Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site

Iconic road trips in Mississippi River Country

It’s easy to get in your car and drive in Mississippi River Country.

Route 66 mural in Pontiac Illinois
Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum (Credit: Illinois Office of Tourism)

Mississippi River Country is home to some of the most famous road trips in America. Route 66—the country’s “Mother Road”—starts in Illinois and passes through Missouri on its way to California. The Great River Road National Scenic Byway follows the Mississippi River for nearly 3,000 miles (4,800km) from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Natchez Trace mirrors a centuries-old route used by Native Americans and European explorers.

Here’s a closer look at these iconic routes.

Route 66

The legendary “Mother Road”—which travels from Chicago all the way to the California coast—runs for nearly 600 miles (965km) through Illinois and Missouri, and there are several iconic stops along the route in these two states. In Chicago, be sure to snap a pic of the sign that marks the route at Adams and Michigan Street. Other notable locales include the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum in Springfield, Illinois, and the Chain of Rocks bridge over the Mississippi River on the Missouri-Illinois border in Illinois’ Great Rivers and Routes region.

The Great River Road

The Great River Road is a National Scenic Byway that follows the course of the Mississippi River for nearly 3,000 miles (4,800km) from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not a single continuous road but a series of interconnected state and federal highways. The Great River Road is one of the longest and oldest National Scenic Byways in America, and motorists can find scenic overlooks, locks & dams, historical sites and museums along the route, not to mention charming river towns and some of the nation’s best cuisine.

Fun fact: These two iconic roads (the Great River Road and Route 66) only meet in one spot, and that is in the Great Rivers & Routes region of southwest Illinois, which offers and outstanding mix of stunning scenic beauty and iconic American history.

The Natchez Trace

This historic route covers nearly 450 miles (724km) between Natchez in the southwestern corner of Mississippi and Nashville in central Tennessee. The route roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” that was used for centuries by Native Americans, European and American explorers, and traders in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the Natchez Trace Parkway is operated and maintained by the National Park Service and offers visitors not only a scenic drive but also the opportunity to explore the region’s history and discover recreation options.