Thinking of taking a road trip but feeling uninspired? Don’t know where to start when planning your next road trip destinations? Have everything you need for a road trip but nowhere to go?
I feel you. You’ve come to the right place. I’ve gathered the top 31 scenic routes in the US to incorporate into your trip. Some of these routes are a few hours while others cross entire states and coasts.
I’ve separated this long list based on three themes – coastal roads, open space, and mountainous drives. I’ve seen several lists on the best road trip routes or scenic drives that often exclude the east coast states. This list includes routes on the east coast, the northeast, southeast, central, and midwest. Because sometimes we just need a local weekend road trip.
I encourage you to take a look at this post and feel inspired to explore more of our backyard and find your own beauty in this country.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
You know this was coming. I couldn’t make this list without mentioning the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) but you knew that. The PCH is the most famous scenic drive of this entire list and with good reason. It’s absolutely gorgeous. When we first visited California in 2015 for Kyle’s 25th birthday, we rented a brand new, bright orange Dodge Challenger specifically to the PCH. (We were in debt up to our eyeballs and still rented a luxury vehicle. Don’t be like us. Eventually, we started managing money better. Ok- tangent over.)We mainly stayed around Los Angeles but there is so much still to see. The PCH stretches from San Francisco to San Diego.
Where to Detour: This is a hard one because there are so many. Between Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Big Sur – the issue isn’t where to stop but how much time you have. If I had to pick one, it would the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. 17-Mile Drive is a private driveway that costs $10.50 per vehicle. If you’re looking for the typical PCH photos, they are mostly at 17-Mile Drive.
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida
Completed in 1982, Seven-Mile Bridge is the longest bridge in the Florida Keys (and the most beautiful). The bridge was originally built as an overwater railroad system only for trains. Throughout the years, it has been converted for cars and pedestrian traffic. If you driving the east coast and want to visit crystal clear waters, look no further than Seven-Mile Bridge.
Try telling me this isn’t an Instagram worthy must do!
Where to Detour: Since it’s a bridge, there is nowhere to stop. Although there is a lot of pull off sections of the road with opportunities to take pictures.
Highway 101, Oregon
Stretching the coast of Oregon is Highway 101. While the Pacific Coast Highway of California is exceptionally more famous, the Oregon coastal highway hugs the coast moe consistently. One the west coast this road is the most consistently close to the ocean than any other highway.
Where to Detour: Cannon Beach is usually the start of most people’s Oregon road trips because it is that gorgeous. Most known for the filming location for Twilight and the Goonies, this quaint little town is definitely worth a stop for your road trip.
Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii
Starting past Kahului Airport, Hana Highway is less of a highway and more of a tour. Although it’s only about 52 miles in total length, expect to spend at least 2 hours navigating over 600 turns and 50+ one-lane bridges. Keep in mind, some bridges can be very dangerous depending on weather and traffic as a result. It’s better to take this drive when you have plenty of time to take it slow and enjoy it.
Where to Detour: There is not much to stop at. Of course, take your time and look around at the beautiful scenery. I would suggest getting gas and food prior to setting out. And plus, there is so much to enjoy on Maui besides this stretch of road.
Old King’s Highway, Massachusetts
Originally, a Native American trail, Old King’s Highway is undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives and most historic in the US. This road begins in Sandwich, Massachusetts – one of the oldest cities in the country.
Where to Detour: I would spend a day or two in Sandwich. You can walk the boardwalk or visit museums to learn about the city’s history.
Acadia National Park Loop Road, Maine
Acadia National Park Loop Road, as the name suggests, is the main transportation road through Acadia National Park. The road total is 27 miles and begins at the visitor’s center. Although much of the loop is a one-way road, there are ample places to pull over and enjoy the mountains, lakes, and rocky coasts.
Where to Detour: Spend a lot of time on the side of the road! LOL but seriously. It’s worth pulling into a lookout point and take it all in.
Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, North Carolina
Outer Banks National Scenic Byway follows along the North Carolina coast. It passed through 21 coastal villages and includes two ferry rides. The free ferry rides are between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.
Where to Detour: Be sure to schedule time for a stop at Pea and Cedar Islands for some birdwatching — migrating waterfowl are known to stop here on their way north and south.
Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington
The Olympic Peninsula Loop, circles Olympic National Park. The road is beautiful where you can drive along the calm tranquil waters of the Hood Canal. Olympic National Park is worth visiting alone where you are looking for scenic drives or relaxation among nature.
Ocean Drive, Rhode Island
One of Newport, Rhode Islands’ most popular attractions is Ocean Drive, or named by locals as “The Drive”. The route is only about 10 miles long but includes several attractions, beaches, and history. In fact, this is one of the best places for bike riding, running, kite-flying, picnicking, and scuba diving.
Where to Detour: Located near Castle Hill Inn and Resort is the popular local beach away from all of the tourist crowds. If you love the beach – don’t miss this slice of Newport beach.
Coastal Highway 1, Maine
Coastal Highway is the oldest interstate highway in the country and lasts over 500 miles. The section in Maine is particularly gorgeous. The route runs along the Atlantic ocean. Along the drive, be on the lookout for Maines famous lighthouses.
Where to Detour: You can take a short detour to Ellsworth, Maine, to spend a day in Acadia National Park. Be sure to try a lobster roll made from Maine lobsters.
On The Open Road
Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan
In 2007, Old Mission Peninsula was declared a Scenic Heritage Route. This drive extends 18 miles and covers immaculate fields and farms intentionally preserved to perfection. In one 5 mile stretch, there are 10 wineries.
Where to Detour: Wineries -Start with Mari Winery! I love visiting wineries and wine tastings. When we were in Argentina, Maipu has at least 8+ wineries within a few miles. We chose to ride rented bicycles to cover such a small distance and allowed us to indulge in all the wine.
Highway 78, Alabama
US 78 runs all the way from Charleston, South Carolina to the Arkansas border. It carries you over nearly 200 miles of Alabama, from the Appalachian Mountains into the Talladega National Forest.
Where to Detour: The highway ends in Birmingham, AL. If you haven’t been this is the perfect time for a detour. Filled with history, Birmingham is a great stop along your road trip.
Highway 179, Arizona
Just outside Sedona, Highway 179, aka Red Rock Scenic Byway, is everything you picture Arizona to be. Everything from breathtaking rock formations to Native American cliff dwellings to aliens and spiritual vortexes. If you are looking for a spiritual and supernatural experience, head to Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.
Where to Detour: With its proximity to Sedona, you have to stop and hang out in Sedona. Hiking options are endless around Red Rock State Park. Or enjoy the spa and hippie art shows in Uptown.
Talimena National Scenic Byway, Arkansa & Oklahoma
Most of the Talimena National Scenic Byway is located in Oklahoma with Only 18 of Talimena’s 54 miles in Arkansas. If you don’t stop (which you definitely should stop), the entire route takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Where to Detour: Be sure to stop at the Wonder House, which from the outside appears to be a regular two-story house. But the inside turns out to have nine!
Highway 12, Utah
Known as an “All American Road”, this 123 miles of natural bliss. If you are just passing through, the journey can take up to 3 hours. But you’re not on a road trip to simply pass through. I love road trips and always take my time and enjoy where I am headed. The sheer diversity of geography is incredible and unique to Utah.
Where to Detour: Bryce Canyon National Park is. a crowd favorite to visit along Highway 12 in Utah. National parks are some of the best-preserved lands in the US and it shows. It looks like something straight out a movie.
Interstate 89A, Arizona
Interstate 89A runs from Bitter Springs, Arizona to Kenab, Utah. While driving alone can take 2 hours, this northern Arizona route can easily take much longer.
