Hitchhiking Across America: One Ride At A Time

Hitchhiking the United States
Hitchhiking America: From Coast to Coast
United States

Is hitchhiking still possible in the United States? Is it safe? Follow along for the next 4-5 weeks as I attempt to hitchhike my way across America from coast to coast.

I’m pretty f*cking excited right now. A bit nervous too…

By the time you read this, I’ll be standing on the side of the road in Oregon — attempting to hitchhike across America from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

Soliciting free rides from complete strangers. Hopefully meeting interesting people from across the country — and sharing their stories with you.

I’ve explored jungles in the Darien Gap and journeyed through remote canyons in Northern Mexico.

But a long-distance hitchhiking trip in my own country could possibly be the most challenging travel experience yet!

Track My Progress

To make things interesting, I’m letting you track my progress in real-time! With the GPS on my iPhone, you can see exactly where I am right this moment!

Check back frequently to see how I’m doing.

Where Am I Now?

Live Instagram Updates

Hitchhiking the United States
Hitchhiking Updates on Instagram

Not only can you track where I am, but I’ll be live-streaming photos via my Instagram account. This will let you see what I see on the road while hitchhiking across America!

READ MORE: 40 Travel Jobs To Make Money On The Road

What’s My Route?

I really have no idea. West coast to East coast is my basic plan. I’ll probably stay North to avoid the heat of the summer, but who knows. Some back roads, some long highway rides — I’ll attempt to mix it up a bit.

Where Will I Sleep?

Like always, my trusty Hennessy camping hammock will come along with me.

I’ll be doing some stealth camping in the woods, and pay to stay in a campground or two. Because showers are nice from time to time!

Cheap motels or hostels won’t be ruled out either, as I’ll still need the occasional WiFi to get work done. I’ll also be using CouchSurfing.org to stay with locals interested in hearing a good story.

Is Hitchhiking Illegal?

Yes and no. It’s illegal to stand on the side of a major highway and solicit rides, because this is a danger to other drivers on the road.

However, standing at the on-ramp entrance before a highway is legal in most states. The laws vary from state to state, as do the interpretations of the law.

Occasionally different police officers will interpret the law differently too.

There’s a possibility that I’ll get a few warnings, maybe a ticket, but it’s very unlikely that I’ll get arrested. Think of it like jay-walking. Technically it’s illegal, but it’s not something that’s enforced with an iron-fist.

READ MORE: Road Trip Quotes To Inspire Your Travels

Why Hitchhiking?

Because hitchhiking is an adventure. Because it will be challenging. Because I’ll meet interesting people. Because it’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

Because I’d like to inspire you to follow your dreams, no matter how ridiculous they are.

Follow #HitchUSA

Join the adventure! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #HitchUSA.

UPDATE: Mission Accomplished!

My hitchhiking journey across the United States is now complete. You can read about the whole adventure using the links below.

Have you ever been hitchhiking before? Have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (116)

  1. Congratulations! I came across your site while documenting my hitchhike from Boston to Corvallis Oregon in February of 1969. I was a senior in college, with two weeks between finals and the next semester, and returned to my home in Oregon for some extra time with my fiancee. We recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. I made the trip non-stop, 13 rides (5 in trucks), in 78 hours.

  2. I was a girl of 15 years old upset with my life and fed up with those around me when I first put my thumb in the air on Friday, May 14, 1971 at 4 pm. I had only a dime in my pocket, a carton of cigarettes, the clothes on my back and a leather bound bible. I hitchhiked the country three times that spring and summer starting out from Manchester, New Hampshire and each time I did make it to Los Angeles, California. It may seem odd however it is true… between my hitchhiking that year (which took a few out of my way twists) and the several return trips enforced by authorities I counted up over 25,000 miles.

  3. At this time it appears like WordPress is the top blogging platform
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  4. Hey, My name is Selena and I’m planning on hitchhiking from East coast to west coast on the kindness of strangers. Have you ever relied for more tha just a ride? And are there any helpful tips you could give me?

  5. Hi, I was reading about your trip I have never hitchhike before but I was reading your journey and it sounds amazing I think this would be a lot of fun do you have any suggestions on how to get started I am 19 and would love to know how you get started doing something like this.

