It’s the journey, not the destination. When it comes to road-tripping in the U.S., that couldn’t be more accurate. With scenic routes across the nation, you needn’t leave your car to see the most beautiful parts of the U.S. From coastal routes to mountain top highways, here are the most scenic drives in the U.S.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
State Route 1 runs the length of California’s dramatic coastline and may be one of the most iconic road trips in the states. Ideally, it’s best to drive from north to south, ensuring unobstructed views the entire way. Starting along the border of Oregon and ending in San Diego, the highway passes over the Golden Gate bridge, hugs the craggy cliffs of Big Sur and serves up mile after mile of gorgeous Pacific coastline.
Skyline Drive, Virginia
Running the entire length of Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive boasts stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with hikes, waterfalls and overlooks interspersed throughout. If you’re planning a visit, spring and fall may be the best time for scenery. In addition to fewer crowds, the blooming wildflowers and colorful foliage, respectively, add many-hued layers to the park’s spectacular vistas.
Beartooth Highway, Wyoming/Montana
Only open for part of the year, the Beartooth Highway travels through the magnificent Beartooth Mountains of Wyoming and Montana. The road begins in Red Lodge, Montana, at an elevation of 6,400 feet, and climbs to 10,947 feet in Wyoming’s Beartooth Pass. Along the 68-mile drive to Cooke City, Montana, there’s plenty of scenic stops to take in the rugged mountaintops, powerful waterfalls and pristine lakes.
Highway 89A, Arizona
Running 84 miles from Prescott to Flagstaff, Highway 89A begins by climbing the backside of Mingus Mountain to the small, artsy town of Jerome. After surviving the hairpin turns up and down the mountain, you’ll drive through the heart of Sedona’s red rock country. The rest of the route to Flagstaff winds through Oak Creek Canyon, providing glimpses of red rock cliffs, evergreen pines and the crystal clear creek for which the canyon is named.
Overseas Highway, Florida
The Overseas Highway crosses 113 miles of land and sea, traveling from the southern tip of Florida, through Key Largo, and all the way to Key West. The historic highway is a series of causeways and bridges and serves as an interisland connector for the Florida Keys. The most iconic part of the route, the 7-mile bridge, is an architectural achievement and provides arresting views of turquoise waters in every direction.
Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington
Encircling Olympic National Park, this loop showcases the best of the varied terrain in the Pacific Northwest. A park with three different ecosystems to speak of, visitors will be able to experience the majestic Hoh Rainforest, snap photos of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and walk along the rugged Pacific coast. Along the way, make sure to take in the views Lake Crescent, Ruby Beach and Hurricane Ridge — none will disappoint.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Stretching from Conway to Lincoln, the Kancamagus Highway runs 30 miles through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The winding, alpine journey provides plenty of opportunities to stop and take snapshots of the scenic vistas and precipitous waterfalls. Plus, the roadway offers up several places to hike and camp along the way. The drive is most stunning in the fall when the trees are blazing in reds, oranges and yellows.
Richardson Highway, Alaska
The 368-mile drive from Fairbanks to Valdez is long, but the breathtaking panorama along the way is anything but boring. With views of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Worthington and Gulkana Glaciers, and Willow Lake, you’ll find yourself pulling over to take photos often. Near Valdez, the imposing walls of Keystone Canyon are home to spectacular waterfalls that tumble down the 600-foot cliffs.
Hana Highway, Hawaii
Hawaii’s Hana Highway traverses 52 miles along the coast, providing epic views on either side of both ocean and jungle. Narrow and winding, drivers on this nail-biting stretch of roadway are known to drive slow. Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls and black sand beaches, encounter one-way bridges, and have plenty of chances to stop for a hike or grab a snack at a roadside fruit stand.
Going to the Sun Road, Montana
Located within Glacier National Park, the Going to the Sun Road covers 50 harrowing miles from West Glacier to St. Mary, Montana. In addition to crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, the road consistently skirts the edge of mountainside cliffs, providing views of dizzying drops that will make your stomach churn. Once the churning passes, however, you’ll begin to notice the verdant vistas and the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy a mountain goat or black bear along the way.