America’s roads are vast and varied and cut through some of the world’s most impressive landscapes, all of which combine to create the perfect setting for epic driving adventures. Here are some of the best American routes for your road-tripping journeys.
1. US Route 1, Florida Keys
The extensive US Route 1 runs all the way from Maine’s border with Canada down to Key West in the stunning Florida Keys. Though the highway meanders its way along the entire eastern coast of the United States, it’s the 120-mile long Florida Keys section that is its glittering star. Linking the various islands that make up the Floridian archipelago, this stretch of US Route 1 is filled with spectacular sceneries and a wealth of tropical attractions.
Major highlights include the delicious seafood you’ll find at the countless restaurants, eateries and cafes along the route, the famous overwater Seven Mile Bridge (below) and the 6-island village of Islamorada regarded as the sport-fishing capital of the world.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
Snaking its way through picturesque Virginia and North Carolina, the popular Blue Ridge Parkway is a highway boasting not only immense beauty in terms of the surrounding Appalachian mountain and forest landscapes (below), but also an abundance of other exciting highlights.
From the breathtaking Roanoke Valley and River Gorge in Virginia to the iconic Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina, there’s certainly no shortage of attractions to delight road trippers. And of course, the options for great dining and stayovers along the famed route abound.
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3. Hana Highway, Hawaii
It’s impossible to deny the sheer natural beauty of the Hana Highway when driving along the famed Maui road. On one side, you’ll see rugged coastlines; on the other, lush tropical forests. As one of Maui’s most popular tourist attractions, it will make one unforgettable road trip.
The roughly 64-mile (103 km) route is known for transporting its passengers over almost 60 bridges and past an abundance of natural attractions, like the island’s gorgeous beaches and several highly Instagrammable waterfalls, such as the much loved Wailua Falls (below).
4. Great River Road, Mississippi River
Comprising several state and local highways and roads, the Great River Road hugs the mighty Mississippi River and allows intrepid road-trippers to enjoy some of the best scenes that America’s hinterland has to offer.
The oldest and longest National Scenic Byway in the USA, the Great River Road passes through 10 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, therefore offering up a diverse array of landscapes and experiences.
Major highlights include some of Kentucky and Tennessee’s premium whisky and bourbon distilleries, like Maker’s Mark; Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa; the host of river activities like canoeing along the Mississippi River and of course, experiencing the vibrant and colourful city that is New Orleans.
5. Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles
As one of the oldest major highway routes in the States, and likely its most famous, Route 66 has been featured in countless songs, movies and TV shows. As the granddaddy of American road trips, this is one route for history buffs and lovers of authentic Americana.
Even though the world-famous route has long since passed its heyday, with many sections of the highway falling into disrepair, there is undoubtedly still enough to attract travellers and road-trip lovers along the almost 4,000km stretch. Many sections of the route have been declared National Scenic Byways and included in the National Register of Historic Places.
6. California State Route 1
Another popular and globally renowned American road-tripping route, the California State Route 1 (or Pacific Coast Highway) passes through epic coastal landscapes. Though many may opt to hop on the highway from LA to San Francisco, the route actually continues beyond both these major cities.
Some of the unmissable spots along the coastal highway would be the photogenic Big Sur region, including Bixby Bridge (above), Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls; Monterey Bay; Half Moon Bay and the often-photographed Hearst Castle near San Simeon.
7. San Juan Skyway, Colorado
The San Juan Skyway is a 233-mile loop of four major national and state highways journeying through some of Colorado’s most magnificent mountains and valleys, most notably the San Juan Mountains.
Some of the stops and sights you should definitely add to your San Juan Skyway itinerary include the historic Mesa Verde National Park, which boasts some ancient Pueblo (Native American dwelling) sites, the hot springs at Ouray, the epic Molas Pass and the unique red mountains visible when driving along the Red Mountain Pass. There are also a number of ski resort towns dotting the mountainous route, including the acclaimed old mining town, Telluride.
8. Utah State Route 12 Scenic Byway
Slicing its way through 122 miles of rugged Utah countryside, the State Route 12 is also affectionately known as A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway.
Almost otherworldly canyons are the major highlights of this beautiful driving route through Utah, with Red Canyon, in Utah’s Dixie National Forest, and Bryce Canyon being some of the most impressive and noteworthy. Another recommended stop and great photo op along the route would have to be the bridge on Hell’s Backbone Road.
9. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
Though the epically named Montana road is only 80km in length, its pristine Rocky Mountain setting within the Glacier National Park makes it one of America’s most dramatic and scenic. It was famously used in the opening sequence of the film The Shining.
Blessed with unsurpassed snowcapped mountain landscapes, this is one route that should be enjoyed by anyone who loves exploring pristine wildernesses, though bear in mind that the route is only open from June to October. Stops you should include on your journey would be the various viewpoints along the way and the shimmering glacial lakes that dot the route, such as Saint Mary Lake and MacDonald Lake.
SEE ALSO: 8 tips to make your road trips a breeze
10. Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon
If you love river gorges and lush forests, then a drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway is recommended. Running from The Dalles to Troutdale (just outside of Portland), the extremely scenic highway is 75 miles of pure Oregon beauty.
Several waterfalls flank the legendary roadway, with popular sites such as Horsetail Falls and Multnomah Falls being some of the most popular and photo-worthy. Other notable features of the route would be the Mosier Twin Tunnels, the Bridge of the Gods near Cascade Locks and the Rowena Crest Viewpoint, which offers not only awe-inspiring views of the Columbia River but also the opportunity to experience driving on the famous Rowena Loops – horseshoe curves that ascend to the viewpoint (below).
– TEXT BY SAUL LIPCHIK
PHOTOS: 123RF.COM, INSTAGRAM, FLICKR USER JEREMY BRONSON (GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD)
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.