Last Updated on: 18th March 2023, 11:07 pm
If you’re looking to take a day trip or a road trip where the drive is just as beautiful as the destination – or is the destination – then you want to pick on the of the most scenic drives in America for your next getaway.
From the east coast to the west, from Alaska to Hawaii, from Texas to the Dakotas, there’s an American scenic drive near you, so adventure is never far away! Here are the best scenic drives in America for you to pick from.
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The Most Scenic Drives in America
These are broken up by regions, with at least a few in each region, so hopefully, you’re not too far away from an easy adventure.
The Best Scenic Drives in the Northeast
The Northeast is famous for road trips through gorgeous fall foliage, but autumn isn’t the only time to take a trip on one of these roads! Here are the best scenic drives in the Northeast.
Acadia National Park’s Park Loop Road (Maine)
Maine is a state that doesn’t lack for beauty, but its crown jewel is Acadia National Park. With a rugged coastline, greenery all around, iconic lighthouses, majestic roads, this route lacks for nothing. A road trip across this 47,000-acre wide area by the Atlantic Coast gives you a variety of magnificent vistas that will leave you mesmerized.
The best way to explore the beauty is to drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road beginning near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. The road traverses a diverse terrain of lakes, ponds, rocky coastline, mountains, beaches, and forests.
There are multiple scenic spots to stop and enjoy, like Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, Otter Cliff, Jordon Pond, and many more along the loop with parking spaces to pull off. Most of the Park Loop Road is one-way traffic with detours to places like Cadillac Mountain.
Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the East coast and the first place to see the rising sun in the US. It is worth getting up at dawn to catch the first rising glory of the sun at the summit. The winding drive up to the peak is breathtakingly beautiful. It gets very windy at the peak and hence it is advisable to carry blankets and jackets.
From the Park Loop Road, drive all the way to the most photography spot, Bass Harbor Lighthouse, and then continue along Route 102 for some untouched beauty. Driving the Park Loop Road with stops at the scenic points would take around 4-5 hours, but it is highly suggested to spend the entire day exploring this area.
There are entrance fees for Acadia National Park which is valid for seven days. Spring through the Fall is the best time to take this road trip since most parts of the park get closed in winter. Fall is a very popular time with the added advantage of viewing Maine’s famous colorful foliage.
Contributed by Neha Kulshrestha from Travelmelodies.
Kancamagus Highway (New Hampshire)
The Kancamagus Highway in the New Hampshire White Mountains is one of the most gorgeous scenic drives in the US. It’s especially stunning in the Fall as the leaves change colors. It is undeniable that New England is one of the best Fall foliage getaways in the United States – if you are chasing Fall colors, a drive along the Kancamagus in the White Mountains should not be missed.
The Kancamagus Scenic Byway is a 34-mile drive located in Northern New Hampshire in the heart of the White Mountains. The scenic drive is a portion of NH Route 112 from Lincoln to Conway.
If you are coming from Boston, it will take a little over 2 hours to reach the starting point of the Kancamagus Highway in Lincoln. If you don’t do any hikes along the way, it will take about 3 hours to drive the Kancamagus and stop at all major viewpoints. Driving along the highway is free but if you stop (and you definitely should!) a $5 day-pass fee is payable at parking areas and trailheads.
The “Kanc” as locals call it is often considered one of the best places in the world to see Fall foliage. There are many places to stop along the scenic drive with gorgeous views of the White Mountains.
Make sure to take some time to stop at all the main viewpoints and explore the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, and the Rocky Gorge. Most of these spots have picnic areas to stop and grab a bite. There are also several trailheads along the Kanc if you are looking for a day hike.
Contributed by Julie at Wandering Sunsets
Mohawk Trail (Massachusetts)
Another great New England scenic drive is the Mohawk Trail along Route 2 running east-west across Massachusetts. Winding through the Berkshire Mountains, the most important stretch is thirty-seven miles between North Adams and Greenfield.
This historic highway was opened in 1914, predating most of the more popular scenic drives in the US.
If you want to get out and enjoy a little bit of nature, there’s great hiking and even zip-lining available along the trail. You can complete the entire trail by car in under an hour, but it’s much more fun to get out and enjoy the viewpoints, stop in the charming towns along the way, and even get out for a quick hike!
Best Scenic Drives in the Mid-Atlantic
While the Northeast might be the more famous region for fall foliage, it’s not the only part of the country to enjoy stunning mountain views and autumnal colors. In fact, some of my favorite fall drives are in the Mid-Atlantic! Don’t worry, both made this list!
Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia & North Carolina)
Gettsyburg National Monument (Pennsylvania)
An easy day trip from Philadelphia, Gettysburg National Military Park protects the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. Visitors drive through the park, typically accompanied by an audio guide so you can learn about the events that happened during the battle and hear about the numerous monuments on the field.
A self-guided driving tour of Gettysburg will take you through the beautiful but somber park. The scenery is stunning, which contrasts poignantly with the events you’re learning about.
While you can drive through the park in just an hour, you’ll want to set aside at least four hours to do a real audio tour and get out to see the sites.
Highway 40 (Maryland & Pennsylvania)
The National Road was built at the beginning of the 19th century because people started traveling West. Today, parts of the National Road still exist, spanning from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. Along the Pennsylvania portion, you will find many beautiful sights and historical landmarks.
If you start in Cumberland and head West, like the earlier settlers, would hav,e, you should find a parking spot in the downtown district. Since this city was founded in the late 18th century, you will notice a lot of old-fashioned architecture. I love passing by Cumberland in the car because it is truly a beautiful city! If you walk around downtown, you will find cute shops and some historical markers.
You will then drive westward for about an hour until you arrive at Fort Necessity National Battlefield. You will not see many attractions, but the scenery will take your breath away!
The visitors center at this battlefield has free admission and will tell you all you need to know about the battle fought here and the National Road that runs alongside it. While you drive along this portion of the road, keep your eyes peeled as there are many types of shops, eateries, and other attractions in this area.
If you choose to veer away from Highway 40, you can visit Ohiopyle State Park, home to many breath-taking hikes, and some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. This portion of Pennsylvania and Maryland is truly a well-kept secret that most of the world doesn’t know exists!
Contributed by Raquel Osborne from Meals and Milemarkers.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Just two hours west of Washington DC, Skyline Drive winds 105 miles along the ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The drive is the centerpiece of Shenandoah National Park, and it offers easy access to stunning views, beautiful hikes, and fascinating history.
There are four entrances to Skyline Drive. Front Royal, at the northern end, is closest to DC, while Rockfish Gap, at the southern end, is near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It takes a full day to drive the entire length of Skyline Drive if you allow time to stop at some of the 75 overlooks, take a hike, and enjoy the park facilities. If time is limited, focus on the Shenandoah National Park’s Central District, which has some of the best views and activities.
As you drive, stop at several overlooks on each side of the road for a mix of eastward and westward views. Visit one of the classic lodges at Skyland or Big Meadows for a meal (Blackberry Ice Cream Pie is a specialty) and souvenirs. Be sure to stop in the Byrd Visitor Center for an excellent introduction to the park’s nature and history.
Popular hikes include short climbs to rocky viewpoints (Stony Man, Hawksbill, and Mary’s Rock are three favorites), and longer treks on the Appalachian Trail.
The park charges a $25 per vehicle entrance fee for a 7-day visit. Whether you get out on the trails or stick to the overlooks, you are sure to enjoy gorgeous scenery on Skyline Drive.
Contributed by Julie McCool from Fun in Fairfax VA
Best Scenic Drives in the South
The best Southern scenic drives include everything from gorgeous coastlines to rural gems. The best part about driving in this region, beyond the gorgeous scenery, is the delicious cuisine you can enjoy at each stop along the way.
Highway 1 to Key West from Miami (Florida)
The tropical islands of the Florida Keys stretch from the southern tip of Florida, for 150 miles like a string of pearls glistening in the ocean. A road trip to Key West, the furthest-most island, is like visiting another country and feels a world away from the busy metropolis of Miami.
There are thirty-one tiny islands, all connected by the scenic Highway 1 over a series of bridges, one of which is seven miles long. The views are outstanding, with shallow azure waters in every direction. Along the beautiful route are plenty of places to park up and explore, with endless opportunities to see some of Florida’s unique wildlife, from manatees to mud turtles and the Torch Key raccoon.
You can visit the Florida Keys and Key West in just one day but if you have the time, then a stay at one of the beautiful hotels, lodges or campsites along the way is always a good idea.
In Key West, you can stroll around its old town, home to countless boutique stores, charming cafes, and lively bars. Make sure to visit Ernest Hemingway’s House too. The Florida Keys are also known for world-class diving in the crystal clear waters, with an abundance of marine life and interesting shipwrecks to explore.
Contributed by Claire from Stoked to Travel.
Natchez Trace Parkway (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee)
Running along the historic Natchez Trace, a route that’s been in use for thousands of years. The official national parkway runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, spanning almost four hundred and fifty miles. Highlights along the route include Jackson Falls, Fall Hollow, and Emerald Mound.
Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway (Georgia)
Head about ninety miles north of Atlanta and you’ll come to the small mountain town of Helen, Georgia. Converted to an alpine village in the 1970s, it now attracts close to 3 million visitors a year.
People flock here to enjoy its themed downtown area, authentic German food, and multiple festivals including an annual Oktoberfest in the fall. Revelers clad in lederhosen and dirndls drink German beer, eat brats, and dance the polka to live bands.
From there, take the 40-mile Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway as it winds through the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Be sure to stop and see Anna Ruby Falls. A short .4-mile paved footpath takes you to views of the magnificent 150-foot twin waterfalls. To view multiple waterfalls hike through the Dukes Creek Falls Trail, a 2-mile trail with several wooden viewing platforms.
If you’re looking for a variety of accommodations and activities, head to Unicoi State Park where you can zipline, mountain bike, paddleboard, fly fish and target shoot. Spend the night in a lodge or a barrel-shaped cabin.
At the end of the Byway, you’ll reach the Brasstown Bald Recreation Area & Visitor Center located at the highest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet. The observation deck has 360-degree views of the mountains and the surrounding states of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Contributed by Jan Schroder from The Travel 100.
State Highway 12 Outer Banks Scenic Byway & Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)
If you want to see gorgeous historic lighthouses along with one of the most beautiful sections of barrier island beaches in the country, take a trip on the State Highway 12. The most scenic sections are on Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Outer Banks Scenic Byway.
If you want to do the trip in a day, you can wind your way all along the shore of North Carolina, or you can stay in some of the best Outer Banks towns and extend your trip a bit.
Best Scenic Drives in the Midwest
When you think about a drive in the Midwest, you probably start to think about America’s amber waves of grain. However, there’s more to the Midwest than wide-open prairie. Here are the best scenic drives in the Midwest.
Highway 2 from the Mackinac Bridge to Manistique (Michigan)
The Needles Highway (South Dakota)
Best Scenic Drives in the Southwest
The American Southwest is practically dripping with gorgeous national parks and monuments, so of course, it also has some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the USA. Here are the best scenic drives in the Southwest.
Monument Valley (Arizona & Utah)
Located in a region of the Colorado Plateau and fringed by the borders of both Utah and Arizona, this area has come to define the American West, thanks in large part to many western Hollywood movies, and even more modern flicks such as Forrest Gump.
Situated within the Navajo Nation Reservation and nearby other incredible natural sights such as the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, the Monument Valley road trip should be on everyone’s USA bucket list.
Driving to Monument Valley is half the fun. You’ll pass by some of the most beautiful landscapes in America before entering Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and driving along the 17-mile dirt road that takes you up close to the stunning natural monuments.
The entire area can easily be covered in a day, but a truly special experience involved spending a night at the View Hotel and waking up to a sunrise over Monument Valley right from your bedroom balcony. Operated by the Navajo Nation, you’ll get to try traditional food and shop from their incredible array of artwork and handicrafts.
Contributed by Matthew Bailey from LiveLimitless
Phoenix to Grand Canyon (Arizona)
One of the most diverse and scenic drives that one can experience in the American Southwest is from Arizona’s capital city of Phoenix to the incredible Grand Canyon National Park. While the Grand Canyon is spectacular in its own right, the varying scenery and diversity of the landscapes on the route up the I-17 make the journey almost as great as the destination.
The drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon only takes about 4 hours if you don’t plan on stopping anywhere, however, there are countless incredible stops along the way that only require short detours from the main highway. If you’re keen to make the drive as scenic as possible, start your journey on the AZ-87 N toward the town of Payson.
This highway will take you through incredible saguaro cactus forests and stunning mountain vistas before they give way to pine trees and more alpine settings. Make a stop at the little-known Tonto Natural Bridge before heading west toward the I-17, ensuring to stop to admire the incredible red rocks of Sedona and to explore the hip university city of Flagstaff before finally reaching the Grand Canyon.
You are sure to be stunned by just how diverse the landscapes are in this beautiful state and driving from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon is one of the best ways to experience a lot of what Arizona has to offer in just a short period.
Contributed by Maggie Turansky from The World Was Here First
River Road in West Texas
The River Road is one of the most beautiful things to do in West Texas and one of the Lone Star State’s most beautiful stretches of highway. Highway 170 cuts through Big Bend Ranch State Park, hugging the Rio Grande for nearly the entire drive. The views are surprisingly stunning for a harsh desert climate.
