Jun 22, 2009 7:12:17 AM
Top 10 scenic drives - USA
They don’t call it America the Beautiful for nothing. Roll down that car window and feast your eyes.
A road trip is nothing without roads. Here are some doozies, although any mere Top 10 list will inevitably leave out some of the best. See the Itineraries chapter in our new USA guide for more, and for America’s ‘official’ scenic roads, visit www.byways.org.
The most spectacular coastal drive in all Hawaii, the Hana Hwy winds its way deep into jungle valleys and back out above a rugged coastline. Not for the faint of heart, the road is a real cliff-hugger, with 54 one-lane bridges, roadside waterfalls and head-spinning views. Gas up, pack a lunch and bring your swimsuit!
2. Turquoise Trail (Hwy 14), New Mexico: 45 miles from Albuquerque to Santa Fe
The Turquoise Trail has been a major trade route since at least 2000 BC. Today it’s the scenic back road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, lined with quirky communities. Sights along the way include Tinkertown (an animated miniature village) and gorgeous desert scenery.
3. Columbia River Hwy (Hwy 30), Oregon: 74 miles from Troutdale to The Dalles
Finished in 1915, this gorgeous winding highway was the first paved road in the Northwest and America’s first scenic highway. It was also part of the Oregon Trail and the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s expedition. There are gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower displays in summer and awe-inspiring views all year round. Hikers have plenty of trailheads to choose from, and cyclists can cruise two stretches of the old highway renovated for non-vehicle use.
4. Pig Trail Byway (Hwy 23), Arkansas: 80 miles from Ozark to Eureka Springs
Just north of the town of Ozark (no, you are not yet in the Ozark Mountains), this spectacular drive is lined with wild echinacea and lilies, and climbs through Ozark National Forest and into the mountains. This is an excellent way to reach the friendly town of Eureka Springs.
5. Hwy 12, Utah: 107 miles from Torrey to Bryce Canyon National Park
Locals call this ‘color country’ for the eye-popping hues that saturate this Southwest landscape. This most scenic of roads passes through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ending at the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park.
Large parts of this divine island-hopping highway were built on bridges left from the hurricane-destroyed Overseas Railroad. Now, streams of travelers swarm down from the mainland to indulge in the alluring jade-green waters, laid-back island lifestyle, great fishing and idyllic snorkeling and diving. It ain’t called ‘Margaritaville’ for nothing!
7. Delmarva Peninsula (Hwys 50 and 13): 210 miles from Annapolis, Maryland, to Virginia Beach, Virginia
These unbroken miles of bird-dotted wetlands and serene waterscapes are hours from one of America’s busiest urban corridors. Virginia’s Eastern Shore is full of dock towns where watermen live off the Chesapeake Bay, and has the feel of a remote, maritime escape. The flat topography is made for bicycling.
America’s ‘Mother Road’ kicks off in Chicago on Adams St just west of Michigan Ave, but in Illinois, much of the old road exists only in scattered sections paralleling the interstate. Still, there are many roadside attractions and oddball stops to be taken, plus pie shops and drive-ins for eateries.
9. Pacific Coast Hwy (Hwy 1), California: 332 miles from San Francisco to Santa Barbara
No trip to California is complete without a jaunt along the almost surreally scenic Hwy 1, one of the US’s most iconic roads. Slipping out of the City by the Bay, the narrow road ribbons above the ocean, overlooking beaches cast like pearls on one side, and soaring redwood trees on the other. Slow down - this region wants to be savored, not gulped.
10. Blue Ridge Parkway: 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
The southwestern tip of Virginia is the most rugged part of the state. Turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and you’ll immediately plunge into dark strands of dogwood and fir, fast streams and white waterfalls. Wildflowers bloom in spring and fall colors are spectacular.
If you dig the view through the windshield, be sure to check out our USA Trips series. Whether its a quick jaunt into the New England woods or a full-blown Arizona highway freakout, these babies are packed with road trips to suit any style.