The Best Scenic Drive In Every State
You don’t know how truly vast and diverse America is until you try to drive across it. Hell, chances are you don't realize how incredibly diverse your own state is unless you get in a car and start exploring. In Oregon, you can transition from ocean to rain forest to high desert in a half a day. Georgia alone has five distinct regions Tetrised between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. You can drive 12 hours and see nothing but Texas, but said Texas includes various ecosystems and a dope wine country. No matter where you are, chances are there's a fantastic, accessible drive near you.
Right now, travel in general is extremely inadvisable. Taking a solo drive down a beautiful stretch of road where you don’t really get out of your car might be one of the few ways to responsibly do it. And luckily, this country is criss-crossed with great roadways to explore. So get out and enjoy that ride, and the other most scenic drives out there in each of these sprawling, beautiful states of ours.
Alabama: Highway 78
US 78 runs all the way from South Carolina to the Arkansas border. It carries you over nearly 200 miles of Alabama, from the Appalachian Mountains into the Talladega National Forest, all on a two-lane strip of tarmac that ebbs and flows with the terrain. Pull off near Leeds to catch a movie at the Grand River Drive-In movie theater. If you have the time, set aside a whole day to wander the lakes of Holly Springs National Forest. And ideally another whole day for Birmingham, which you know you’ve been meaning to visit.
Alaska: Haines Highway
It’s not the road or even the legendary backdrop that puts Haines Highway at the top, because natural beauty is already something Alaska has in abundance. It’s the wildlife-watching opportunities along Haines that make the difference. Also known as the Valley of the Eagles, it’s home to the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world. There’s also picnicking to be done all up and down the Chilkat River, and you can camp at countless stops like Chilkoot Lake (great kayaking, too) or Mosquito Lake. And when it’s really time to get out from behind the wheel, pull off for a cold one at Haines Brewery.
Arizona: Highway 179
Look, you can never go wrong with Route 66, and Arizona is home to a number of Route 66’s most iconic spots. Just outside Sedona, though, is the Red Rock Scenic Byway, which boasts everything from breathtakingly beautiful rock formations to early Native American cliff dwellings. If you’re a believer in the supernatural, you’ll find the Byway is sprinkled with what like-minded folk refer to as “vortexes” of spiritual energy -- two of the biggest are Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, formations which are stunning enough to enjoy regardless of your personal beliefs. Around Sedona, stop off at the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village as well as the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, where you’ll find a 36-foot-tall Buddha and a stupa that matches that same fantastic red of the rocks in the background.
Arkansas: Talimena National Scenic Byway
Only 18 of Talimena’s 54 miles are in Arkansas, but boy you do not want to miss them -- they go through Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The brilliantly colored vistas and winding roads that are so fun people drive hundreds of miles just to enjoy them, and there are so many photo opps you’ll be spoilt for choice. Be sure to stop at the Wonder House, which from the outside appears to be a regular ol’ two-story house and from the inside turns out to have nine. At the Queen Wilhelmina lodge, unwind over delicious Southern cuisine with an unbeatable view of the mountains.
California: Pacific Coast Highway
You saw this one coming. You knew. The PCH is both one of the most famous and one of the most picturesque roads in America. It’s almost a shame if you’re driving it with a destination in mind, instead of just soaking in the journey. The route is littered with famous stops: Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Big Sur -- but the unmissable platonic ideal of PCH is the Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive. That’s where all those PCH photos come from. You have to pay $10.50 per vehicle to drive through, but it will be worth it. Another not-to-be-missed scenic stop that beckons you to pull over is Muir Beach Overlook; you might recognize the long wooden stairs from dreamy PCH photos, too. It's a national treasure chest packed with gems hidden and beloved.
Colorado: Pikes Peak Highway
Colorado’s not exactly lacking for scenic drives, but the twisty stretch of tarmac on Pikes Peak is among the most storied in the US. The Pikes Peak Summit House, which as you may have guessed is a house at the summit of Pikes Peak, is not just a place to take pictures or get coffee. It is also a place to eat donuts. Excellent, excellent donuts that happen to be the only donuts in the world made above 14,000 feet in altitude, where they have been served for more than 100 years. The altitude is said to make the donuts even more delicious. As a Colorado native, I very clearly endorse your eating of these donuts.
Connecticut: State Route 197
Route 197 takes you through the stretch of Connecticut known as the Quiet Corner. Bigelow Hollow State Park and Nipmuck State Forest provide all the hiking, biking, and boating you could ever want, as mile after mile of road goes by with not much more than a few feet separating you from densely wooded hills. Every so often, you’ll pass through a charming little New England town that looks exactly how you imagined a charming little New England town would. Woodstock, for instance, where you can stop for a free tour of family-run dairy Fairvue Farms.
Delaware: Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway
Delaware’s not exactly a large state, but there’s enormous wealth along this 12.3-mile stretch of Route 52 (also known as Kennett Pike) and Route 100 (AKA Montchanin Road): plenty of beautiful hills, classic bridges, museums, and more exorbitantly nice estates than any one road should have. You’ve got the Wilmington Flower Market in the spring, the Brandywine Festival of the Arts in the fall, and Brandywine Creek State Park at any time of year. Browse the antique shops in charming Centreville Village, and stop at Buckley’s Tavern for some hearty comfort food before you get back on the road.
Florida: Seven Mile Bridge
The open blue sea stretches out on all sides as you drive the longest bridge in the Florida Keys, and one of the longest anywhere in the world. But Seven Mile Bridge is actually not one single bridge -- it’s two, one older one for cyclists and foot traffic and a newer, separate expanse for cars. The former is closed for repairs until 2021, which means driving is currently both the best and only way to experience it.
Georgia: State Route 197
Head into the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and you’ll be rewarded with some pretty killer turns. Pull over somewhere quiet and get out of your car, though, and you’ll see gorgeous scenery like this. The highway was a moonshine route back in the day (the day in this case being Prohibition) but is now known more as a destination for artisanal pottery, stained glass, and wood furniture. Moccasin Creek State Park is your go-to for camping, hiking, and fishing -- the trout fishery is currently closed for construction, but expected to reopen in 2021. Lake Burton, meanwhile, is where you can put a day trip inside your road trip with boating, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and all the lake-related activities.
Hawaii: Hana Highway
Maui’s Hana Highway is a 52-mile stretch of asphalt that winds so tightly the trip can take hours; you’ll be doing good just to average over 30 mph. Guess how many bridges you will drive over. A dozen? Two dozen? Try 59 -- most of which are only one lane across. You could complete the drive in about two and a half hours if you somehow manage to resist stopping to take pictures at the many scenic pullouts along the way, but … why ... would you do that? Some of them have waterfalls! Where you can swim! When it’s time to rest, stop around mile 9 at Ho’okipa Beach Park for a bite at the family-run Mama’s Fish House Restaurant.
Idaho: Western Heritage Historic Byway
Sagebrush. Steep gorges. Tightly winding roads and enormous birds of prey circling the canyon rims along Snake River, against the backdrop of the Owyhee Mountains. The 47 miles of the Western Heritage Historic Byway are all gorgeous, but turn onto Swan Falls Road and for the next 20 or so miles you’ll cruise through a national conservation area for birds of prey (summer months are the best time to spot them) until you reach Swan Falls Dam. The area contains a campground, picnic area, hiking trails, and generally all the scenic elements you need to take a breather and marvel at the splendor of the American West.
Illinois: Grandview Drive
Grandview Drive will not take you a very long time to drive, because Grandview Drive is only 2.52 miles. With a view of the Illinois River and the surrounding valley, much of it unspoiled but for picnic benches and a sidewalk, the route is as stunning on foot as it is by car. Also, in 1910 Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it “the world’s most beautiful drive,” so it has that going for it. Head to Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery afterward for local brews and a decadent menu of pub food set inside a renovated church -- stained-glass windows and all.
