With its expansive deserts, enchanting rock formations, colossal mountain ranges and miles and miles of coastline, the western US is tailor-made for unforgettable road-tripping. Luckily, we've curated the perfect playlist to complement these legendary road trips through the dramatically beautiful American West.

Western US road trip - A highway extends straight towards the rock towers of Monument Valley. The sky turns gold as the sun sets. Western USA.
Hit the open road in the western US with our playlist © Miroslav_1 / Getty Images

The tunes in our Western US road trip playlist speak to your inner renegade as you fly across some of the most famous (and photogenic) highways in the country. Desert rock with grimy guitar riffs and gritty vocals, West Coast hip hop, First Nations electronic music, Mexican acoustic rock and American classics work together to pump you up for the long drive, so hop on your motorcycle and ride on into that sunset.

Western US road trip - Two people ride down an empty road on motorcycles at sunset. Mountains are visible in the background, and the sky is orange in hue. A sign reading "West 66" is in the foreground.
Travel one of the US' most famous highways, Route 66 © Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson / Getty Images

Route 66

For a classic US road trip, nothing beats Route 66, connecting small-town streets and rural byways. What California novelist John Steinbeck nicknamed the 'Mother Road' triumphantly ends in SoCal, rolling through the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean. You'll know you've found this legendary road when you're cruising by neon-lit diners, drive-in movie theaters, 20th-century motor courts and kitschy roadside attractions.

Speed west through eerie ghost towns beside railroad tracks in the Mojave Desert, starting from hot, hot Needles on the Arizona border. Stop into the Route 66 and train museum in whistle-stop railway town of Barstow. Atop Cajoin Pass, order an ostrich burger and a date shake at the Summit Inn, and get your final kicks in Pasadena and Los Angeles, ending with waving palm trees and a carnival pier in Santa Monica.

Western US road trip - A winding stretch of Highway 1 passes over a bridge with the Pacific Ocean to the right; it's a sunny day. California, USA.
The Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1 © Michael Urmann / shutterstock

Pacific Coast Highways

Make your escape from tangled, traffic-jammed freeways and cruise life in the slow lane. Snaking over 1000 miles along dizzying sea cliffs and over landmark bridges, passing ancient redwoods, historic lighthouses and quirky beach towns, California’s two-lane coastal highways trace the edge of the continent. Only the stretch of Highway 1 through Orange and Los Angeles Counties can legally call itself the Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH), but never mind those technicalities because equally bewitching ribbons of Hwy 1 and 101 await all along this shoreline route.

In between the big cities of San Diego, LA and San Francisco, you’ll uncover hidden beaches and surf breaks, rustic seafood shacks dishing up the day’s freshest catch, and wooden seaside piers for catching sunsets over boundless Pacific horizons. Lean into the endless curves and pull over for spectacular ocean views. Once you get north of San Francisco, fishing villages are the gateways to wilder beaches and old-growth redwood forests.

Western US road trip - A road extends into an autumnal tree line towards bluffs in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado, USA.
Wind through Colorado's alpine scenery on the Million Dollar Highway © Craig Zerbe / Getty Images

Million Dollar Highway

Stretching between Ouray and Silverton in southern Colorado is one of the most gorgeous alpine drives in the US. Part of the 236-mile San Juan Skyway, this section of US 550 is known as the Million Dollar Hwy because the road, they say, is filled with ore. Twenty-five miles of smooth, buttery pavement twists over three mountain passes, serving up views of Victorian homes, snow-capped peaks, mineshaft headframes and a gorge lined with rock. But the allure isn't just the beauty; part of the thrill is the driving. Hairpin turns, occasional rock slides and narrow, mountain-hugging pavement flips this route from a Sunday-afternoon drive to a NASCAR-worthy adventure.

Charming Ouray sits at nearly 7800ft, surrounded by lofty peaks. It also fronts the Uncompahgre Gorge, a steep, rocky canyon famous for its ice climbing. While here, take a hike or soak in the town's hot springs. From Ouray, the Million Dollar Hwy – completed in 1884 after three years of construction – hugs the side of the gorge, twisting past old mines that pock the mountainsides. Stay vigilant for the masochistic, spandex-clad cyclists pumping over the passes on the ribbon-thin road. In Silverton, step away from the car and enjoy the aspen-covered mountains or watch the steam-powered Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad chug into town.

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