What are the most scenic drives in America?

Adventure 5 min read

Wayne County, Mich., laid the world’s first mile stretch of paved road in 1909 just outside Detroit between Six and Seven Mile Roads. And today, according to the CIA World Factbook, there are 2,674,826 miles of paved roads in the United States, which is more than any other country in the world. That’s right, America not only pioneered the art of the two-lane blacktop but over 100 years later, we dominate the globe in road.

To create this list of America’s most scenic roads, we divided the nation into seven regions and chose three of the greatest roads per region. Some of our selections are about driving excitement as they twist and turn, while others are about scenic beauty and breathtaking landscape, America’s purple mountains majesty. And some, of course, offer both.

Best scenic road trips in the Southwest

California Route 1

Also known as Pacific Coast Highway or PCH, California’s Route 1 follows the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean over 650 miles from Los Angeles north past San Francisco. Don’t miss the stretch from San Simeon to Monterey.

Angeles Crest Highway

This is one of America’s most famous and infamous twisty two-lanes just north of Los Angeles. The motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who enjoy its 66 miles of curves and switchbacks every weekend call it “The Crest.” Remember to stop at Newcomb’s Ranch for a burger and a beer.

U.S. 191

This beautiful expanse of smooth two-lane runs more than 1,600 miles from Mexico to Canada through Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. Take advantage of the twisty and scenic 94 miles through the Apache National Forest from Clifton to Alpine in southeastern Arizona. Sometimes called The Devil’s Highway.

Scenic roads across the Northwest

U.S. Route 101

Also known as the Oregon Coast Highway No. 9, this two-lane road picks up where California’s Route 1 leaves off and runs to the Washington border. It hugs the Pacific and the Oregon Coast Range for over 360 miles, getting mountainous at times.

Hells Canyon Road

This Idaho slab runs along the Snake River on Oregon’s border in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. It not only has one of the coolest names on this list of America’s most scenic drives, but it offers some of the most incredible views in the country.

Scenic Byway 12

The beauty of Utah is on display as you wind your way over the 150 miles that is Highway 12. The winding two-lane passes through Red Canyon, past the natural rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park, past the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and over Boulder Mountain.

Most beautiful roads in the Midwest

Hocking Hills Loop

One of Car and Driver’s favorite driving roads, this 14-mile strip of Ohio blacktop is the southernmost loop of the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway. It circles the Hocking Hills State Park past the iconic sites of Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave.

Scenic Ridge Road

North of Savanna, Ill., in the northwest corner of the state, this two-lane will share the beauty of rolling hills, scenic vistas, and seasonal foliage as it winds its way 23 miles north to Elizabeth.

Historic Hills Scenic Byway

Southeast Iowa’s best stretch of road winds its way through four counties for 110 miles along the Des Moines River through old scenic and charming old steamboat port towns, including Bonaparte and Farmington.

Scenic drives in the Southeast

Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap

US 129, on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, is one of the world’s most famous driving roads. Known worldwide for its 11 miles and 311 challenging corners, the Tail of the Dragon draws everyone from performance driving enthusiasts to motorcycle riding groups looking for a thrill. Just make sure you’re up to the challenge — and don’t miss the Tree of Shame, which holds motorcycle and car parts from visitors that went home by bus. Learn more about motorcycle group riding.

Natchez Trace Parkway

This 444-mile-long stretch runs through Tennessee, Alabama, and most of Mississippi. Also known as “The Trace,” the National Park Service calls this meandering two-lane drive through 10,000 years of history as it will expose you to the founding and evolution of this region.

Overseas Highway

U.S. Highway 1 is the longest north-south road in America, running from Maine to Florida, but its most beautiful stretch connects Miami to the Florida Keys. The Overseas Highway is just that, a 110-mile drive over 42 bridges that connect the islands to America’s mainland.

Best roads across the South

Talimena Scenic Byway

Connecting Talihina, Okla., and Mena, Ark., 54 miles east, this windy blacktop offers incredible views of the Ouachita National Forest. The best time to see this road is during the fall foliage. This stretch is also known for wildlife sightings in the Talimena State Park.

Devil’s Backbone

In the heart of Texas between Austin and San Antonio, this 51-mile loop of twists and turns shows off the Lone Star state’s rolling hills, expansive valleys, and limestone hills. Sometimes called the “Most Haunted Stretch of Texas Highway” because of the region’s violent past, it has become one of America’s greatest roads.

Texas 207 Highway

North Texas is stacked with some of the most desolate and scenic drives in America, and one of the best is State Highway 207 between Claude and Silverton in the state’s panhandle south of Amarillo. The 48-mile run, which includes a few twists and turns, and long straights, shows off the red rock cliffs of Palo Duro Canyon and the Red River, made famous in the 1948 John Wayne movie of the same name.

Beautiful drives in the Northeast

Hawk’s Nest Highway

Part of New York State Route 97, this scenic and hilly two-lane cuddles the Delaware River and has become a favorite of driving enthusiasts and motorcyclists looking to bust out of nearby New York City. The best stretch starts four miles north of Port Jervis and runs 70 miles to Hancock.

Vermont Route 100

This is the longest road in The Green Mountain State, running up its spine for 216 miles from the Massachusetts border to the small town of Newport. The ribbon of road slices through the beautiful Green Mountain National Forest and the Mad River Valley.

Kancamagus Scenic Byway

Named for a Native American Chief that brought peace to the region, this twisty and fast route cuts across the heart of New Hampshire. Locals call it “The Kanc,” and the 36.5-mile run has become a favorite as it rises and falls through the White Mountain National Forest.

Scenic drives across the North

Beartooth Highway

If you want to see Big Sky Country, go to Southern Montana, and drive the Beartooth’s 68 miles through the Northern Rockies. The road climbs to 11,000 ft. and offers breathtaking views of mountains, valleys, and glacial lakes. Due to the weather, it is closed from October to Memorial Day.

Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway

Every August, thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts head for the Black Hills and gather in southwest South Dakota for the Sturgis Rally. And the roads are part of the area’s appeal, including SD 240, not far from Mount Rushmore. The 31-mile stretch cuts through Badlands National Park past some of America’s more unique countryside.

San Juan Skyway

A 233-mile loop through southwest Colorado, the San Juan slices Durango, Silverton, and Telluride. The drive is as much a history lesson of the region’s silver boom of the late 1800s as it is an excuse to take in the majestic Rocky Mountains and Telluride’s unique mix of old town charm, private jets, and ski bums.

Cruising any of the best drives in America on a road trip can be a great vacation but getting stuck on the side of the road is less fun. To get the most out of a journey along America’s most scenic roads, you’ll want to prepare for a road trip before you leave. Adding a summer road-tripping kit to your car can help you stay prepared for anything the trip throws at you.

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