We all know that touring has the potential to do some game-changing things for bands. In addition to getting a band tighter and more experienced musically, the right tour has the potential to bring industry attention and exposure to fans. But what’s often not talked about are the benefits that serious touring can give to the individuals within the band. Traveling can open a person up to incredible things they couldn’t have seen or experienced while sitting at home making music.
Unless you’re incredibly lucky and financially successful, touring is an unglamorous affair, but it’s also a fantastic way to see the country. We’ve assembled five gorgeous routes to take on your next tour through the United States. Some of these routes are off the beaten path but are well worth exploring if you’ve got time to kill.
And for venue recommendations in more urban areas by the artists who live there, be sure to check out Flypaper’s article series, The COMPASS: Artists Introduce Us to Their Cities.
1. Trail Ridge Road Through Rocky Mountain National Park
If you find yourself needing to traverse Colorado’s impressive Rocky Mountains on your next tour, take a little extra time to go through Rocky Mountain National Park. It will be an incredible experience that you and your bandmates will never forget. Spanning almost 50 miles from Estes Park to Grand Lake, Colorado, Trail Ridge Road reaches elevations of well over 12,000 feet. You’ll get a front row seat to the pristine, windswept beauty of the Rockies if you take this route, but Trail Ridge Road is only open during the summer and early fall months, so plan accordingly.
2. Pacific Coast Highway Through California’s Coast
This is an obvious one, but it has to be mentioned. The Pacific Coast Highway’s 555.8 miles of sun-drenched beauty will help cure your hangovers and get you ready for the next show. If you wanted to, you could play San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco without straying far from the PCH. Some of music’s most beloved venues are situated in these cities, so between that and how insanely gorgeous this route is, an up-and-coming band can’t go wrong.
3. US-441 Through Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you find yourself in the southern part of the country north of Atlanta, this drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great way to relax after a long string of shows. Situated in the Appalachian Mountain Range, the Smoky Mountains have it all: towering mountain ranges, plentiful wildlife like black bears, and one of the world’s most impressive and diverse wildflower populations with over 1,500 species. When the south’s gritty clubs start wearing your band down, head over to Great Smoky to soothe your weary souls.
4. US-28 Through New York’s Hudson Valley
Touring through major cities like New York City, DC, and Philly can be a massive stress for even the most seasoned bands. Everything from parking the van to navigating through thick traffic and tolls can make playing these great East Coast scenes a huge pain.
Luckily, you’ve always got New York’s classically beautiful Hudson Valley to retreat to when you need it. If you’re ever trying to go from central New York’s I-88 to I-87, this route won’t save you time or money, but it could potentially preserve what’s left of your sanity if you’ve been on the road for too long.
5. US-163 Through Monument Valley
If you’re a young, ambitious band looking to earn fans and gain industry attention, chances are you’re probably not playing a whole lot of shows in the remote four-corners region of the United States. In case you’re not familiar, this is where the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. But if you happen to be anywhere near US-163, you’ll regret not taking a few hours out of your day to check out Monument Valley.
Remember the alien-like backdrop to all those old Western movies? A lot of them were filmed there. On this route, you’ll see massive desert expanses give way to an insane array of towering, red-rock formations that have been carved by wind and rain over the span of thousands of years.
Take a look at our handy guide for plotting a tour, DIY-style, in this video culled from our free Touring on a Shoestring course.
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Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.