Driving a car has become a huge part of daily life for most people. So many responsibilities involve driving that we usually let the journey fade into the background as we rush from point A to B as quickly as possible. It’s important to remember that sometimes, the driving itself can be the goal. Your car can be your ticket to the diverse beauty of the USA. Here are 40 of our favorite driving routes to explore.
40. Santa Barbara Wine Route, California
When talking about gorgeous roadways, what better place to start than California’s wine country? As twisting as the grapevines that make the area what it is, the Santa Barbara wine route is stunningly scenic and best appreciated with the top down and the wind in your hair. You won’t lack for opportunities to spend the night, as its popularity with tourists means you’ll have your pick of boutique hotels.
39. Madera Wine Trail, California
Head inland to the Madera wine trail for a relaxing, historic tour of some of the most memorable landmarks in California. As you might expect in an area famous for wineries, the restaurants in the area are top-notch, and there’s a local classic car show that might pique the interest of auto buffs. It’s pretty popular with tourists, but there’s no beating the laid-back calm of the open road.
38. Placer County, California
Stretching from Sacramento all the way up to Lake Tahoe, there’s something for everyone to be found in Placer County. Enjoy the sunshine and the stunning vistas in the summer months, or head up to South Lake Tahoe in the winter for the snowy trails and that apres-ski lodge life. You’ll want chains on your tires if you’re heading up the mountain in the winter, as the snow can get pretty deep.
37. Ouachita Mountains, Oklahoma
Let’s spend some time in Oklahoma, as vast and varied as you could hope for. We’ll highlight the Ouachita Mountains in the southeast, a massive expanse of natural beauty along the edge of Arkansas and the Choctaw Nation. If you need to stretch your legs, the area boasts a beautiful array of hiking trails too.
36. Route 66
Taking a detour from the wonders of nature, Route 66 boasts an experience that is all about the American people. With countless classic truck stops, museums and roadside attractions, you can explore all sorts of historical points, including lots that reflect the Native American population in the area. Take some time to get your kicks with this scenic journey.
35. Quartz Mountain State Park, Oklahoma
No, your eyes aren’t tricking you – the mountains in this park actually glitter at night. A view like no other, this trail balances beauty with drivability, making this a key experience for even a new driver. This park is nestled in the western, more desert-like part of Oklahoma and should be considered a can’t-miss destination.
34. Lake Hefner Drive & Parkway, Oklahoma
An unexpected slice of calm within Oklahoma City, Lake Hefner Parkway follows the edge of its namesake. Lake Hefner famously includes a stunning New-England style lighthouse that might have been plucked directly from the imagination of a 1700’s fisherman. Resting on the border between desert and forest, Lake Hefner truly is an oasis in the middle of the state.
33. Route 33, Oklahoma
This stretch of highway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa boasts amazing views and natural, wide-open beauty. You’ll also find lots to stop and explore, including the Guthrie Historic District and a wonderful assortment of museums. Don’t stay in one place too long, though – that open road is calling!
32. Osage Nation Heritage Trail Byway, Oklahoma
To the northwest of Tulsa, you’ll find the Osage Nation, one of many tribal lands to be found in Oklahoma. There are trails to suit both hiker and driver, along with a welcoming spirit and loads of tourist attractions. Prepare for glimpses of wild bison, natural resources, and lovingly cultivated farmlands.
31. Highway 1, Florida
Some of the drives we’ve mentioned so far have been full of reasons to stop and take your time. Not so for Highway 1, the longest North-South highway in the USA. This soaring stretch of road tracks all the way through the Florida Keys and you can really open ‘er up and enjoy the endless ocean and fresh air. A must-see for any coastal driving fan.
30. U.S. Route 199, Northern California
It won’t take you long to see why they call this the Redwood Highway. This natural park threads north to Oregon, and the long road, following the demands of the forest, is heavy on the twists and turns but wonderfully light on the stops. That being said, you probably won’t be able to resist taking some time on your feet to really process the beauty of this area.
