The 40 Most Scenic Drives in the United States
From the lonely roads to coastal drives, gas up the car and check out 40 of the most scenic byways the United States has to offer.
Utah’s Highway 12
Take a ride down Highway 12 in southern Utah to experience the beauty of one of the most scenic roads in the United States. Called “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” this 196 kilometre stretch passes through Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park before finishing near the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park. The road gives way to panoramic videos of the colourful Slickrock and once you make your way past the summit of Boulder Mountain, you’ll wind through a spectacular forest with views of the glowing Capitol Reef National Park.
These day trips from Vancouver are also worth adding to your bucket list.
Park Loop Road in Maine
Experience beautiful Acadia National Park via Park Loop Road, a 44 kilometre drive that takes you along the rocky coast and through the tall trees before continuing past Jordan Pond House (be sure to make a pit stop for their famous popovers). Summer and fall are the best times to take this scenic drive—though it can get busy, it’s worth it for the views.
U.S. Highway 41, aka Lake Shore Drive
Travel Lake Shore Drive to experience all the best Chicago has to offer. Drive south to north on the 24 kilometre urban parkway to see Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Windy City’s famed skyline, and more on one side and stunning Lake Michigan on the other.
Use our list of things to do in Chicago as your guide to the best the Windy City has to offer.
The Coastal Connection
As you cruise along Mobile Bay on Alabama’s Coastal Connection, you’ll enjoy a taste of the deep south and laid back island lifestyle with its beautiful beaches, animal sanctuaries, and charming towns. Any time of the year is a great time to visit this 209 kilometre scenic byway, just check the forecast around hurricane season.
Alaska’s Route 4
Richardson Highway, also known as Alaska’s Route 4, is the 592 kilometre route that connects Valdez to Fairbanks. The scenic route offers breathtaking views of the Chugach Mountains, Alaska Range, and several glaciers. Just before you hit Fairbanks, stop at Alaska’s North Pole, “where the spirit of Christmas lives year round!”
Don’t miss these East Coast U.S. road trip destinations for foodies!
Historic Route 66
Probably the ultimate U.S. road trip, you can get your kicks on Route 66 starting in downtown Chicago—don’t forget to take a pic of the Route 66 start sign! Plan accordingly for this 3,943 kilometre trip that ends in Santa Monica, California.
Here are the best attractions on Route 66 you need to see.
The Lonesome Highway in Texas lives up to its name as you probably won’t share the road with many cars if any. You may come across an abandoned gas station or two, which is perfect for photos. Head west on Highway 285 to Highway 180 as you get closer to the beautiful Guadalupe Mountain National Park to learn more about the history of the area. Saddle up and check out the nearby towns including El Paso and Pine Springs.
The North to South State Highway in Vermont
Starting in Bennington and heading north to Newport, Vermont, you’ll get breathtaking views of the colourful fall foliage as you cruise on Highway 100 along the eastern edge of the Green Mountains, which gave the state its name. It’s just as captivating in winter; after all one of its nicknames is “The Skier’s Highway.” And with plenty of farms and charming main streets to visit, it’s an equally worthwhile trip in the spring and summer, too.
We’ve rounded up America’s craziest driving laws!
Great River Road
Explore the mighty Mississippi River driving along the Great River Road. Many consider it the best drive in America as it snakes its way all along the Mississippi River. This portion that runs along the Mississippi state border offers 483 kilometre of small-town charm as you pass historic churches, bed and breakfasts, and even the Old South Winery in Natchez.
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
Prepare to be charmed on New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, an 134 kilometre loop that circles Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in the state. Begin in Taos, an eclectic town known for its art galleries, southwestern cuisine, and ski resort. As you circle to Questa, check out the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument for views of the mighty river and be sure to stop at Artesanos de Questa, an artisans’ co-op. Along the way, keep an eye out for quartz and feldspar rocks that dot the region—some are two billion years old.
