Top 5 American Roads to Drive in Summer

North, south, east, west—no matter where you live in the U.S., there’s a scenic roadway beckoning nearby. Here are five of our favorites that include spectacular scenery or unique driving challenges. And just for fun, we tell you which dream vehicle we’d take along for the ride.

California coastline

Source | Medhat Ibrahim

1. State Route 1, California coast

Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway and designated as an All-American Road, some of this journey’s most spectacular scenery unfolds between Monterey, Calif., and Morro Bay, Calif., 123 miles south, even though Route 1 stretches further north and south beyond these two towns. Along the way, you’ll pass through redwood groves and quaint, historic towns, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, while easily accessed beaches contrast with granite cliffs and spectacular waves crashing into unforgiving rock formations. The single-span arched concrete structure known as Bixby Bridge will either terrify or excite drivers when they stop before crossing at turnouts on either end to admire this engineering marvel.

Dream Ride: No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, this road will be remembered. If we were making the drive, however, we’d opt for an Audi Q7. It has plenty of room for friends and golf clubs, and with this level of style, we’ll have no trouble fitting right in with California’s car-conscious elite.

Skyline Drive2. Skyline Drive, Virginia Mountains.

Located within Shenandoah National Park, part of the U.S. National Park System, Skyline Drive offers panoramic mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and observation of wildlife in their natural habitat via 75 overlooks spread throughout the Drive’s 105 miles. With a 35 mph speed limit that’s strictly enforced, don’t be in a rush or expecting high-performance thrills on this adventure. Rather, plan other activities to coincide with the drive, and save some money by visiting on days when the entrance fees are waived.

Dream Ride: Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable and we might be tempted to explore an unpaved road or two. That’s why we’d pick a Subaru Outback for this trip, mainly for its all-wheel drive, comfort, and gas mileage.

Two bicyclists cycling along White Rim Road 3. White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

This road’s strictly for 4×4’s with high ground clearance, and some experience off-roading. So if you’re looking for a scenic yet moderately challenging place to put your $60,000 Land Rover LR4 through its paces and prove that, at 12.2 inches it really does offer the highest ground clearance of any 4×4 on the market today, this might be your destination, or not. In addition to astounding canyon views on this 100 mile loop, drivers may also encounter rapidly changing road conditions, as well as debris, impassable rivers, and even quicksand. The National Park Service recommends traveling in pairs of vehicles equipped with winches to aid in self-rescue as commercial towing services cost from $1,000 to over $2,000. Plan on spending two to three days to complete this drive, or as many as four days if you’re making the journey via mountain bike, which is another popular option.

Dream Ride: Our choice on this demanding drive is the Ford F150 Raptor. It’s designed specifically to deliver the goods off-road, and looks tough doing it.

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys4. Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys

If you’re not a fan of driving over bridges and open water for long stretches, you might want to avoid this road. But if you’re looking for tranquil ocean views on one of the nation’s longest bridges, then this drive down US 1 is what memories are made of. While the whole journey from Miami to Key West can be completed in less than four hours, why would you want to? Drop the top, fire up the Harley, or simply roll down the windows to smell the salt air and take in stunning sunsets. The Seven Mile Bridge is one of many bridges on what is also known as The Overseas Highway, first completed in 1938. Today it offers 113 miles of pavement and 42 bridges waiting for exploration.

Dream Ride: We’d explore that pavement when most of the country is cursing winter and in need of some Florida heat and sunshine in a BMW 4 Series convertible. The removable hard top offers a roof when you need it and sunshine when you don’t.

Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire5. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

The beauty and serenity associated with taking in New England’s spectacular fall foliage can be livened up by navigating New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway. Stretching more than 30 miles along northern New Hampshire’s Route 112, “The Kanc” as it’s called by locals, is designated an American Scenic Byway. Passing through the White Mountains, it challenges drivers with its sweeping turns and switchbacks, but the drive is well worth the effort because of the long-range views regardless of what you’re driving.

Dream Ride: Personally though, we like unobstructed views of the fall foliage and to feel close to nature. That’s why we’d tour The Kanc perched on a Honda Gold Wing. It’s big, comfortable and powerful, and the first bike to offer an airbag. You know, just in case.

What’s your favorite driving experience and the best vehicle to experience it with? Share a comment. 

Comments

  1. Russ Johnson says:

    How could you possible omit the Tail of The Dragon. Hwy 129 from North Carolina to Tennessee is the most challenging and enjoyable roads in the US.
    Coupled with the Cherohala Skyway adjoining the Tail of the Dragon creates about 50 miles of twists, turns and “whooptedoo’s” that you’ll never forget. I’ve done the Skyline Parkway and “The Kank” and the Tail of the Dragon beats their socks off.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Russ! Anyone else have a drive we shouldn’t miss?

    • The Tail of the Dragon is pretty spectacular, there’s no denying that. Not only is it one of the most technical roads we’ve been on, but it’s beautiful too. Trust us, we had a tough time picking just 5 roads! In fact, we’re going to do another favorite roads post soon. Stay tuned.

  2. Wayne Fulmer says:

    My favorite was a drive we took through the Rockies. We left Birmingham area and took a right in Albuquerque to Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Until that trip, I thought Alaska and Switzerland couldn’t be equaled. It came very close. I agree with your comment on the Honda Gold Wing. We’ve had many enjoyable miles on one.

  3. Chris West says:

    YES! Bull’s eye on all the above! As one who’s driven 3 out of these 5 beauties, these are the ones I would recommend too. Honorable mention goes to Vermont Route 100 winding top to bottom through the Green Mountain State’s famed scenery, and Trail Ridge Road (Route 34) through Rocky Mountain National Park.

  4. Blanche says:

    Why not the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnels?

  5. George dunton says:

    Roadways US Highway 12, and Washington Highway 123 Up mount Rainier

  6. G. Schmitt says:

    Highway 1 is closed for about 1 year due to a giant landslide this May 2017 !

  7. The Beartooth Highway from the NE gate of Yellowstone and Alternate 14 through Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. Breathtaking!

  8. I’ll double the Beartooth Highway, but how about “Going to the Sun Road”? I’m afraid that the PCH (Ca 1) is in really bad shape, it’s closed at least two places due to landslides and earth movement in a bridge foundation, and isn’t going to re-open any time soon, if it ever does.

  9. Chad Picasner says:

    I’ve driven all of these except the Seven Mile Highway in the Keys and none of them make my top five. Try the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado or Going-To-The-Sun highway in Glacier to name two. The ones listed here are okay, though.

  10. WE HAVE RIDDEN ALL THESE ROADS ON A MOTORCYCLE. THEY ARE ALL
    BREATH TAKING.

  11. Dee Helming says:

    Highway 50 “The lonliest Road in America” Through Nevada.

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