Table of Contents Show
When planning a road trip, do you think about the drive itself or just the stops along the drive to get you from Point A to Point B?
Some of the best places to visit aren’t specific locations but scenic drives through our country’s most spectacular landscapes.
We want to share the most scenic drives in America so you can plan your next road trip to enjoy not only the attractions, sites, and cities but also the natural beauty of the United States.
Let’s dive in!
What Makes A Road A Scenic Drive?
One of the perks of traveling in an RV is the ability to view America’s landscapes up close. You just don’t get the same scenery when traveling by plane or train. And our nation is full of spectacular landscapes!
A scenic drive might not have a special designation like National Scenic Byway, but it does offer drivers beautiful vistas. This could be the rugged, snow-capped mountain peaks of Colorado, the majestic blue ridges of the Appalachians, the crashing waves along the rocky Pacific Coast, or the unique rock formations of the Southwest.
If you’re drawn to the landscape, getting in and out of the car to take photos, you’re likely enjoying one of America’s most scenic drives.
Why Are Scenic Drives Popular?
Many scenic drives offer pull-outs and overlooks where travelers can breathe in the area’s natural beauty. You’ll feel no rush along these highways. RVers, especially, enjoy traveling these routes between destinations.
Sometimes there are picnic tables with panoramic vistas of deep canyons or flowering meadows. These offer the perfect picnic opportunities on a long drive day.
Natural beauty can also captivate us. When we escape the skyscrapers, honking horns, and busy city sidewalks, we’re drawn to the awe-inspiring creation our hands had no part in.
Whether spiritual or not, you can understand how Native Americans believe the land is sacred. Giant monoliths appear out of nowhere, herds of bison roam free, and rushing rivers continue to carve gorges deeper and deeper.
Scenic drives encourage us to slow down from our hurried pace. Take a stroll along a riverwalk. Snap a selfie at a popular overlook. Meditate as you sit in silence, listening to only the birds. Some might say there’s something magical about nature when we embrace its beauty.
The Eight Most Scenic Drives in America
Throughout the country, hundreds of roads offer panoramic vistas, drives through mountain ridges, and views of cascading waterfalls. But eight stand out to us as the best scenic drives in America. Let’s take a look!
1. The Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway, part of U.S. 550, stretches for about 25 miles in western Colorado between Silverton and Ouray through the San Juan National Forest. These miles of landscape include the Uncompahgre Gorge and the Red Mountain Pass.
Although this is a breathtaking drive, it’s also hazardous. Steep cliffs, narrow lanes, hairpin curves, and no guardrails require drivers to proceed cautiously.
2. The Pacific Coast Highway
Also known as State Route 1 in California, the Pacific Coast Highway is designated an All-American Road. This 656-mile road travels through Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.
Portions of the Pacific Coast Highway run right along the coastline, where you can view the crashing waves against steep rock faces, the beautiful sandy beaches, and perhaps see a seal or whale.
3. Going-to-the-Sun Road
This is the only scenic route on our list that requires a vehicle reservation. Located in Glacier National Park in Montana, Going-to-the-Sun Road opens seasonally and has vehicle restrictions for length, height, and width. The narrow 50-mile road consists of hairpin turns, steep inclines, and rock overhangs.
It crosses the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at an elevation of 6,646 feet. Going-to-the-Sun Road has everything from lakes to mountain peaks to valleys to waterfalls, making it one of the most scenic drives in America.
Keep in Mind: There are tons of helpful camping apps, but some aren’t worth it. Check out the most hated Camping App!
4. Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive also sits in a national park and follows the ridgeline of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The 105-mile road starts near Front Royal in the north and ends near Interstate 64 in Rockfish Gap in the south.
Along the route, 75 overlooks provide stunning Appalachian mountains and Shenandoah Valley vistas. Many people enjoy visiting during the leaf-peeping season when they can view the brilliant fall colors.
5. Blue Ridge Parkway
At the southern end of Skyline Drive, the road becomes Blue Ridge Parkway and continues into North Carolina. This national parkway and All-American Road travels 469 miles linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The parkway regularly has the most visitors out of any national park site in the country.
Like Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides dozens of pull-offs and scenic overlooks to enjoy the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, valleys, lakes, and rivers.
6. The Needles Highway
South Dakota Highway 87 stretches 38 miles along the southwestern part of the state. The Needles Highway is a 14-mile portion of this road. It travels through Custer State Park, so you’ll have to pay a vehicle fee to travel it just like you do the Going-to-the-Sun Road and Skyline Drive since both roads lie in national parks.
The Needles Highway is most famous for its two narrow tunnels, Iron Creek Tunnel and Needles Eye Tunnel, created by blasting through the granite rock.
Like Going-to-the-Sun Road, there are vehicle restrictions for width and height because of these two tunnels.
Along the drive, you’ll view the ponderosa pine and Black Hills spruce forests, vast meadows, rugged mountains, and needle-like granite formations, which is how the road earned its name and became known as one of the most scenic drives in America.
Keep in Mind: Have you driven on the Scariest Roads in America? Click the link to find out!
7. Beartooth Highway
Another All-American Road is the Beartooth Highway. One of the most scenic drives in America has a steep rise in elevation, surrounding national forests, and rugged wilderness. Beartooth Pass sits at the highest point along the route at 10,947 feet.
The Beartooth Highway follows U.S. Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming between Red Lodge and the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Travelers frequently see Elk, moose, bears, bighorn sheep, and deer.
8. U.S. Route 163
Finally, while many of the most scenic drives in America capture the beauty of our country’s mountains and valleys, U.S. Route 163 offers drivers stunning vistas of the red rocks, canyons, mesas, and plateaus of the Southwest.
This 63-mile highway runs through Arizona and Utah, including Monument Valley and its famous 1,000-foot sandstone buttes. Dozens of movies have been filmed along this road.
Can You Take an RV On a Scenic Drive?
Some of the most scenic drives in America, like the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Needles Highway, have length, width, and height restrictions. This means most RVs aren’t permitted. Other routes don’t have specific limitations.
However, drivers should research before venturing out in a large rig. The hairpin turns of the Million Dollar Highway and the low overhanging branches along the Blue Ridge Parkway may not be suitable for longer, taller RVs.
Embrace Our Country’s Beauty With the Most Scenic Drives in America
The most scenic drives in America will leave you speechless. They travel through some of the most rugged wilderness in the Lower 48 and open the window to our country’s natural landscapes and habitats.
Whether you want to drive the ridgeline of the Appalachian mountains in the east, follow the Pacific coastline in the west, dive into the vast open space of the Southwest, or travel through the towering peaks of the Rockies, these scenic drives will offer awe-inspiring vistas again and again.
Which one will you drive first?