Brush up on the rules of the road with these safe driving tips.
The Loneliest Road in the United States
Experience the Wild West on Highway 50 in Nevada; though the highway stretches nearly cross-country, the Nevada portion was dubbed the loneliest road in America by Life Magazine in 1986. Beginning in historic Carson City, follow Highway 50 as it traverses the state to the east, through the ruins of Pony Express stations, plus nearby abandoned mines, saloons, and opera houses. You’ll even pass a few wineries and at least one distillery along the way.
Palisades Scenic Byway
New Jersey has a lot of negative stereotypes, largely thanks to the major highways that run through it, but driving along the Palisades Scenic Byway will give you a different view of the Garden State. Travel beside the Hudson River (with views of New York City) through a section of New Jersey’s Palisades Interstate Park, a National Historic Landmark. It’s worth it to park and hike along the 500-foot-high Palisades, especially during the fall.
West Virginia’s Highland Scenic Highway
We dare you not to hum “Almost heaven…” as you drive along Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia. This beautiful corridor that takes you through the Monongahela National Forest for 69 kilometre, as you follow the byway from Richwood to US Route 219. Build in plenty of time to your itinerary to stop and check out the scenic overlooks. Note: The road is not maintained in the winter.
The PCH in California: Malibu to Lompoc
Highway 101, famously known as the Pacific Coast Highway, gives you the best of what California has to offer. For an easy day trip, take this 193 km drive heading north from Malibu. It runs along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, passing through the beach towns of Oxnard and then Santa Barbara. Rest those feet in the sand on one of Santa Barbara’s local beaches or take a few hours and check out Channel Islands National Park. Then the highway takes you through ranch lands and eventually to Lompoc, which is most famous for its flower fields and Pinot Noir.
High Peaks Byway
Easily accessible off Interstate 87, New York State Route 73, a 48 kilometre route, is considered the gateway to Adirondack Park including the High Peaks region. It welcomes more than four million travellers annually—most looking to hike the peaks, ice climb, or just escape into pure nature. It is also the route that leads to the historic Olympic village of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain, which boasts the highest summit in the east. This route is nice year-round, just make sure you have four-wheel drive in the winter.
The entire 584 kilometres of the Oregon Coast
Starting at the Columbia River, Highway 101 winds down the entire Oregon Coast to the California border, hugging the Pacific coastline the entire time. The first city you hit heading south on Highway 101 is Astoria, the oldest American settlement west of the Mississippi. A little further south is the famous Cannon Beach, known for its long sandy shores and iconic Haystack Rock. Along your journey south you’ll spot forests, sea lion caves, shipwrecks, sand dunes, and more!
Check out these driving tips to stay safe in wet weather.
International Selkirk Loop
The International Selkirk Loop‘s claim to fame is that it’s North America’s only international scenic loop—the 450 kilometre drive winds through Idaho, Washington, and Canada. Beginning on U.S. Route 2 at the Washington-Idaho state line, you’ll proceed northwest on WA State Route 20 and into British Columbia, along a valley floor, passing by crystal clear Kootenay Lake, and through charming towns. The loop eventually reenters the United States into Idaho on State Highway 1.
The Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys
The iconic Overseas Highway (Rt. 1) that connects the Florida Keys to the mainland, gives you the feeling you’re literally driving on water. It’s no wonder the Seven Mile Bridge, located on the byway, was once known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. While Florida is fun to visit any time of the year, keep in mind hurricane seasons runs from June through November, so plan accordingly.
Consider adding these experiencing to your Key West bucket list.
Badlands Loop Road
You’ll get up close and personal with one of the most jaw-dropping sights in the country as you drive along South Dakota’s Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240), where the vast rugged areas of layered rock formations make you feel like you’re on the moon. Make time to check out the Fossil Exhibit Trail which displays fossils uncovered in the park and keep an eye out for roaming bison and prairie dogs that inhabit the grassland.
