Road Trip America: The Ultimate Road Trip Playlist


The Ultimate Road Trip Playlist

Photo: "Highway 138" by Flickr user Tiberiu Ana.


I’ve toiled for hours, combed through other alleged “best road trip playlists” online, and can confidently say that I’ve compiled the best songs for a long distance road trip — period.

This is especially true for anyone heading west, or, more specifically, to California, or, even more specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area, or, much more specifically, if you’re leaving your home in Michigan.

But it’s not limited to just people like us.

These 265 road trip songs take you from coast to coast: Michigan to California, with detours in places like Baltimore, Brooklyn (twice), Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Houston (twice), Jackson, Laredo, Memphis, Mobile, New Orleans (twice), Oahu, Omaha and its suburbs, Romulus, Roswell, Salina, San Diego, Santa Fe, and San Francisco, as well as more general stops in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Florida, Washington, Ohio, Colorado, and all across the universe.

Song themes span different aspects of travel: leaving home and coming home; saying goodbye and meeting new friends; feeling lonely and taking the back roads; seeing the country, running, and ending up somewhere (or nowhere); driving; going away to college, or just going away because; wandering, hiding, or disappearing completely.

For a playlist this long, many of the usual mixtape rules are out the window, such as the one that says you shouldn’t put more than one song by an individual artist. With that rule out the window, Road Trip America includes 11 Tom Waits songs, nine Wilco songs, and seven Bob Dylan songs (plus at least one Dylan cover). There are also two versions of two songs: “Long Way Home” (the Tom Waits original and the superb Norah Jones cover) and “Country Roads, Take Me Home” (the John Denver original and the reggae version by Toots & the Maytals).

As with any comprehensive list, there are some notable exceptions that didn’t make the cut: “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man,” by Johnny Cash, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” anything from Sujan Stevens’ Illinois album, and countless others.

Still, this is about as good as it gets.



The following is the entire text list, in alphabetical order, of the best road trip playlist of all time:



(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle – Hank Williams

10 Mile Stereo – Beach House

123 Goodbye – Elvis Perkins In Dearland

7/4 (Shoreline) – Broken Social Scene

A Kiss Before I Go – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Across The Universe – Fiona Apple

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More – The Allman Brothers Band

Airbag – Radiohead

Alameda – Elliott Smith

Already Gone – Eagles

America – Simon & Garfunkel

Another Travelin’ Song – Bright Eyes

Any Road – George Harrison

Anywhere I Lay My Head – Tom Waits

Are You Ready For The Country? – Neil Young

Ashes of American Flags – Wilco

Baba O’Riley – The Who

Bad Town – Operation Ivy

Baltimore Blues No. 1 – Deer Tick

Beth/Rest – Bon Iver

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ – Bob Dylan

The Big Country – Talking Heads

Big Road  – Bonnie Raitt

Big Trucks – Pedro the Lion

Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National

Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan

The Blue Route – The Walkmen

Blue Sky – The Allman Brothers Band

Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen

Bottles & Bones (Shade and Sympathy) – Califone

Brooklyn Stars – Matt Pond PA

Bull Black Nova – Wilco

California – Phantom Planet

California Dreamin’ – Mamas & the Papas

California English – Vampire Weekend

California Stars – Billy Bragg and Wilco

Caravan – Van Morrison

Catch The Wind – Donovan

Change of Time – Josh Ritter

Cicadas And Gulls – Feist

City Of New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie

Clay Pigeons – Gurf Morlix

Close to Home – The Get Up Kids

Coast To Coast – Elliott Smith

Colorado – Grizzly Bear

Country Caravan – Blitzen Trapper

Country Disappeared – Wilco

Crossroads – Tom Waits

Crossroads – Gurf Morlix

The D in Detroit – The Anniversary

Dead Man’s Will – Iron & Wine and Calexico

Destination Ursa Major – Superdrag

Don’t Hate Me – The Get Up Kids

Don’t Pull Me Over – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Dont Stop Me Now – Queen

