The following is a list of some of the world’s greatest scenic drives, according to Gary & Lee.
1. Amalfi Coast, Italy, from Positano to Amalfi
This narrow road (Rte 163) winds precipitously along the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea. Adorable towns spill down to the water. Some of the most attractive villages include Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, and Atrani. The route is a challenge to drivers, who must be ever watchful for buses and trucks coming around each hairpin turn. Driving is made even more difficult because of the spectacular scenery. It is not for the faint-of-heart.
2. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), California, USA, from Santa Barbara to north of San Francisco
Here is another fantastic coastal drive. Rte 1, although much wider than Rte 163 (above) is also fun to drive because it parallels the winding coastline. There are many noteworthy attractions along the road which encouraging stopping and even spending the night. A few of these attractions are Hearst Castle (at San Simeon), Monterey (with its own spectacular drive known as 17-mile drive), Big Sur, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Muir Woods, Point Reyes National Seashore, etc.
3. Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada, from Banff National Park to Jasper, Alberta
The Icefields Parkway, is a spectacular 142 mile ( 300 km) highway which extends from the town of Lake Louise, northward to the town of Jasper, Alberta. This drive offers amazing views of the Canadian Rockies, waterfalls, lakes and glaciers. It is certainly one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. Along the route are numerous overlooks and trails. The road is extremely well-engineered and does not require tremendous mountain-driving skill. Plan to spend the entire day if the drive begins and ends in Banff or Jasper or Lake Louise, since the round-trip is almost 300 miles, and there are obligatory stops along the way to admire the scenery or for other activities.
4. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
Going-to-the-Sun Road, a spectacular 50 mile (80 kilometer) scenic drive, bisects the park and offers breath-taking vistas throughout. Stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, roughly halfway across, at the Continental Divide, for information and access to several trails. Nearby, the road hugs the cliffs of deep, steep valleys allowing unobstructed views of mountains and glaciers. Be on the lookout for Rocky Mountain Goats which are quite common at the high altitudes.
5. Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada
Entry and exit points for the drive are near the city of Baddeck. The drive can be started either on the east or west side of Cape Breton. Visitors should note that the larger Visitor Center is on the western side of the drive, at Cheticamp. The southerly parts of the drive are not particularly special, but the northerly sections provide not only spectacular scenery but steep climbs and hairpin turns as well. This upper section is within the boundaries of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which extends from Ingonish on the east to Cheticamp on the west. Also within the park are numerous trails or hikes, scenic overlooks, and several villages and detours to explore.
6. Oak Creek Canyon Drive (Rte 89A) through Sedona, Arizona, USA
Red Rock Canyon, a combination of Red Rock State Park and Oak Creek Canyon, refers to the area around Sedona, Arizona. Because of its dramatic scenery, it has been used for many years as a setting for movies and television ads. A stop in the town of Sedona, an artist and “new age” haven, is worth the extra time. Cathedral Rock is one of most recognized spots along the drive.
7. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (including the Needles Highway), Black Hills, South Dakota, USA
This route traverses parts of the Black Hills and allows access to Mount Rushmore National Monument, the still-unfinifshed Crazy Horse Memorial, the Western-style town of Deadwood (now a gambling Mecca) and Badlands National Park.
The Needles Highway, a dramatic and interesting scenic drive, is a 22 km (14-mile) trip through unusual granite spires of rock. There are several narrow tunnels, and hairpin turns so large vehicles must use extreme caution. Vistas of the Black Hills are available at pullouts along the drive.
8. Death Valley Scenic Byway (California Rte 190), USA
Death Valley National Park is an eerily beautiful area with considerable contrast in its geology. The park is huge (the largest in the contiguous United States) and the sights are many miles apart so one visit may not be enough to see the entire park. Summertime is not the time to go since it is easily the hottest spot in North America. The many stops along the highways offer interesting insights into the formation and evolution of the area.
Particular sights which should not be missed include Badwater, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere (282 feet/93 meters below sea level), the Devil’s Golf Course, an unusual landscape of rock salt spires, Dante’s View for a panoramic view of the Valley, and Scotty’s Castle, an interesting ranch house in the middle of nowhere.
9. Utah 12 Scenic Byway, USA
State route 12 connects Capitol Reef National Park, to the north, with Bryce Canyon National Park. Along the way, the drive cuts through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, an extremely rugged area of canyons and mesas with multicolored sandstone and other examples of erosion geology.
10. Skyline Drive, Virginia, USA
Skyline Drive is one of America’s premier scenic drives. It extends from Front Royal in the north to Waynesboro in the South. There is limited access to the road, so entry must be planned. Because the speed limit is a strictly enforced 35 miles per hour (55 km/hr), it takes at least two (2) hours to drive the entire length. Shenandoah National Park is noted for its beautiful vistas which can be appreciated at the numerous roadside pullouts and by walking some of the many hiking trails. Wildlife is abundant and accessible.
