The 40 Most Scenic Drives in America
From the lonely roads to coastal drives, gas up the car and check out 40 of the most scenic byways America has to offer.
The Loneliest Road in America
Experience the Wild West on Highway 50 in Nevada; though the highway stretches nearly cross-country, the Nevada portion was dubbed the loneliest road in America by Life Magazine in 1986. Beginning in historic Carson City, follow Highway 50 as it traverses the state to the east, through the ruins of Pony Express stations, plus nearby abandoned mines, saloons, and opera houses. You’ll even pass a few wineries and at least one distillery along the way.
Palisades Scenic Byway
New Jersey has a lot of negative stereotypes, largely thanks to the major highways that run through it, but driving along the Palisades Scenic Byway will give you a different view of the Garden State. Travel beside the Hudson River (with views of New York City) through a section of New Jersey’s Palisades Interstate Park, a National Historic Landmark. It’s worth it to park and hike along the 500-foot-high Palisades, especially during the fall.
West Virginia’s Highland Scenic Highway
We dare you not to hum “Almost heaven…” as you drive along Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia. This beautiful corridor that takes you through the Monongahela National Forest for 43 miles, as you follow the byway from Richwood to US Route 219. Build in plenty of time to your itinerary to stop and check out the scenic overlooks. Note: The road is not maintained in the winter.
The PCH in California: Malibu to Lompoc
Highway 101, famously known as the Pacific Coast Highway, gives you the best of what California has to offer. For an easy day trip, take this 120-mile drive heading north from Malibu. It runs along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, passing through the beach towns of Oxnard and then Santa Barbara. Rest those feet in the sand on one of Santa Barbara’s local beaches or take a few hours and check out Channel Islands National Park. Then the highway takes you through ranchlands and eventually to Lompoc, which is most famous for its flower fields and Pinot Noir.
High Peaks Byway
Easily accessible off Interstate 87, New York State Route 73, a 30-mile route, is considered the gateway to Adirondack Park including the High Peaks region. It welcomes more than 4 million travelers annually—most looking to hike the peaks, ice climb, or just escape into pure nature. It is also the route that leads to the historic Olympic village of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain, which boasts the highest summit in the east. This route is nice year-round, just make sure you have 4-wheel drive in the winter. Lake Placid is one of the best vacations for people who love winter.
The entire 363 miles of the Oregon Coast
Starting at the Columbia River, Highway 101 winds down the entire Oregon Coast to the California border, hugging the Pacific coastline the entire time. The first city you hit heading south on Highway 101 is Astoria, the oldest American settlement west of the Mississippi. A little further south is the famous Cannon Beach, known for its long sandy shores and iconic Haystack Rock. Along your journey south you’ll spot forests, sea lion caves, shipwrecks, sand dunes, and more!
International Selkirk Loop
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The International Selkirk Loop‘s claim to fame is that it’s North America’s only international scenic loop—the 280-mile drive winds through Idaho, Washington, and Canada. Beginning on U.S. Route 2 at the Washington-Idaho state line, you’ll proceed northwest on WA State Route 20 and into British Columbia, along a valley floor, passing by crystal clear Kootenay Lake, and through charming towns. The loop eventually reenters the United States into Idaho on State Highway 1.
The Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys
The iconic Overseas Highway (Rt. 1) that connects the Florida Keys to the mainland, gives you the feeling you’re literally driving on water. It’s no wonder the Seven Mile Bridge, located on the byway, was once known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. While Florida is fun to visit any time of the year, keep in mind hurricane seasons runs from June through November, so plan accordingly and consider hitting one of these islands you can still visit during hurricane season instead.
Badlands Loop Road
You’ll get up close and personal with one of the most jaw-dropping sights in the country as you drive along South Dakota’s Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240), where the vast rugged areas of layered rock formations make you feel like you’re on the moon. Make time to check out the Fossil Exhibit Trail which displays fossils uncovered in the park and keep an eye out for roaming bison and prairie dogs that inhabit the grassland.
Drive 251 miles on Highway 20 West in Nebraska, also known as Outlaw Trail, and get a taste of what the Heartland has to offer. Starting out in South Sioux City, you’ll wind your way down steep bluffs and travel through the same green rolling hills outlaws and lawmen traveled in the Old West. The stretch ends in a town you’ll fall in love with: Valentine, Nebraska. Here you can see the state’s highest waterfall at Smith Falls State Park—discover the most gorgeous waterfall in your state.