29. U.S. 83, Texas
U.S. 83 stretches all the way from the southernmost point of Texas along the Mexican border before heading north. You can expect a truly serene and almost empty driving experience, as this highway can be almost deserted in some places. There’s a lot to see in Texas and this road will definitely give you the grand tour of the diverse scenery the state has to offer.
28. Highway 160, Colorado
What a way to see a state! This highway offers a can’t-miss natural vista of the grasslands along the Colorado-New Mexico border, framed with a backdrop of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Be sure to see it as the leaves change in the fall, but prepare for company – few can resist the beauty of this drive.
27. I-95 in Miami, Florida
Beauty comes in all forms, and the I-95 in Miami is a great way to experience the landscape of a unique, historical city. This highway hasn’t changed much in decades, allowing the driver to follow in the footsteps – or rather, tire tracks – of some of the USA’s most sensational historical figures. This stretch of road twists and turns through the city, and for the right driver with a taste for urban beauty, is an experience to remember.
25. I-10, Arizona
This desert drive is massive, sprawling, and – honestly – dangerous. The area is so lightly populated that it’s possible to be stranded without a gas station for miles, and that sun doesn’t play around. Be sure to stock up on plenty of refreshment for both you and your car, because the natural beauty that you can expect to see on this drive is unbeatable and, we think, worth the trek.
24. I-285 Around Atlanta, Georgia
The I-285 is one of the main corridors through the Atlanta area, but often enjoys surprising periods of little to no traffic. This gives drivers a chance to enjoy the views of this up-and-coming entertainment city, as well as riding this interstate all the way into the city itself. Make time for some studio tours and theme parks too – Georgia is serious about hospitality!
23. U.S. Route 175 in Dallas, Texas
Talk about bigger in Texas! This 100+ mile stretch of highway redefines “wide open spaces”. It runs Dallas to Jacksonville and is an artery connected to lots of smaller roads and opportunities for exploration. You won’t lack for food and rest options, as well as some historical attractions.
22. U.S. Route 212, Montana
If you want to put your car’s handling through the paces and really feel what it can do, this highway is for you. 212 heads towards a national park, but there’s no rush – the journey is really the point here. Enjoy having all the room you could want as you explore these twists and turns in the shadow of stunning mountain ranges.
20. Historic Route 7A, Vermont
Feel connected to history on this country highway. Rich with local sights, sounds and shops, this area has something for everyone looking to get in touch with the spirit of Vermont. It’s becoming more of a tourist destination so there will always be something new to see!
19. White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
There is something truly soul-calming about the wide-open desert stretches of Utah. You’ll see some of the most unreal natural beauty on the continent. Bear in mind that this road is considered somewhat difficult, so it’s recommended for the experienced driver.
18. Silverado Trail, California
Hopping back into wine country for a second, the Silverado trail runs through Napa Valley and is one of many amazing trails in this area. This is a drive that really hearkens back to the early days of the state as a gold rush destination, following the path of some of the original settlers. Lots of amazing restaurants and stunning scenery.
17. Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, Florida
This structure is one of the longest bridges in the country and, in fact, the world. Connecting the upper and lower portions of the Florida Keys, this is a straight shot drive completely surrounded by beautiful, endless ocean. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated and will never be forgotten.
16. State Route 97, New York
New York has some incredible natural beauty to offer – it’s easy to forget that the state doesn’t stop with the city! Following the Delaware River, this state highway takes the adventurous driver through dense, lush greenery. You might want to get the motorcycle out of the mothballs for this one, and feel truly surrounded by the scenery.
15. Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee
This is a destination for the adventurous driver looking for an atmospheric experience. This 444-mile road gets eerily foggy in the winter, and twists alongside the southern swamplands between Natchez and Nashville. Sure, it can be driven in a day – but everything goes slower in the south, so take your time, stay the night, and enjoy some hospitality.
