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Top 8 Scenic Routes In The United States

The United States is a land of diverse landscapes, offering breathtaking views that can be best enjoyed through its scenic routes. From the rugged coastlines of California to the majestic mountains of the Appalachians, the country’s roads provide a unique way to explore its natural beauty. In this guide, you will embark on a journey through the top 8 scenic routes in the U.S., each offering a distinct experience and a glimpse into the nation’s rich geographical tapestry. Whether you’re an avid traveler or just looking for a weekend getaway, these scenic routes promise an unforgettable adventure.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Scenic Routes

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a marvel that stretches along California’s stunning coastline. With its winding roads, towering cliffs, and panoramic ocean views, it’s a drive that captures the essence of the West Coast. From the luxurious homes of Malibu to the rugged beauty of Big Sur, the PCH offers a diverse array of landscapes. The journey can be as leisurely or as adventurous as you desire, with opportunities for hiking, surfing, and whale watching.

One of the highlights of the PCH is the iconic Bixby Bridge, offering a perfect photo opportunity with its elegant arch and dramatic backdrop. Further south, the coastal town of Monterey invites travelers to explore its rich marine life, including the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The route’s beauty doesn’t end with nature; charming towns and vibrant cities add to the allure, making it a perfect blend of urban and natural wonders. 

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia And North Carolina

Scenic Routes

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic masterpiece that connects the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Known for its lush forests, rolling hills, and breathtaking mountain vistas, this route is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The parkway’s gentle curves and well-maintained roads make it a pleasure to drive, especially during the fall when the foliage turns into a riot of colors.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, travelers can explore numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, and historic sites. The Mabry Mill, a picturesque gristmill, offers a glimpse into the region’s cultural heritage, while the Linn Cove Viaduct showcases engineering brilliance. Whether it’s enjoying a picnic by a serene lake or exploring the local flora and fauna, the parkway provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Route 66, Illinois To California

Scenic Routes

Route 66, often referred to as the “Main Street of America,” is a legendary highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica. This historic route has become a symbol of American freedom and exploration, offering a nostalgic journey through the country’s heartland. Along the way, travelers can discover quirky roadside attractions, classic diners, and vintage motels, all adding to the charm of this iconic road.

The allure of Route 66 lies not just in its retro vibe but also in its diverse landscapes. From the bustling streets of Chicago to the arid deserts of Arizona, the route offers a unique cross-section of America’s geographical and cultural tapestry. Landmarks like the Cadillac Ranch in Texas and the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona add to the adventure, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the true spirit of the American road trip. 

Great River Road, Minnesota To Louisiana

Scenic Routes

The Great River Road offers a unique journey along the mighty Mississippi River, stretching from the icy north in Minnesota to the sultry South in Louisiana. This route is a celebration of America’s river culture, weaving through ten states and showcasing a diverse array of landscapes. From the towering bluffs of the Upper Mississippi to the sprawling deltas of the Lower Mississippi, the road provides a panoramic view of the river’s grandeur. Historical sites, charming river towns, and vibrant cities like St. Louis and New Orleans add to the richness of this scenic drive.

Along the Great River Road, travelers can indulge in a variety of activities, from fishing and boating to exploring museums and enjoying live music. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri, offers a literary connection, while the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi provides a historical perspective. The blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and lively entertainment makes this route a multifaceted experience. 

Overseas Highway, Florida

Scenic Routes

The Overseas Highway is a marvel of engineering that connects the Florida Keys, offering a drive like no other. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, this highway provides an exhilarating experience of driving over the sea. The 113-mile route includes 42 bridges, the most famous being the Seven Mile Bridge, offering breathtaking views of turquoise waters and lush islands. From Key Largo to Key West, each island presents its unique charm, making it a perfect destination for beach lovers and water enthusiasts.

Activities along the Overseas Highway are as diverse as the islands themselves. Snorkeling in the vibrant coral reefs, kayaking through mangrove tunnels, or simply relaxing on the sandy beaches are just a few of the many options. The lively atmosphere of Key West, with its street performers, art galleries, and seafood restaurants, adds a festive touch to the journey. 

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

Scenic Routes

Nestled in the heart of Glacier National Park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a scenic drive that offers an unparalleled mountain experience. With its steep ascents, sharp turns, and jaw-dropping vistas, this route is a thrilling adventure for those seeking the wild beauty of the Rockies. The 50-mile drive traverses through dense forests, alpine meadows, and glacial valleys, culminating at Logan Pass, the highest point on the road. Wildlife sightings, including bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, add to the excitement of this unforgettable journey.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is not just about the drive; it’s an invitation to explore the natural wonders of Glacier National Park. Hiking trails like the Highline Trail offer breathtaking views, while the serene Lake McDonald is perfect for a peaceful retreat. Whether it’s marveling at the Weeping Wall, a cliff that “weeps” with flowing water, or exploring the historic chalets, this route provides a profound connection with nature. 

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi To Tennessee

Scenic Routes

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive that takes travelers on a journey through 10,000 years of history. This ancient trail, once used by Native Americans, explorers, and settlers, is now a scenic route that connects Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The parkway is a gentle drive, free from commercial traffic, offering a peaceful exploration of the South’s rich heritage. From ancient burial mounds to Civil War battlefields, the road provides a tangible connection to the past, all set within a backdrop of lush forests and rolling hills.

Visitors can enjoy leisurely walks, cycling, and horseback riding on designated trails along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Historical sites like the Sunken Trace, where deep ruts in the ground bear witness to centuries of travel, and the Meriwether Lewis Monument, dedicated to the famed explorer, offer fascinating insights. The blend of natural beauty and historical significance makes this route a reflective and enriching experience.

Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Scenic Routes

Lake Shore Drive in Chicago offers a scenic route unlike any other, blending the beauty of Lake Michigan with the city’s iconic skyline. This urban drive provides a unique perspective of Chicago, showcasing its architectural marvels, beautiful parks, and vibrant neighborhoods. From the historic Navy Pier to the contemporary Millennium Park, Lake Shore Drive is a celebration of Chicago’s cultural diversity. The juxtaposition of nature and urbanity creates a dynamic experience, making it a must-visit for those exploring the Windy City.

Along Lake Shore Drive, travelers can enjoy a variety of attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum. The route also offers access to beautiful beaches and recreational areas, perfect for picnics, jogging, or simply enjoying the lake views. Whether it’s marveling at the Buckingham Fountain or attending a concert at the Grant Park Music Festival, Lake Shore Drive provides a multifaceted urban adventure. 

The United States Is Full Of Scenic Routes!

This journey through the top 8 scenic routes in the United States has taken you from the rugged coastlines of California to the historic trails of the South, from the tropical paradise of Florida to the urban elegance of Chicago. Each route, with its unique landscapes, cultural heritage, and thrilling experiences, offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of America’s geography. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or planning your first road trip, these scenic drives promise an unforgettable exploration of the nation’s beauty. May these routes inspire you to embark on your own adventure, discovering the wonders that await on the open road!