Essential Travel Experience #80 – Take a Scenic Drive in the United States

    I love road trips! They are my favorite kind of vacation because I love to drive. To me, there is much to see along highways and byways that beckons the traveler. These things are missed when we fly or take the train. I love to get “off the beaten path” and travel on local roads instead of highways, although I realize how time-saving highways can be.

    What we try to do in our driving vacations is to try to incorporate several “scenic drives” into our itinerary, even though it may take us longer to get to our ultimate destination. I have made a collection of scenic drives and heartily recommend them to my friends. I also possess a series of books, published by National Geographic, of scenic drives throughout the United States. I use these as a baseline when I reach a new area, but I frequently modify them to incorporate other sights and attractions. Oversees, I search the internet, prior to a trip, to find possible scenic drives near the places we are visiting.

    There are some incredible routes that exist around the world that showcase the gorgeous scenery, especially in the United States, which is blessed with so many scenic areas. Here are some of the best.

     The Pali Highway, just outside of Honolulu, brings drivers to the Pali Lookout, an incredible vista.

Pali Lookout

The General’s Highway, in Sequoia National Park, leads past the General Sherman Tree, largest creature in the world

General Sherman Tree

and the General Grant Tree, in Kings Canyon National Park, also in the top five.

General Grant Tree

 But the premier drive in California is the Pacific Coast Highway, Routes 1 and 101 which travels from San Diego in the south to the Oregon border in the north. This drive includes some of the finest scenery in the US.

Pacific Coast Highway

One of the most spectacular sections is located in Big Sur.

Big Sur

An offshoot of the Pacific Coast Highway is Seventeen-Mile Drive, which traverses the Monterey Peninsula and one of my favorite trees in all the world, the Lone Cypress.

Lone Cypress

North of California, the Pacific Coast Highway continues through Oregon featuring more beautiful scenery and sights, such as the Oregon Dunes

Oregon Dunes

and one of my favorite stops (I am a carnivorous plant lover), Darlingtonia State Botanical Site, which showcases the Pitcher Plant.


 In Washington, this highway travels through Olympic National Park, southwest of Seattle, and some of its major attractions, such as, the Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest

Ruby Beach,

Ruby Beach

and Hurricane Ridge.

Hurricane Ridge

Just north of Washington State, in British Columbia, Canada, is the Sea to Sky Highway, refurbished for the Winter Olympics. It connects Vancouver with Whistler, where the Alpine events occurred.

Sea to Sky Highway

East of British Columbia, in Alberta, the Icefields Parkway connects Banff National Park with Jasper National Park. It is a truly special scenic drive as evidenced by the following photos. Peyto Lake is gorgeous.

Peyto Lake

So is Athabasca Falls, with Mt Athabasca in the background.

Athabasca Falls

 Icefield Centre is also found along the parkway. It is a place to take a Snocoach to the Columbia Icefield where tourists are allowed to walk on a glacier.

Lee & Gary on a Glacier

In Eastern Canada, the premier scenic drive is the Cabot Trail which traverses the edge of the Cape Breton Peninsula.

Cabot Trail

 Moving back down into the United States, New England has a wealth of wonderful drives which are lovely, especially in the autumn. The Kancamagus Highway links North Conway with Lincoln, NH, and provides views of the Presidential Range. The road is accompanied by the scenic Swift River. 

Kancamagus Highway

Route 100 crosses the entire state of Vermont from south to north and provides some excellent scenery. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is headquartered along this route and is a popular stop fro travelers.

Ben & Jerry's

In Massachusetts, the Mohawk Trail winds through the western part of the state and into the Berkshires. One of our favorite stops on this route is the Bridge of Flowers, in Shelburne Falls.

Bridge of Flowers

Skyline Drive, in western Virginia, snakes its way along the crest of the Appalachians, through Shenandoah National Park, providing vistas in both directions.

Shenandoah Valley

An extension of Skyline Drive becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway which winds for hundreds of miles from Virginia through North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Parkway

There are several scenic drives in the country’s interior which deserve to mentioned here. First of all, Going-to-the-Sun Road, which traverses Glacier National Park, in Montana, has spectacular vistas throughout its length.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Utah’s Route 12 takes drivers through some of the state’s grandest scenery and past several spectacular national parks. Bryce Canyon is one of my favorites.

Bryce Canyon

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument also provides incredible canyon vistas.

Grand Staircase Escalante

Here is another.

Grand Staircase Escalante

In nearby New Mexico, the High Road to Taos is one of the best drives. It leads to the famous Artist Colony which is also the home of Taos Pueblo, a well-preserved and still functioning Native American village.

Taos Pueblo

Colorado’s Peak to Peak Highway and Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park showcase the gradeur of mountain scenery.

Trail Ridge Road

Hawaii’s premier scenic drive is the Road to Hana, on the island of Maui. The road winds along the beautiful coast with numerous hairpin turns and nice vistas.

Road to Hana

The route also passes the Wainapanapa State Park with its black sand beach and interesting off-shore geology.

Wainapanapa State Park


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