Sunday, February 28, 2010

America's Most Scenic Road Trips

I came upon a list of America's Most Scenic Drives. I was surprised by how many of them I have Roadtripped on. And have already written about on this very blog.

Or that I intend to write about, but have not gotten around to it yet. Such as Highway 49 in California. Or Yosemite. Or Yellowstone. Or the Oregon Coast.

Several Scenic Roadtrips in Washington are on this list of 30, but not Chuckanut Drive. Chuckanut Drive takes you from the Samish Flats in Skagit County to Bellingham. The road twist and turns on the sides of mountains, with steep drop offs to the saltwater bay below. It is a very scenic drive.

Below is the list of 30 Scenic America Road Trip Drives, with links to my version of a Scenic Drive and possibly a comment or two.


1. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana. This drive past fiord-like St. Mary and McDonald lakes, the glacial scenery of Logan Pass, waterfalls, sheer slopes covered with beargrass, and old-growth forest on Avalanche Creek is the most scenic 50 miles of highway in the US. Don't miss it.

I have survived Roadtripping Going-to-the-Sun Road.

2. Grand Loop (US 20-89-191-287), Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Three million acres of wilderness is accessible from this loop drive. The diversity of the scenery on this road is amazing: geyser basins and terraces, waterfalls, wildlife, fishing in seven rivers, Yellowstone Lake, the canyons of the Yellowstone River, rugged mountains and valleys.

Roadtripping through Yellowstone is one of my favorites.

3. Yosemite Valley Drive-California 120-California 41, Yosemite National Park. The valley that inspired John Muir is still unforgettable. After seeing the Valley, get on the Tioga Pass Road to access the Sierra high country of granite mountains and blue lakes. All roads in the Park are scenic, but the Wawona road (Calif. 41) has the best sequoias.

Writing about Roadtripping to Yosemite is on my to-do list.

4. US 212 (BearTooth Highway), Yellowstone National Park-Red Lodge, Montana. This highway climbs both sides of the 10,000-foot BearTooth Plateau, a million-acre wilderness with awesome views. First part of the drive is Yellowstone National Park backcountry through the Absaroka Mountains.

5. Rim Drive, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Driveby sightseeing is not the best way to experience the Grand Canyon, but it's better than nothing.

I prefer the rim drive on the north rim. Way fewer drivers.

6. Teton Park Roads and Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, Grand Teton-Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Spectacular lakes and valleys with the Teton Range as a backdrop.

I have Roadtripped Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, but I've always Roadtripped right by Grand Teton National Park. I regret this omission.

7. US 101 (Redwood Highway), Crescent City-Trinidad, California: The world's tallest trees are the main attraction, but side trips to the Pacific beach and hikes like Fern Canyon make this area one of the country's most scenic.

Stopping the Roadtripping and getting out to hike in the Redwoods is a good thing.

8. US 441 (Newfound Gap Road)-Tennessee 73 (Little River Road), Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee-North Carolina. The quiet beauty of the Smokies is good in any season, and this drive is a good tour of some of the park's best areas. Fall colors are among the best anywhere in the world.

9. Utah 9, Zion National Park. Including the spur road up Zion Canyon, one of the most spectacular and haunting places in the Southwest.

Zion may be my all time favorite scenic Roadtrip Scenic Drive.

10. Blue Ridge National Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Skyline Drive, Virginia. Besides spring flowers and fall leaves, this national parkway offers enough views, hikes, and scenery to justify the extra driving time.

11. US 101 and Olympic National Park roads, Washington. The drive along the shoreline of Lake Crescent through the Olympic rain forest is incredibly scenic. But even better are the spur roads (the Hurricane Ridge, Soleduck Valley, and Hoh Rain Forest roads) that go deeper into the national park.

And the beaches, particularly La Push and the hike from Lake Ozette to the Pacific.

12. California 1 (Coast Highway), Leggett-Morro Bay, California. Three hundred miles of the Pacific.

For me, this is the best Roadtripping Drive on the west coast.

13. US 550 (Million Dollar Highway), Ouray-Durango, Colorado. An engineering feat, this road goes through the best scenery in the Colorado Rockies.

I was not as overwhelmed as I wanted to be by the Million Dollar Highway.

