Published On: Mon, Oct 16th, 2017

Endless Horizons on America's Longest Highway


Route 66 has long been America’s favorite highway: “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.” However, there is another roadway deserving of praise, that spans the entire length of the country.

America’s Route 20, which connects the East and West coasts, spans twelve states from Massachusetts to Oregon, each with their own adventures and sights.

Covering more than 3,300 miles, it makes for a road trip like none other to experience Americana at its best. One of the most comprehensive books about the highway from Newport to Boston, written by Bryan Farr, is Historic US Route 20, A Journey Across America’s Longest Highway. Farr includes a plethora of photos along the route with interesting tidbits about the many towns included in Route 20’s path.

In addition to Bryan Farr’s book, there are several Facebook groups available to join offering tips and photos such as Route 20 – America’s Road and Bryan’s site, Historic Route 20. There are also several sites dedicated to individual states included in the route.

Here are just a few of the treats you’ll find along the way:

Oregon

Beginning in Newport, Oregon, U.S. 20 runs east to Idaho through Corvallis, the Cascade Mountains and Bend.

Before reaching the Willamette National Forest, you’ll run into Sweet Home, the birthplace of White’s Metal Detector Factory and Museum of Finds. Old metal detectors and items that have been found over the years are displayed, including everything from guns to jewelry.

Idaho

From the state’s border, close to its capital, Boise, Route 20 connects with Arco, the first municipality in the world ever to be run totally by nuclear power. Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is also on the route, created from volcano eruptions which formed lava fields covering 618 square miles.

Montana

Even though Montana is a huge state, you’ll only travel a short distance on Route 20 as it runs for less than 10 miles to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Check local traffic sites, as there are certain months during the year (and also weather events) that might prohibit travel through this section.

Wyoming

The Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway begins in Shoshoni and winds north on 20 with views of Wind River Canyon including rock walls, the Owl Creek Mountains and the Boysen Reservoir. The Wind River Indian Reservation operates a Whitewater and Flyfishing Outfitter, the only one permitted to raft and fish in the reservation portion of the canyon.

Keep driving and you’ll wind up in Thermopolis, which offers Hot Springs State Park, the world’s largest mineral hot springs. Native Americans believe in its healing powers, and the state bathhouse is free of charge.

READ MORE: The Best Roadhouse Bars in America

Nebraska

You won’t want to miss the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. As the result of a volcano eruption about 12 million year ago, a watering hole serving many species of animals was preserved by several feet of ash. Budding paleontologists will enjoy finding perfectly preserved bones of Teleoceras in a “Rhino Barn,” as well as bird species delicately uncovered by persistent archeologists.

Iowa

This is the state where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed, on Route 20 in the town of Dyersville. Three and a half acres were carved out of farmland to create the legendary baseball field, and the rest is cinematic history.

That famous line was coined, “If you build it, he will come,” and they’re still coming!

Illinois

Illinois is where Route 20 and the infamous 66 meet. Route 66 starts in Chicago and heads out west to the Pacific but doesn’t share Route 20’s cross country moniker. Make sure you take in Galena for the historic Ulysses S. Grant Home, the Washburne House State Historic Site and even a Ghost & Vampire Tour.

READ MORE: US Road Trips on the Rise

Indiana

Route 20 hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan, parallel to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and offering a variety of hiking trails. Geocaching is a popular activity in the park with a free Official Geocaching App through Geocaching.com.

Ohio

In its heyday, Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue was known as Millionaire’s Row. By 1914, the first electric traffic signal in the country was installed on the corner of Euclid and East 105th Street. During 2006, parts of Euclid were used to film Spider-Man 3, and by 2009 the area had been completely refurbished.

Pennsylvania

Route 20 parallels the southern shore of Lake Erie along with numerous vineyards and the Presque Isle State Park and Lighthouse.

The lighthouse was put into service during 1873. Though the outside is constructed as a square brick structure, the interior is circular. Still servicing water craft, the lighthouse is open for public tours. Along this route, a variety of vineyards offer many satisfying flavors and varietals.

READ MORE: 8 Rules for an Epic Road Trip

New York

Worth a stop in central New York, visit the village of Skaneateles, on the north end of the Finger Lakes, specifically Skaneateles Lake. The town offers an ample supply of boutique lodging, restaurants, shopping and plenty of water excursions. Stop by for the World’s Smallest Parade, usually the end of November, which kicks off a Dickens Christmas in the village.

Massachusetts

Route 20 ends (or starts, as the case may be) at Kenmore Square, site of the iconic Citgo sign in Boston.

Travel about two hours west and you’ll find the Appalachian Trial crossing where Route 20 is named: The Jacobs Ladder Highway. This 35-mile stretch parallels the Massachusetts Turnpike, winding through quaint towns in the Berkshire Foothills.



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