Most Scenic Road Trips in the U.S.

Last updated on 04/29/2020

Best American Road Trips & Scenic Drives

Best American Road Trips & Scenic Drives

Many Americans are rethinking their travel plans this year and looking for alternatives to traditional travel. One emerging trend in tourism is the renewed interest in road trips. Road tripping, whether with family, friends, or solo, offers adventurists new experiences without the hassle of flying. Road trips can also help stretch conservative travel budgets much further, especially with lower gasoline prices. We know that travelers are itching to get back out there, so we've compiled a list of the most scenic road trips in America. The list includes both long and short drives in locations all over the country to provide options and inspiration for those planning to take a road trip vacation. If you think we've missed any scenic drives or would like to make another suggestion, please leave a comment below. We hope that these U.S. road trip ideas help inspire your next getaway.

Blue Ridge Parkway

If you've ever wanted to visit the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the ideal way to do it. The 469-mile stretch of road winds through Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina and showcases the Appalachian Mountains in all their glory. Easy access to hiking trails makes the Blue Ridge Parkway very popular among avid backpackers. Similarly, the plentiful and unique wildlife makes the route ideal for birdwatchers and animal enthusiasts.

Region: Southeast

Best Time to Go: May - September

Distance: Approx. 469 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 13 - 15 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 4 days

Badlands Scenic Loop

The Badlands Scenic Loop is a section of South Dakota's Route 240 and Route 44, which allows road trippers to effortlessly tour Badlands National Park. The 39-mile loop includes countless overlooks that highlight the one-of-a-kind geology Badlands National Park is known for. For adventure travelers, the park also offers backcountry hiking trails that take you deep into the remote wilderness. If you plan on trekking, be sure to come prepared and watch for dangerous animals, like rattlesnakes and bison.

Region: Midwest

Best Time to Go: May - June, August - September

Distance: Approx. 39 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 1 - 2 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 4 - 6 hours

Scenic Byway 12

Scenic Byway 12, or Utah's State Route 12, provides a great way to see the state's renowned canyon country. This 123-mile trip connects Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park. The route also boasts close proximity to several state and national parks as well as monuments, including Kodachrome Basin, Anasazi State Park Museum, Escalante Petrified Forest, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, Hole-in-the-Rock, and Hell's Backbone. The rich history and unique natural landmarks make Utah's Scenic Byway 12 one of the most popular U.S. road trips.

Region: Southwest

Best Time to Go: April - May, September - October

Distance: Approx. 123 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 3 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 4 days

Oregon Coast Highway

Highway 101 in Oregon, also called the "Oregon Coast Highway," takes travelers 363 miles along the state's Pacific coastline. Popular stops include Astoria, Cannon Beach, Indian Beach Trail, the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Coos Bay, and Battle Rock Beach. Quaint beach towns and unique landmarks dot the roadway with plenty of pull offs for road trippers to take in the views.

Region: Northwest

Best Time to Go: June - September

Distance: Approx. 363 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 10 - 12 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 4 days

Pacific Coast Highway

California State Route 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the most well-known road trip routes in the west due in part to its frequent depictions in film and television. The 600+ mile stretch of blacktop takes road trippers by several famous landmarks and points of interest, including Point Bonita Lighthouse, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, Half Moon Bay, the Monterey Aquarium, Pfeiffer State Beach, the Hearst Castle, Danish-inspired Solvang, Santa Monica, and Laguna Beach. These are only a few of the sights worth seeing along the way, so make sure to allow for plenty of stops. You'll also want to plan ahead and make sure there are no last-minute road closures due to rockslides or inclement weather.

Region: West

Best Time to Go: May - October

Distance: Approx. 656 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 11 - 13 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 5 days

Olympic Peninsula Loop

Washington state's Highway 101 is known as the Olympic Peninsula Loop and takes drivers around the largest road-free area in the lower 48 states. Not only is the route one of the most scenic in Washington, it's also the only major roadway on the Olympic Peninsula. The seemingly endless forests and vistas offer travelers unparalleled views of the wilderness. Outdoor adventurers appreciate the plentiful hiking trails, unique wildlife, and tidal pools. Some of the most common stops include Lake Quinault at the edge of Olympic National Park, Ruby Beach, the Hoh Rain Forest, Sol Duc Falls, and Hurricane Ridge.

Region: Northwest

Best Time to Go: April - September

Distance: Approx. 445 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 8 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 3 days

Florida Overseas Highway

U.S. Highway 1 in Florida, also called the Overseas Highway, makes use of the old overseas railroad system to connect Miami to the Florida Keys and ultimately Key West. This unique stretch of roadway offers travelers one-of-a-kind views of the various islands, reefs, and wildlife. Quaint beach communities line the route, so there are lots of places to stop to grab a bite or a beverage. Of course, no road trip on the Florida Overseas Highway is complete without eating a piece of world-famous key lime pie in Key West.

Region: Southeast

Best Time to Go: December - May

Distance: Approx. 107 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 3 - 4 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 1 - 3 days

Kancamagus Highway

The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, or "the Kanc" as it's known locally, is the epitome of a scenic New England roadway. It follows the state's Route 112 from Conway to Lincoln. Road trippers and motorcyclists alike enjoy the winding, tree-lined highway, especially during autumn when the leaves start to change. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, swimming, and sightseeing. Some of the highlights along the route include the Albany Covered Bridge, the Russell-Colbath Historic Site, and Upper Lady's Bath. There are also several falls worth checking out, like Sabbaday Falls and the Lower Falls Scenic Area.