Drive My Car – The Beatles 

Drivin’ On 9 – The Breeders

El Gatillo  – Calexico

End of the Line – Gurf Morlix

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Far, Far Away – Wilco

Fast Jabroni – Surfer Blood

Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid) – Sufjan Stevens

Florida – Modest Mouse

Four Hours In Washington – M. Ward

Free Ride – Nick Drake

Full On Idle – The Breeders

Get Gone – Fiona Apple

Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying – Belle and Sebastian

Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

Go With the Flow – Queens of the Stone Age

Godspeed – Jenny Lewis

Goin’ Out West – Tom Waits

Going Away To College – Blink-182

Going To California – Led Zeppelin

Golden – My Morning Jacket

The Golden Age – Beck

Gone At Last – Paul Simon, Phoebe Snow & The Jessy Dixon Singers

Gone Away From Me – Ray LaMontagne

Gone Tomorrow – Lambchop

Graceland – Paul Simon

Greater Omaha – Desaparecidos

The Great Salt Lake – Band of Horses

Grown Ocean – Fleet Foxes

Halfway to Jackson – Justin Townes Earle

He Lays in the Reins – Iron & Wine and Calexico

Hell Hound On My Trail – Eric Clapton

Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes

Here We Go Again – Justin Townes Earle

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye – Leonard Cohen

Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan

Hitch Hike – Marvin Gaye

Hold On – Tom Waits

Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Home Is Where the House Is – Yes Wait No [not available on iTunes, but can be found here]

Homeless – Paul Simon

Homeward Bound – Simon & Garfunkel

Hooves – Bowerbirds

House of Diamonds – Bowerbirds

Houston, TX – Deer Tick

How Come You Never Go There – Feist

How To Disappear Completely – Radiohead

I Am A Wanderer – Steve Earle

I Am Goodbye – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

I Get Around – The Beach Boys

I Wish I Was in New Orleans (in the Ninth Ward) – Tom Waits

I Won’t Be Found – The Tallest Man On Earth

I Won’t Be Home No More – Hank Williams

I Won’t Run Away – The New Amsterdams

I’ll Be Arriving – Elvis Perkins In Dearland

I’m a Wheel – Wilco

Idiot Driver – Spoon

If It Takes All Night – Frank Black & The Catholics [not available on  iTunes]

Ignition (Remix) – R. Kelly

In Houston – Tapes ‘n Tapes

Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots

Islands In The Stream – Constantines + Feist

Jersey Girl – Tom Waits

Jesus the Mexican Boy – Iron & Wine

Just Couldn’t Tie Me Down – The Black Keys

Keep On Moving – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire

Key to the Highway – The Band

Kids On the Run – The Tallest Man On Earth

King of the Road – Piebald

Land Locked Blues – Bright Eyes

Landslide – Smashing Pumpkins

Laredo – Band of Horses

Let It Ride – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Letter to Memphis – The Pixies

Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

Little Honda – Yo La Tengo

Little Motel – Modest Mouse

Long Slow Goodbye – Queens Of The Stone Age

Long Time Ahead of Us – The Walkmen

Long Way Home – Norah Jones

Long Way Home – Tom Waits

Lost Coastlines – Okkervil River

Lost Highway – Hank Williams

Lost In The World (feat. Bon Iver) – Kanye West

Maps – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

March to the Sea – Baroness

Mass Pike – The Get Up Kids

Meet Me in the City – The Black Keys

Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin

Michigan Girls – Califone

Modern Guilt – Beck

Most Likely You Go Your Way – Bob Dylan

Motorway to Roswell – The Pixies

My Little Town – Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel

My Winding Wheel – Ryan Adams

Narrow Escape – Ray LaMontagne

Nevada – Deer Tick

New Country – The Walkmen

New Way Home – Foo Fighters

The Next Movement – The Roots

Not Going Home – The Elected

Nothern Lights – Bowerbirds

Now We Hurry On – Bowerbirds

Nowhere Fast – The Smiths

Oahu – Menomena

Oh My Sweet Carolina – Ryan Adams

Ohio – Lambchop

Ol’ ’55 – Tom Waits

Omaha – Tapes ‘n Tapes

On the Road Again – Willie Nelson

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

One Big Holiday – My Morning Jacket

One More Night In Brooklyn – Justin Townes Earle

Our Faces Split the Coast in Half – Broken Social Scene

The Passenger – Iggy Pop

Passenger Side – Wilco

Place to Be – Nick Drake

Police On My Back – The Clash

Poor Places – Wilco

Prison on Route 41 – Iron & Wine and Calexico

Proceed With Caution – The New Amsterdams

Ramblin Man – The Allman Brothers Band

Reckoner – Radiohead

Ride Wit Me – Nelly

Rivers And Roads – The Head And The Heart

Rivers of Gold – Bry Webb

Road – Nick Drake

Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

Road to Peace – Tom Waits

Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Roads – Portishead

Rocking Chair in Hawaii – George Harrison

Rollin’ And Tumblin’ – Bob Dylan

Romulus – Sufjan Stevens

Run – Obits

Run – Vampire Weekend

Run Devil Run – Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins

Run for Your Life – The Beatles 

Run It – The Replacements

Run Right Back – The Black Keys

Run Run Run – The Velvet Underground

Runaway – The National

Runaway (feat. Pusha T) – Kanye West

Salina – The Avett Brothers

San Diego Serenade – Tom Waits

San Francisco Bay Blues – Eric Clapton

Santa Fe – Beirut

Say Yes! To M!Ch!Gan! – Sufjan Stevens

See You – Foo Fighters

Set Us Free – Black Mountain

She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? – The Clash

Shoulder to the Wheel – Saves the Day

Sister Golden Hair – America

So Long I’ll See Ya – Tom Waits [not available on iTunes]

Somebody That I Used to Know – Elliott Smith

Southern Pacifica – Josh Ritter

Stickshifts And Safetybelts – CAKE

Stolen Shoes & a Rifle – Blitzen Trapper

Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead

Stuck Between Stations – The Hold Steady

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again – Cat Power

Take It Easy – The Eagles

Take Me Home Country Roads – John Denver

Take Me Home Country Roads – Toots And The Maytals

That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On – Sam Cooke

There’s No Home for You Here – The White Stripes

There’s No Leaving Now – The Tallest Man On Earth

These Old Shoes – Deer Tick

This City – Steve Earle

This Is Not an Exit – Saves the Day

This Town – The Silent Years

Time of the Season – The Zombies

To Old Friends and New – Titus Andronicus

Travel Is Dangerous – Mogwai

Turn The Page – Bob Seger

Two Of Us – The Beatles 

Up Around The Bend – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Up on Cripple Creek – The Band

Upward Over the Mountain – Iron & Wine

Vagabond – Beirut

The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands Through the Ocean) – Saves the Day

Via Chicago – Wilco

Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show

Waitin’ On The Sky – Steve Earle

Wanderin’ – Justin Townes Earle

Way Out – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Weight – The Band

We’ll Meet Again – Johnny Cash

We’re Gonna Make It – Little Milton

Welcome Wagon – Fang Island

Wheels – Foo Fighters

Where Are We Going? – Marvin Gaye

Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere? – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Wherever You Go – Built to Spill

While You Wait for the Others  – Grizzly Bear

Who Will Survive In America – Kanye West

Why Do They Leave? – Ryan Adams

Wild Mountain Nation – Blitzen Trapper

Windy Road – The Constantines

The World at Large – Modest Mouse

Would You Come With Me – The Elected

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

You Are a Conductor – The Constantines

You Are My Autopilot – The Summer Pledge [not available on iTunes, but can be found here]

You Can’t Leave – Justin Townes Earle

You’re Going Back – The Tallest Man On Earth

You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go – Bob Dylan

Zebra – Beach House


So there you have it. What are your essential road trip songs?



  1. Good playlist Markey K

    • Thanks Val! Hope all is well with you.

  2. This playlist is awesome. Road tripping across country in 3 days and needed those perfect songs for ohio, illinois, michigan, wyoming!

    • Right on, Katie! Where is your final destination?

  3. Great list! I’ll be driving my daughter across country from Florida to San Diego and want to surprise her with road trip music! Not being very techno savvy, you have saved me immeasurable hours. I want our journey to be an epic mother/daughter trip. Thank you!

    • That’s awesome, Christi! We’re both so glad we could have contributed to your mother/daughter trip. Have fun and save travels!

  4. Wish I had this list last week! But would add Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin.

  5. Great list! I’m putting together a road list for an upcoming trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I’m gonna borrow some of you excellent picks. I can’t rely on ITunes cloud or Spotify as I don’t want to rack up data time up north.

    One obvious song I didn’t see on the list is “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne.

  6. Hi,

    Brilliant list up there. I have a trip planned for 15 days and would love to have this entire collection on my playlist.

    By any chance, would you have the entire folder prepared or some link I can get this collection from??


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