  6. Hi. What an amazing journey. I hitchhiked across America via Canada in 1984. I started in San Francisco and hitchhiked up to Canada and then all the way across the bottom of Canada and eventually into New York. My daughter is now travelling in Australia.

    • hellow!
      I’m Kazutaka.I’m a Japanese.
      I want to do hitchhike from west coast to east coast in th US.
      So, can you give me a adovice.
      What do you think where is the place where it’s easy to hitchhike.

  7. I am planning a trip to London in August 2018. The plans are pretty flexible, and we are bringing our backpacks along and will be staying in various hostels. Any in particular you recommend?

  8. Hi there

    Really want to hitchhike across the states, currently on a world trip and want to do something challenging, the US has always interested me !

    I’m a 28 year old guy from
    Britain, in my head I’d like to hitch hike from place to place and work my way across (no real time)

    Would you advice booking accommodation or can you really just hitch a ride and ask around in each random place ?

    Would love any advice from someone who’s actually done It!

    • Hey Josh, I would never book anything when hitchhiking, there are some parts in the US where you could easily get stranded after 5pm due to no traffic. So better have a backup plan aka tent / hammock etc with you!

      Personally, I was actually stuck in the area of Escalante, Utah. I was spending a night there and originally wanted to get a bit further, the last person who picked me up until Escalante had a complete house with 5 rooms free to use, including some llamas in the backyard – just crazy!

      Oh and another time I had no luck with pick ups because of a local prison just a few km. Luckily, some 86 year old former racing guy offered his help, let me sleep at his run down shag and gave me a lift the next morning.

      You always somehow get from A to B and doing it by hitchhiking, you just never know what will happen on the way and that is exactly why I love it so much as well!

      Feel free to check out my HowTo Hitchhike article if you need some more tips :) https://www.chrisontour84.de/travel/how-to-hitchhike/


  9. Hey there excellent blog! Does running a blog similar to this take a
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  10. I wish you luck traveling, Matthew! Hitchhiking is a great way to travel while not spending too much more on transport!

  11. Amazing post! I love adventure. Thanks for sharing a good information to be familiar with hitchhiking. I would like to try it soon.

  12. Just read this and the comments and it all made me smile. I have hitchiked many times in the uk where i live, in Australia and my most epic journey from Antwerp to Budapest! It was the happiest time of my life. I’m a woman and I think the best advice to any woman who worries about going hitchhiking alone is don’t. Go with a friend… go with two… or even go with 3. I’ve hitchhiked in a four with great success, sadly the majority of motorists are driving alone… keep them company. Also don’t worry about the cars that don’t stop. All the best people are in the cars that do… so you’re waiting for them anyway. And bring cookies!

  13. Just catching up with your hitchhiking extravaganza today.
    Mad respect man.
    I didn’t think anyone hitchhiked anymore, let alone coast to coast.
    Thanks for bringing us along the journey. I suspect vicariously is the only way most of us will experience this ballsy adventure.

    Carl Kruse

  14. This is something I wish I could do. Unfortunately as a woman, there are additional safety concerns to think about, sadly. This sounds like an incredible journey though!

    On another note, you mentioned that jaywalking isn’t enforced with an iron fist. This may be true, but don’t let a cop in Los Angeles see you do it…FAT TICKET.

    • I’m a woman and I hitchhiked around four countries for almost 5 years from age 20-25. Don’t let the idea that you are a woman get in your way! Believe me, I’ve heard plenty of stories from male hitchhikers who had to escape from male drivers trying to rape them.

      I really didn’t have any problems, nor did I ever have to turn down a ride. And I hitched all over the U.S. (back and forth around 4 times), Mexico, the Bahamas, and flew to Venezuela where I hitched alone with my dog from Caracas to Cumana and back.

      Yes, you do need to be careful- as would anyone who is hitchhiking. I recommend going a few rounds with an experienced hitchhiker to learn the ropes. There are a lot of folks (well, more than you think) out there hitchhiking and once you’re on the circuit, you will meet people to travel with.

