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  1. Default Scenic route from Denver to DC

    We are planning a trip to DC for a wedding in April. What's the most scenic route and what are the spots we shouldn't miss? We also plan to head to Lancaster, PA and New York for a few days each. Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome to RTA!

    How many days do you want to drive each way? Are you going to Lancaster and NYC before or after the wedding?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    At around 1675 miles by the shortest route, which also happens to be a little on the scenic side, it's going to be at least a 3-day drive (doing about 560 miles per day). That's going direct with no sightseeing stops except what you can see out of the windshield.

    There are loads of routes to consider, but here are the two "main" ones that use interstates:
    1) I-76 to I-80, take that straight to Ohio where you pick up I-76 again, then to I-270 into DC. Pro: it's fast. It goes close to Lancaster. You can shoot over to NYC. Con: lots of tolls, through some of Illinois, all of Indiana and Ohio, and most of Pennsylvania.

    2) I-70 all the way to PA, then drop down to Maryland on I-79 to I-68 east. This is a route that we just did back in '14, and it is really picturesque. Pros: Good road, straight shot, very pretty drives through OH, PA and MD. Dropping down to I-68 via I-79 avoids the toll road in PA, the PA Turnpike. Cons: Toll road through part of KS (not expensive in a car, tho). Does not go through Lancaster area.

    There are also numerous routes to take you there via the two-lane roads. A good map or atlas should help you with this. If you're a member of AAA, you can get the maps free at your local office. If you're not, get a good road atlas from any bookstore or big box store, if you don't already have one.


  4. #4



    Depending on how much of a hurry you're in, it's almost always more scenic on the two-lane highways, rather than on the Interstates. No matter which route you take, when you're traveling east from Denver, you have to cross the plains, either Kansas or Nebraska, Missouri, or Iowa. On the Interstate, you're talking hundreds of miles of pretty much flat, unbroken monotony, and you'll be sharing the road with an endless stream of commercial traffic. On the two-lane US Highways (US 36 would be one option), you'll be travelling through what's actually some very pretty farm country. Traffic will be much less intense, and April should be a great time of year to enjoy the spring wildflowers that tend to grow alongside those two-lane highways. (And it's ever so much easier to pull over when you see something interesting).

    Interstates are the only way to go when you're in a hurry (or when you're crossing West Texas), but when you stick to those limited access roads, and never venture off? You miss a lot of the good stuff. Two-lane highways are slower. They'll for sure add some hours to your travel. But they can also add lots of smiles to your miles.

    Enjoy your time in DC. You'll be too late for the cherry blossoms, but spring is a beautiful time of year back there. Lots to see and do!

    Rick Quinn

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