11. John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway, which runs along the Snake River through Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA
Be sure to check out the views of the Teton range from the John D Rockefeller Memorial Drive (Routes 89 & 191) and/or from Teton Park Road, which runs parallel to the highways. There are great photo opportunities at the Snake River Overlook, on Routes 26,89,191 and also at Oxbow Bend which lies between Jackson Lake Junction and Moran Junction.
12. White Mountain Trail (Rte 3 & 302) and the Kancamagus Highway (Rte 112), New Hampshire, USA (especially scenic in autumn)
The scenic part of Route 3 begins in Lincoln, NH, and travels north past Cannon Mountain, where visitors may stop to take a 50-60 passenger tram to the top of the mountain for glorious views of the area. Rte 302 then cuts eastward, past the famous Mount Washington Inn toward Franconia Notch, a extremely picturesque valley which provides access to many other attractions, such as the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Cog Railway.
The Kancamagus Highway traverses the White Mountains area from Lincoln on the west to Conway on the east. The scenic drive of approximately 56 kilometers (35 miles) is closed in the winter, but otherwise offers spectacular vistas of the mountains of the Presidential Range, Franconia Notch, which is a picturesque pass through the mountains and which allows access to a number of sights and, of course, the town of North Conway, New Hampshire, on Route 16, a quaint Nordic-like ski village which has grown up into a major tourist destination while still preserving much of its charm.
13. Trail Ridge Road, within Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
Mountain scenery is spectacular as Trail Ridge Road leaves Estes, Colorado, and rises to the Continental Divide (an imaginary line which pertains to the movement of rivers — rivers to the east of the divide travel to the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico, rivers to the west travel to the Pacific) and beyond. Notable locations on the highway include Berthoud Pass and Grand Lake. Wildlife sightings are usually frequent.
14. Road to Hana, on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands, USA
The beautiful “Road to Hana”, is a scenic drive along the northwestern coast. Be aware that there is no way of looping back to central Maui, so that the drive must be retraced, a roundtrip of more than 5 hours without stops. Get a map of the Hana Highway prior to setting out and plan stops, designated by milepost number for maximum enjoyment. On the “Road to Hana”, be sure to stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park to picnic or take pictures on the small black sand beach with interesting black rock arches offshore which contrast nicely with the gorgeous teal-blue water. There is also a lava tube cave.
15. Seventeen Mile Drive, from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, USA
The Monterey Peninsula, in western California, south of San Francisco, is an extremely scenic area of the state. Take 17-mile drive, a loop which connects the city of Monterey with Carmel, to admire the rocky coast as well as the beautiful homes and golf courses (try to have lunch at Pebble Beach for a special treat) and do stop for a photo opportunity at the Lone Cypress, a tree (supported now by guy wires because of its significance) which stands alone on a promontory of rock that juts out into the Pacific, making it one of the most westerly points in the contiguous United States. While in the area, be sure to spend some time in Monterey whose sardine industry was made famous in John Steinbeck’s novel “Cannery Row”. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely worth a visit.
16. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina/Virginia, USA
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 750 kilometer (469-mile) scenic highway which connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Shenandoah National Park and makes for a great excursion from either. There are several Visitor Centers which provide information about the history of the road and the neighboring countryside. Because the road follows the ridge line of the mountains, numerous pullouts offer spectacular vistas of the valleys to the east and mountains to the west. Speed limits are strictly enforced and established to encourage leisurely travel, so this is not the route to take when in a hurry.
17. Highway 101 which runs north to south along the coast of Oregon, USA
Really an extension of the Pacific Coast Highway (see #2 above), this route traverses coastal plain, dunes, and numerous other shoreline habitats. Many sea stacks are visible just offshore. Noteworthy stops along the drive include the charming town of Newport, OR, and a large stand of Pitcher Plants (one of a few types of insect-eating plants).
18. High Road to Taos, New Mexico, USA
This drive connects the enchanting city of Santa Fe, with its well-preserved Old Town, recalling its Spanish days, with the small town of Taos, famous for the Taos Pueblo, an Indian commune still in operation which allows visitors a glimpse into this interesting culture.
19. Columbia River Parkway, Oregon, USA
Multnomah Falls & Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area are located east of Portland on the border between Oregon and Washington. The Historic Columbia River Highway offers access to the area’s attractions. Perhaps the most dramatic of these is Multnomah Falls, the highest waterfall in Oregon, and one of the highest in the United States, at 310 meters (620 feet). An interpretive center at the base of the falls provides information and displays regarding the entire area. There is a trail which allows access to the falls and a bridge which traverses the gorge created by the falls, about halfway up. This unusual situation provides some interesting photo opportunities.
20. Colonial Parkway, from York to Jamestown, VA, USA
Take a drive along the Colonial Parkway which links Williamsburg with Yorktown, sight of the British surrender that marked the end of the Revolutionary War, and with Jamestown, location of the first Virginia colony in 1607. Stops at each of these areas are also worthwhile, if time permits.