  15. Wow, hitchhiking does sound exciting. I have no personal experience of course. New places and different people do have an appeal. However, is it safe? You get to know about so many hitchhiking cases that have gone wrong. Although adventurous, I don’t think I am ready to attempt it yet. All the very best to you. Have an amazing experience without hitches.

  16. I remember hitchhiking around the west coast of Australia, Specifically Canarvan to Darwin over 2500 miles. I was so nervous at first however, I met some very nice people.. Would I do it again? Probably not that far and maybe a place where there’s closer towns/cities together..

  17. carry lots of water and food with you. Especially if you don’t want to eat McDonalds and Burger King for the majority of your journey.

  18. As a solo woman I don’t have the guts to do this myself but I’ve always imagined how fun it would be. I’ll live vicariously through you. Thanks for sharing the journey.

  19. Your stories and posts actually make me laugh out loud, this is a great story! You are very brave to do this, I hitchhiked once in Iceland and it was terrifying at first but I got picked up by the most amazing woman! It is amazing how many nice people there are out there!

  20. I’m happy to see that you completed your trip – I would encourage you to try hitchhiking in another country now! I’ve found that through my own experiences, hitchhiking in a foreign country is much more rewarding than hitchhiking in our own!

  21. Congrats on making it coast to coast! I picked up a hitchhiker once and honestly I think it’s safer than ever. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  22. Cool journey! Sounds like you learnt a lot and experienced a ton! Hitchhiking is amazing and so freeing.

    My friend Lilly and I are doing a similar journey in May – travelling the US for four months without spending money! Check out our website :)
    Take care! x

  23. Good luck to you! Until you get in the car of a serial killer who would cut every part of your body and eat it. It would be fun and adventurous like “yay and wow” until that moment. Remember USA is run a mental health epidemic.

  24. While I’ve never hitchhiked, I have driven all over America like a madman. There is nothing like hitting the open road going where the wind blows. The adventure, the people, the excitement, it’s all there for the taking. I once learned while in Florida that St. Augustine was in a duel with Santa Fe, NM for the title of oldest cities in the United States. One opened up before the other while the other chartered first. After learning about this in St. Augustine, 10 years later, I visited Santa Fe. Cool. That’s the beauty of the open road. Never know what’s going to happen when. Well, thanks for listening.

  25. Well I wanted to look up a few things about my new favorite thing to do. I was stuck in a bad place in my life when I met my soul mate he is what they call a traviler and was just passing through the city I grew up in. I had never met a traveler before and was shocked to find out that there is a whole world that is there’s. Now for the first time I am doing something like this and we love to hitch and walk it is truly a blast

  26. Great adventure! It happened to me also when I was dropped in one of the places in CA and it was difficult for me to get another ride. You did it fantastic!

  27. Hitchhiking in the USA still exists. It’s a little easier to get rides when you’ve showered daily, but not everyone has that luxury. I hitched more in Southeast Asia than the USA since you can walk down the highways and it’s not illegal there. In the USA you have to hang out in front of the signage. It’s definitely an adventure, but I enjoy hitchhiking because I don’t have a vehicle and the Greyhound doesn’t take you to the little towns in the middle of nowhere. Nice article. Are you still hitchhiking throughout the US or have you expanded to other countries?

  28. This has been one of my dreams forever. Not necessarily in the U.S but anywhere really! I am going to Australia this month and thinking about convincing my boyfriend to hitch down the coast with me. Have you ever seen the Vice documentary “Thumbs up” with David Cho? Him and his cousin hitchhike around the states in one and around China in another. They are both a really good watch.


  29. Last time we drove around Scotland , I remember few times when we picked hitch hiking kids. Most of them were Americans, some Australian and even one couple French. All in their twenties, sweet young healthy kids. As a hitch-hiking veteran of the 60s and 70s, I can say that the availability or non-availability of public transport didn’t come into it — I either didn’t have the money for fares or didn’t want to pay the money. Hitching was a kind of badge of honour, of adventurous spirit, and people who took trains were wimps and softies with too much money.

  30. Great project and congrats on successfully completing it! I’ve always wanted to do something similar, but only in Canada – maybe drive from PEI to Victoria, BC. Would make a 6,000 km trip.

