One of the most traveled highways in the United States is the I-10. This Interstate travels through the southern states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Beginning in the city of Jacksonville, it terminates in Santa Monica, California. From one sunshine state to the next, this trip is for anyone that loves warm weather, desert, and sunshine.
The weather on I-10 can be extreme in the summertime. Between May and September, places like Tucson, New Orleans, Las Cruces, San Antonio, and El Paso have pavement melting high temperatures that can easily wear the best car air conditioners tired. To make the best of the trip, try to stop as often as possible along I-10 to give your car a much needed rest. Some states have a more bearable arid desert heat, like New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Western Texas, while states and cities east of San Antonio are going to be humid.
Along I-10, you can expect to see big cities, but also crazy drivers. When I drove through Mississippi during a lightning storm, a small pickup truck towing an old camper went whizzing by me on the interstate. The wind was blowing hard, rocking cars back and forth, and I knew the situation didn’t look good for this reckless driver. He sped off into the distance, but five minutes later, we caught up with him as he was overturned in the median with clothes all over the highway and the surrounding grass. The driver was standing there scratching his head, looking as if he thought what just happened was so impossible.
The Worst Parts
While there are plenty of fun things to see near I-10, the road itself can get a little boring if you don’t take those side exits. Most of the good stuff is far off of the exit ramps, except for some of the big cities in Texas and Louisiana.
What was close to the road in Arizona was Saguaro National Park. This park is definitely worth visiting if you’re a desert lover. It’s split into two halves, and has some amazing looking cactus and unique desert birds.
The worst part of I-10 for me was Texas (sorry Texans, I-10 can be a pretty boring stretch of pavement). Driving through small town after farm after small town tends to get old, but good songs and good company can help you get through it. The exit numbers, if starting from the east, start in the high 900′s and work down from there. This can get a little discouraging when you are trying to make good time, but sweat it out, because the good stuff is just around the bend.
Texas isn’t all bad, though, it’s just that the best stuff is far apart and not always on I-10. San Antonio is a great city, and so is Austin. Houston, Dallas, and Forth Worth all have plenty of activities, shopping centers, and sports arenas. In the southwestern corner near the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park offers some tremendous views. If you have the time, it’s worth seeing, but can add on considerable time to your road trip. Don’t underestimate the size of Texas!
Recommended Guide for US Road Travel
DK Eyewitness Southwest USA Travel Guide
See the best of America’s Southwest with this top rated guide
There’s just too much to see in the Southwest to name one, two, or even five things that are must-sees. America’s Southwest, which you’ll drive through on your trip on the I-10, includes Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. Places like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, and Monument Valley are attractions that take some time to get to, but are extraordinarily beautiful and worth the travel time.
This guide will point out some of the Southwest’s best places, but also go into great detail about off-the-beaten-path gems and information on avoiding crowds. There are sections on recommended hotels, restaurants, what to bring, what to do, what to avoid, as well as full color maps featuring street by street views of cities, parks, and even museums. Like all of the DK Eyewitness Guides, it’s the perfect size for travel, and has a durable cover so it won’t get destroyed on your road trip.
In the state of Louisiana, you’ll drive near New Orleans. This is a city that has been devastated by a bad economy, Hurricane Katrina, and now the BP oil spill. Definitely take the time to visit this city, because it really could use the tourism. If you’ve never been, head straight to the French Quarter along the Mississippi River. This area has the best hotels, food, and bars in town.
Alabama & Misssissippi
The Alabama and Mississippi coastlines are brief, but have some interesting small cities like Jackson, Mobile, and Biloxi that are worth the trip (and are only just a few miles off of I-10). Further to the east, the panhandle of Florida has several popular big cities like Tallahassee, Panama City, and Pensacola. These beaches are rated amongst the top beaches in the state on a consistent basis.
On the New Mexico portion of the Interstate, you won’t find much in terms of attractions. Most of what makes the state unique lies to the south and to the north of the highway. Try heading to Carlsbad Caverns if you have the time, or the city of Roswell if you’re a UFO cover up kind of guy. The road itself is mesmerizing in this section. The desert, the dust devils, and the low lying cacti go on seemingly forever, until your catches a glimpse of the towering sand colored mountains in the backdrop. Enjoy the scenery here, because there’s not much else to do. Make sure the air conditioner in your car is working before you head through the southwest as well. Heat can be unbearable on hot summer days without it.
Arizona & California
Finally, I-10 will end in the great state of California. When you first drive across the border from Arizona, the terrain is a dry desert land, but soon small cities and oases appaear like Palm Springs and Palm Desert, surrounded by mountain towns like Idyllwild.
Just beyond the Coachella Valley area, you will enter Los Angeles county, the true gateway to Southern California. As the suburbs get bigger and the literal smell of Los Angeles is in the air (you can usually see the smog in many of the towns in the San Bernadino Valley), you’ll be closer and closer to the final destination, the Pacific Ocean. The I-10 ends at Santa Monica, part of the city of L.A. From here, you can depart on many other side trips like Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Long Beach, and San Diego just to the south.
The entire length of I-10 from Jacksonville to Santa Monica is 2,429 miles per Google Maps, and a 1 day and 14 hours of non-stop driving. Realistically, break the driving up into 8-12 hour days if you’re rushing (3-4 days), or 5 hours of driving more comfortably for about 8 days.