Rest Stops on US Highways

Posted On: March 25, 2015

I have traveled across the country three times. I have visited 47 out of the 48 continental states. In addition to, or maybe just as much as watching the scenery change and experiencing the various cultural landscapes, another thing I love about traveling by car in the US is the rest areas. 

Holding a postcard at a rest area on a highway in the USA.
A normal sight at rest areas- “semi trucks.” Here
I am holding a postcard for my gramma that
I bought at the rest area somewhere in Ohio.
I know many people think I am weird, but there is something interesting to me about a place where many people stop in transit. I am not so fascinated with airports or bus stations as rest stops. There is something about the feeling I get when I stop at a rest stop. It makes me feel the freedom of driving my own car on open highways. The freedom to explore without many obstacles. The freedom of the open road. Probably one of the easiest places in the world to feel this feeling is in the US. I think it’s one of the feelings of being an American – to love the car trip, riding the open road be it by car or motorcycle. There’s nothing quite like it. And, the rest area adds to that allure for me. 

I used to love to travel to the nearest highway and hang out in my car at a rest area just to hear the cars go by. I used to make up stories in my mind of all the travelers. Where they are going, where they have been, who they are and what they do. Probably my stories of them are always more amazing than their ordinary lives, but something about being close to the highway makes me feel that everyone is on this earth traveling their own authentic, mystical, magical journey. And, if I am at the rest area, a little close it it, maybe I can catch that magic, too. 

I’d like to share in this mystical experience with you. In this post, I am sharing some photos and videos of various rest areas I have traveled to in my life, with a short story attached. Enjoy! 

Pennsylvania Welcome Area on 15S
This rest stop was opened sometime in 2002 or 2003. I was living in Corning, New York at the time, about one hour north of this rest area. I used to like to drive around and explore places, and found this gem. I love this rest stop nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It’s like you are driving on the highway, around big mountains on curvy roads, and suddenly as you go around one curve, here is this oasis. If you drive too fast, you will miss it! Turning around and coming back is hard to do, so watch carefully the first time! I used to like to pack a picnic lunch and just come here, eat the lunch, watch the travelers go by, watch nature, and then go inside the building and chill. Inside the building were good restrooms in addition to a tourist information booth and some artifacts of the area. The back of the building is built on the side of a tall hill, so you can see the views below while sitting on a rocking chair. It’s so amazing you can go to a place like this for free! In the video below, you can see a panorama from the back of the building. It’s not an exciting video, but it does give a perspective of the place! 

Ohio Rest Area
I believe this rest area was near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border on Interstate 90. If traveling across the country, it’s possible to sleep for a few hours in your car along the way at the interstate rest areas. Done safely, we never had a problem. Again, the video below is probably less exciting than the previous one in terms of scenery, but if you turn up the volume all the way, you can hear nighttime sounds – crickets and the traffic passing through. The music of the road! 

Julesburg, Colorado
Driving from Rochester, NY to Zion National Park, Utah, we entered Colorado on 1-76 in the dead of the night. Actually, there is no better time to have taken this video. It’s somehow more magical and mysterious at night. It wasn’t scary at all, but tempting, alluring even. Something about this place leaves me wanting more. Something about the spirit of this land. Without the rest area being there, I would not have had the chance to stop there and feel it. I remember driving through in the middle of the night… actually, I take that back, I wasn’t driving, I was sleeping. My husband was driving. I woke up as we parked the car, and stumbled to the rest room. Along the way, I took this video. I had never been to Colorado, and this gateway was ideal for me, better than any airport, and better than any daytime entry. Nothing was more memorable than this. Maybe someday I will see this rest area again in the daytime! Nay, let’s keep it at night, it’s more interesting that way, to me, anyway! 

The Rest Areas of Utah I-70

Salt Bench Rest Area

So far, the rest areas I have talked about were full of modern facilities like toilets, running water, and electricity. But, the famous rest areas of I-70 in Utah between the Colorado border and Interstate 15 are different. They are rustic. They are eco-friendly. They combine the true great outdoors, where you see no one – no people, no animals, no thing for as far as your eyes can see with true environmentally friendly facilities. The lights of the restrooms are lit with solar powered panels. The restrooms are not lavish buildings with walkways, but “port a potty” outhouses with waterless toilets. Yes, it shocked me at first, too. If you go to these rest areas come prepared with a lot of water, and other emergency kits especially if you want to hike. This is desert country, and not for the weak at heart. Cell phone reception is not reliable, and as noted before there are some times of the day that you would be the only one for miles on end. Here, you can see the stars truly twinkle at night without the city lights fighting for attention. The image above of me at Salt Wash View area playing in the rock formations. I felt a little bit like living in a Flintstone’s cartoon, here, but amazing. It’s just so amazing to discover all these amazing landscapes. It makes you feel so amazing. Well, I felt amazing, and I am sure you would, too! 

In the video below, see us driving on the open roads of Utah I-70 with nothing for miles on end. Watch us navigate through the geological formations as we enter the Black Dragon Rest Area.

Don’t underestimate rest areas. Some of them have very developed paths, hiking or picnic areas. In some states, you can even set up a tent or an RV and camp legally overnight, for free! The opportunities to explore nature are endless depending on the route you are on, and sometimes without much effort. For instance, the two photos below are from a rest are on the Kentucky/Virginia border on routes 23/26. An amazing place, etched in my memory forever. 

Foggy, misty mountains.

A highway through the hills.

Photos of the inside of the Great Bend, Pennsylvania Welcome Center.
**Note, all photos in this post were taken by Jennifer Kumar.

Rest Area in Pennsylvania

Fancy public restrooms

Restrooms in the USA

Travel Center in the Welcome Center-Rest Area

Wherever you travel, try to stop at rest areas. I hope you will find them as amazing, diverse, and interesting as I do! 

Jennifer Kumar

Jennifer Kumar is passionate about helping Indians prosper in US business environments. She suggests not to pass up smaller, lesser known tourist opportunities only to check off the well-known ones. See America in it’s various forms. Sticking to the tried and true is not as exciting, nor will it lend itself to as much small talk as the small, off-the-beaten path kind of places. Jennifer’s profile photo used in this post to the right, and on her main website for some years was also taken at a rest area somewhere in Virginia on route 81. 

Related Posts:
Waterfalls in Ohio 
Can I drive in the US on an Indian Driving License? 

All photos in this post by Jennifer Kumar or Krishna Kumar



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