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Outdoors

7 of the Most Scenic Drives in the U.S.

By Nicole Villeneuve
Read time: 6 minutes

America is a land of contrasts. Driving through its diverse range of landscapes, you might feel at times that you’re leaving and entering entirely different countries. Take Florida’s Overseas Highway, for instance — a disorientingly expansive drive over the open water — and compare that with the raw beauty of Alaska’s Seward Highway, a surreal escape into the Last Frontier. The best part is, these routes offer breathtaking views without ever having to get out from behind the wheel of the car. Here are seven scenic drives in the U.S. that will make you appreciate all the dreamy beauty the country has to offer from coast to coast.

Going-to-the-Sun Road – Montana

Going-to-the-Sun Road along mountainside in Montana's Glacier National Park
Photo credit: tusharkoley/ Shutterstock

Going-to-the-Sun Road spans almost 50 miles through the heart of Montana’s Glacier National Park — with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. The road, which takes its name from the Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, is carved directly into the region’s rugged terrain, offering panoramic views of glacier-sculpted valleys and pristine alpine meadows.

One of the most popular stretches is Logan Pass. Here, visitors can cross the Continental Divide — the high-altitude mountain boundary separating the continent’s river drainage systems — and experience a spectacle of snow-capped peaks and bursts of vibrant wildflowers. Constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, Going-to-the-Sun Road was designed to integrate with its surrounding landscape, with plenty of cliff-hugging, hairpin turns along the way.

Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia and North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway winding through autumn foliage
Photo credit: Anton Ermachkov/ Shutterstock

Nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway spans 469 scenic miles from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The route mostly follows along the edge of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

While the entire stretch is a testament to the region’s natural beauty, some of the most captivating sights are nestled within the Pisgah region of North Carolina. The appropriately named Craggy Gardens is a wonder of tangled trees, rocky grounds, and plumes of rhododendron blooms. During leaf peeping season, the region transforms into a vibrant canvas of red, orange, and gold foliage at every turn. Any drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway has no shortage of stunning sights — it is, after all, the longest linear park in the United States.

Road to Hana – Hawaii

Road to Hana hugging cliffside stretch in Maui
Photo credit: Alexandre.ROSA/ Shutterstock

Starting in Kahului and ending in its namesake town, the Road to Hana is famous for its spectacular roadside waterfalls — including Wailua Falls and Hanawi Falls — which are visible right from your vehicle. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The 64-mile drive along Maui’s eastern coast encompasses many other impressive sights that are each worthy of a stop — including the Koolau Forest Reserve, Hana Forest Reserve, Haleakala National Park, and Waianapanapa State Park (the latter of which is famous for its black volcanic sand and contrasting blue waters). 

Despite the peaceful natural surroundings, the Road to Hana can be taxing, as the twisty, rugged ocean road features over 50 bridges, many of which are just a single lane. That means it can take upwards of a few hours to drive the relatively short distance, but the slower pace offers a chance to take in all the panoramic ocean views, colorful tropical flowers, and native taro plant fields the area offers.

Pacific Coast Highway – California

Car driving along coastal cliffs on California's Pacific Coast Highway
Photo credit: Bob Pool/ Shutterstock

From the dramatic cliffs and coastal bridges of Big Sur to the golden sands of Malibu, the unique rock formations at Morro Bay, and the natural splendor of Monterey, the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beloved and breathtaking scenic drives in the country. While the entire route spans three states — Washington, Oregon, and California — one of the most popular stretches is between San Francisco and San Diego.

The route was designed to have spectacular Pacific Ocean views for almost the entirety of the drive, with construction beginning in 1919. Today, it meanders through charming coastal towns such as Carmel-by-the-Sea and Half Moon Bay. This drive isn’t just a passage — it’s basically poetry come to life. 

Highway 163 – Utah and Arizona

Lone car on Highway 163 driving toward sandstone rock formations across desert
Photo credit: Aivoges/ Shutterstock

Cutting through the expansive landscapes of the Wild West, Highway 163 showcases the natural desert beauty of Utah and Arizona. The 64-mile drive offers unobstructed views of the region’s iconic red rock formations, with the highlight undoubtedly being Monument Valley, known for its towering sandstone pillars that stand over 1,000 feet tall and date back millions of years

As the highway approaches the massive spires, they cut a striking figure against the beautiful horizon and make for an unforgettable sight — one that famously appeared at a pivotal point in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump. As a result, it’s a busy spot for people to stop and take photos. It’s also worth noting that this stretch of desert highway requires some advance planning, with long stretches that have nowhere to stop for food or fuel. Coming in the cooler months will not only make the trek more tolerable, but the unique desert vegetation also thrives in the springtime, adding another dimension to the drive.

Seward Highway – Alaska

Seward Highway winding through mountains and forest in Alaska
Photo credit: Dan Thornberg/ Shutterstock

The Seward Highway winds for 127 miles from Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, to the seaside town of Seward. Traveling across the Chugach National Forest, the Kenai Mountains, and the Kenai Peninsula, this scenic drive is like few others in the United States. As the highway skirts the shore of Turnagain Arm waterway, it’s not not uncommon to see whales, waterfalls, and eagles along the route.

Drivers can also catch a glimpse of the famous tidal bore wave, a natural phenomenon where a colossal wall of water rushes in with the tide  — often accompanied by stunning views of the Chugach Mountains in the backdrop. Adventurous road trippers can veer about five miles off route to visit the Portage Glacier for a close-up encounter with Alaska’s icy marvels.

Overseas Highway –  Florida

Aerial view of the Overseas Highway in Florida
Photo credit: pisaphotography/ Shutterstock

Florida’s Overseas Highway, also known as U.S. Route 1, is not just an incredibly scenic drive — it’s also a feat of engineering. The 113-mile “floating” road from mainland Florida to Key West, the southernmost point in the contiguous U.S., is one of the longest overwater roads in the world. The highway consists of 42 bridges that hop from key to key (small, low-lying coral islands) and forms huge architectural arches of concrete and steel over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. 

Along with the serene turquoise seascape horizon and soothing salt air, drivers can take in beautiful coral and limestone islets all throughout the keys, as well as marinas and oceanfront villas lined with palm trees and colorful tropical plants. And it might be hard to keep your eyes on the road — there’s also a good chance you’ll spot pods of dolphins swimming all along the way.

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