Where to Detour: For a bathroom break and to stretch your legs, head to Le Fevre Overlook. From this lookout, you will be able to see the “Grand Staircase.” The Grand Staircase is comprised of layers of sedimentary rock stretching down from Utah. The layers go from Bryce Canyon in Utah all the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon
The Historic Columbia River Highway is 70 miles long and takes most travelers 3-5 hours to drive through. It’s best to avoid driving during winter as the weather conditions can be quite harsh. In 2017, much of this area was impacted by wildfires and pose several difficulties to visit. Some trails and parking lots were closed for quite some time. Be sure to check the website for any travel alerts in the area.
Where to Detour: For hiking, picnicking, and biking, head to Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Closed to car traffic, this is the perfect place to get outdoors!
El Camino Real, New Mexico
El Camino Real, or the “Royal Road”, connects New Mexico to the former Spanish capital of Mexico City Mexico. This road is not classified as a National Scenic Byway.
Where to Detour: Head to Mexico! Jk but not really. I prefer to travel internationally so why not head to Mexico City, Mexico. The cost of living and exciting nightlife make it a must on any bucket list.
Needles Highway, South Dakota
Although the distance is only 14 miles, it takes travelers on average 1 hour driving time. The only time to drive through this road is spring to fall. The roads are closed starting at first snow until April 1 each year. However, the road is always open to hikers throughout the year. Winter hiking is another ball game especially when we are talking about snow – not for the faint of heart.
Where to Detour: This scenic highway is located only 35 minutes from Mount Rushmore. If you haven’t been, this is your chance to experience both beauties.
Loess Hills National Scenic Bypass, Iowa
Lowess Hills NationalScenic Bypass is the road that goes through the Loess Hills (c’mom Mel- duh!)
But did you know what are the Loess hills and what makes them worth visiting?
They are hills made almost entirely of windblown soils. Toward the end of the last ice age, winds picked up soils that had been ground extremely fine and formed dunes along the Missouri River. This process continued for thousands of years until the ice age was over.
Where to Detour: Get out and HIKE on the many trails! Not really a stop in terms of city or tourist attractions but worth. This section of Iowa is unlike any other place. Experience with both feet on the ground!
Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
The Mohawk Trail was constructed in 1914 as one of the first auto-touring roads in the country. This 69-mile scenic byway meanders through deep forest and historic towns. It was originally a transportation byway used by Native Americans. I encourage you to visit and learn more about Native American history.
Where to Detour: From white-water rafting to hiking, this road offers everything for the outdoorsy person. There are literally so many options to get active outdoor, check out the website for more information and a list of events.
US Route 83, Nebraska
US Route 83 runs 222 miles through the plains of Nebraska, filled with pink roads, dunes, and river valleys. Learn More.
Where to Detour: Named as one of the best places to night stargazing by Thirllist.com. Also, make a quick detour West to sip apple wine at the Niobrara Valley Vineyards.
Hawk’s Nest Highway, New York
This winding road located 4 miles north of Port Jervis, NY is right on a cliff overlooking the Delaware River. It was built in 1939 and cost $2 million in construction. This stretch of road attracts drivers from all offer including commercials from Porsche and BMW.
Where to Detour: Upstate New York is very picturesque. While not the biggest town, Port Jervis offers visitors a place to hang break and hangout.
Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee
Named America’s most exciting 11 miles, this stretch of Highway 129 contains 318 curves. If you don’t get car sick, this scenic drive is for you! I don’t think I could do all of the twists and turns but I hope you enjoy it. The scenery is not what you’re after on a road like this. But, it can be an enjoyable ride for some.
Where to Detour: To appreciate the best scenary, checkout Calderwood Overlook just off the Tail of the Dragon. It offers a gorgeous view of the Cheoah Dam and the Smoky Mountains.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina & Virginia
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. Travelers are encouraged to enjoy the scenery and take it slow. So, big trucks are prohibited and the maximum speed limit is 45 miles per hour. The drive takes you through the Appalachian Mountains.
Where to Detour: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a short detour away. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the country and worth the visit being so close.
