With so many diverse landscapes making up the United States, the country is made for scenic drives.
Let’s be honest, getting into nature and hiking the trails around the U.S. is the best way to really explore. However, some of the most picturesque places in the country can be witnessed from the road.
If you’re short on time, check out some of the most spectacular scenic drives in the United States.
California’s Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most popular scenic highways in the country and with good reason. This stunning drive along the coast of California is something out of a movie scene. With incredible ocean views and the smell of the sea, this drive is an absolute dream. Whether you start NorCal and work your way down the coast or start in SoCal and drive from San Diego, this road trip provides panoramic views of the brilliant California coast. There is also a plethora of little beach towns to check out along the way.
While the entire drive is amazing, one of the best stretches is through Big Sur. With waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife, there’s so much to see along this section of Highway 1. Drive the winding highway along the oceanside cliffs. If you time it right, you’ll catch a beautiful sunset and sky full of stars.
Colorado National Monument
Parks like Garden of the Gods and Rocky Mountain National Park are some of the go-to spots when visiting Colorado. It should be known the state is filled many lesser-known areas that are brimming with beauty. One such spot is the drive through Colorado National Monument. It is located on the western edge of Colorado, outside the town of Grand Junction. The striking views of this landscape are so captivating that you’ll want to pull over to take them in. Honestly, you should as driving the twisting roads in this area require immense concentration. The red rocks and canyon walls surround the Rim Rock Drive make for great views 23-miles down into a juniper-covered valley.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Nestled between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah lies Dead Horse Point State Park. With two astounding national parks in the area, sometimes this gem gets overlooked. But it is most definitely worth taking a drive through. With dramatic views of the canyon’s rock formations and Colorado River below, some of the best views can be seen from the road. There are lots of great hiking trails in this park, it has a lot of wonderful overlooks that can be checked out by quickly pulling over. Dead Horse Point, the overlook that the park is named after, is a fantastic spot for sunset.
Million Dollar Highway
Colorado’s famous “Million Dollar Highway” is sure to take your breath away as you drive through snowcapped mountains. This 25-mile portion of U.S. Highway 550 connects the towns of Ouray and Silverton as part of the San Juan Skyway Colorado Scenic Byway. The majestic mountains on this drive lend to the reason the town of Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of America”. While it may be in the same state as the Colorado National Monument, the landscape of this area couldn’t be more different than the mountain towns that Colorado is often known for.
Kings Canyon National Park
It may not be one of the more widely known national parks, but it should be as the drive through Kings Canyon National Park is like driving through a painting. Located in central California north of Sequoia National Park, driving through this park will make you wonder how it has taken you this long in life to experience it. Rugged gray mountains, waterfalls, and a rushing river make for an enchanting view out your car window. Be sure to roll down your window and open your sunroof in order to stimulate your senses by getting a whiff of the lush forest in this area. You’ll find it nearly impossible not to pull over to take in the mesmerizing views of Kings Canyon. This jaw-droppingly beautiful area makes for one of the most memorable drives.
So while exploring the U.S. may be best done by getting off the beaten path and hiking deep into the woods or desert on a backcountry trail, sometimes life calls for a scenic drive. Be sure to hit these five wonderful drives the next time you’re out west. If you’re looking for even more scenic drives to add to your road trip list, be sure to check out part two of this list!