Taking a classic, all-American road trip is a rite of passage for many travelers. Thankfully, you needn’t look far as just about every state in the country offers a great scenic drive or three. Sure, there are the obvious choices like Highway 1 over the Florida Keys and Hawaii’s Road to Hana. But the country offers many lesser-known – though just as stunning – scenic drives. Here are three of the best scenic drives in the U.S.
Million Dollar Highway (Colorado)
Colorado’s “Million Dollar Highway” (technically U.S. Route 550) traverses a relatively short 25-mile-path between Silverton and Ouray. As the most beautiful piece of the larger San Juan Skyway, it offers literally breathtaking views of the state’s western landscape. There are no guardrails along most of its stretch as visitors climb over three extreme mountain passes, all topping 10,000 feet. The weather is severe and unpredictable year-round with record snowfalls frequently forcing the state to close the road entirely.
State Route 12 (Utah)
Utah is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking national parks. Connecting the dots between them is one of the easiest ways to find the most scenic drives in the United States. Scenic Byway 12 may not sound all that alluring, but the 120-mile stretch between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon is like a highlight reel of the state’s stunning natural landscape. Outside of a handful of small, eclectic towns, there are few traditional services (gas stations, restaurants, etc.) along the way. With a limited number of entry points onto the road, it requires a bit of planning, a detailed map, and a hearty sense of road trip adventure to navigate.
Going to the Sun Road (Montana)
Going to the Sun Road is the only road that traverses Montana’s incredible Glacier National Park. Since its completion in 1932, the 53-mile route has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark – both with good reason. The narrow, two-lane road is treacherous in parts, but the panoramic mountain views of one of the country’s most beautiful states make it worth the drive. With its location along the Continental Divide, the weather can be bleak and unpredictable, particularly in winter. Most years, the road doesn’t open until June or July, giving visitors only a four-month window to experience its beauty.
(Monument Valley Photo via Flickr)