  31. Parabéns Matthew, estou adorando conhecer suas aventuras. Este é meu sonho, viajar de carona pelos Estados Unidos e conhecer sua gente, sua cultura. Quando vier ao Brasil, não deixe de me visitar, ok.
    Saudações meu amigo virtual!!

  32. I’ve only hitch-hiked in countries that don’t natively speak english. I can imagine it would be a lot easier to approach people at gas stations as such as well as just having conversations with drivers.

    Every now and then I was dropped in places that sometimes made it more difficult to get another ride.

    • Yeah, that happened to me too. I learned to ask the driver to drop me off somewhere convenient, even if it means the ride is shorter.

  33. looks like a adventures trip… even i want to try this in india but there will be lot of things go through mind… I have watched enough spoilers movies to give me shivers when think of hitch hitch hiking …

  34. I Love this! i’ve been travelling for more than a year now, mostly using CS and backpacker hostels but hitch hiking is something i’ve always wanted to do!! I’ve been travelling round the US for almost 4 months now, but usual, bus, train, rent a car, share rides kinda think. I guess the idea of doing this by myself (im a 20 year old girl) kinda scares me, i’ve seen to many movies haha but theres a concert i really need to get to so i’ll give hitch hiking a try! im so exited!!!
    Question, they give the ride for free, have someone ever try charging you or have yo offer to pay? i like paying with smiles :D

    • Anytime I can afford to ride the bus, I’ll take the bus but if I’m short on money, then that would be my reason for hitchhiking. Also whenever I can have access to a shower and an electrical outlet for recharging my belongings and using my electric hotplate, I’ll take all that cause really I got to have all that. Sometimes a hostel has all that and sometimes it don’t. I’ve heard that truck stops are pretty good bargains. I’ve got janitorial skills that I can use if I can find a place that will hire me. If they want me to stay for two months after they hire me, that’s fine with me cause I need a break from traveling anyway from time to time. To able to wake up go to work in the town where I work or be able to wake up on my day off and roam the town or go to a ball game is pretty valuable to me to me since there will be plenty of days when I have to wake up continue on my journey as vagabond. I might do some hunting in rural areas or dumpster dive in the city and use my kerosene hotplate to cook or heat things up including my morning coffee. Fellowship with other travelers is pretty dadgum important to me because I can chit chat while traveling ,tell jokes tell stories ETC

  35. Hey Matthew I totally agree that the whole idea of hitchhiking itself is exciting. But there are certain questions that always cross my mind… why would an absolute stranger believe another random stranger asking for a lift? Will it be possible for the hitchhiker to actually “enjoy” the ride with a flurry of questions thrown at him by the ones who gave him a lift?

    • Great question! Hitchhiking is about adventure, travel, and meeting new people. Usually the people who will stop for you already understand that, probably because they’ve done it themselves or have always wanted to.

      If you don’t want to meet and talk to people, you shouldn’t be hitchhiking. So yes, I enjoyed the questions. Sure after 5 weeks it was getting a bit tiring, but you can stop whenever you want to and hop on a bus if you get sick of it! :-)

  36. Hey Matthew, after reading your blog I had a go myself and got from San Fran to Portland, up route 101, through the redwoods and up the coast. Awesome experience, very few nutters, really cool camping spots on deserted beaches, and a real sense of independence, especially since I am 19 and was traveling on my own for the first time after 4 months in south america with a friend. Thanks for the extra incentive to go for it, next time I will try the hammock!

  37. Hey Matthew, I’ve been thinking about hitchhiking for a while now and want to do it later on in my 20’s. I am 16 year old guy right now, and kinda anti-social. I really want to explore the U.S.A in a very adventurous way like hitchhiking, but I’m thinking I can’t express myself enough to get in someone’s car I don’t know and travel for miles without freaking out or something. Any tips on this subject?

