10 Best Scenic Drives in the US for an Epic Road Trip

The United States is blessed with incredible natural beauty and diverse landscapes across its vast expanse. From coast to coast and border to border, there are countless breathtakingly scenic roads and highways that allow you to experience the country’s wonders from the comfort of your car. Table of Contents Show 1 Overview of the 10…

10 Best Scenic Drives in the US for an Epic Road Trip

Researched and Written by:

Published:

Updated:

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from various site and other third parties.

The United States is blessed with incredible natural beauty and diverse landscapes across its vast expanse. From coast to coast and border to border, there are countless breathtakingly scenic roads and highways that allow you to experience the country’s wonders from the comfort of your car.

In this extensive guide, we will highlight the 10 most scenic drives in the contiguous U.S. states. These drives wind through national and state parks, along gorgeous coastlines, over mountain passes, and through canyon country. They provide jaw-dropping vistas and photo opportunities around every bend.

Overview of the 10 Most Scenic Drives in the U.S.

Here is a high-level overview of the scenic drives that will be covered in detail throughout this guide:

QUIZ TIME – Your Travel Style Decoded! 🌟

Ever wondered what your travel vibe is? Please take our quick and fun quiz to find out! It’s like discovering your travel spirit animal, but cooler. Let’s make your next trip as epic as your playlist! 🌎🎉

1 / 10

How do you prefer to experience local culture?

How do you prefer to experience local culture

2 / 10

What type of scenery excites you the most?

3 / 10

What’s your preferred mode of transportation during travel

What's your preferred mode of transportation during travel

4 / 10

What’s your ideal accommodation style?

ideal accommodation style

5 / 10

What’s your attitude towards planning activities?

planning activities for travel

6 / 10

What’s your souvenir preference?

What's your souvenir preference?

7 / 10

How do you handle language barriers?

How do you handle language barriers

8 / 10

What’s your preferred travel season?

9 / 10

What type of adventure appeals to you the most?

type of adventure appeals to you the most

10 / 10

How do you capture your travel memories?

capture your travel memories

  1. Oregon Coast – Winds along the Pacific Coastline on Highway 101 with excellent ocean views.
  2. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND – Drives through colorful badlands and rolling grasslands with plenty of wildlife.
  3. Badlands National Park, SD – Showcases eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires in the South Dakota badlands.
  4. Florida Keys – Connects the islands of the Florida Keys archipelago with the beautiful blue ocean.
  5. Interstate 70 in Colorado – Travels through the Rocky Mountains with amazing mountain scenery.
  6. Blue Ridge Parkway – Legendary drive through the Appalachian Mountains with great views.
  7. California’s Big Sur Coast – Hugs the Pacific Coastline along towering cliffs leading to secluded beaches.
  8. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – Follows Lake Superior’s shoreline with pristine beaches and sand dunes.
  9. Maine’s Western Wilderness – Loops around mountain lakes and quiet forests perfect for getting off the beaten path.
  10. National Parks of Southern Utah – Red rock paradise driving through Bryce Canyon, Zion and more.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these incredible scenic drives across the United States.

1. Oregon’s Pacific Coast – Highway 101

10 Best Scenic Drives in the US for an Epic Road Trip: Oregon's Pacific Coast - Highway 101
Driving along Oregon’s picturesque Pacific Coastline on Highway 101

Without a doubt, one of the most scenic drives in the whole United States is found driving up Oregon’s coastline on Highway 101. This gorgeous stretch of road affords nonstop ocean views as it winds along towering sea cliffs dotted with lighthouses.

Highway 101 in Oregon stretches 363 miles from California all the way to Washington, but the best section for scenic driving is considered to be from Lincoln City to Brookings. Along this portion of the Oregon coast, Highway 101 truly hugs the shoreline for nearly its entirety, only occasionally ducking inland for short stints.

One standout fact about Oregon’s beaches is that they are completely public with access all along the coast. So not only does Highway 101 provide fantastic driving views, but you can also easily stop at one of the many pull offs and scenic viewpoints to stroll along the beach.

Unlike much of the crowded California coastline choked with development, Oregon’s coast remains relatively unpopulated without massive hotels and towns dominating the landscape. The largest coastal cities top out at only around 15,000 residents, keeping intact the natural beauty.

Essentially the entire stretch of Highway 101 along Oregon’s coast drives through one epic state park. With the ocean on one side and lush coastal forests on the other, this is scenic driving at its absolute finest.

