Modern Nomad is a weekly column dedicated to mobile gear, must-see world destinations, tips for life on the road, and traveling better through technology.
It’s almost spring here in the northern hemisphere and that means two things: backyard beers and road trips (not together, of course). The United States boasts more stunning road trip opportunities per square mile than almost any country on Earth. Here are three of our lesser-known favorites for 2016.
Skyline Drive (Virginia)
The state’s Skyline Drive is one of the most breathtaking drives in the eastern half of the country. The road traces a fine line along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains with sweeping panoramic views west to the Shenandoah Valley and east to gently rolling foothills. The best time to visit is either spring when the flowers are in bloom or fall with stunning foliage that rivals anything in Northern New England. A strict 35mph speed limit is enforced throughout the park. While that may seem absurdly slow, it’s designed to protect the park’s abundant wildlife. Plus: what’s your hurry? (Distance: 109 miles / Time required: One full day)
Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway (Colorado / Utah)
Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway is one of the Southwest’s lesser-known drives, but it’s nevertheless spectacular. The drive begins in the aptly named Dinosaur, Colorado and loops through eastern Utah, passing through the region’s signature arid, high plains and red rock canyons. The rough terrain just off the highway highlights more than 150 million years of dinosaur fossils and footprints. While much of the drive is on pristine, paved roads, some of the side roads can get dicey in bad weather. If you’re planning on even light off-roading, a 4×4 vehicle is a must. (Distance: 480 miles / Time required: 3 days)
Highway 395 (California)
Many travelers in the know — particularly those who enjoy getting truly off the beaten path — will attest that California’s US-395 is one of the best road trips in the country. The road runs roughly parallel to the Eastern Sierras with easy access to hiking, mountain lakes, and some of the state’s quirkiest roadside attractions. In short, stop at:
- Mammoth Lakes – great craft beer, skiing (in winter), and hiking (every other season)
- Town of Bodie – arguably the best-preserved ghost town in the United States
- Mono Lake – the unique salt formations are a huge draw for outdoor photographers
- Rainbow Falls – a relatively short hike with a view to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area
- Convict Lake – a high mountain lake near the town of Mammoth Lakes with great camping and backcountry hiking opportunities
(Distance: 300-400 miles / Time required: 2-3 days)