This short drive starts in Terlingua, a ghost town near the entrance to Big Bend National Park. The first and last town you encounter along the way is Lajitas, a town made up of nothing but a golf resort and its main attraction: the goat that serves as its mayor. After paying respects to Clay Henry (aforementioned goat), it’s pure nature.
There are hikes and campgrounds for those that would prefer to extend their stay in the state park, otherwise, the drive will take less than an hour and a half (where it officially ends in the city of Presidio). There are picnic grounds (offering much-needed shade from the desert sun), so pack a lunch to enjoy with the views of the river’s lush green oasis below.
There are no shops along this route so be sure to have a tank full of gas and a car full of water and snacks.
The drive ends in the border city of Presidio, from where you can continue to New Mexico, south into Mexico or north to the quirky town of Marfa.
Talimena National Scenic Byway (Oklahoma & Arkansas)
While most of the Talimena National Scenic Byway is in southeastern Oklahoma, a bit crosses over into southwester Arkansas. This route, perhaps the most famous scenic road in Oklahoma, rivals New England for fall colors.
Running through the Ouachita National Forrest, the drive is gorgeous year-round (though be careful of winter weather). The route goes between Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas. In between are fifty-four miles of mountain vistas and valleys, complete with stunning views.
If you want to drive right through, the route will take a little over an hour one-way. However, if you want to get out and enjoy the viewpoints along the way you can spend far more time here. There are twenty-two scenic pull-outs, so you can take your pick of where to stop!
Contributed by Stephanie from Oklahoma Wonders
Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway (Oklahoma)
One of my favorite day trips from Oklahoma City is a drive down to do the Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway.
The entire route is beautiful, but the stretch that goes through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is special. Here you can find herds of longhorn cattle and bison!
The drive is 29 miles long between Elgin and Lost Lake, and it takes just a little over forty minutes if you drive it straight through. However, between adding a drive to the top of Mt. Scott and stopping for photography opportunities, prepare to spend hours here.
Best Scenic Drives in the Mountain West
Famous for incredible scenery and national parks like Yellowstone and Mesa Verde, the Mountain West has..mountains. And where there are mountains, there are mountain views! Here are the best Mountain West scenic drives to explore.
Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway (Colorado)
Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road (Montana)
Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road is easily one of the top things to do in Glacier National Park, if not in all of Montana. This famous road cuts straight through the park, connecting several of its most popular spots. Maps of Glacier detail the many scenic lookouts, trailheads, and other points of interest along Going-to-the-Sun, so be sure to pick one up before you start the drive.
The drive begins at Apgar Visitor Center, just inside the park’s western entrance. The first section hugs the edge of Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, until reaching the historic Lake McDonald Lodge. From the lake, the road climbs up to Logan Pass, where it crosses the Continental Divide at nearly 6,500 feet.
There, you can take the short walk to Hidden Lake Overlook or a longer hike down to the lake itself. On the other side of the pass, Going-to-the-Sun starts to descend toward the eastern entrance of the park. Toward the end, you’ll drive along the edge of Saint Mary Lake, where you can spot the iconic Goose Island. The drive finishes at Saint Mary Visitor Center, just inside the park.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is only about 50 miles long – but between the hairpin turns, heavy traffic, and many scenic stops, it easily takes a couple of hours to drive, and that’s if you don’t stop to hike. The road is only passable for a few months of the year, typically opening in mid-June, once the snow has been cleared.
Contributed by Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor from Passions and Places.
Jackson Hole to Yellowstone (Wyoming)
Loveland Pass on the Continental Divide (Colorado)
One of the most scenic drives in America is a high mountain pass in with an elevation of almost 12,000 feet (3.700m). It’s one of the highest mountain roads in Colorado, Loveland Pass. You can find the beautiful roadway about an hour from Denver and it’s a great inclusion for a southwest American road trip. Even if you’re in Colorado for a ski weekend or to visit Denver, a drive-through Loveland pass belongs in your itinerary.
The drive is exhilarating but safe. It’s an area prone to fog, heavy snowfalls, and even avalanches, but it’s tirelessly maintained. The drive has sweeping views of pine trees and a stunning Rocky Mountain landscape. Loveland pass is also enjoyable because motorists take it slow. The reason is just as much because of the hairpin turns and mountain switchbacks as it is for the glorious nature along the route.
Even with slow-moving traffic, you should exercise caution because of the steep terrain and high altitude. If you or anyone in your car has asthma, a heart condition, or any health conditions the altitude can cause illness. If you’ve already spent two or three days in Denver you will feel the rise in altitude through Loveland Pass.