Indiana: Ohio River Scenic Byway
The Ohio River Scenic Byway is nearly 1,000 miles, 303 of which stretch through the small towns and vineyards of southern Indiana. Pull off at towns like Veyvay or Madison and enjoy antique shopping and cute cafes. You can also check out the limestone gorges at Clifty Falls State Park, or pop by Thomas Family Winery (try the cider, not just the wine) and then simply enjoy the views whilst you wait the appropriate time before getting back on the road.
Iowa: Loess Hills Trail
Iowa is filled with natural formations called loesses, which are basically hills created from accumulated silt. They make for some striking and unusual topography as you travel across the Loess Hills Trail, which runs more than 1,000 miles along the eastern border of the Missouri River flood plain. A National Natural Landmark, it’s particularly spectacular come fall. Hiking trails are a given. There are a handful of towns in which to stop along the way, but if you only have time for one try Mills County -- you’ll find a museum, winery, and exquisite scenery even by these high standards.
Kansas: Route 66
Kansas holds just 13 miles of Route 66 -- the fewest out of any state the route passes through -- but they are enough. In the southeasternmost corner of the state, between Galena and Baxter Springs, you can find the classic Route 66 Americana vibe that’s so recognizable -- and that so heavily influenced the movie Cars, which you’ll be reminded of by various bits of signage and promotional literature. Stop at Streetcar Station for some coffee and pie before you push on.
Kentucky: Route 77
Route 77 serves as the entrance to the Red River Gorge, which is on multiple government registers due to its beauty. When the fog is thick, the road and dark mossy boulders are slick with rain, Route 77’s eerie appeal primes you for what’s up ahead. What you’re looking for here -- the big draw -- is called the Nada Tunnel. While its name is taken from a long-gone logging town, it’s also an apt description of the amount of space this one-time railway tunnel affords you (though it’s pronounced “NAY-duh”. Not “NA-duh”). It is only 900 or so feet long, but only one lane wide. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of a construction worker killed in a dynamite blast. There is no interior lighting. Gather your courage, look carefully for the telltale headlights of an oncoming car, pick your moment, and go. The Red River Gorge awaits on the other side.
Louisiana: US 90
Route 90 is a vast East-West highway, and its Louisiana stretch runs 297.6 miles along the state’s entire southern border. It crosses over Sabine River, passes through historic towns like Lake Charles, Morgan City, carries you from prairies to marshlands to New Orleans. Stretch your legs at one of Lafayette’s many excellent dives. Above all, stop in at this specific Chevron station for a deep-fried boudin ball. And a meat pie or two. For the road.
Maine: Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is a beautiful place on its own, but toss in a smooth band of asphalt and you have the most stereotypically gorgeous fall drive imaginable. The 27-mile stretch that comprises Park Loop Road spans forests and lakes, mountains and rocky coastline. This was the first place I ever saw fog roll in so thick and fast it looked like an oncoming avalanche. Spend the evening in Bar Harbor, preferably tucked away at Cottage Street Pub with a Back River Gin cocktail. Getting back on the road can wait til morning, once the fog burns away.
Maryland: Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway
The Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway is a cultural tour that runs through some of the nation’s most historic sites, from 18th-century courthouses to former plantations. The oldest national scenic byway in the state of Maryland, this route has the range -- you can glide between the main streets of some of Maryland’s most scenic small towns to the Chesapeake Wine Trail to piers you can fish from as the sun goes down. You can drive yourself right onto a free tour of Chesapeake Farms. Plan to stop for food at one of the restaurants on or near Kent Island, like Fisherman’s Inn -- you want that view right over the water.
Massachusetts: Mohawk Trail
The Mohawk Trail has been recognized for over a century as one of the most scenic roads in the entire Northeast, and was used for hundreds of years before that by Native Americans and early settlers. In Shelburne Falls, along the Deerfield River, you will come upon something very special: the historic Bridge of Flowers, which between April and October is open and blanketed in a vibrant flower garden. When you finally manage to tear yourself away from the splendor, refuel down the road with pancakes at Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse.
Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Michigan is home to more than 3,200 miles of shoreline, and you can bet that the majority of them are scenic as hell -- chockablock with fudge shops, lighthouses, and fantastic beach towns. But deep in the Upper Peninsula lies the crown jewel of Great Lakes scenic drives: the Pictured Rocks. Jutting from the choppy, crystalline waters of Lake Superior are approximately 40 miles of cliff faces that look like the world's biggest toddler went to town with a paintbrush, resulting in streaks of brilliant color that pop more and more the closer you get. They're beautiful just to drive past, but even more stunning up close: Which is to say, yes, you should absolutely get out and stretch your legs on a hike to places like Chapel Rock, a rock spire rising from the waters below that's capped with an otherworldly, twisted tree whose roots reach down into the water. The beaches, too, are some of Michigan's best: Stop off in Munising for picnic provisions and Oberon, and don't forget to send a card from the post office in the town of Christmas.
Minnesota: Highway 61
The road hugs the edge of the Lake Superior pretty closely, so you’re never too far from that gorgeous view. Pull over in Duluth for a snack at Scenic Cafe, which grows some of its own herbs and veggies, then continue on toward the pink (yes) shores of Iona’s Beach. You might never want to stop driving along this route, but unless you have your passport you’ll have no choice after about two hours, when you hit the Canadian border. Turn off at Grand Marais, where some pizza from Sven & Ole’s will cure anything that ails you.
Mississippi: Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway was once part of a vital supply route spanning Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Back then, the 444-mile route was walked by boatmen, who were responsible for floating goods down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, then getting home somehow. Around Mile 41, look for the Sunken Trace -- where the trail, and the trees alongside it, appears to be sinking lower than the rest of the surrounding ground, pushed down by years of foot traffic on readily eroded soil. Pull over just past Mile 122 for lunch and fire up one of the grills at River Bend picnic area.
Missouri: Highway 19
Highway 19 is a North-South route extending between Thayer and New London. Follow it, and you get a taste of American history and the land we created it on. Hermann is a gorgeous village to cruise past and, farther down the road, you can catch views of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Moving through the heart of the Ozarks means Highway 19 takes you right through the town of Eminence, where you might spot the only two bands of wild horses found in the Midwest. Stop at the Dairy Shack to scoop up some soft-serve before you continue on.
Montana: Beartooth Highway
If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone, there’s a fair chance you were on the Beartooth Highway, since it’s one of the few ways in and out of the park. You’ll generally find it open May through October. As you pass rugged lodgepole pines and clear, frigid mountain lakes, keep an eye out for the Bear’s Tooth itself -- a sharp, jagged-looking peak, visible from the highway, that does indeed resemble an incisor belonging to the sort of creature you wouldn’t want to run into while hiking. Head to Two Bit Saloon in the Yellowstone border town of Gardiner when it’s time to kick back over some karaoke and well drinks with the locals.
Nebraska: US Route 83
US Route 83 runs 222 miles through the dazzling plains of Nebraska, carrying travelers on an oftentimes pink-hued road past stabilized dunes, river valleys, and homes designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Spend a night stargazing in the small town of Valentine -- head to the Prairie Club if you want a serious steak dinner -- and from there make a quick detour West to sip apple wine at the Niobrara Valley Vineyards. If you can, do this route in the summertime. This is your chance to find out what “tanking” is.
Nevada: Valley of Fire Highway
If you’re heading to Vegas, hop off Interstate 15 for a quick trip to Mars. Millions of years ago, shifting sand dunes formed a stunning region of sandstone in the southern tip of Nevada. The drive offers an array of warm colors in stripes, from the prevailing rustic red to orange and cream-colored slickrock. A particularly lovely stretch is Mouse’s Tank Road, which is woven through with hiking trails, colorful rock striations, petroglyphs, and the Mouse’s Tank formation -- a depression in the rocks that collect rainwater. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep. Before you leave the area, make sure to visit Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza for drinks, slots, breakfast burritos, and an astonishing inventory of commercial fireworks (legal while still on tribal land; less so once back on stolen land).
