By Kenya Barrett
Everybody knows that the best part of any road trip is the amazing scenery along the way. So, it’s best to enjoy your journey on a path that is guaranteed to give you the best scenic experiences possible.
Looking for a list that focuses on the greatest routes in the United States? Read on to learn about the top scenic drives in America!
U.S. Route 66 – from Chicago to Los Angeles
This All-American highway has been a staple in the United States’ highway system since 1926. Serving as one of the first highways in the country, the route spans approximately 2,448 miles and runs through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Ordinarily, the highway served as a migration route for those who wanted to live in the western states after the Dust Bowl destroyed agricultural crops in the 1930s.
Today, drivers are highly encouraged to experience the last bit of the “Main Street of America” as portions of the highway have either remained untouched or were replaced. Travelers can still enjoy some of what’s left along the route including the revived Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive in Seligman, Arizona or the restored Soulsby Service station in Mt. Olive, Illinois.
Pacific Coast Highway – California
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as California State Route 1, is currently the longest route in California spanning nearly 660 miles. The route connects Orange, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Francisco, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties.
Today, the northernmost point of PCH starts in the small town of Leggett in Mendocino County and the southernmost point ends in Dana Point in Orange County. Drivers along this route can enjoy the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific while passing several iconic attractions such as the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles and Laguna Beach in Orange County. A few other notable sites include the Bixby Bridge in the Big Sur region, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and the Russian Gulch State Park in Mendocino County.
Overseas Highway – Florida
Quite possibly one of the most breathtaking routes in all of the United States is the Overseas Highway. This 113-mile highway connects the State of Florida with the Florida Keys. Initially built on the former Overseas Railroad in 1928, the highway first served as a means of transportation for those who lived in the keys.
Today, the pathway is an extension of the U.S. Route 1 and connects Florida City to Key West. Parts of the highway include the Seven Mile Bridge and the Long Key Bridge. This coastal highway gives drivers the opportunity to view the Florida Reef – one of the largest reefs near the mainland of the United States. A few exotic animals can be seen hanging out along the highway including American crocodiles and alligators as well as the endangered Key deer.
Hana Highway – Hawaii
At just 64 miles long, the Hana Highway serves as a partially-coastal route that runs along the island of Maui in Hawaii. The highway is a combination of Routes 36 and 360, and connects the town of Kahului to the town of Hana. The route is an interesting mixture of paved roads, urban streets, and windy rural paths that offer a unique view of Maui to drivers.
The highway takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive and passes notable landmarks including the Wailua Falls, Waianapanapa State Park, and the Kahanu Garden Old House. There are also a few black sand beaches along the drive as well as the iconic Hana Lava Tube – an attraction dedicated to the underground tunnels of Hana that were created as a result of volcanic activity.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia and North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway is noted for its amazing scenic beauty for drivers experiencing the natural highlights of Virginia and North Carolina. Running nearly 470 miles long, this parkway spans through 29 counties between Virginia and North Carolina and occupies space along Blue Ridge – a gorgeous mountain range that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.
The parkway is situated on high elevation due to the presence of the mountain range. Drivers can head to the parkway's highest point near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina, which gives travelers a vantage point of nearly 6,054 feet above sea level on the Richard Balsam mountain. Perhaps the best part of this earthy drive is being able to enjoy fall foliage during the autumn season. A few highlights along this route include the Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro Virginia and the Marby Mill in Floyd County Virginia, as well as the Fox Hunter’s Paradise Overlook and the Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina.
Beartooth Highway – Montana and Wyoming
The Beartooth Highway serves a section of the U.S. Route 212 and only runs between the cities of Red Lodge and Cooke in Montana. Unlike other scenic routes in the United States, this highway is approximately 69 miles long. While the highway starts and ends in Montana, a good portion of it extends into the state of Wyoming. The path was unintentionally created in 1872 by Civil War General Philip Sheridan and a few hundred men returning from an inspection of the Yellowstone National Park.
Although this route provides excellent views of the Beartooth Mountains, it can be a dangerous drive depending on the season. The route experiences an elevation climb of nearly 5,000 feet in just a space of 12 miles. As such, it regularly faces closures due to extreme weather conditions including excess snow. However, the route still remains one of the most scenic routes in America.
Going to the Sun Road – Montana
Another wonderful scenic mountain path that exists in Montana is Going to the Sun Road. This unique gem is about 50 miles and runs through Glacier National Park in Montana. It is named after the Going-to-the-Sun-Mountain, which runs parallel east of the route. The road offers impeccable views of the Rocky Mountains as well as Heavens Peak and Bird Woman Falls.
A few major points of interest along the route include Lake McDonald, the Garden Wall, Logan’s Pass, Clements Mountain, Going-to-the-Sun-Mountain, and Saint Mary Lake. In popular culture, the scenic route was featured in the film Forrest Gump and served as inspiration for the song “Going-to-the-Sun-Road” by indie folk band Fleet Foxes.