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Drive Cross Country on US Route 6

US-Route-6-PA

Map of USA with Route 6 in Red from Massachusetts to California

What’s the longest Federal Highway in the USA?  US Route 20.  What’s the SECOND longest (and longest CONTIGUOUS) highway?  US Route 6!  At 3,205 miles long, and before 1964 when California renumbered its roads and Route 6 extended all the way to Long Beach, 3,652 miles long, driving US Route 6 will bring you though the best of America.

Historic Route 6 begins and ends in flamboyant, artsy, touristy, entertainment-rich Oceanside towns.  Provincetown, MA on the Atlantic Ocean draws playwrights, gay activists and tons of tourists every summer.  Long Beach,CA  on the Pacific Ocean, an outer-borough of Los Angeles, is rich in glitz of a similar sort.  What’s in between is a virtual time-line of American history. Revolutionary War sites in New England give way to pioneer homes in the plains and prairies of Iowa and Nebraska, and eventually to the stark silver and gold mining camps in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.

Canals, backyard docks and boats on Lake Erie Town of Vermilion, OH

Route 6 travels through two towns called Brooklyn, and neither are in New York.  It touches two oceans, runs along the shore of one Great Lake (Erie), crosses most of the country’s major rivers, traverses five state capitals, climbs, exhilaratingly, up and over the Continental Divide, meandering through land both barren and lush.

Sun dappled clean Nebraska town Main Street

US Route 6 takes you  from the Technicolor gardens and forests in the East to the sepia tones of the Western desert through some of the friendliest cities and towns in our country’s midsection.  Most are not tourist destinations; you’d likely never know about them except for the fact that they are on what was once a main route.  But for road-trippers, that’s part of the joy of discovery.  And in many of these locales, inhabitants welcome strangers with open arms, introducing travelers to the best places where they themselves eat and shop.

To do the whole Route justice, plan to spend at least six weeks on the road.  Of course, you might be tempted to idle in resort areas and larger cities, which will extend your trip.  If you’re in a rush (which is really besides the point of a two-lane highway trip), you can do the drive in half the time by picking and choosing what is most important to you.

You can also break up the journey into the following segments (designed to begin and end in cities with accessible airports):

Brown US Route 6 Sign stating Bishop, CA 3,205 Miles Long Beach, CA 3652 Miles

Provincetown, MA to Cleveland, OH – 775 miles; Atlantic Ocean National Seashore, beach towns, whaling, commercial fishing industry, Revolutionary War history, Hudson River, Pennsylvania lakes and forests, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Owner of only perfumery in the US with operations under one roof standing in her factory

Cleveland, OH to Omaha, NE; 800 Miles; Lake Erie, Cedar Point Amusement Park, Farms,Annie Oakley Perfumery,   I&M Canal, Land of Lincoln, Hogs Soy and Corn, UNESCO “City of Literature” (Iowa City), John Deere, Mississippi River, Missouri River, Durham Museum, Old Market, Boys Town.

Way, way off the interstate in Iowa - White Pole Road formerly US Route 6

Omaha, NE to Denver, CO; 550 miles, Lincoln State Capitol Building, Nation’s Breadbasket, Grain Elevators and Silos Galore, Farmland, Oregon Trail, Sophisticated “Cowtown,” Wonderful Westernaires, Foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Young horse riders in setting sun at the foothill of the Rocky Mountains

Denver/Golden, CO to Spanish Fork/Provo, UT; 500 Miles; Miller/Coors Plant Tours, Buffalo Bill Grave, Continental Divide, Gold and Silver Mining, Hot Springs, Mountain Climbing and Recreation, Colorado National Monument, Desert Outposts, Dinosaur Digs.

Stuffed and mounted elk with cigarette in mouth

Spanish Fork, UT to Long Beach, CA; 850 miles; Basin/Range, Trilobites, Gambling Halls, Queen of the Silver Mines, Area 51, Eastern Sierra Mountains, Desert, Dust Storms, WWII Interment Camps, Aerospace, Film Sets, Hollywood.

For a more comprehensive, Mile By Mile Guide to all 3,652 Transcontinental miles, BUY THE BOOK HERE.

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Adam Sommer June 2, 2013, 8:16 pm

    This looks like an incredible experience! It was great to meet you at TBEX today & hear about it first-hand!

    • Malerie Yolen-Cohen June 2, 2013, 8:28 pm

      Hi Adam – Yes, my cross-country Route 6 trip brought me to many great “Fly-Over” states. They will be fly-over no more! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
      Malerie

  • J. Carter July 11, 2013, 8:40 pm

    Hello Malerie – I am moving cross-country. No time really to extend the trip. I will be in a small U-Haul towing a car behind. Is this a scenic drive worth taking just to get cross country? I would stop in the cities per your recommendations above, but just overnight. Or would I be better off taking another route?

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