The summer road trip is an American tradition. And we like traditions… so long as we can celebrate them in a way we’ll actually enjoy.

So we rounded up three American road trips that don’t involve a stop at the worlds’ largest ball of twine.

Canada’s Dempster Highway

Photo by Maja Milosevic.

Most of us don’t think too often about traveling north of the Arctic Circle. And when we do picture it, there are usually skis, sled dogs, and very heavy jackets involved.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The arctic can be accessed by carvia Canada’s 460-mile Dempster Highway. It’s a rough road (drivers often pop several tires), but most vehicles can make it all the way from its junction with the more civilized Klondike Highway to the arctic settlement of Inuvik (pop. ~ 3,000).

The road can be driven in just 12 hours, but most drivers take a full week (there are campsites along the way). It’s obviously warmest in the summer, but many travelers choose to drive in the winter, when the Northern Lights are at their peak.

Maps and logistical details are available online, as is a stunning (but long) documentary about the drive.

 

The Trans-America Trail

Photo courtesy of Land Rover Expedition America.

Bear with us, here—because we know driving across the continental U.S. doesn’t exactly sound like a rugged overland adventure. But even in 2016, it’s possible to tour the entire country without ever setting tire on an interstate highway.

Most of the country, anyway. The Trans-America Trail connects 5,000 miles of dirt roads from North Carolina to the Oregon coast. The route offers a cross section of America seldom seen by tourists, from the Mississippi backwater to the high Colorado mountains to Utah’s sandstone canyons.

The TAT is generally traveled by motorcycle, and takes about a month to drive from end to end. An outstanding logistical resource is available online, as is a short video segment (7:32) about the drive.

 

California’s Mojave Road

Photo by Stan Shebs.

“Mojave Road” sort of sounds like the name one of Kenny Rogers’ deep tracks. And it might be—we’re not too familiar with the gambler’s catalog. But we know it’s the name of a 138-mile jeep trail through the eponymous desert.

The road follows a trade route first established centuries before Spanish explorers first came to California. Unfortunately, that trade route later became the source of considerable conflict between natives and the U.S. Army.

Today, the road can be traveled by virtually anyone with a 4WD vehicle. Drivers have the best experiences in the spring and the fall, when the temperatures are slightly less than infernal. Dennis Casebier’s Mojave Road Guide is the preferred guidebook. It sells online for $35.