If the call to adventure is strong, heading to the west from the east coast is just the thing to satisfy your desire for adventure. Taking the no toll route on Highway 40 is how our ancestors traveled, and it’s the only way I travel when exploring America.
Charles has long experience fishing, hiking, exploring, and camping in the Northeast.
The red line indicates US Highway 40 which goes through 12 states. This article touches on a few stops during the first part of the route when heading east to west.
Nick Nolte, CC0 1.0, Wikimedia
Historic US Route 40
The original Interstate Highway reached from Atlantic City, New Jersey to San Francisco, California. Known as The Harding Highway, America’s Main Street, or Highway 40, whatever you call it, this scenic cross-country roadway is one of America’s oldest highway systems.
Created in 1926 from humble beginnings, large portions of the original route were popular Native American footpaths that eventually became colonial roadways before being combined today as a means for Americans to traverse the country. US Route 40 currently crosses 12 states and goes as far west as Silver Summit, Utah.
Philadelphia Skyline at Sunset
The No-Toll Route to the West
Heading west to Pittsburgh from New Jersey can be quite expensive as the toll roads are some of the largest trucking routes in the US. When I last checked, the cost for tolls using Interstates 80 and 81 and other toll roads was nearly $80 according to TollGuru.com. Don’t even get me started about fuel costs, it would take weeks to discuss that issue.
But alas, there is a toll-free route you can take!
Baltimore Skyline At Dusk
Sights Along the Way
When traveling west, to avoid tolls, you will most likely use US Route 40. Route 40 is a beautiful interstate highway with rolling hills, winding curves, and beautiful scenery waiting to be explored by the many families and adventurers along the route. With many picturesque stops along the way, taking the back road is the only way to go.
When heading to Pittsburgh, you must make a short stop in the nation’s temporary capital from 1790 to1800. Philadelphia is rich in history and fantastic food. Check out Elfrith’s Alley in Old City. The oldest, continually occupied street in America. You can’t leave the city without trying an authentic Philly cheese steak sandwich unless, of course, you are vegetarian. Stop by the James Beard Award-Winning John’s Roast Pork, a must-try when looking for one of the best cheesesteaks in town!
Another stop along the route to Pittsburgh is Baltimore, Maryland, and a visit to Fort McHenry. Here you’ll get the complete history of Francis Scott Key’s inspiration for the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A trip to Baltimore isn’t complete without a stop at the Inner Harbor for seafood, drinks, and nightlife. Don’t miss out on the famous Maryland crab cakes or a “Pit Beef Sandwich!”
Washington County, Maryland
An amazing history lesson is just a quick detour off of Route 68/40, you must stop and explore the Sideling Hill road cut. There’s a rest stop located here for better viewing of this natural wonder. A huge chunk of mountain was excavated in this location to allow the highway to pass through the rocky ridgeline. This left huge portions of layered, tightly folded rock exposed on either side of the pass and is one of America’s natural wonders.
Not far from Sideling Hill is a beautiful section of the Appalachian Trail. Another quick detour from Route 40/68 and you can quickly and easily hike to a wonderful overlook of the highway. Further along the trail you can find a wonderful example of an Appalachian Trail shelter, complete with picnic tables and maps of the area.
Morgantown, West Virginia
Shortly before heading back into Pennsylvania from West Virginia is the college town of Morgantown. The home of West Virginia University, it’s situated on the banks of the Monongahela River. This quaint, historic city is known for its vibrant nightlife, highly rated restaurants, unique arts, plentiful shopping, and outdoor adventures. If you are feeling fancy, don’t miss Sargasso for fine dining! Also, don’t forget to stop at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market for a huge selection of fresh produce and unique items.
Morgantown, WV nestled along the banks of the Monongahela River.
As you can see, if you plan on road tripping west of the Atlantic ocean, do yourself a favor and hop on US Route 40. You’ll be able to save some money on tolls and enjoy one of the most scenic highways in America. The route discussed in this article is only a fraction of the nearly 2,300 miles the route crosses.
I hope this article inspires adventure lovers and road trip enthusiasts to stray from the norm and surprise themselves with a rewarding trip across our beautiful country!
© 2022 Charles Kikas