A little google mapping last night got me wondering again (that I should have been a cartographer…yeah, yeah, I know).
Seriously though, my geo-nerdiness pointed me to this question. What are the longest point-to-point drives one can take without leaving a state (or county, or heck, even city).
Now, we must establish some ground rules here. At first I looked at drives from cities, towns or communities from one extreme corner to the opposite extreme corner. But one can start from and extreme border entrance and drive to the opposite extreme border exit just to extend the fun a little further.
Another rule – even though the quickest point may be to jump to another state or two to hop on an interstate or major U.S. route, you must stay in the same state to get from point A to point B. There are some issues here where this can be a problem (note the famous Kentucky Bend or Michigan’s lost peninsula and Washington’s Point Roberts and Minnesota’s Northwest Angle also present some international problems). For states with exceptions like those, we can grant them two qualifying routes, one within the state and one including the exclaves and enclaves.
Circuitous routes also don’t count. The drive must take place on the presumably quickest route from each point within the state’s boundaries. Sure one can traverse as many roads as possible in California without criss-crossing and be out there for days, but that’s not the point of this. Essentially what is the longest route in a state for two points that is also the fastest route between those two points.
So what is the longest point-to-point drive within one state? Well, that’s not too hard. Using the Dalton Highway/North Slope Haul road in Alaska, the answer is….
1,099 miles. One must start on the end of Homer Spit Road in Homer, AK and go past Deadhorse, AK and onto Prudhoe Bay on “Spine Road” (a restricted usage road according to google) that seems to take one all the way to the North Alaskan coast (see picture above).
But that was too easy. What is the longest possible drive in any of the lower 48 states? Well there are some good candidates here. Let’s look at a few that I calculated to round out my the top 5.
Wow, California comes damn close. I started travel from the end of Elias Way in Smith River, CA. If one wanted to travel from here to the end of Ferguson Road in Southeast California (to see Ferguson Lake, of course), you’d easily top 1,000 miles without leaving the state. It may be possible that a longer point-to-point route exists, but this was the longest I’ve discovered.
Texas was surprisingly short of the 1,000 mark. The longest I could find started at the extreme NW corner of the state where the Texas State Line Road snakes into Texas below the intersection with Rt. 56/64/412. From here one must traverse all the way down to South Padre Island to the terminus of Ocean Blvd.
Whereas Texas surprises by falling short, Florida surprises by coming in at a whopping 875 miles. Thanks to the panhandle, a drive from the terminus of one of the many “unknown” roads abutting against the Georgia border in Pineville, FL, one can drive that absurd distance all the way onto the Angela Street dock in Key West (where the Carnival Cruises anchor). This is probably the most legitimate drive of all of these, seeing as how a resident of Pineville could be on a scheduled cruise out of the Keys…
Montana’s drive takes into account the remote (and I’m not sure how “drivable”) Kootenai National Forest. Taking an “unknown road” that starts above Hawkins Lakes, one can go all the way to the end of the Albion Road border with South Dakota without leaving Montana – one of eight border roads with South Dakota, but the only one going North/South). There are some more northeasternly Kootenai Forest roads that can’t avoid going into Idaho, however I’m not completely sure 838 miles is the longest point-to-point Montana drive…
I’m convinced a point-to-point drive in Idaho can easily eclipse 800 miles (maybe even venturing near the 900 number). Trying to tame a route through the Idaho Panhandle without Google wanting to take you elsewhere is troublesome, plus you have all those remote, windy roads in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest to deal with. A rough, sketchy route that skirted into Washington from the Panhandle to the tri-point with Utah and Wyoming mapped out an 870-mile route for me.
I had trouble finding anything else near 800. I was able to get Nevada up to 727 miles, but Google gets sketchy when you want them to steer clear of far better routes for small, side roads to stay in-state. However, I don’t think Nevada has an 800-mile route. I was able to get North Carolina up to nearly 650 miles utilizing the town of Ocracoke on the Outer Banks. Now how about the “smallest” longest route? Well that is another obvious one…
Having never been to Rhode Island (one of the 19 states I’m missing – and the only one in the northeast) I can see why it’s so easy to bypass. I had an impossible time mapping a route that was 70+ miles at its shortest. Anyway, for some “extreme” Rhode Island road tripping, start at Burnt Swamp road in the NE corner and head to Lighthouse Road in Watch Hill. You should be there in about an hour and a half. Crazy to think the longest point-to-point route in Rhode Island is only about 53 miles longer than one in Washington, DC.
If someone wants to add to this, feel free. I’m not completely sure I have found the longest route in any of these states and there might be some states that clock in surprisingly high (or low). It would be interesting to find the extreme point-to-point drives for all 50. If anyone is up for that, go right ahead!