New Hampshire: Kancamagus Highway
State Route 112 has, of course, the scenic overlooks. It has the towering trees and sparkling lakes and historical colonial heritage. All of that good stuff. And then it also has those special elements -- waterfalls feeding into sandy-bottomed pools waiting for you to swim in; wooden covered bridges that lead you over the river and into a waiting picnic spot, which is also a fishing spot if you want it to be. No trip through the Kanc, as it’s known to its friends, is complete without a pit stop at Clark’s Trading Post for some souvenir maple syrup.
New Jersey: State Route 49
SR 49 has a sprinkle of all the very best stuff the Garden State has to offer. Like the Maurice River Bluffs Preserve, a freshwater haven for migrating songbirds. And the Palace of Depression, a life-size castle made of junk you’ll see if you pull off in Millville. And Big John’s Pizza, a cash-only, no-delivery, no-slices-you’re-in-this-for-the-whole-pie joint in Bridgeton. Never say New Jersey doesn’t have range.
New Mexico: El Camino Real National Scenic Byway
This is certainly one of the most storied roads on this list. El Camino Real was first used by Spanish explorers in the late 16th century, but it’s also home to some pretty righteous rock formations. This road trip, though, is one worth taking for the food alone. Stop in San Antonio (not the Texas one) for a green chili cheeseburger at Owl Bar. In Santa Fe, you’re looking for the Roque’s Carnitas food truck. In Albuquerque -- and you have to just trust us here -- head to Duran Central Pharmacy and ask for the chili.
New York: Hawk's Nest
Take Route 97 out of Port Jervis, and your next 90 minutes will be filled with an impossibly beautiful series of bends abutted by sheer rock faces on one side and a steep drop overlooking the Delaware River on the other. Following the river’s path as closely as this highway does makes it an unusually winding one, but if that isn’t enough to make you take it extra-slow then the scenery definitely will be. That or the wild turkeys wandering across the road. Give your pounding heart a chance to slow back down with stops at small New York towns like Hancock and Narrowsburg. In Barryville, brake for local jams, cheeses, and honey at River Market.
North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway is a treasure trove of natural beauty. Part of a nearly 470-mile stretch that cuts through the heart of Appalachia, doing it right will take you more than just one day (especially if you wanna hike the Appalachian Mural Trail). Around Mile Market 328.3 you’ll hit the Orchard at Altapass, a nonprofit offering live music, hay rides, and fresh apples. At Mile Port 334, pull over to go square dancing in Little Switzerland. When you reach Mile Port 384, it’s time for some souvenir-shopping at the Folk Art Center. Mile Post 408.7? The Pisgah Inn is the area’s best, and also only, dining room with a view. Between April and October you can camp right there, too.
North Dakota: Sakakawea Scenic Byway
Stretching from Washburn to Stanton, the Sakakawea Scenic Byway traces the routes of settlers Lewis and Clark. Stop for an archaeological tour at Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site, first inhabited by humans more than 11,000 years ago. For the outdoorsy folks, Cross Ranch State Park provides a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in undeveloped stretches of the Missouri River, with miles of hiking trails that are accessible year-round -- including by cross-country skis, come wintertime. Wind down in Washburn with fresh-baked pie at Dakota Family Farms.
Ohio: Ohio River Scenic Byway
Remember this one from Indiana? Running alongside the Ohio River for most of its length here, this breezy scenic byway snakes right past some really awesome barns that are 100% Americana ... right down to the tobacco advertising. Palate-cleanse with some cafe-browsing and antique-shopping in New Richmond, and then when you’re really done for the day post up at Portsmouth Brewing Company -- one of the oldest surviving breweries in the Midwest, dating back to 1843.
Oklahoma: Talimena Scenic Drive
And that scenic drive from Arkansas we mentioned earlier? This is the other (larger) half. Things are just as sweet on the Oklahoma side of the border, where countless random turn-offs lead you to farming villages and little side drives. Pull over for photos at Panorama Vista, and, when you hit Horse Thief Springs, park and take a hike up the Ouachita Trail. And definitely pull over at Billy Creek Recreation Area or Cedar Lake Recreation Area, where you can camp, hike, and fish the afternoon away.
