unforgettable moments.

Buckle up as we dive into some of the most memorable road trips from this golden era.

1) Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway, often called PCH, became an iconic trip in the 1970s.

You’d drive along the stunning coastline, soaking in views of the Pacific Ocean.

Starting from Washington and working your way down to California, you could experience everything from lush forests to sandy California beaches.

During the ’70s, the PCH was less crowded than today.

You could cruise freely, windows down, feeling the breeze and listening to rock music.

Stops like Redwood National Park and Big Sur were must-visits.

The era’s classic cars, like the VW bus and the Chevy Impala, were common sights on this route.

As you traveled, quirky roadside attractions peppered the way.

Small diners served up simple but hearty meals.

Campgrounds and motels provided spots to rest and mingle with fellow travelers.

The journey on the PCH offered a mix of natural beauty and laid-back vibes, perfect for a memorable trip.

2) Route 66

Route 66, also called “The Mother Road,” was an iconic journey in the ’70s.

It spanned around 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California.

This route offered a slice of Americana that connected small towns, roadside diners, and quirky attractions.

During the ’70s, Route 66 was still bustling with travelers.

You could find family-owned motels with neon signs that lit up the night.

Places like the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, captured the spirit of this era beautifully.

Gas stations like Lucille’s Famous Rt. 66 Gas Station in Hydro, Oklahoma, were must-stop spots.

Built in 1929, its unique upper-story design was a rare sight.

These gas stations weren’t just for refueling—they were a part of the adventure.

As you drove along Route 66, you’d pass through historic towns like Springfield, Missouri.

Known for its pivotal role in the Civil War, Springfield added a rich layer of history to the journey.

This town was also a crucial railroad hub and an essential stop on the route.

In the ’70s, Route 66 was more than just a road—it was a cultural icon.

The journey embodied the freedom and adventure of road trips.

You could listen to rock and roll on the radio, stop for a burger, and feel the wind in your hair as you explored the heart of America.

3) The Great River Road

The Great River Road is one of the iconic road trips of the 1970s.

It stretches for about 3,000 miles alongside the Mississippi River.

This route takes you through ten states from Minnesota to Louisiana.

You can experience diverse landscapes and cultures.

You’d drive by scenic river views and charming small towns.

The road also features historical landmarks that give you a glimpse of America’s past.

In the ‘70s, the Great River Road became popular for its leisurely pace.

Many travelers enjoyed camping and hiking in parks along the way.

Nelson Dewey State Park in Wisconsin is one such spot where you could camp or relax by the river.

Road trips on the Great River Road offered a way to connect with nature and history.

You might have stopped at old plantations or historic battlefields.

These sites made the drive educational as well as scenic.

The Great River Road provided a perfect escape from busy city life.

You could take your time, explore local diners, and enjoy the changing landscapes.

Driving this road in the 1970s was a memorable experience for many.

4) Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a road trip gem that stretches for 469 miles.

Built mainly between 1935 and 1966, it winds through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina.

In the 1970s, this route became popular for its scenic views and leisurely drives.

You could stop at the many overlooks and enjoy the stunning landscapes.

Along the parkway, you found places like Black Balsam Knob Road.

This detour was exciting and gave you a taste of the rugged terrain.

No road trip here was complete without a visit to the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.

It’s an iconic spot for breathtaking views, especially in fall.

The parkway connected two great parks: Shenandoah National Park to the north and Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south.

It was an ideal route for those looking to explore nature.

Back then, there were no entrance fees for the parkway itself, making it perfect for budget travelers.

You’d find it easy to extend your trip into the surrounding national parks for more adventure.

5) The Loneliest Road in America

In the 1970s, Highway 50 in Nevada was famously dubbed “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine.

This route travels across the Great Basin desert, providing a unique and solitary driving experience.

You drive through vast stretches of mountains, sagebrush, and open sky.

The scenery can feel endless, but that’s part of its charm.

There aren’t many towns along the way, making each stop memorable.

