Americans spend about 6% of their lives in the car – usually commuting to and from work, fidgeting in grueling bumper-to-bumper traffic, and passing by redundant and bland billboards, road signs, and buildings. Driving is just one of those necessary evils in life, right?
Well, just change your point of view with these top 5 scenic US drives, and you’ll rediscover America, and your love of driving. Disclaimer: McDonalds and Starbucks may still make a few appearances.
1. Florida Keys Overseas Highway
Are you up for some island hopping – in your car? Florida Keys’ Overseas Highway was originally built as a railway in 1912, but a hurricane wiped it out a few decades later. Today, it’s the 127-mile highway linking the many islands of the Florida Keys, taking passengers all the way down to the southernmost tip of the US. You’ll pass through quaint fishing villages, rake in enough ocean views to last a lifetime, and probably stop into parks like the Everglades and Biscayne, for everything from photo ops to snorkeling. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, an epic hike and bike trail with lots of historic bridges, is also a highlight.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway
Get to know the Southern Appalachian Mountains on this 469-mile route connecting the Great Smoky Mountains to the Shenandoah National Park. Sprawling meadows, larger-than-life mountains, 19th century farming villages, dramatic overlooks, and mountain life – think lions and eagles – dominate this rustic landscape. Plus, plenty of picnic spots, hiking trails, and attractions (like Craggy Gardens, featuring violet, blackberry, and other fauna, depending on the season), are well worth a stop.
3. Yellowstone Grand Teton Loop
Get a good look at America’s first national park, Yellowstone, on this trip through the Northern Rockies. Meandering through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, the Yellowstone Grand Teton Loop gives you access to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Teton National Park, and Jackson Hole. In between soaking up a scene of crystal lakes, snowcapped mountain peaks, and wild buffalo, you can go fly fishing or hiking, visit the 114-foot Mesa Falls, and check out grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and bison at the Yellowstone Bear World drive-thru.
4. Coastal Oregon
Enjoy 338 miles on the waterfront, passing by lighthouses, 300-year-old trees, and white-sand beaches. With lots of convenient side loops for scenic detours, you may feel satisfied staying inside your vehicle. However, don’t rule out the on-foot attractions – after all, there are Cascade Head’s whales and endangered Silverspot Butterflies, a trail once explored by Lewis & Clark at Escola State Park, and the inviting Cannon Beach.
5. Turquoise Trail
New Mexico’s Turquoise Trail, an ancient route connecting Albuquerque to Sante Fe, might be the best way to take in the stunning desert scenery of the Southwest. Travel through old mining towns like Cerrillos and Golden, get up close to the 3,700-foot Sandia Crest, and dip into the Cibola National Forest and Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area.
Make sure you’ve got comfortable accommodations to break up your road trip. There are hundreds of affordable vacation rentals with no shortage of space, luxury, or amenities, located along these 5 scenic US drives.
About the Author
Laura Hoot has been writing professionally since 2004, and currently manages travel content from vacation ideas to destination guides for HomeAway Inc. She’s written for USA Today’s travel site, GirlsGetaway.com, Cheapo Air, Travels.com, Trails.com, eFilmCritic.com, The Budget Fashionista and many more sites.