Road Trips: America's Iconic Drives

Scenic road trips deliver some of America’s best sites. Follow these seven iconic drives to waterfalls, canyons, and mountain peaks. Several cut through national parks, some follow winding rivers and others lead through flat bayous and ascend mountains, offering panoramic views.

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana offers some beautiful vistas. Image Source: National Park Service

Americans love road trips. And why not? Compared to trains and planes, car travel costs less, especially for families, and is often easier. You can stop where you want to refuel, take your pets along, and refresh your perspective at scenic vistas. Consider the following seven drives across the U.S., part of Travel & Leisure’s road trip picks, for your summer getaways. If you can’t squeeze in another getaway this summer, plan now to drive the scenic routes in fall.

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Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

The 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway offers scenic mountain and valley views as it winds through Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Where to Stop: Grandfather Mountain, a 5,837-foot-peak offers panoramic views.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

A top choice for touring in Montana’s Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Road’s 50-miles span the park’s width, delivering you to overlooks, waterfalls, and a glacier.

Where to Stop: At Logan Pass, the road reaches its highest elevation, 6,646-feet.

The Columbia River Highway in Oregon. Image Source: Gary Halverson

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

The first scenic highway in the U.S. to become a National Historic Landmark, the Columbia River Highway follows the river gorge for 70 miles, affording views of waterfalls and the river from cliffs.

Where to Stop: Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural site in Oregon.

Mount Washington Auto Road, New Hampshire

The drive leads you to the 6,288-foot peak of Mount Washington, the highest in the northeastern U.S. The road, short and steep, climbs some 5,000 feet in 8 miles.

Where to Stop: Reward yourself for handling the difficult route by staying at the nearby, upmarket Omni Mount Washington Resort.

Highway 31, Louisiana

Bayous, marshy outlets of a river, define Louisiana’s topography. Highway 31 takes you along Bayou Teche from New Iberia to Breaux Bridge, past thickets of oak and cypress trees and swampy lagoons where alligators reside.

Where to Stop: Dine at Breaux Bridge’s Café des Amis for a Cajun meal accompanied by zydeco music.

Highway 12, Utah

Connecting Bryce Canyon with Capitol Reef National Park, Highway 12 delivers sandstone cliffs and hillsides dotted with junipers.

Where to Stop: Chow down at Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Boulder, Utah. Located on a farm, the restaurant offers sustainably grown produce and grass-fed lamb and beef.

Black River Scenic Byway, Michigan

Highway 513, the Black River Scenic Byway, cuts through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, ending at a harbor and marina. The 11-mile road follows the river, passing waterfalls and dense forests.

Where to Stop: Stretch your legs by hiking at Gorge Falls.

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Follow Candyce H. Stapen on Twitter: @FamilyiTrips