Loveland Pass is located along the Continental Divide and features scenic overlooks where you can pull off the road and park for photos, to stretch and enjoy your surroundings.
Contributed by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
Million Dollar Highway (Colorado)
The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado is one of the most scenic routes in the nation. Located from Silverton to Ouray, the winding road cuts through the Uncompahgre Gorge and has jaw-dropping mountain views.
Some say that the highway was given its name for the million-dollar views. But it was nicknamed in the 1920s when someone exclaimed it would cost a million dollars to craft the road.
Driving along you may find it hard to believe they were able to create some stretches of highway. They seem to be carved into the mountainsides with sheer drops and no guardrails being a regular feature of the road.
Luckily there are lots of areas to pull off the highway to take in the views and snap some pictures. The area around Red Mountain Pass is especially noteworthy.
If you are planning a trip to the Million Dollar Highway, spring and summer offer good driving conditions. The area is stunning in autumn when the leaves change colors however if you are visiting in the winter take things slow as the road can get slick.
The Million Dollar Highway takes about 45 minutes in total and driving along it was one of the highlights of our Colorado road trip. We would recommend it to anyone visiting South Western Colorado.
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.
Route 12 (Utah)
Around each bend—and there are a lot of bends—of Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, travelers find themselves snaking through red rock canyons, over mountains and mesas with steep cliffs, and among dense forests that make way to rolling meadows all in the length of just 124 miles.
Start your drive in Panguitch in southeast Utah and make your way up to Torrey through small towns like Tropic, Escalante, and Boulder. There are plenty of exciting things to see along the way including Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
While drive time straight through is less than 3 hours (if you aren’t held up by a herd of cattle like we were), you’ll want to linger to take photographs on overlooks or take a quick hike on one of the many trails off the byway.
If you’re planning to complete the trip in one day (although I highly recommend both national parks), one of the best places to stop is in Escalante right in the middle of the route.
Sometimes called “The Heart of Scenic Byway 12”, there are plenty of things to do in Escalante including gorgeous waterfall hikes and claustrophobia-inducing slot canyons. In all, the diversity of the scenery and the wealth of outdoor activities along the route make Scenic Byway 12 one of the best in the US.
Contributed by Danielle Schleig from Wanderlust While Working
Red Rock Canyon (Nevada)
Red Rock Canyon is a stunning National Conservation Area just 30 minutes away from the Las Vegas strip by car located at 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161.
With 26 hikes and trails to explore, one of the best features of Red Rock Canyon is the 13-mile one-way scenic drive that takes you through the canyon. You can do the scenic drive every day of the year, though opening hours vary slightly by season. During the summer months, an early morning visit is ideal to avoid the crowds and the mid-day heat. A day pass will cost you just $15 per vehicle.
Though hiking is highly recommended, with the Scenic Loop you can enjoy the best Red Rock Canyon has to offer without breaking a sweat.
Each trailhead offers parking and therefore makes a beautiful viewpoint along your drive. Calico 1 Trail Head, Sandstone Quarry Overlook, High Point Overlook, and Pine Creek Canyon offer some of the best views in Red Rock without hiking. These points have a variety of geological features and expansive views of the canyon.
You can do the scenic drive in 1-3 hours depending on how many stops you make and how many photos you take. With the beauty that is available in this canyon, you’ll want to stop at all the viewpoints!
Contributed by Diana Li from Sea of Blush
Trail Ridge Road (Colorado)
Alpine Visitor Center: The highest national park visitor center in the country at 11,799′ above sea level, this is a great spot to shop for souvenirs, get lunch in the cafe, or check in with the rangers about weather conditions. There is a scenic viewing spot to sit and look out if the wind is keeping you from exploring outdoors, too!
Tundra Communities Trail: A short trail, this is a great spot to try and spot unique alpine animals like pika and marmots. There are also unique rock formations called Mushroom Rocks and long-range views of other areas of the park.
Rainbow Curve: This is a scenic overlook where you can look out over Horseshoe Park, the Beaver Ponds, and the Alluvial Fan, with beautiful views and an interesting aerial view of places you might have already hiked.
Valley of Fire (Nevada)
Located just one hour away from Las Vegas lies a striking desert landscape known as the Valley of Fire State Park. Situated in the Mojave Desert, these unique scarlet rolling rock formations, sienna-shaded sandstone boulders, and fiery landscapes make for a gorgeous scenic drive.
