10 of the Most Scenic Road Trips in America
Start the car and plan the drive of a lifetime with our hand-selected routes. These highways and byways wind through Colorado's mountains, Texas' flower fields, and California's peaceful harbors.
In many ways, the road trip is an American tradition. Originally constructed to promote tourism and encourage people to visit the country's national parks, Route 66 and more of these roads have offered more than just drive-by sightseeing: As more Americans took to the highway, a roadside culture would spring up along Route 66—motels, diners, gas stations, tourist attractions—to cater to a population that was increasingly mobile. Today, it is that culture and the nostalgic appeal of the open road that continues to draw drivers. This summer, due to the pandemic, nine in 10 Americans expect their first trip to be done by car. It makes sense: Road trips lend well to social distancing, plus they're more affordable with gas prices remaining at a historic low.
Planning for a road trip involves determining how far you want to go, where you want to travel, and how many stops along the way you want to make. You'll want to have enough money for gas and it's a good idea to bring along gas cans in case you don't see a station for miles on end. Bring food and snacks as well as picnic essentials like plates, napkins, and eating utensils. And, of course, a first aid kit is important for stops along the way.
These highways and byways provide access to historical sites, natural wonders, and one-of-a-kind cultural landmarks. Here, we map out the most scenic drives including the best places to stop, where to stay, and what you're bound to see along the way for each route.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The drive weaves through Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can take the road trip in chunks and plan to go from one section to another in three to four hours, but the entire road trip could take several hours because it is 469 miles long. Along the way you can stop to see mountains, climb a ridge, camp in the woods or visit museums and art installations.
Hocking Hills Scenic Byway
The Hocking Hills State Park is known as the Crown Jewel of Ohio and this byway takes you through the park for a gorgeous road trip with plenty of stunning natural sights. The best time to go is in the fall when all the leaves become fiery oranges and reds.
Lake Shore Drive
This road trip begins in the bustling metropolis of Chicago and travels along Lake Michigan for a combination of urban and natural sights for adventurers. See the famous mansions on Montrose Beach and the extraordinary Buckingham Fountain along the way.
Endless meadows of flowers adorn the way along this scenic road trip through Ennis, Texas. The Bluebonnet Trail is designed as a drive-it-yourself tour, and winds its way through the waterfront communities of the Highland Lakes. Wildflowers are dressed in their finest and brightest colors and provide plenty of opportunities for gorgeous nature photography.
Trail Ridge Road
This road trip is part of the Rocky Mountain adventure! Currently you may need to make reservations in order to enter the park for this road trip, so you'll want to plan accordingly. Trail Ridge Road extends 48 miles from Estes Park to Grand Lake and provides plenty of open sky and scenic views.
U.S. Route 89
The entire length of U.S. Route 89 runs 2,000 miles. You can choose to do the Basin and Range road trip or the Colorado Plateau or the Rocky Mountains. Each section provides beautiful natural scenery to connect you to the Earth and take you away from everyday concerns. A popular portion of this road is the AZ 89A which takes you from Prescott to Flagstaff in 91.7 miles.
Highway 12 Scenic Byway
Travel through Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef for some of the most beautiful scenery you'll ever see in the state of Utah. You'll get to take in mountains and canyons, colorful rocks, lush forests, and quaint little towns rich with history. Catch a sunset or sunrise along the way for a memorable experience.
Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
Travel 363 miles of the Oregon coast to see the ocean crash against impressive rock formations, fishing villages, and art galleries. If you love to be near the water, then this road trip is a dream come true and highly recommended.
17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach's 17-Mile Drive has an entrance fee of $10.50 per vehicle, but the price tag is definitely worth it. The views are pure magic with the ocean washing onto snow-white sandy beaches and the enchanted forest scenery along the way. See the iconic Lone Cypress, the giant trees at Crocker Grove, the untouched beauty at Fanshell Beach, the power of the Restless Sea at Point Joe, stroll the boardwalk above the beach at Spanish Bay.
Hawaii is one of the most beautiful states in the country, and the Road to Hana provides a scenic road trip that you would not be able to forget. Located on Maui, the Road to Hana is best traveled in a Jeep or a 356 Porsche Speedster that can handle rough terrain and sharp twists and turns. You'll want to drive this road during the day because it can be hard to see the road in the dark and can quickly become dangerous.