Oregon: The Columbia River Gorge Highway
The Columbia River Gorge Highway (or just I-84, if you're boring) is an 80-mile stretch of road that winds through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Just a 40-minute drive from Portland, both the Washington and Oregon sides of the drive — it runs along the wide, mighty river that separates the states — are sandwiched by towering cliffs that draw gasps around every corner. Gaze upon the towering Rooster Rock, or a hidden waterfall peeing out of the Douglas Fir, or an eagle soaring over the expanse. About those waterfalls: There’s a scenic drive tucked into this scenic drive: Oregon's Historic Columbia River Highway. This winding, lush road -- you've seen it in tons of car commercials -- shoots off into the forest and brings you past dozens of Oregon’s most scenic waterfalls, from the hidden Oneonta to the world-famous Multnomah. Stop and hike, or just pass through. Once you’ve gone East enough, you have choices: Shoot through the gorgeous town of Hood River and connect to another scenic drive up Mt. Hood, or head across the Bridge of the Gods to see the gorge from the other’s state’s point of view.
Pennsylvania: Martin Luther King Drive
Kelly Drive gets maybe more attention, but Martin Luther King Drive has better views -- especially of Boathouse Row, the line of 19th-century boathouses spread along the Schuylkill River. This route is one of the quickest into Philly but has tons of spots worth stopping at, including thePhiladelphia Museum of Art and the lake’s surrounding park region. The riverfront loop here is beloved by cyclists and joggers, and you’d be wise to follow their lead and hop out to stretch your legs for a bit. Spend the morning working up an appetite, then head to the North end of the drive for a panini and smoothie at the Trolley Car Cafe.
Rhode Island: Ten Mile Drive
Rhode Island being rather tiny itself, this drive, as the name suggests, is not a long one. No matter. Get on the road in the early morning and wind your way around a loop that circles Newport’smost lavish seaside mansions, the lush green lawns set off by surrounding water. Get out and wiggle your toes in Brenton Park, where the Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Finish with a glass of red in the bright, sparkling dining room of the Castle Hill Inn.
South Carolina: Botany Bay Road
We would not put a stretch of road that clocked in at just 0.4 miles if it wasn’t really, really something to see. Botany Bay Road is the entrance to a plantation-turned-wildlife-management area. Slow down to a crawl -- safety first -- and watch the trees lacing together overhead in an eerie, Sleepy Hollow kind of way. Drive back and forth a few times, why not. When you’ve taken all the pictures you can stand, don’t worry -- we didn’t bring you here just for 0.4 miles of road. You’re on Edisto Island, one of the most beautiful places in all of South Carolina. Hungry? We thought as much. Head to the Old Post Office Restaurant for shrimp and grits, oyster skillets, and blueberry chicken.
South Dakota: Needles Highway
Some might suggest that most of western South Dakota is a scenic drive, with juggernauts like the Badlands and the winding Black Hills highways surrounding (the very skippable) Rushmore. Those are all bucket-list roadways for any serious roadtripper, and everybody knows this. For something a little different and no-less awe-inspiring, head to Custer State Park, where, under the looming shadow of the Crazy Horse Monument, clusters of giant rock spires give the Needles Highway its name. There's a $20 entrance fee (worth it), and you'll only drive about 14 miles, but the road winds up and up, through tunnels and across vistas as the rocks grow more jagged and bizarre, evoking giant fresh-air stalagmites. Take a quick stop at the stunning Sylvan Lake -- a crystal mountain lake so serene it almost looks fake -- then go where the road takes you, which should probably be the nearby Spearfish Canyon, another in a series of lesser-known, must see sights in this underexplored corner of the Black Hills. And lucky you -- when you spit out in the town of Spearfish, it's a straight shot East to Custer and the Badlands. Everybody wins!
