Summer was made for road trips and North America offers practically an endless list of spectacular options. There’s over 3.7 million square miles to discover in the U.S. alone, which can make it hard to decide which to take. Whether you’re looking for jaw-dropping ocean views, mountain vistas, history, wildlife or all of the above, these routes are sure to provide an experience you won’t soon forget.
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Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada - Victoria to Telegraph Cove
Look forward to the many delights of British Columbia’s gorgeous capital, along with a nature lovers’ paradise on this Vancouver Island drive. Start in Victoria, enjoying attractions like famous Butchart Gardens and the Royal BC Museum. If you have time, venture west to Tofino before heading north, where you’ll be able to enjoy everything from hikes through the rainforest to natural hot springs and driftwood-strewn beaches. Stop in Campbell River, the “Salmon Capital of the World,” to sample its famously delicious fish and enjoy whale watching in Telegraph Cove by heading out on a boat or kayak tour among some 300 northern resident orca whales.
Santa Fe to Albuquerque on the Turquoise Trail, New Mexico
The Turquoise Trail is a National Scenic Byway that offers the chance to enjoy some of the highlights of the southwest, traveling for about 54 miles between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It follows the same route where turquoise was first mined in the area and offers some incredibly scenic views. Take your time, stopping at places like the Casa Grande Trading Post, Petting Zoo and Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum. You can learn about the region’s famous gem, pick up gifts and souvenirs and enjoy close encounters with goats, chickens and a llama. Other popular stops include the Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden, art galleries, shops selling western goods and the Tinkertown Museum.
Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
A top road trip destination in Colorado, The Million Dollar Highway is a 26-mile-long stretch between Silverton and Ouray. It’s also one of the country’s most stunning routes, with jaw-dropping views around its twists and turns that hug the edge of sheer cliffs. Start in Silverton where nearly all of the downtown is part of a National Historic District, offering plenty to explore like the old county jail. Once you reach Ouray, enjoy soaking in the soothing natural hot springs at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
Icefields Parkway, Banff to Jasper, Alberta, Canada
A drive of a lifetime, Icefields Parkway links Banff and Jasper national parks, a 166.5-mile route that begins just outside Lake Louise. One of the best things to do when visiting Banff National Park, it traces the Continental Divide, providing dramatic views of the mountains in every direction. You’ll pass glacial-fed lakes like Peyto Lake with its surreal, brilliant turquoise hue, rushing rivers, magnificent waterfalls and glaciers. Wildlife is abundant too, so keep an eye out for moose, caribou and bear. A stop to visit Athabasca Glacier is a must, experiencing it up close via the Ice Explorer, which will take you across the icy surface.
Moab to Lake Powell, Utah
The drive from Moab to Lake Powell, heading south on Highway 191 and then Highway 163 through Mexican Hat before venturing back north, is about a 475-mile journey. You might want to plan to do it over a few days as it will bring you through some incredible southwestern scenery and opportunities for all sorts of adventures. Start by enjoying Arches National Park and then stop in Bluff to search for petroglyphs left by Ancestral Puebloans. From the viewpoint in Goosenecks State Park here, you can stare some 1,000 feet down into the canyon and catch Monument Valley in the distance. Continuing on, join a Jeep tour led by a Navajo guide to learn about the history of Monument Valley and get a closer look at its striking beauty. When you reach the south side of Lake Powell, hop in for a swim or take a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, one of the world’s largest known natural bridges.
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Oregon
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway travels for 66 miles from Bend. It will take you through the Deschutes National Forest, providing access to trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls, while passing 14 stunning lakes like Sparks Like with its brilliant aquamarine hue. From here, you’ll enjoy views of the peaks of South Sister and Broken Top. Rent a SUP at Elk or Cultus lakes to enjoy a scenic paddle, or take advantage of Crane Prairie Reservoir, renowned for its birdlife and “cranebows,” huge rainbow trout that grow quickly in the shallow, food-rich environment.