📍Location

2. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Taking in the badlands scenery along the scenic drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

You likely wouldn’t peg North Dakota as containing one of America’s most breathtaking drives, but Theodore Roosevelt National Park shatters expectations. Located in the remote badlands of far western North Dakota, this underrated gem provides jaw-dropping scenery around every corner.

Despite flying under the radar of popular national parks, Theodore Roosevelt offers fantastic opportunities to experience the Wild West beauty of the badlands. While driving the 36-mile loop between the North and South units, you’ll be treated to an ever-changing display of scorched buttes, colorful hoodoos, and eroded rock formations.

Beyond the captivating geology, Theodore Roosevelt National Park bursts with wildlife. You’re almost guaranteed to spot huge herds of bison, bands of wild horses, prairie dog towns, and bighorn sheep while driving through the park. Early morning and dusk are the best times to catch animals out and about.

Not only is seeing wildlife easy, you’ll likely have much of the park all to yourself! The remote location and brutally cold winters keep visitation low, especially in the lesser-visited North Unit.

The solitude and rugged beauty to be found within the North Dakota badlands on the Theodore Roosevelt National Park scenic drive create an unforgettable experience. This peaceful prairie driving tour allows you to soak in gorgeous views at your own leisurely pace.

 

Tours & Things to do hand-picked by our insiders

 

📍Location

3. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Admiring the rock formations while driving through Badlands National Park

Moving south into neighboring South Dakota, we find ourselves traversing over more incredible badlands scenery at Badlands National Park. Along with Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Badlands National Park protects a significant chunk of the White River badlands geological formation.

While South Dakota may be better known for attractions like Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, the state’s sprawling grassland prairies and alien-looking badlands are equally stunning. A drive along Highway 240 slicing through the heart of Badlands National Park showcases the park’s bizarre beauty for all to enjoy.

As you meander down the Badlands Loop Road, seemingly endless bands of colorful rock stretch endlessly under the big South Dakota sky. The eroded cliffs and spires in shades of pink, red, brown, yellow and white create a visually striking landscape. Stop at overlooks for the best photographic opportunities over the rock formations.

Wildlife like bison and bighorn sheep also roam the sweeping badlands and can often be spotted from pullouts along the road. Descending from the high plateau, the scenery transitions to mixed grass prairie crossed by meandering creeks lined with vibrant green vegetation contrasting the muted badlands hues.

Before reaching the town of Wall at the southern end of the byway, the scenic drive travels through the Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Here you’ll be immersed in pristine native prairie as far as the eye can see.

With wildlife sightings around every corner and continually evolving geology, Badlands National Park deserves recognition as one of the most unique and unforgettable scenic drives in the country.

📍Location

4. Overseas Highway – Florida Keys

 Overseas Highway - Florida Keys
Driving the Florida Keys Overseas Highway with the Seven Mile Bridge

For a scenic drive surrounded by shimmering turquoise waters, look no further than the legendary Overseas Highway connecting mainland Florida to the Florida Keys. Stretching 126 miles to Key West, this scenic highway hopscotches over island after island across bridges and causeways.

Most of the Overseas Highway south of Key Largo consists of bridges joining this necklace-like chain the small islands known as keys. Driving down to Key West almost makes you feel as if you are floating directly over the beautiful blue ocean the entire way.

Between the sweeping water views, you’ll also get to experience the unique island culture of the Keys. Brightly colored hotels and restaurants advertising fresh seafood line the Overseas Highway as it passes through island towns and cities. When not gazing at the ocean, look inland to spot Key deer and shorebirds.

The most famous bridge along the route is the Seven Mile Bridge connecting Knight’s Key to Little Duck Key. As part of the former Overseas Railroad, this is one of the longest bridges in existence over water. Driving over the Seven Mile Bridge frames postcard views over the crystalline waters that the Florida Keys are so famous for.

End your oceanside road trip by crossing the last bridge into Key West and celebrate your arrival in the continental United States’ southernmost city! From Miami to Key West, the Overseas Highway linking the Florida Keys ranks among America’s top scenic coastal drives.

📍Location

5. Interstate 70 in Colorado

10 Best Scenic Drives in the US for an Epic Road Trip: Interstate 70 in Colorado
Cruising through the Rocky Mountains on Interstate 70 in Colorado

Mountains, mountains and more mountains! Interstate 70 slicing west across Colorado from Denver affords the ultimate Rocky Mountain road trip. No other interstate reaches higher elevation or delivers better mountain scenery.

Between the towns Vail, to the west, through Glenwood Canyon, and eastward to Denver, the scenery rarely stops captivating along I-70. Prepare to have your breath taken away while traversing mountains, valleys and canyons through the heart of the Rockies.