Drive 404 kilometre on Highway 20 West in Nebraska, also known as Outlaw Trail, and get a taste of what the Heartland has to offer. Starting out in South Sioux City, you’ll wind your way down steep bluffs and travel through the same green rolling hills outlaws and lawmen traveled in the Old West. The stretch ends in a town you’ll fall in love with: Valentine, Nebraska. Here you can see the state’s highest waterfall at Smith Falls State Park.
Discover the best country in the world for a road trip!
Skyline Drive in Virginia
There are numerous roads in the country dubbed, Skyline Drive, but we’re talking about the most scenic one in Virginia that cuts through Shenandoah National Park and takes you along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This route offers 70 scenic overlooks with views of the Piedmont Valley and the Shenandoah River Valley and is a beautiful drive in the fall when the leaves are changing colour.
Monument Valley and Highway 163
U.S. Highway 163 in Arizona is a 66 kilometre stretch that goes from Kayenta, Arizona to Mexican Hat, Utah. This stretch of road will have you “ooohing” and “aaahing” as you pass through Monument Valley. Take some time and check out the Navajo National Monument and Dinosaur Tracks on your way.
These are the things you’re doing in your car—but shouldn’t.
The National Road
The historic 274 kilometre National Road in Maryland was nicknamed “The Road that Built the Nation” after it was completed in the 1850s. the first major improved highway in the country built by the federal government. The traverse across Maryland was the main transport for western settlers of the day. It gives you many opportunities to stop, stay and learn the history of cities including Ellicott City, Frederick, Hagerstown, and Baltimore.
Snowy Range Byway
In Wyoming, the Snowy Range Scenic Byway is the second-highest highway in the state. This byway crosses from Interstate 80 about 32 kilometre east of Rawlins. Check out historic and adventurous Laramie, for tons to do like hiking, hunting, fishing, and so much more during your trip.
Psst—this is the most dangerous day of the week to drive in Canada.
Pig Trail National Scenic Byway
One of Arkansas’s most beautiful drives (despite its name), the Pig Trail shows off some of the best scenery in the state and is a popular ride for bikers. The road winds through the Boston Mountains region of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains. It’s 31 kilometre and most visitors agree the best time to take this drive is in the fall, especially if you’re heading to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for a football game.
U.S. 151 in Wisconsin
U.S. 151 starts near Dodgeville, Wisconsin and is a beautiful 72 kilometre drive that takes you through the rolling fields of the heartland, over the Mississippi and into the city of Dubuque, Iowa. Stop in the town of Mount Horeb to experience some real Norwegian culture. Try to time your drive around sunset to watch as the sun turns pink, lavender, and orange as it sets behind the vast cornfields. Avoid this drive in the winter as the area is prone to blizzards and you don’t want to get caught in one on this road.
Here are the things you should never leave in your car.
Flint Hills Byway
The spring is the best time to drive through the rolling prairies of Kansas on the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway. This vast countryside will give drivers a real taste of with the heartland is all about; those wide-open prairies.
Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway
Driving through Kentucky, turn onto the Lincoln Heritage National Scenic Highway for a dose of history along with your scenery. On this 114 kilometre stretch, you’ll pass through Hodgenville, where our 16th president was born and raised. You’ll also drive by The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, America’s oldest Trappist Monastery. Ready for some fun? Try bourbon tasting at one of the area’s eight distilleries.
Check out these quintessential Canadian attractions worth adding to your bucket list.
U.S. 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains
Newfound Gap Road sits along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and offers 106 kilometre of sweeping views of the Great Smoky Mountains. As you make your way from Asheville, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you’ll climb about 914 metre into the mountainous landscape, travelling through woodlands. The Smoky Mountains offer some of the best colours during the fall but also makes for a great drive any time of the year.
