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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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? Leave us a comment.