Taking the scenic route in the United States means you can pick from a long menu of American landscapes. The United States doesn’t disappoint when it comes to variety in landscapes. Take your pick of deserts, mountains, seacoasts, and river gorges — all are available to provide a memorable drive. We’ve included places from all over the country, so it’s perfect if you’re an east coast or west coast purist. You may even prefer the cascading waterfalls of Hawaii.
Whether you’re a road trip lover or need a helpful guide on road trips, there are five that you can’t miss. From the hundreds of miles of highway on a typical American map, these five spectacular routes are perennial contenders for the nation’s most scenic. Get in and enjoy the ride.
5.) Columbia River Highway
The Columbia River Highway, completed in 1922, was the first road built as a scenic highway. You can find this 75-mile long scenic drive in Oregon in between the city of Troutdale and The Dalles. This road is also known as the first scenic highway and a National Historic Landmarks in the United States.
The road is in two sections that are separated by the 34-mile Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, used by hikers and bikers. On the 24-mile western section, which begins in Troutdale, you pass a series of tall cascades, including Horsetail Falls and the 620-foot Multnomah Falls, with frequent glimpses of snow-capped Mt. Hood.
In the east, between Hood River and the Dalles, the road runs 16 miles through steep canyons and a series of horseshoe curves known as the Rowena Loops. On both sections, overlooks and pullouts offer sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.
In total, the drive takes about three to five hours with the option to stop and take in all of the natural beauty.
The best time to embark upon this unforgettable journey is during the spring through the fall season. In the spring and fall, you can see the many beautiful hues of the changing trees.
4.) The Hana Highway
In a state with plenty of scenery, the Hana Highway takes first place among many visitors as Hawaii’s most beautiful road.
The Road to Hana runs 50 miles along the northern shore of Maui, leading drivers through steep, slow turns and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The road may not seem that long, but once you see the various beaches and waterfalls and hikes available, you can make it a day-long adventure.
Drivers can pull off the road for short hikes into a dense rainforest and a glimpse of high waterfalls. One of the first hikes you’ll hit along the way to Hana is the one that leads to the Twin Falls. For those not interested in hiking, opt to see Wailua Falls, which is right along the highway.
Sunbathers and beach bums will be delighted to spend a couple of hours in the black sand beaches at the Hana State Park. If you’re into cliff jumping and snorkeling, the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park is a must stop.
You can even spend the night under the beautiful stars by camping at the state park.
3.) Pacific Coast Highway
Some would say there are two types of people: those who love the east coast and those who love the west coast.
Lucky for us, beautiful USA drives fill both sides of the country. A majestic ocean coastline frames a long section of the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Highway 1, which runs from Orange County in the south to Mendocino County in the north.
The highlight of this route is the Big Sur region that begins south of Carmel and runs to San Luis Obispo. The steep slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains tumble down to the sea in a series of steep, sometimes vertical cliffs. Drivers route through a series of hairpin turns with postcard-perfect views.
Several turnouts along the way provide a chance for a rest, a short picnic and some easy camera work.
2.) Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive runs north and south for a distance of 105 miles along the summits of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia. It makes up a part of the popular Blue Ridge Parkway, the ultimate East Coast road trip.
The trek is a beautiful USA drive with national parks, mountains, rivers and plenty of outdoor adventure. There are even a few historical pitstops to stop by and take in. However, Skyline Drive is one of our favorite parts of this drive.
The road, the only route through Shenandoah National Park, was planned for a leisurely drive. The speed limit is 35 miles per hour, and the road includes 75 overlooks where you can pull over and ogle the mountain scenery.
In spring, the unmowed verges host a spectacular display of blooming wildflowers. Blue mists curl over the Appalachian peaks, while deer, black bear, and wild turkeys dart along and across the road.
1.) Monument Valley
Picture the iconic image of the American West, and this is most likely what you’ll see. The truth is, the west has so much spectacular landscape that it’s hard to miss the beauty of the Monument Valley.
The towering mesas and rainbow-hued desert landscape of Monument Valley are icons of the American West. You will best appreciate the awe-inspiring red-rock region with a drive north from Kayenta, Arizona, along two-lane U.S. 163.
From Kayenta to Blanding, Utah, you can see dozens of strangely familiar “monument” formations. This includes the Mittens, Elephant Butte, Eagle Mesa, and Sentinel Mesa. At the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Arizona side, enjoy an informative walking tour through the desert and close-up views of the formations.
If you’re in the mood for a great adventure, try any of these spectacular USA drives. From the East to the West and the Pacific, the US has it all.