Now that it’s officially springtime in the United States, many of us are eagerly pulling the covers off our classic cars and releasing them from the confines of the garage that they’ve spent all winter hiding in. Usually, we break in the season by taking a neighborhood joy ride or possibly cruising down main street a time or two, but there’s more to explore than just our zip codes.
If you’re looking to truly take an advantage of the season, then consider planning a road trip on some of the most enjoyable drives the U.S. has to offer. Just make sure you’ve got some great tunes prepared for the ride.
Below is a list of what we consider the top 10 drives throughout the States.
Number 10, Nevada. The Loneliest Highway (U.S. Highway 50)
It’s probably the most accurate name for this isolated stretch of road that passes through Nevada. There’s absolutely something that is very awe inspiring about the barren landscape on this drive. A unique absence of civilization provides a peace and solace that few people get to appreciate in the everyday hustle and bustle of modern America. For a good few hundred miles of road, you’ll encounter little else than seemingly endless valley, distant mountains, and rugged plant life that somehow manages in this tough and trying environment. Aside from few small towns this is probably one of the most desolate drives you can do, so make sure to gas up whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’re looking to be alone with the road, then U.S. Highway 50 should certainly be atop your list.
Number 9, New Jersey. The Old Mine Road/Delaware Water Gap (U.S. Route 521)
The mighty Delaware River cuts its way through the Appalachian mountains on the borders of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Surrounding this is a 70,000 acre region of protected national recreation area call the Delaware Water Gap. While you could potentially spend an entire vacation on this sprawling northern gem, the scenic drive alone is worthy of a long weekend adventure. This drive is one of the oldest continuously used roads in the United States. The route has plenty of history behind it and is said to have been constructed back in the 17th century. There are an abundance of the historical buildings and notables along the drive, in addition to the scenic points and waterfalls.
Number 8, New Hampshire. Kancamagus Highway (U.S. Route 112)
During the fall, driving Kancamagus Highway is probably one of the most epic displays of foliage you’ll ever experience. However, the Springtime also provides a strong presence of natural Northeastern beauty. This scenic highway is about 34 miles of national forest providing fresh air and serene sights that include rocky gourges, swift rivers, beautiful bridges, various waterfalls, and the ever-impressive white cap mountains. If you’re up for a dip, don’t forget to stop by the Upper Lady’s Bath for an old-fashioned swimming hole found in the Big Rock Campground. This drive is probably one of the purest examples of nature in the country.
Number 7, Colorado. The Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Route 550)
This Western Colorado experience is dubbed the aptly named Million Dollar Highway for a reason and is probably one of the most nail-biting driving experiences found in the Nation. This famous road stretches for 25 miles, but the true treasure is a 12 mile stretch winding around the mountains and passing through Uncompahgre Gourge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass. The two-lane road features incredibly tight turns, narrow lanes, and get this… no guardrails. The views however are unlike any other and braving this path will yield the most incredible views of lakes, forests, and peaks. Just be sure to drive cautiously and enjoy the ride.
Number 6, New Mexico. The High Road to Taos (U.S. Route 503)
The High Road to Taos is a scenic byway spanning for 56 miles from Santa Fe to Taos offering an eclectic sampling of New Mexico’s culture, wildlife, and inspiring geography that help lend to the State’s nickname, the “Land of Enchantment”. The landscape is everchanging along the path and includes mountainous terrain, deserts, forests, and wind-swept hoodoos (long slender rock formations). Throughout the drive, you’ll find yourself passing through a number of small towns steeped in local traditional culture and each offering something unique for the road tripper with extra time to stop and visit. Historic adobe houses, local sites, and traditional handcrafts abound. This is a slice of America that you need to visit to understand and fully appreciate.
Number 5, Illinois-California. The Famous Route 66 (U.S. Route 66)
Yes, the famous Route 66 makes our list and is absolutely a must-drive for any serious road tripper. This expansive highway was once a major artery cutting across America and was actually one of the countries very first highways. The historic road has actually since been retired from the “official” U.S. Highway system in favor of modern alternatives, but the famed path still provides the classic “Americana” adventure that road trippers have been embarking on for decades. Running from Chicago to California and covering over 2,448 miles, the historic Route 66 doesn’t need to be driven in its entirety to be appreciated, but the longer you can commit to it, the more charming and retro attractions you’ll be able to take in.
Number 4, Virginia and North Carolina. Blue Ridge Parkway
This All-American road bills itself as “America’s Favorite Drive” and is a National Parkway and the longest linear park in the Country. It links both the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Driving this adventure is like experiencing an enhanced nature walk with distinct geographical regions like ridges, plateaus, and highlands. During the Spring, flowering shrubs and wildflowers dominate the parkway, so make sure to keep the windows down to enjoy the fresh air and natural aromas that are sure to provide a sense of peace for the full 469 miles.
Number 3, Montana. Going to the Sun Road
Much like your Classic, this scenic mountain road is out of commission during the Winter months but come Spring excitement surrounds the opportunity to travel along the only road that traverses the Glacier National Park. Sometimes abbreviated as The Sun Road, this byway takes you through some of the most ruggedly beautiful wilderness that America has to offer. The 50 mile stretch of road has been described as a marvel of engineering, because it really brings you to places you shouldn’t normally be able to travel by car. As you wind through the Rockies you’ll be able to appreciate one breathtaking vista after another. The drive is a little tricky but with so much to experience in the Great Midwest you’ll want to slow down and enjoy the ride anyways.
Number 2, Florida. Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1)
You’ve probably seen a photo somewhere before of “Mile Marker 1” on the Southernmost point of the Continental United States found in none other than Key West. The drive to this tropical destination is just as satisfying as the experience of vacationing in the Florida Keys. The road itself is really like none other found in the U.S. and stretches 107 miles from Miami to Key West. It was partially constructed utilizing the defunct overseas railroad and traverses the open ocean through tropical savannas and various keys along the drive. This is about as good as it gets if you have a passion for the road but an island state of mind.
Number 1, California – Oregon – Washington. Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1)
You probably could’ve guessed this pick as it tops the list in many categories outside traditional road trips but PCH 1 is one of the most breathtaking and engaging drives you might ever experience. The entire trip is something out of a movie so it’s no surprise that this scenic adventure is one of California’s pride and joy. This journey is one that surely needs to be experienced by all with a passion for driving. The trip offers twists, turns, cliffs, cities, campgrounds, beaches, parks, and opportunities to be calmed by the crashing of ocean waves for near 650 miles. By Springtime driving standards, PCH 1 is next level and worth dedicating a few days to fully take in all that it has to offer.
So, there’s our list. Hopefully there’s at least one of these adventures relatively close to you and yours, but if not, even the drive to the grocery store can be fulfilling enough to the most passionate enthusiasts. Just make sure that you have a full tank of gas, a working radio, and the mindset of “it’s not where you’re going, it’s how much you can enjoy the journey.”
Honorable Mentions go to the following:
Beartooth Highway, Wyoming
Scenic Byway 12, Utah
Highway 2, Nebraska
U.S. Route 6, Massachusetts