U.S. 385 South
Starting in Marathon, Texas, U.S. 385 South is the eastern gateway to stunning Big Bend National Park. This drive will give you the best views of the Chisos Mountains as you near the U.S.-Mexico border. If you’re taking a leisurely pace, stop and do a day hike or horseback ride. From there, catch Rio Grande River Road, considered by many to be the most scenic road in Texas, for more views of the surrounding areas including into Mexico.
Add these great day trips from Ottawa to your road trip bucket list too!
State Highway 22 in Michigan
Running along the Lake Michigan shoreline starting in Manistee County and ending in Traverse City after 187 kilometre, M-22 in Michigan is often cited as one of the top fall drives in the country. It cuts through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. If you don’t live nearby, no worries.
Pikes Peak Highway
Colorado isn’t hard up for scenic views but Pikes Peak Highway is definitely a bucket list item. The 31 kilometre stretch of roadway near Colorado Spring twists and turns up into the clouds to the top of Pikes Peak, one of the most visited peaks in the world. The highway gives you a 360-degree view of all the beauty of the Rockies. The mountain is open year-round for visitors, just make sure to double-check the snow forecast.
Rhode Island’s Ocean Drive
Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island is a stunning 16 kilometre coastal drive that offers views of the gorgeous cottages, aka mansions, owned by the Vanderbilt’s and their contemporaries. Fort Adams, nearby, is a must-stop for history buffs and Gooseberry Beach is open to the public if you feel like dipping your toes in the surf.
This 998 kilometre route once billed as “the shortest route to Florida’s West Coast,” stretches from Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Petersburg, Florida. The stretch through Georgia on Highway 121 is known as Woodpecker Trail because of all the woodpeckers that inhabit its wooded landscape.
Hawaii Belt Road
Known as the Hawaii Belt Road, Mamalahoa Highway encircles the Big Island of Hawaii. The narrow and winding coastal road begins about 8 kilometre north of Hilo. Along the way, pull over near the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden for breathtaking views or take a hike at Onomea Bay. You can also stop and check out Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it’s home to Kileaua which isn’t erupting currently, but is one of the volcanoes that could erupt next.
Bayou Teche Byway
The Bayou Teche Byway in Louisiana takes you on a cultural journey along the Cajun Coast. Start your 295 kilometre adventure in the town of Breaux Bridge. Road trippers will see the moss-draped oak trees and have the chance to indulge in Cajun cuisine including crawfish boils and etouffé.
Speaking of road trips, check out the most dangerous roads in the world!
Wichita Mountains Byway
Drive down Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway, in southwestern Oklahoma, in the spring for a magnificent display of rainbow-coloured wildflowers as you wind through the valleys of the 550-million-year-old mountains. Keep your eyes open for bison, prairie dogs, deer, and other wildlife in the area.
North Shore Scenic Drive
Beginning in Duluth, Minnesota, North Shore Scenic Drive takes you through the serene wilderness along the shoreline of Lake Superior. The 228 kilometre stretch will have you experiencing rocky river beds, waterfalls and lighthouses along the way. Small towns, like Grand Marais, offer cute restaurants and shops for when you want to stop and explore the area.
Avoid these winter driving mistakes that could put you in danger.
Going to the Sun Road and Glacier National Park
In Big Sky Country, the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana is a bucket list drive. With stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and glacier-fed lakes, this 80 kilometre drive is one of the most beautiful in the northwest. Though it’s not that long, you’ll be pulling over throughout the drive to take photos. You should always check to make sure it’s open before you hit the road and note that it’s not open in the winter.
Route 6 through Cape Cod
Route 6 in Massachusetts takes you along the coast of Cape Cod and winds through cute fishing towns, beaches, and sand dunes. It’s only an 29-km scenic drive so you’ll get plenty of time to hit Cape Cod National Seashore. The summer is a good time to book whale-watching tours, but any time of the year is a nice, peaceful drive along the coast—and you won’t have to deal with the crowds.
Taking off on a cross-country trek? Don’t leave your driveway until you’re sure these road trip essentials are on board.