    • Hey i just got back from my first hitchhiking trip along the west coast. I just graduated from high school last year and was also anti social throughout high school. Even before my trip, i had trouble just buying something from the a store, i absolutely HATED talking to people. But when you throw yourself into the world and hitchhike, youre basically forcing yourself to have to talk to people. At first its hard and a little scary, but after a while you just end up talking to people with no problem. Now i actually enjoy going to family gatherings and talking to people, because now i can handle it after spending weeks talking to total strangers. Hitchhiking is definitely the funnest and quickest way to overcome shyness. And when you get rides from people, usually theyre the ones doing most of the talking. If you find yourself in awkward silence, ask whoever youre talking to a question. I usually ask them if they usually pick up hitchhikers or if theyve ever gone backpacking. Goodluck and i hope you still have the travel bug by the time you graduate high school!

    • As Dean mentioned, throwing yourself into an uncomfortable situation (like hitchhiking) is often the best way to overcome your fears. If you would like a test run though, maybe try using a ride-sharing website first. That way you can get a feel for riding with a complete stranger, in a slightly more structured way.

      And yes, often they will be the ones asking questions or sharing their stories.

  38. 23 years ago, before cell phones, etc., I was 6 months pregnant and picked up a hitchiker in Freeport, ME who was on his last leg of a journey across country. Took him out to breakfast and years later, he sent me a copy of his book, An Element of Trust, about his adventures on the road. I was looking for it on the Internet and found your site…I may have to try seeing this country that way myself!

    • I’m 57 years old and I have never hitchhiked and I sure would like to know what I’m doing before I start hitchhiking cause I don’t need to be killed or beat up. If I were to live on the road I’d wanna stay in the south in the winter and the north in the summer and I don’t care about traveling abroad cuz the USA is good enough. I’d like it if I could have enough money while hitchhiking to go to events taking place in whatever town I come to like an art show or a Christian rock music concert or maybe a ball game. I don’t care for a fancy place to spend the night but I want a room with electricity so I can charge up my batteries and all my other electronic belongings and also take a shower and do my laundry.

  39. I’m looking to do this in the summer! Trying to learn and research as much as possible! How much did you budget/end up spending for this trip?

    • I stayed in a few cheap hotels, but most was camping. I think it came to about $600 for 5 weeks. Food was from grocery stores (apples, bananas, breakfast sandwiches, potato salad) or McDonalds (dollar menu) for the most part. A lot of rides bought me lunch or dinner too. You can do it on $20 a day with camping/couchsurfing.

  40. I have been regularly hitch hiking world wide for 55 years,
    ( from aged 16 to 61) and have met some fascinating amazing kind people in my travels.
    The longest journey I have ever hitch hiked was from Aylmer PQ to Grimshaw AB ( Canada) , and also long sections of the Alaska Highway, the length of New Zealand, across Venezuela, and in my native UK between East Kent & various destinations in the Highlands of Scotland many many times.

    I wish you well with the knowledge that you WILL be just fine…..good luck….Quentin on Nevis, West Indies.

      • Last week ( July 13/15) I hitched about 550 miles from Ballater Aberdeenshire Scotland to Oxford….almost all in one day. As darkness descended about 35 miles from Oxford I found a peaceful camping spot in a grave yard….all went well.

  41. Have you finished your trek across USA. I hope to do it someday. I hitched across Europe in the early 90s but would love to go from New York to California one day. All the best.
    Contact me on Facebook – Andrew beadle (David Andrew Beadle, Coedpoeth)

  42. Just found your blog and dammit all! I’m a NW girl and currently live on the farthest NW point of the northern western us coastline on the border of canada (border patrol frequents my area on the coastline searchin for drug runners and outlaws). Damn, how did I miss you! The San Juan Islands would surely have been a tasty treat for wayward travelers. The warm musky smell of Madrona trees, salt air and sweetness of fresh caught and cooked Dungeness (cracked assuredly with your bare hands ((crackers and pliers are for pussies- no offense captain’)). The mercury in the water lighs your way in the dark like 4th of July fireworks gone bad exploding underwater…and sleep finds you easily with the gentle kisses of waves on the shore. Dammit. Our best season of the year- we live for this!

  43. Stay safe man! Have heard a lot of “not so good news” about hitchhiking in the US but I guess that you know better since you’re actually doing it now.