Though a relatively small park, the Valley of Fire offers a lot to explore. As the sun reflects off of red the Aztec Sandstone, the rocky landscape begins to glow like a mass of burning embers. Cruising through this blazing terrain will last about an hour or two, and stopping along the way to marvel at the rock formations is highly recommended.
Many of the park’s most panoramic views and unique geological outcrops are located right off of the two main roads. There are several hiking trails that snake through the park as well that are short, easy to complete, and are worth your time if your schedule allows. Some of the most scenic spots include the Beehives, Atatl Rock, Arch Rock, Mouse’s Tank Road, Elephant Rock, and Fire Canyon.
Whether you’re catching views from the road or stopping to hike a trail, the Valley of Fire will have you mesmerized. The twenty miles of paved roads that wind through the red rock canyons and otherworldly scenery make it easy to get lost in admiring Nevada’s natural beauty.
Contributed by Olivia Loren from The Travel Philosophy
Best Scenic Drives in the Pacific Northwest
When you think of the best scenic drives in the Pacific Northwest, foggy mountains and towering pine trees come to mind. And of course, this part of the country has a stunning coastline as well. Here are the best drives in Washington and Oregon.
North Cascades Highway (Washington)
If you’re looking for an incredibly scenic drive in the Pacific Northwest, head an hour and a half north of Seattle to the North Cascades Scenic Byway. This unbelievably beautiful drive starts from Sedro Woolley, Washington, ascending through the North Cascades before descending into the fertile Methow Valley.
From Sedro-Woolley to Twisp, it will take around three hours, not including stops. As you make your way from West to East along this 140-mile scenic drive on Highway 20, you’ll quickly find yourself in North Cascades National Park, home to rugged rocky peaks and pristine alpine lakes.
Along the drive, you won’t want to miss the Diablo Lake Overlook, with stunning views over the blue-green waters of Diablo Lake, and the Washington Pass Overlook.
Further off the road, you’ll find some of the best hikes in Washington, like the strenuous climb to Hidden Lake Lookout (for adventurous hikers only) and the Maple Pass Loop, both of which will take you to picturesque alpine lakes well worth the price of admission.
For one of the best day trips from Seattle, drive north on I-5 from Seattle to Sedro-Woolley, turn onto Highway 20, and drive to Washington Pass Overlook, the highest point in the pass, stopping at Diablo Lake along the way.
Or, for a longer drive, continue down into the Methow Valley to Winthrop, a hub for outdoor recreation that is a perfect home base for exploring the surrounding area. Keep in mind, the road is closed from November to April due to snowfall, but it’s a perfect scenic drive for the summer and fall.
Olympic National Park (Washington)
If you’re looking for a scenic road trip, then you just need to head over the Olympic Peninsula for an experience that your entire party will love. From majestic mountains to stunning waterfalls, this day trip is the perfect outdoor getaway in the Pacific Northwest.
You can start your scenic day trip by taking the Bainbridge Ferry from Seattle, and enjoy the scenery as you cross the beautiful Puget Sounds. After departure, head towards Port Angeles for a quick brunch and then head West on Highway 101 for your first glimpse of Olympic National Park.
Along Highway 101, there are some incredibly beautiful sites to see including Sol Doc Falls, a 50 ft waterfall which is a 1.6 mile round trip through temperate rainforest. After your hike, head back East along Hwy 101 until you get to Crescent Lake. An early dinner at Lake Crescent Lodge is an option or take a boat or kayak out on the lake for stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
On the way back towards Seattle, head down Hurricane Ridge Rd and take it all the way to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center to catch the sunset over the Olympic Range. If you arrive early, there is a small hike near the center with gorgeous views. Head back to Seattle via the ferry or drive south through Tacoma.
Overall this drive should get you to and from Seattle within 9 hours plus hiking time, so it will be a full day out. Pack plenty of snacks for the road.
Contributed by Ashley from Impact Winder
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor (Oregon)
The Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is a 12 mile stretch of coastline between Brookings and Gold Beach in southwest Oregon. The park is located on Highway 101 along the magnificent Oregon Coast and is named in honor of the first Oregon Parks superintendent, Samuel H. Boardman.
A mix of lush green forest, small sandy beaches and craggy coastline, the park boasts secluded beaches, natural bridges, and beautiful panoramas.
The highlights of the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor include the Natural Bridges, where a short trail leads to a series of 7 arch rocks and blowholes, and Arch Rock, a viewpoint which overlooks a magnificent natural rock arch in the ocean. Secret Beach and Whaleshead Beach are both stunning and the hikes to Horse Rock and Cape Ferelo viewpoints reward with magnificent views of the coastline.
The Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is best explored through a combination of driving and hiking with 27 miles of the 382 mile Oregon Coast trail meandering through the park. It is possible to enjoy a quick overview of the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor in a morning or afternoon but allow at least three days if you plan to explore the hiking trails in their entirety.
Contributed by David from Your Ireland Vacation
West Cascades Scenic Byway (Oregon)
As the name accurately portrays, the West Cascades Scenic Byway is a scenic alternative route. In this case, it’s an alternative to traveling the less appealing Interstate 5 between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.
The northernmost point of the 220-mile byway is Estacada, about 40 minutes south of Portland. The southernmost point is Westfir which is 45 minutes southwest of Eugene.
If you’re not up for the full 7-hour drive there are a few places to veer back on to the faster main roads of I-5 or Hwy 97. Whether you commit to the full ride or just a portion of it you’ll be rewarded with up-close scenes of flowing waterfalls, lush ancient forests, rushing rivers and crystal lakes plus glimpses of the snow-capped Cascades as a backdrop.
If you have time there are some great trails for hiking and stopping at Box Canyon or Cougar Reservoir are worth considering. For an overnight stay consider Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat which sits in a gorgeous old-growth forest.
This scenic drive is the epitome of the natural beauty the Pacific Northwest has to offer but keep in mind that parts of this drive are closed in the winter months.
Contributed by Sarah from Discover the Pacific Northwest
Best Scenic Drives in California
California may be the country’s third-largest state, but it’s number one in many people’s hearts when it comes to breathtaking scenic road trip opportunities. Here are some of the best scenic drives in California.
Big Sur is one of California’s most scenic ocean drives. The rugged coastline stretches roughly 80 miles and is located on the central coastline North of Los Angeles and South of Santa Cruz. Without stopping, the whole route can take five to six hours.
The drive is undeveloped compared to other areas in California which adds to the rustic charm of the area. Compared to other nearby areas in California, the crowds are smaller in Big Sur.
Visitors will not be disappointed by the jaw-dropping ocean views as the route follows the mountainside for most of the drive. Although the drive itself is breathtaking, including driving over the famous Bixby Creek Bridge, taking a few extra hours to add in some sites is recommended.
Coming from the south, stop by Sand Doller Beach, the largest stretch of sand in Big Sur, and search for Jade that has fallen into the sand. After spending an hour at Sand Dollar Beach, drive the 30 minutes to view the famous Mcway falls from above. This beautiful waterfall thunders down onto the beach below and is a short five-minute walk from the highway.
After viewing the falls, drive the 30 minutes North to Pfeiffer Beach to view the uniquely colored purple sand.
Contributed by Annika Mang from Born to be Adventurous
Death Valley Scenic Drive
Death Valley Scenic Drive is a roughly 80-mile long route that takes two hours to drive. The route begins east of the Sierra Nevada’s at the intersection with US 395 and continues west through Death Valley National Park and ends at Death Valley Junction, a small community in the California desert.
The route mostly follows California’s SR 190 through the desert landscape. The drive connects some of the most popular attractions inside Death Valley National Park and is the best way to explore this park and its unique landforms.
Most of the visitors coming from Las Vegas drive this route east to west. The first essential stop is Dante’s View. From here, you can see the most panoramic view of Death Valley with the Badwater Basin, shimmering salt flats, and Panamint mountains in the distance.
The next stop is Zabriskie Point where visitors can see the dried Furnace Creek Lake Bed. Then take the detour on Badwater Road where you will drive to the hottest, lowest, and driest point in the country. Finally, stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to learn more about the National Park.
This is the most traveled section of the scenic byway. If you go further west you will drive along the Ubehebe Crater and Scott’s Castle. The road here gets quite lonely and you will rarely find other cars on the road. The best time to drive the Death Valley Scenic Byway is from fall to spring when the weather is mild.
Contributed by Ketki from Dotted Globe
Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite
For a short scenic drive that’s big on views, hit the road from Mammoth Lakes (a beautiful small mountain town) to Yosemite National Park in central California. It will only take you about 45 min to get to the east entrance of Yosemite, and on the way, you’ll pass through Inyo National Forest. For a quick 5-minute detour, head just past Lee Vining and visit Mono Lake, a saltwater lake featuring unique tufa rock structures.
But you’ll find the real beauty once you turn onto Tioga Road and enter Yosemite National Park. The drive from the eastern entrance of the park to Yosemite Valley will take approximately another hour and a half. As you make your way to the Valley, you can soak in the splendor of Tuolumne Meadows, and be sure to make plenty of stops along the way.