Region: Northeast

Best Time to Go: April - October (September - October for peak foliage)

Distance: Approx. 56 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 1 hour

Leisurely Travel Time: 4 - 8 hours

Hana Highway

The Hana Highway, or Road to Hana, is the ideal road trip for those living on or visiting Maui, Hawaii. The 64-mile stretch of highway connects Kahului to the small town of Hana via Hawaii's Route 36 and Route 360. The drive is marked by sheer cliffs, pristine beaches, and lush forest found only in the "Aloha State." There are many areas where drivers can pull off and park as well as hiking trails along the way, so be sure to stop frequently to take in the views.

Region: West

Best Time to Go: April - May, September - October

Distance: Approx. 64 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 3 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 1 - 2 days

Route 6 in Massachusetts

U.S. Route 6 spans the entire country, but the highway is especially scenic in Massachusetts where it connects the South Shore with Cape Cod. "The Cape," as it's called by locals, is a hotspot for tourists and is known for its classic New England fishing towns, exceptional beaches, and eccentric art galleries. Some of the most popular stops to make along the way include the Heritage Museum & Gardens, Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum, Ned’s Point Lighthouse, and Pilgrim Monument. We recommend heading all the way out to Provincetown where Route 6 ends. Provincetown has a unique culture founded in freedom and liberty, which is part of the reason it's a popular vacation destination among the LGBTQ community.

Region: Northeast

Best Time to Go: May - June, September - October

Distance: Approx. 118 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 3 - 5 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 1 - 3 days

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road carves through the Rockies in Colorado and serves as the main route in Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, it is the only continually paved road in the U.S. at such a high elevation (over 12,000 feet). Because Trail Ridge Road takes road trippers so high up, the views are unlike anywhere else. Wildlife is plentiful too, so bighorn sheep, elk, and moose can be spotted in the distance right from the car. Most travelers start their journey in Estes Park, which is a mountainside tourist town with excellent shopping, restaurants, and fun for the kids. Estes Park is also home to the Stanley Hotel, which famously served as the inspiration for Steven King's The Shining. Our advice is to pack some warm clothing in the car even if it's a beautiful day in Estes Park because once you get to the top, the tundra can be 30 or more degrees colder.

Region: West/Southwest

Best Time to Go: June - September

Distance: Approx. 48 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 2 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 4 - 8 hours

Park Loop Road

Like some other popular American road trip routes, Maine's Park Loop Road is also located in a national park: Acadia National Park. The 27-mile road helps park visitors navigate from the entrance to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Along the way, drivers can stop at various hiking trails and points of interest including the fascinating Thunder Hole. Cadillac Mountain is special in that it offers the first view of sunrise in the U.S. every day. Whether you hike to the summit via the Beehive Trail (not for the faint of heart) or you drive to the top, you'll be able to take in one of the most spectacular views on the eastern seaboard. When in season, wild blueberries line the roadway and hiking trails.

Region: Northeast

Best Time to Go: May - October

Distance: Approx. 27 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 1 hour

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 3 days

Ocean Drive Historic District

Ocean Drive Historic District, or Ten Mile Drive, in Rhode Island is a one-of-a-kind route that takes you right by the famous Newport Mansions and Narragansett Bay coastline. The historic homes were built by some of the most successful families of the industrial age, including the Vanderbilts, the Berwinds, the Morgans, and the Astors. These spectacular mansions offer a glimpse into the lifestyles of America's most elite. The unique combination of architecture, history, and scenic bay views make Ocean Drive very popular among history buffs and sightseers. Consider stopping off and taking a mansion tour or stroll along the Cliff Walk, which is a scenic 3.5 mile walkway that borders the backside of The Breakers and several other Newport Mansions.

Region: Northeast

Best Time to Go: March - May, September - November

Distance: Approx. 10 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 30 minutes

Leisurely Travel Time: 4 - 8 hours

North Shore Drive

North Shore Drive in Minnesota takes travelers along the shoreline of Lake Superior and passes through several state parks. This scenic byway runs from Duluth to Grand Portage along MN-61, which is about 150 miles and makes for an ideal road trip. One one side of the road, you'll get breathtaking views of the glacial coastline as well as Split Rock Lighthouse, while on the other side you'll see lush mountainous forests complete with hiking trails and falls. Minnesota might not be the first place you think of when it comes to American road trips, but offers an experience unlike any other in the states.

Region: Midwest

Best Time to Go: June - August

Distance: Approx. 149 miles

Fastest Travel Time: 3 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 2 - 3 days

Highway 2 in Nebraska

Another lesser-known U.S. road trip option is Highway 2 in Nebraska. This highway runs from the South Dakota border in the northwest corner down to the southeast corner near Grand Island and cuts through the heart of the state. So what's interesting about Nebraska? The unique landscape is made up of sandhills, which are grass-covered sand dunes. These sandhills are home to migratory birds, most notably the Sandhill Crane, as well as many other Great Plains animals. As a result, this road trip route is a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. The wide-open spaces let you see for miles, which is especially great at night for stargazing. Be on the lookout for Carhenge, a playful replica of England's Stonehenge, just outside of Alliance.

Region: Midwest

Best Time to Go: May - October (late February - early April for Sandhill migration)

Distance: Approx. 371 miles (western segment)

Fastest Travel Time: 5 hours

Leisurely Travel Time: 1 - 3 days