Tennessee: Tail of the Dragon
In the span of just 11 miles, this stretch of Highway 129 contains 318 curves. That’s more than enough to lure enthusiasts -- motorcyclists in particular -- who travel from all around the country to try their hand at the beautiful, adrenaline-pumping, and oftentimes dangerous road. Is there a Tail of the Dragon store where you can pick up your Tail of the Dragon memorabilia? Of course there is. Swap stories of your drive with fellow motorists over some BBQ at Dragon’s Den Grill.
Texas: Loop 360
Clocking in at just 13.99 miles, Loop 360 is perfect for early morning travel along the Capital of Texas Highway; the hilly character of the east side makes for unexpectedly striking sunrise vistas, especially over the iconic Pennybacker Bridge. Besides a colorful scene over the Colorado River, you can drive through rocky terrain and the Bull Creek Watershed, or enjoy a perfect view of Austin’s state capitol building near the entrance to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. When you can drive no more, relax with a bottle of housemade wine (and pizza) at 360 Uno.
Utah: Heritage Highway 89
Like half the nation’s coolest national parks are on this route -- Bryce, Zion, Grand Teton, Arches... you won’t even have time to get to them all. Over the span of 124 miles, the historic US 89 runs through basically every type of terrain Utah offers, which is saying a lot. Make a pit stop inLittle Denmark, a cluster of 12 small towns in the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area, for local handicrafts like wooden furniture and stained glass. Then fuel up with burgers at Big Fish Family Restaurant in Panguitch.
Vermont: Connecticut River Byway
Do you like bridges? Yes? Then Vermont’s only official National Byway might be your favorite drive of all time. There’s literally a different bridge every few miles along the twisty path of US 5 and Vermont Highway 142. Not modern bridges, either. Old ones. The covered wooden ones that creak when you drive over them. There are 20 to cross, so definitely bring a camera. Meander through any number of small towns like Brattleboro or St. Johnsbury for brewery-hopping and antiquing.
Virginia: Skyline Drive
Skyline is part of the same road as North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, and you can guess how it got its name just from looking at this photo. The speed limit here is 45 mph, and Virginia is infamous for its speed-limit enforcement, so this one’s really all about what you can look at as you crawl along. Or just pull over to one of the nearly 70 overlooks that dot the route. There are a couple of outposts where you can pick up food, but try to save your appetite for the blackberry ice cream pie at Big Meadows Lodge.
Washington: Chuckanut Drive
State Route 11, north of Seattle is an uncommonly tight and twisty trail. It’s been around since 1895, though the natural beauty of the densely packed forest and steep cliffs has obviously been around a bit longer than that. Those inclined toward hiking should head into Larrabee State Park. You can fuel your trip with the biscuits and gravy from the Rhody Cafe, or -- if you’re feeling a little more ambitious -- you can pull over at the Taylor Shellfish Farms retail store, pick out some fresh crab, and grill it up right there in the picnic area.
West Virginia: State Route 16
West Virginia’s hilly terrain is marvelous to look at, and as a coal-mining region has played a huge role in our country’s development. As you roam up and down the hills and across the New River Gorge Bridge, you’ll also see the remnants of that mining tradition in the form of the ongoing reclamation projects, and closed mines. Personally, I recommend taking this particular bridge by foot -- you can take a tour (secured by safety cables) right underneath, with peregrine falcons diving down around you.
Wisconsin: Marinette County Waterfalls Tour
So, there’s a 125-mile stretch of road in Wisconsin’s Marinette County that includes 14 different waterfalls along the way. Full directions are here, but the best part is most of them are close enough to the parking area that you can walk. Twin Bridge Park and Long Slide Falls are excellent picks for camping and swimming; Twelve-Foot Falls for fishing. When you’ve sufficiently exhausted yourself for the day, refuel with classic diner grub at Patti’s Platter.
Wyoming: Beartooth Highway
As with Montana, the Beartooth Highway is the best of the best in Wyoming. The drops are steep, and you’re two miles in the sky, so it’s too treacherous to even remain open in the winter. But come summertime, and your first glimpse of the vistas from Tibbs Butte, you will forget all that. Near Cooke City, stop at the Top of the World Store for some ice cream. You’ve earned it.