The highest point on any interstate in the U.S. comes along I-70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel. Located below the Continental Divide just west of Denver, the interstate shortcuts under the mountain while cars can exit to take US Highway 6 up and over Loveland Pass. At almost 12,000 feet elevation, it’s easy to feel lightheaded from the thin air!

Continuing west you zip through historic mountain towns like Vail, Copper Mountain and Silverthorne with ski slopes rising high above. Between Frisco and Silverthorne along the “Dillon Reservoir Recreation Area” you’ll be dazzled by shimmering lakes ringed by pine forests under hulking mountain peaks.

Further along past Vail Pass you’ll enter Glenwood Canyon where I-70 again hugs the steep canyon walls. Hanging over the thundering Colorado River and Railroad, Glenwood Canyon is filled with towering cliffs, waterfalls and tunnels that add extra excitement.

With incredible mountain scenery bombarding you from all angles, Interstate 70 across the high country of Colorado takes scenic drives to daring new heights!

📍Location

6. Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia
Taking in the Blue Ridge Parkway’s beauty during the fall foliage season

Ask most Americans to name the most scenic or famous drive in the country and the Blue Ridge Parkway is almost guaranteed to top their list. This heralded parkway stretches 469 miles along the crest of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, delivering awesome views.

Running from Shenandoah National Park’s southern end to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects Virginia and North Carolina’s high country. Most tourists agree that the best stretch for scenic driving follows the state line from Asheville, NC up to Boone, NC.

This section of the parkway winds past 6,000+ feet Mount Mitchell, Eastern America’s loftiest mountain. It then continues climbing towards Grandfather Mountain’s famous swinging bridge hovering a mile above sea level. The nonstop panoramic views over the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains inspire many returns to the parkway year after year.

When it comes to the single best time to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway’s beauty, it’s undoubtedly during autumn.

Vibrant fall foliage spreading over the mountainsides like wildfire attracts loads leaf peepers hoping to catch the colors at peak conditions. Note that October crowds match the popularity, so visit on weekdays for more solitude.

While fall gets all the fanfare, spring and summertime bring brilliant green forests and wildflowers to the high meadows. Even in winter a light blanket of snow transforms the landscapes into a magical wonderland. Truth be told, the Blue Ridge Parkway earns its reputation as one of America’s most scenic drives 365 days a year!

📍Location

7. Big Sur Coast – California

 10 Best Scenic Drives in the US for an Epic Road Trip: Big Sur Coast - California
Stopping to enjoy dramatic views along the Big Sur coast in California

Competing with the Oregon coast for the title of the ultimate Pacific coastal road trip is California’s Big Sur region. Like Oregon, the California coastline wows visitors with untamed natural beauty and killer ocean vistas along Highway 1.

Considered one of the West’s most stunning stretches of coastline, the Big Sur region spans 90 miles between Carmel-by-the-Sea to Hearst Castle north of San Simeon. Highway 1 twists and turns over cliffs dramatically dropping 2000+ feet down to secluded beaches hugging the continent.

Towering redwoods and the Santa Lucia Mountains also squeeze the legendary two lane road in places, amping up the adrenaline. Big Sur certainly keeps drivers alert with heart-stopping views demanding attention around each bend. Just remember to keep eyes glued to the road too!

Unlike tangled freeways and crammed beaches defining much of the state, Big Sur transports visitors back to nature and solitude. Rough backcountry dotted with state parks branches off in every direction begging for further exploration. But even if just making a quick drive thru, Highway 1’s awe-inspiring landscapes bursting with roaring Pacific surf are certain to drop jaws.

Stopping at roadside pull offs let you truly soak in the splendor. They also provide great opportunities to capture that legendary Big Sur postcard shot for cherished memories down the road.

📍Location

8. Upper Peninsula – North Shore Scenic Drive

Upper Peninsula - North Shore Scenic Drive
Scenic pull off showcasing Lake Superior along the UP’s North Shore drive

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or “UP” among locals, contains some of the most unspoiled stretches of Lake Superior shoreline, perfect for a peaceful scenic drive. While veering onto smaller county backroads yields even quieter passage through pure wilderness, the main North Shore route sticks faithfully alongside Lake Superior.

This National Scenic Byway stretching 123 miles from Manistique up to Whitefish Point offers front row seats to Lake Superior’s majesty. Most of the North Shore drive runs through either Hiawatha or Lake Superior State Forest, guaranteeing lush scenery the whole way.