There are tons of great pullouts with views and short hikes right along the road. Upon entering the Valley, you’ll find yourself surrounded by sublime soaring granite walls, including the famous Half Dome and El Capitan.
Your options for spectacular hiking trails during this scenic drive in Yosemite are nearly unlimited. From the popular Half Dome hike, Clouds Rest, or Upper Yosemite Falls, to off-the-beaten-path (and away from the crowds) hikes, you’ll find the perfect trail for everyone.
One important thing to note is that Tioga Road closes for the winter sometime in November and doesn’t open again until late May or June. You can only make this drive when the road is open, so you should plan your scenic drive from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite for the Summer or Fall season.
Contributed by Allison Boyle from She Dreams of Alpine
Pacific Coast Highway
If you are planning a California road trip, you have to include a drive on the Pacific Coast High Way. This route is a must-try because it offers one of the most scenic drives in the whole world!
Surrounded by mostly mountains and untouched forests on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the highway is about 1000 kilometers long. Depending on your starting point, you will drive all the way up from San Diego to San Francisco, or vice versa.
The drive will take you about ten to eleven hours at a leisurely pace if you don’t make any stops. However, you will need to stop and enjoy at least those amazing places:
Big Sur: It is one of the most picturesque stops on the PCH. You will enjoy not only a great drive on the famous Bixby bridge but also a mind-blowing view at McWay Falls. This beautiful place is at its best at sunset time. I hope you can somehow manage that.
Malibu: This city is west of Los Angeles and worth the stop. Malibu is famous for its famous beach houses where many celebrities live and has more than 25 kilometers of amazing sand beaches. While you are here, take a walk in the city and enjoy its stress-free ambiance at the piers.
San Diego: Near the Mexican borders, San Diego offers a taste of Central and South America that you need to try. No surprise you will hear a lot of Spanish around. While in San Diego, make sure you visit Cabrillo National Monument to get an incredible view of the city.
Contributed by Achraf Aouadi from Walk Beside Me Blog
US Highway 101 from San Francisco to the Redwoods
Of all the scenic drives in the US, Highway 101 from San Francisco to Redwoods National Park is among the most beautiful. If driven straight through, the drive would take about 6 hours, but there are several stops that are too amazing to miss along the way. Many of these stops include their own Redwoods experience, so you can choose to make your drive as long or as short as you wish.
When leaving the city, your first opportunity to see the majestic California Redwoods is at Muir Woods National Monument just a half-hour up the freeway. An hour further on in this beautiful, but crowded forest, is Sonoma County. The lush valley is filled with rolling hills, hundreds of wine tasting opportunities and its own Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Preserve with easy, quiet paths for walking and admiring the gentle giants.
Just north of Sonoma County, you have the option to head west on Highway 128 toward the Mendocino Coast for a two-hour coastal detour. This gorgeous region brings incredible views of ocean bluffs, crashing waves, and quaint streets. It is highly recommended if you can spare the time.
Your next incredible stop will be the Avenue of the Giants. This 31-mile scenic drive is a destination in itself and is a must-do for anyone wishing to experience the redwoods in the best way possible.
Redwoods National Park is your final stop on this scenic, wooded road trip and it is certainly worth the wait. Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Fern Canyon are just two of the many highlights in this gorgeous park. Trillium Falls is also a gorgeous 1-mile easy hike for those wishing to stretch their legs. It is recommended to spend the night near the park so that you can enjoy all that it has to offer!
Contributed by Sierra Schmidt from Free to Travel Mama
Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii
The islands of Hawaii do not lack for gorgeous driving opportunities. Here are the most scenic drives in Hawaii, but there are quite a few more if you want to spend more time there!
Circle Island Drive (Oahu)
Contributed by Noel Morata from This Hawaii Life
The Road to Hana (Maui)
You know a road is beautiful when it’s the top attraction on a tropical island. This route goes almost sixty-five miles from Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. Set aside plenty of time to stop and get out to enjoy the amazing views and gorgeous waterfalls.
Best Scenic Drives in Alaska
America’s largest state isn’t just a dream for those looking for scenic cruises. If you want to road trip the forty-ninth state, you’re in for a real treat! Here are the most scenic drives in Alaska.
Closed from October through May, you’ll want to put this beautiful road on your summer travel itinerary. Covering almost one hundred and fifty miles, the highway is predominantly a two-lane gravel road. Make sure to stop and check out the Tangle Lakes along with the gorgeous mountain views.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your road trip or drive make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be away for more than a few days.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.