In Fallon, you can visit the Churchill County Museum, often called the “best little museum on the loneliest road in America.”

This road trip is perfect for those who enjoy quiet, reflective drives.

It offers a look at the untouched beauty of Nevada’s landscape, a rare find today.

Taking this route in the 1970s was like entering another world, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.

You could drive for miles without seeing another car, making it a true adventure.

Remember, while the road is remote, it’s also a testament to the beauty of isolated American landscapes.

Take your time and enjoy the peace that this road offers.

The Cultural Context of the 1970s

The 1970s was a vibrant and transformative decade.

Music and fashion saw groundbreaking trends while societal changes shaped new movements and attitudes.

Music and Fashion Trends

Music in the 1970s defined the spirit of the era.

Rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and AC/DC took the stage, creating iconic anthems that still resonate today.

The decade also birthed disco, with Donna Summer and the Bee Gees dominating dance floors.

Fashion trends mirrored the music scene’s energy.

Bell-bottom jeans, tie-dye shirts, and platform shoes were staples.

The rise of punk rock brought leather jackets and safety pins into the mainstream.

Bold colors and patterns were everywhere, reflecting the decade’s dynamic culture.

Societal Changes and Movements

The 1970s saw significant societal shifts.

The Civil Rights Movement continued to push for equality, while the Women’s Liberation Movement gained momentum, fighting for gender equality.

There was also a notable push for environmental awareness, leading to the first Earth Day in 1970.

Anti-war protests were common, especially in response to the Vietnam War.

This era also witnessed the emergence of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, with events like the Stonewall Riots in 1969 setting the stage for progress in the 1970s.

These movements shaped the social fabric and influenced how people thought and lived during that time.

Preparing for 1970s Road Trips

Getting ready for a road trip in the 1970s meant focusing on reliable cars and practical gear.

You had to make sure you had everything for a smooth, fun trip.

Popular Vehicles of the 1970s

The 1970s saw some iconic vehicles perfect for long drives.

Station wagons were very popular because of their spacious interiors.

Cars like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Country Squire could fit the whole family and lots of luggage.

Another favorite was the Volkswagen Bus.

Known for its roomy design, it was a hit among those who valued freedom and adventure.

Classic muscle cars like the Ford Mustang were also popular choices.

With powerful engines, they added excitement to any trip.

Essential Gear and Gadgets

Prepping for a 1970s road trip meant packing the right gear.

Maps were a must, as GPS didn’t exist.

People often kept a road atlas in the glove compartment.

For in-car entertainment, 8-track tapes and cassettes were essential.

Families brought coolers filled with snacks and drinks.

Other handy items included flashlights, first-aid kits, and extra blankets.

Cameras like Polaroids were also popular for capturing memories instantly.

For those staying overnight, a good tent and sleeping bags were key.

Top Scenic Routes and Hidden Gems

Discover some of the most breathtaking and lesser-known road trips of the 1970s.

These routes will transport you through stunning landscapes and to hidden treasures of the time.

Iconic Highways and Byways

Back in the 1970s, some highways became iconic due to their scenic beauty and cultural significance.

Route 66, known as the “Mother Road,” stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, crossing eight states.

It allowed you to see classic diners, motels, and neon signs.

The Pacific Coast Highway, running along California’s coast, offered stunning ocean views and charming towns like Monterey and Santa Barbara.

You might have driven past cliffs, beaches, and through forests.

This road was a must-see.

Underrated Stops and Sights

Some places were hidden gems, known mainly to those who dared to wander off the beaten path.

The Great River Road followed the Mississippi River through ten states, revealing beautiful scenery and small towns.

You could stop in quaint little towns with local diners and festivals.

Another hidden treasure was the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains.

This road took you through rolling hills, past waterfalls, and charming rustic cabins.

You could have amazing picnic spots and quiet trails to explore.

That’s what these road trips were all about: exploring America’s beauty, one mile at a time.

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