Haines Highway, Alaska
Haines Highway is 146 miles long and connects Haines, Alaska to Haines Junction, Canada. in 2009, it was named a scenic high way. You are able to drive the route all year round and it rarely has snow.
Where to Detour: This highway is also known as the Valley of the Eagles because it’s home to the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world. Take some binoculars and enjoy birdwatching on any lookout point to see some bald eagles.
Pikes Peak Highway, Colorado
The Pikes Peak Highway is located in Cascade, Colorado, just west of Colorado Springs. The entire trip takes about 2-3 hours to drive but often people spend more time taking pictures and enjoy the scenery. There are no fast stations along the highway so be sure to get enough gas for your entire journey.
Where to Detour: The Pikes Peak Summit House, which as you may have guessed is a house at the summit of Pikes Peak. It’s more than just a place to take pictures or stretch your legs, it is also a place to eat donuts- the only donuts in the world made above 14,000 feet in altitude, where they have been served for more than 100 years
Western Heritage Historic Byway, Idaho
The 47 miles of the Western Heritage Historic Byway are all gorgeous. This byway turns into Swan Falls Road so you’ll be in the middle of national conservation land. The road offers a panoramic, breathtaking view of the Owyhee Mountains.
Where to Detour: This is is great for watching birds of prey (summer months are the best time to spot them) during the drive until you reach Swan Falls Dam.
Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
Million Dollar Highway is a section of Route 550 between Bernalillo, New Mexico and Montrose, Colorado. The actual distance is not very long -only 25 miles – but be prepared to take it slow. The windy mountain roads pose a lot of potential driving. So, it’s best to take this drive in the summer when the weather is calm.
Where to Detour: If you are driving a vehicle with off-road capabilities, visit a ghost town. The ghost town is located northeast of Silverton. I’ve never been to a ghost town but I would be curious. If you have, let me know in the comments.
Route 1, Alaska
Route 1, aka Alcan Highway, is a 545-mile highway that stretches through the southern part of Alaska.
Where to Detour: Located on the Glenn Highway section past mile 91, Matanuska Glacier. Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in Alaska that can be reached by vehicle. You are able to hike this glacier but you can also admire it from the car. The highway also passes through the capital Anchorage, if you want to explore the town.
Titus Canyon Road, California
Titus Canyon is the most popular back-country road in Death Valley National Park. The total distance is 27 miles and takes 2-3 hours to complete. Most of the road is one-way except for the last 3 miles. Because the temperatures can be extreme and the road is not monitored, summer traffic is not recommended.
Where to Detour: The best thing since you are already in Death Valley National Park is to continue exploring Death Valley National Park.
North Cascades Highway, Washington
The North Cascades Highway is an east-west highway through Washington State and the first national scenic highway. It goes through the North Cascade mountain range. The best time to visit is in the spring to fall because the road is closed during the winter because of adverse weather. The total length is 430+ miles.
Where to Detour: There are several small towns along the drive that offer food and gas along your journey. Rockport State Park is a beautiful, old-growth forest that has never been logged. If you love nature, this is the place to be!
Kancamangus Highway, New Hampshire
Kancamangus Highway, named the most scenic drive in New England, is a true beauty, especially in the fall. If you aren’t up for a tongue-twister, call this highway “The Kanc” as the locals do. During peak season, Fall, at least 4,00 cars are on the pavement at one time. That’s how popular we are talking! The road runs 34 miles long and is the perfect weekend drive.
Where to Detour: Sabbady Falls is a popular short hike to the most gorgeous hike. The trail to the waterfall is less than a half-mile and moderate difficulty.
Beartooth Highway, Wyoming
This 68-mile highway runs through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads into Yellowstone National Park.
Where to Detour: YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PAK! This is the perfect drive to get excited about entering Yellowstone.
The United States is filled with natural beauty. Coast to coast. Mountain range to mountain range. Some routes are very-long and cross multiple state lines while others are short day trips. Whatever your style, I encourage you to take advantage of the scenic beauty in our backyards.