Windswept beaches (don’t forget a jacket!), monumental sand dunes, historic lighthouses, and the forested Sawtooth Mountains all contribute breathtaking views along your UP road trip. Roadside stops also provide hike access into adjoining Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with its famous colorful sandstone cliffs.

Popular towns dotting the UP’s North Shore like Munising and Marquette serve as gateways deeper into Hiawatha forested backcountry. Just be sure not to miss the spur out to scenic Grand Island for panoramic Lake Superior vistas atop its granite cliffs.

For an easy-to-access scenic drive blending awesome Lake views, pristine beaches, sand dunes and quintessential northwoods wilderness, take the UP’s North Shore Byway along Michigan’s untamed shoreline.

📍Location

9. Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway – Western Maine

Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway - Western Maine
Driving through Maine’s scenic Western mountain wilderness

Northern New England shines as one of the East Coast’s top scenic escapes, with Maine at the forefront. In Western Maine you’ll discover the Rangeley Lakes region, a remote mountain and lake district perfect for wandering down scenic country lanes far off the beaten path.

The primary Route 16 corridor connecting Portland up towards Quebec provides stunning vistas, but again, detouring on the backroads unlocks the real magic. Meandering over rolling mountains draped in hardwood forests dotted with shimmering lakes, the roads here simply beg for spontaneous exploration.

While there are numerous loop routes anyone can piece together with a Lakes Region map, we recommend the established 60-mile Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. This designated route strings together some of Maine’s prettiest scenery between the mountain towns of Mexico, Rangeley and Stratton.

Connected lakes like Rangeley and Mooselookmeguntic act as glittering centerpieces lined by vacation cabins and pine forests frequented by moose. Farther north Mount Blue State Park’s high peaks cradle more lakefront vistas. Plus views west towards the Carrabassett River Valley from Height of Land outlook.

With nearly 96% lush forests blanketing Western Maine’s landscape, outdoor lovers will think they’ve stumbled into heaven. Bring along a bicycle, kayak or hiking boots to immerse yourself deeper into the magical scenery along the route.

Backroad adventurers searching for that quintessential rural New England getaway overflowing with charm needn’t roam further than Western Maine’s lakes and mountains.

📍Location

10. National Park Road Trip – Southern Utah

National Park Road Trip - Southern Utah
One of the many awe-inspiring scenic vistas through Southern Utah’s red rock landscape

For what many travelers consider the Southwest’s most awe-inspiring scenic drive, look no further than the park-hopping journey through Southern Utah’s sweeping canyon country.

By touring several iconic national parks and monuments in quick succession, Southern Utah serves up nonstop eye candy through some of the planet’s most photogenic terrain.

While the iconic National Park Road Trip incorporates Utah’s “Big Five” (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands), we specifically highlight the trifecta linking Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Capitol Reef along scenic byways 12, 24 and 95. Touring these three parks provides more stunning beauty jam-packed together than imaginable.

Throughout the drive or any stops, the hypnotizing canyon formations and red rock towers seem ripped from movie sets or paintings rather than representing planet Earth.

One particular adrenaline-spiking highlight is navigating Zion’s Zion-Mount Carmel highway featuring sheer drop-offs, hairpin turns, and the aptly named “Hogback” ridge narrowed to one lane wide.

Bryce Canyon captivates roadtrippers with its hundreds of pastel-colored hoodoos set among Ponderosa pines, while 12,000ft vista points survey endless rock layers resembling petrified waves. Further northeast, Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold anticline impresses for the sharp 100-mile long wrinkle slicing through solid rock. Uplifted strata along the fold create Capitol Reef’s signature crazed scenery.

With pink sand dunes, towering natural arches, slot canyons, Sleeping Rainbow Ridge’s wildly buckled geology all found nearby too, Southern Utah delivers some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful landscapes across America. Temper expectations before your visit, because believe us – the real thing surpasses any photo!

📍Location

Final Thoughts on the Best Scenic Drives in the U.S.

The 10 stunning scenic drives highlighted prove just a sampling of the incredible beauty blanketing the United States. Wherever your adventures may take you, make time to appreciate America’s diverse landscapes by taking scenic detours. Choose routes showcasing forests, mountains, plains, coasts, or desert scenes that speak to your soul.

Pack up your car with your favorite tunes, snacks enough to share, and friends eager to soak up gorgeous vistas for hours on end. Don’t just rush between destinations – the journey offers equal joy! Ensure cameras and binoculars close at hand to fully immerse in the nonstop eye candy. Here’s to embracing the thrill of the scenic route wherever the open road leads for memories to last a lifetime.

Leave a Reply