    • Will do! So far everyone has been super friendly & pretty normal. I think the negative media and bad movies has convinced everyone that it can’t be done in the US these days. After my experience, I completely disagree! Hitchhiking rocks! Just a bit tiring.

  44. Just saw you are here in North Bend… Can’t believe it! Small world. Trying to find you to give you a warm, comfortable place to stay and catch up. Please contact us before you leave town if you get his message.

  45. My car broke down on the way to a Tennessee vs. Notre Dame football game in South Bend. I was in Lebanon, Indiana, which is about 3 hours south.

    I decided to hitchhike to the game. Your interesting photos on instagram remind me of my trip because I was given rides by normal, everyday, but interesting and kind people. Your photos are like a slice of Americana.

    Look forward to hearing more about the adventure.

  46. I’m loving the updates and it’s great to see you’re making some progress… although it seems you’re still pretty close to the coast!
    Oh, and the live map is just incredible. What an awesome way to track you!

    • Yeah, I’ve been taking my time. But I really wanted to hop a train, and I’d heard it was pretty easy around Portland.

      After I get out of Seattle I’ll be speeding things up a bit! :)

  47. I’m in tears right now because this is MY dream too. I wish I had the opportunity to do this too, I don’t know if I ever will. I wish I could experience all the fun and exciting things you will come across. I will be keeping tabs on you, living vicariously through you. Maybe I’ll be the one to give you a ride if you come through Illinois.

  48. I’ve traveled three years completely without money, hitchhiking about 200,000 km. However, I’ve noticed there’s always someone who is more hard core than you are. One of the amazing American hitchhikers I’ve met on my travels is Thomas Francine. He is now walking across USA: http://www.gogreatergood.com/

    You guys should get in touch.

  49. I did a similar thing two years ago, from California to Alaska to Florida and back (with a lot of zig-zagging in between). It was a blast, enjoy your trip!

  50. Sounds like an amazing trip. You shouldn’t have any problem in Oregon. People hitch all the time up there.

    • No problems so far! Plenty of friendly and interesting people have picked me up. Longest wait has been 25 minutes. :D

  51. My boyfriend and I did this last year, although not all the way from Ocean to Ocean. We started in Portland, hitched down to LA. Then Flew to MI and hitched back from MI to Las Vegas. Was a great adventure, also something we had always wanted to do, especially after much hitchhiking in Hawaii, and a recent hitching journey i took by myself from Portland to Arkansas.
    Do avoid the heat if you can. Once we got into NV in August it was a bit miserable, which is why we stopped our hitching there and took a bus to CA…well that, and the police kicking us off the Highway. They don’t like hitchhikers much in Vegas we came to find out.
    The best advice I can give you is to stay positive. There were times when it took us hours to get a ride on a very busy Freeway entrance, and there were times when we sat at an entrance for 30 minutes, and not a single car drove by, but then the first car that drove by, picked us up, and went out of his way to drive us exactly to where we needed to go.
    And of course, carry lots of water and food with you. Especially if you don’t want to eat McDonalds and Burger King for the majority of your journey.
    Have fun! You will meet many interesting people and learn a lot about yourself on the way!

    • Wow! Really appreciate the tips Ambre. I know there’ll probably be some long waits.
      Trying to find healthy food would be nice, but I eat everything. :D

  52. Best of luck. I hitch-hiked in USA in 2004 and although it’s not as easy as Europe, it’s definitely do-able. Have a blast!

  53. Good luck. Have met some couchsurfing hitchhikers from Portland that had no problem, so I’m confident you should do great. Enjoy the journey :)

  54. I’ve been following your blog for over a year now and am a dedicated fan. I’m in Central America now and your posts for this area are interesting and very helpful. You are a great example of “life’s a journey, not a destination”…Good luck on the road and thanks for inspiring me! Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

  55. So cool–I hitched from Roswell to KC during the Vietnam war
    and will never forget the people- families, drunks, salesmen, cops (pigs back then)- I encountered.
    Best on your journey.

  56. Have been waiting for your hitchhike adventure since TBEX in Toronto (we briefly talked about it in the Irish Pub). Looking forward to following you across the US.