14. Hana Highway, Hawaii
If you’re looking for natural green, Hawaii has everyone beat. The Hana Highway runs oceanside for a miraculous view that sparkles in the sunlight. Take a moment to experience true island joy and check out this amazing road. Make sure you stop at the Hana Highway Overlook to take in the stunning view, pictured below.
13. Denali Highway, Alaska
Hawaii still too close to home? A driver looking for a truly unique experience should check out this roadway, one of the few remaining gravel highways in the USA. It’s an amazing way to feel embedded in the natural world, away from the hustle of the mainstream.
12. State Route 179, Arizona
We feel confident saying that there is nowhere on earth quite like this road, also known as the Red Rock Scenic Byway. Possibly the best way to see the natural beauty of the desert, this drive takes you past the famous Chapel of the Holy Rock and showcases the stunning Sedona mountains. Unbeatable.
11. Beartooth Highway, Montana and Wyoming
There’s no better way to see the soaring bluffs and open fields of Wyoming than the Beartooth Highway. As it climbs up in elevation, prepare for frozen conditions even during the summer. It’s an amazing day trip and a little piece of heaven.
10. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
If you’ve never seen Appalachia, what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore this twisting, mountainous parkway that takes you right through the center of it. Despite being full of turns and mountain roads, this is an extremely drivable highway even for the novice.
9. Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park gets its name from the stunning peaks and valleys that were carved by massive ice movements millions of year ago. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the best ways to see as much of it as possible. Roll those windows down and enjoy a deep breath of fragrant cedar and clean fresh air.
8. Highway 78, Alabama
Enjoy this historic stretch of highway between Arkansas and Dixieland. In addition to the beautiful southern scenery, you’ll also have the opportunity to stop at a number of interesting attractions, like Constitution Oak, the oldest Oak tree in the state. This is a perfect way to see the South.
7. U.S. Route 550, Colorado
This isn’t our first mention of Colorado, and you can probably see why. Dubbed “The Million Dollar Highway,” you can’t match this 12-mile stretch for natural beauty and tourist excitement. Enjoy the beautiful travel destinations of Silverton and create amazing memories. There’s something for everyone!
6. Haines Highway, Alaska
Birdwatchers will delight at the stunning Valley of the Eagles, one of the best places on earth to spot a bald eagle in the wild. Alaska practically redefines “open road” with its sprawling views and untouched wildlife. You might never see anything so beautiful and so peaceful.
5. Talimena National Scenic Byway, Arkansas
If you’re looking for a fall getaway, this stretch of roadway is lined end to end with natural maple trees. Hit it as the leaves start to turn and you’ll be treated to an array of reds and golds unlike anything you’ve ever seen. There’s a reason they call Arkansas “the natural state.”
4. State Route 197, Connecticut
This scenic stretch of roadway will take you on a lovely tour of natural and man-made beauty alike. Tucked away in the northeast corner of the state, you’ll be treated to local restaurants and unique hotels. This is a perfect drive if you’re looking for small-town serenity.
3. Golden Circle Route, Alaska
Back up North one more time for the Yukon Golden Circle – 379 miles of stunning natural scenery. This follows the Yukon River, so expect both winding curves and huge straightaways. This is a great place to really see what your car is capable of.
2. Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, Delaware
This roadway evenly balances lush forest and quaint town life. There are loads of affordable lodging options for the overnight traveler. It’s a shame that Delaware isn’t better known for its amazing natural beauty, because the Brandywine Byway is an example of just what kind of bliss awaits the eager driver.
1. Western Heritage Historic Byway, Idaho
Traveling Idaho by road is for sure the best way to see the diverse scenery it has to offer. Idaho might be famous for potatoes but it’s more than flat farmland, and this historic drive demonstrates that amazingly. It’s also a great way to travel to larger tourist destinations, including cities like Boise.