Beartooth Highway, Montana/Wyoming
Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile stretch along Highway 212 that winds through Montana and Wyoming, from Red Lodge to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It’s the Northern Rockies’ highest elevation highway and requires nerves of steel to get through some portions. It peaks at 11,000 feet, a spot known as the Top of the World viewpoint. From there, you’ll be able to marvel at the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, glacial lakes, forested valleys and waterfalls. Wildlife can often be seen here too, including bobcats, mountain lions, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
Seaside to Brookings, Oregon
Dotted with charming beach towns, Oregon’s coast is one of the world’s most breathtaking, and much of it can be enjoyed on a scenic road trip from Seaside to Brookings along Highway 101. The 321-mile trip provides unobstructed vistas of remote beaches and wind-sculpted dunes, rock formations and cliffs battered by the waves. In Seaside, you’ll find all sorts of family-friendly entertainment, including the Seaside Aquarium where you can feed fish to the sea lions. Cannon Beach offers stunning views that include iconic Haystack Rock, and about 11 miles before reaching Florence are the Sea Lion Caves. When you reach Brookings, enjoy the long stretches of sand ideal for kite flying, sandcastle building and exploring tide pools.
North Shore Scenic Byway, Minnesota
Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Byway may not offer ocean views, but it’s the next best thing, following a 150-mile route along a rocky coastline. Start from Canal Park in Duluth traveling the edge of Lake Superior to Grand Portage near the U.S./Canadian Border, passing through spectacular nearly untouched wilderness. Plan to make plenty of stops to enjoy the picturesque lighthouses, waterfalls and beaches as well as small towns that are fun to explore with unique shops, tasty eateries and museums.
Joshua Tree to Lake Tahoe, California
A nearly 500-mile drive along California Route 395 will bring you from the Southern California desert through the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to Lake Tahoe. Start in Joshua Tree National Park with a scenic drive or an early morning hike through the unique rock formations and bizarrely shaped trees. Some possible stops along the way include Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake. You might want to spend some time in Lone Pine if you have any interest in Western movies, home to Alabama Hills, where dozens have been filmed.
The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada
One of the world’s most scenic drives, the Cabot Trail is a bucket list road trip on Cape Breton Island. The 185-mile-long route hugs seaside cliffs completing a loop around the northern tip of the island, passing through the Cape Breton Highlands, bringing the opportunity to explore the still vibrant Celtic and Acadian cultures while enjoying the breathtaking scenery. Along the way are eateries that serve fresh seafood, including lobster, idyllic beaches and pubs hosting live traditional Celtic music most nights of the week.
Teton Scenic Byway, Idaho
The Teton Scenic Byway travels for about 70 miles along the east side of the Teton Mountains, one of the most breathtaking ranges in the country. While most take in the view from the Jackson, Wyoming side, this less-traveled route in eastern Idaho is just as spectacular without the busy traffic. Along the way there are a number of fantastic hiking trails like the trek to Table Mountain, providing one of the best views of the Tetons you’ll find anywhere. If you want to take in the scene from above, stop in the town of Driggs and book a hot air balloon ride.
Midland Trail, Kenova to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
The 180-mile Midland Trail starts near Kenova, following historic Route 60. It brings visitors opportunities to explore remnants of the Civil War, delve into African-American history, and enjoy whitewater rafting. You’ll pass through Charleston, West Virginia’s capital city as well as Ansted and Hawks Nest State Park, from here, you can take the 2.5-mile rail trail to the bottom of the New River Gorge where thrilling jet boat rides are available to experience it from the water. The route ends at White Sulphur Springs where you can enjoy shopping and dining along downtown’s charming main street.
Skyline Drive, Virginia
This scenic 105-mile drive travels along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, with nearly 70 overlooks for taking in the gorgeous views. A National Scenic Byway and National Historic Landmark, there are miles and miles of hiking trails to explore and abundant wildlife to watch for, including wild turkey, black bear and deer. In June you’ll see a dazzling display of azaleas splashed across the landscape too.
Route 6A, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
While most take Highway 6 when traveling through Cape Cod, 6A offers a much less-traveled, tree-shaded route that brings views of grand historic homes and Cape Cod Bay. The approximately 62-mile route passes through some of the country’s most historic villages too, like Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster and Orleans, with lots of interesting little shops and antique stores to browse.