Skip the Beach: Our Top 5 Mountain Road Trips

Labor Day Weekend is often seen as the last goodbye to summer beach trips. Which means beachgoers encounter sweltering traffic jams, crowded beaches, and higher hotel rates. But there’s another way to enjoy the late summer holiday: head to the mountains.

The air is crisper, the temperatures are cooler—a nice break from the heat. Mountains are naturally isolated, so you’re sure to find peace and relaxation, even along the busier routes. Our favorite mountain road trips include some popular spots, while others are hidden gems on the map. They represent many regions of the country, so pack up the family vehicle and hit the alpine roads to enjoy the scenery and fresh air.

5. Porcupine Mountains, MI

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Tucked away on the southern banks of Lake Superior lie the Porcupine Mountains. The Porkies are home to more than 90 austere waterfalls. You may recognize two of the Porkies’ most notable waterfalls, Bond Falls and Agate Falls, from a national ad campaign for certain sport-utility vehicles. Find the falls just off Highways 28 and 45. Continue on Highway 45 at dusk for a chance to view the mysterious Paulding Light in the distance. Local legend claims the light is the ghost of an old railroad brakeman waving his lantern in warning. The Midwest’s Porkies rank at number five on our list.

4. Great Smoky Mountains, NC and TN

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

The Great Smoky Mountains, often shrouded in mist, straddle the North Carolina and Tennessee border and offer some of the most awesome views in the southeast, as well as some of the most technical roads we’ve driven. Visitors to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome (follow Clingmans Dome Road) are rewarded with a 100-mile view. Motorists embarking on the meandering 11-mile drive through Cades Cove may think they’ve stepped back in time. Enjoy the cove’s numerous historic sites, pristine environment, and abundant wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountains come in at number four.

3. Adirondack State Park, NY

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Drive north on New York’s I-87 until you hit Lake George and go west from there to find Adirondack State Park, nestled between Schroon Lake and Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Adirondacks host the state’s highest peak, Mount Marcy at 5,343 ft., and offer plenty of scenic driving on Route 73 through timber forests, alpine meadows, and quaint towns (think Adirondack chairs). This northeast Appalachian drive comes in at number three.

2. Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

Drive west, between the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and you will find the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe. Also home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Lake Tahoe sits at 6,255 ft. elevation and is so large that the California-Nevada border runs through its center. If you’re coming from California, I-80 to a curvy Rt. 89 will get you the north end of the lake. Then follow 89 to South Lake Tahoe and take a moment to stop at the breathtaking Emerald Bay viewpoint. From Nevada, you can start from Carson City and follow the steep and spiraled climb up Rt. 50. You’re in for an inspiring drive no matter which state you’re coming from. Tahoe ranks at number two on our list.

1. Going to the Sun Road, Montana

Top Five Mountain Road Trips

In the heart of Glacier National Park, this 33-mile stretch of alpine road carves through the peaks and gorges of the northern Rocky Mountains. Stunning views of 10,000 ft. mountains, pristine lakes, misty water falls, and lush forest make up the scenery. The Sun Road is aptly named as you gain elevation driving through mountain tunnels and along stone bridges with steep valleys hugging the road’s edge. This breathtaking drive ranks as our number one alpine road in the U.S.

Do you have any favorite mountain road trips you’ve taken? Share in the comments.

Road Trip: Dearborn, Detroit, and the Henry Ford Museum

Model TFor lovers of American cars and history, a road trip to Detroit, Michigan is akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca. And June is a great time to make the journey, when Michigan snow and slush have melted away. So roll down your windows and be sure to leave time for all of these must-see events and sights.

Motor Muster at Greenfield Village

Every Father’s Day weekend, historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn trades in its horse-drawn wagons for horse-powered classics as the Motor Muster rolls into town. This event draws auto aficionados from around the world with promises of summer sun glinting off polished chrome, the scent of tire polish, and the purr of finely tuned engines. Hundreds of vehicles are on display, featuring classics from 1933 to 1977. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles parade the antiquated streets for three glorious days.

In between gaping at Tin Lizzies and Firebirds, visitors get to stroll the beautiful grounds of Greenfield Village, taking in historic sights and maybe even riding in a Model T or steam locomotive. Or you can stop by Thomas Edison’s laboratory or the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Both of these buildings were taken apart and brought to Greenfield Village where they were reconstructed.

Henry Ford Museum

Adjacent to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the home of Driving America: the World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition. Historic vehicles in this exhibition range from the oldest surviving American car, an 1865 Roper, to the limousine that President John F. Kennedy rode in when he was assassinated. The museum contains touchscreens throughout so you can discover more about the vehicles and take a fun test that determines the best car for your personality. The museum is also the departure point for the Ford Rouge Factory tour, where you can get a close-up look at the making of iconic F-150 trucks in a multi-sensory theatre.

Automotive Hall of Fame

The Automotive Hall of Fame is located next door to the Henry Ford Museum, where people who have contributed to the industry are honored. You’ll see a 65-foot-long mural of historic auto-related personalities and moments, a full-sized replica of the first gasoline-powered car, and more.

The original Ford assembly plant

Drive down the road to Detroit and visit the original Ford assembly plant, now known as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant National Historic Landmark. You can tour this 1904 factory where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 of the Tin Lizzies before the advent of Ford’s moving assembly line. You can see early Ford vehicles, as well.

When this plant first opened, it took workers 12 hours to build one car, which sold for $850. By the time this plant closed (replaced by the much larger and more well-known Highland Park Model T plant, where 12 million Tin Lizzies were built), assembly time plunged to 12 minutes and the cost to $260. Work days dropped at Ford from ten hours to eight hours and wages skyrocketed from 30 cents an hour to $5 a day.

If you find yourself on I-94 while in Detroit, near the Metro Airport, you’ll probably notice the Uniroyal Giant Tire. The tire was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction for the World Fair, held in New York in 1964 and 1965. Ninety-six people could ride the wheel at the fair and it needed a 100-horsepower motor to operate. Altogether, more than one million people rode in this tire before it became a stationary landmark. In 1994, neon lighting was added to the tire, along with a new hubcap. In 2003, Uniroyal invested an incredible $1 million to renovate its well-known landmark. It’s definitely a sight to see and worth the drive.

What would you recommend for a Dearborn/Detroit road trip? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.