14. Utah 12, Bryce Canyon National Park-Torrey, Utah. Connects two great national parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, but the scenery in between is just as good, including the Escalante slickrock country and the aspens and 100-mile views on Boulder Mountain.

The things I remember most about this Scenic Roadtrip Drive was the high summits and the hike into Calf Creek Falls. That is one of the summits, on this Scenic Drive, in the picture at the top. I mentioned this drive when I wrote about a Roadtrip that ended up at Bryce Canyon.

15. US 34 (Trail Ridge Road), Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. One of the most dramatic areas of high country in the West, let alone reachable by highway.

I have Roadtripped this road, but can not find a single photo of it.

16. Hawaii 360 (Hana Highway), Maui, Hawaii. Some of the best parts of Hawaii are for hikers only; the Hana road is definitely one of the exceptions.

17. US 101, Astoria-Brookings, Oregon. The Oregon coast is sometimes dramatic, sometimes gentle, always scenic. Side trips to old-growth forests, rivers a plus.

Roadtripping the Oregon Coast is a close second to California's version of driving alongside the Pacific Ocean. Washington's version is much wilder with a lot less highway running along side the ocean.

18. Catalina Highway, Tucson, Arizona. Goes from saguaro desert to Douglas-fir forest in 20 miles.

I have Roadtripped all over Arizona, but I have no memory of Roadtripping on Catalina Highway.

19. Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Deep blue and just deep, Crater Lake is fascinating.

The last time I was at Crater Lake National Park the snow was deep. And the lake was still a deep, deep blue.

20. Washington 706, 123 and 410, Mount Rainier National Park. Climbs through forested slopes and encircles Mount Rainier.

I Roadtripped around Mount Rainier just over a year go, seeing The Mountain, up close and cloud-free for the first time.

21. Alaska 3 (Parks Highway), Fairbanks-Willow, Alaska. Driving in Alaska is not like driving in the Lower 48 --- the vastness of the landscape is overwhelming. Other roads may have even better scenery (e.g. the Richardson Highway) but the road to Denali is a journey through the heart of Alaska.

I am reading a book that is making me want to Roadtrip the Alaskan Highway. I have never Roadtripped in Alaska. I have flown there, I have floated there, but have never Roadtripped there.

22. Colorado 82, Aspen-Twin Lakes, Colorado. US 160, Pagosa Springs-South Fork, Colorado. It's hard to single out part of Colorado as being more scenic than the rest, but the drives across Independence Pass and Wolf Creek Pass are as good as any.

23. Route 100, Vermont. Still rural, still natural, and still inspiring, New England is one of America's most unique cultural areas.

24. Washington 14 and Interstate 84, Columbia River Gorge, Washington-Oregon. The now-tamed Columbia River's natural gateway to the Pacific. Plus side trips to waterfalls, old-growth groves, and up the Hood River valley to Mount Hood.

There is part of the Scenic Drive, through the Columbia Gorge, which is the first road ever built in America just for the purpose of giving people driving access to spectacular scenery. And it is one spectacular road.

25. Talimena Scenic Drive, Talihina, Oklahoma-Mena, Arkansas. Though not well known nationally, this parkway follows the crest of the Ouachita Mountains for 75 miles through the best scenery in the central U.S.

26. Natchez Trace National Parkway, Natchez, Mississippi-Nashville, Tennessee. The National Park Service built this relaxing alternative for drivers through the Old South. The parkway takes you almost 500 miles, from the Mississippi delta to the edge of the Tennessee mountains, with historic sites, walking and hiking trails. Why can't all highways be like this?

27. Washington 20 (Cascade Highway), Twisp-Marblemount, Washington. A long drive through the big wilderness of the North Cascades.

This is where I lived in Washington. I've Roadtripped this Scenic Drive more times than I could possibly remember.

28 and 29. Michigan 20, Eagle River-Copper Harbor, Michigan. Birch forest, iron mines, and the shoreline of blue Lake Superior make this road scenic. US 61, Two Harbors-Grand Portage, Minnesota. The best-known of many excellent drives along the Superior lakeshore.

30. Florida 9336, Florida City-Flamingo (Everglades National Park). For the wildlife, vegetation and views of Florida Bay.

No comments: