50 Scenic Road Trips to Take This Summer

PHOTO: Alpine Visitor Center along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. (photo via RondaKimbrow/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Scott Hartbeck
by Scott Hartbeck
Last updated: 7:00 AM ET, Wed April 1, 2020

Get Ready for Road Trip Season

Summer is easily the calendar's most anticipated season, bringing us outdoor fun, freedom from work and school and turning long-dreamed-about vacations into reality.

With long days and warm temperatures everywhere in the U.S., it's also the perfect time of year for a road trip and the following 50 offer travelers both adventure and the chance to admire some of the nation's best scenery.

The Snowy Range Scenic Byway

Summer offers a fleeting opportunity to enjoy this mountain pass near Laramie, Wyoming, which offers drivers a front-row seat to wildlife like yellow-bellied marmots and bighorn sheep in addition to jaw-dropping views of the Medicine Bow Mountain Range. While you could speed through and see the sights in a single afternoon, the byway is best stretched out over several days, with plenty of pit stops at the route's campsites and scenic overlooks.

Vermont's Main Street

Skirting the Green Mountains, romantic Route 100 is known as Vermont's "Main Street" because so much of its 100-plus miles show off the state's signature brand of natural beauty. Summer offers motorists the chance to explore small towns that are the quintessence of New England while being surrounded by verdant landscapes and rushing rivers.

Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway might just be the prettiest 600 miles in the country. Spend a week (or more) of your summer traversing this iconic coastal road in California, taking in sweeping views of the Pacific-including colorful nightly sunset shows-and the surrounding rugged landscape.

Scenic Byway 12

Utah's Highway 12 is a sensational drive, connecting Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks while showing off one wondrous natural scene after another. From the unique geological features of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the hairpin turns of the "Hogsback" between Boulder and Escalante, the road offers a true window onto the best of the West.

The Loneliest Road in America

U.S. Route 50 stretches from California to Maryland, but the 400-mile section that cuts across Nevada has been known as "The Loneliest Road in America" since an article detailed its relative isolation back in 1986. You'll love the haunting beauty of the road's signature straight-aways, picturesque mountain passes and what you discover when you pull over at the small towns along the route.

The Coastal Connection

Discover the unique mixture of Deep South and "Deep Beach" vibes along this route on Alabama Gulf Coast. From the charms of small towns like Dauphin Island and Fairhope to the history of Fort Morgan and the miles of sugar-white sand in between, your crew is destined to form a connection with this special part of the country.

Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway

Take in the bewitching beauty of one of America's most underrated areas on this scenic byway. Along the way, take in the wildlife at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a myriad of flora and fauna, including (most famously) bison.

Blue Ridge Parkwtay

Explore the mountain scenery of Virginia and North Carolina on what has been nicknamed "America's Favorite Drive." Count waterfalls and dramatic vistas over the course of its winding 469-mile pathway that ends near Shenandoah National park, where more dreamy driving awaits.

Lakes to Locks Passage

Nicknamed "The Great Northeast Journey," you'll experience all the allure of the Adirondacks on this 234-mile network through New York. Learn about the locks and canals that helped build the country, admire the stunning scenery and then continue your journey across the border in Quebec, where a Canadian version continues the experience.

Florida Keys Scenic Highway

Simply put, there is nothing like this anywhere in the United States. For over 100 miles from the Jewfish Creek Bridge to Key West, motorists are either completely surrounded by turquoise water or beach communities throughout the Keys. You're definitely going to want a convertible for this one.

San Juan Skyway

The views per mile on this Rocky Mountain road through Colorado are off the charts. The beauty of the San Juan mountains will blow you away on this 200-mile stretch as you drive towards the sky between such romantic resort towns as Durango, Telluride, Silverton and Ouray.

North Shore Scenic Drive

Trace the northern coastline of Lake Superior on this magnificent stretch of Highway 61 from Duluth to the Canadian border. Along the way, you will pass historic lighthouses, quaint small towns full of fresh lake seafood restaurants and seven spectacular state parks.

Olympic Peninsula Loop

The interior of Washington's Olympic Peninsula remains wild and unsettled, but you can appreciate its splendor from this ring road. The Loop is over 300-miles long, with the Hoh Rain Forest and incredible Lake Crescent being two of the highlights.

Talimena National Scenic Byway

Cruise along this 54-mile long byway to fully appreciate the majesty-and much-overlooked natural beauty-of Arkansas and Oklahoma's Ouachita National Forest. Spend a night at one of the historic towns on the route to get the most out of the experience.

Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road

It may be short, but boy is it ever sweet. Follow Highway 89A out of Sedona to see the Grand Canyon's "little brother" Oak Creek Canyon and experience dramatic changes in temperature (sweet relief in summertime), elevation and geology.

Beartooth Highway

You couldn't find a grander entrance to Yellowstone National Park than this jaw-dropping road that leads through Montana and Wyoming to the park's northeast entrance.

Sawtooth Scenic Byway

Experience the epicenter of the Idaho Rockies on this stretch of road that connects Shoshone to the resort towns of Sun Valley, Hailey and Ketchum. You could traverse the whole route in three hours, but it's best to take it slow and soak in all the pristine lakes, rushing rivers and peaks along the way.

Historic Columbia River Highway

This 70-mile drive overflows with opportunities to be wowed by both waterfalls and the dramatic sheer cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge. Stop by the 1918 Vista House to dig into the history of this engineering marvel of a motorway.

The 17-Mile Drive

A private spur located off the Pacific Coast Highway, you'll have to pay a toll to see the sights of the 17-Mile Drive, but they are more than worth it. Craggy cliffs, crashing waves, serene beaches and the famous Lone Cypress tree are just a few of the wonders that await.

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

You'll get a windshield's worth of views of North America's deepest canyon on this breathtaking Oregon byway. Circling the Wallowa Mountains, the road takes you from the tops of the mountains to the bottom of the valley floor, with plenty of interesting sights to be seen along the way.

Acadia All-American Road

Explore the enchantment that is Acadia National Park on this 40-mile route that shows off some of the best scenery in the park. Recommended side trips from the road include a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain (pictured) and an on-foot exploration of the park's historic carriage roads.

Seward Highway

Alaska remains enchanting all winter long, but the midnight sun of summer offers endless road trip possibilities. This mesmerizing motorway connects Anchorage and Seward, providing sweeping views of the Turnagain Arm waterway and Chugach Mountains and Kenai Peninsula.

The Great River Road

This road traces the path of the Mighty Mississippi from its humble source in Minnesota to its mouth in New Orleans. The Great River Road is a group of local and state roads that show off sensational scenery and cities (Dubuque, St. Louis, Memphis, Natchez and New Orleans) alongside charming river towns.

Historic Route 66

While many just associate Route 66 with kitschy sights, there are more than enough sweet views on this iconic link between Chicago and Los Angeles. There are the rolling hills of the Ozarks, the bewitching plains of Oklahoma and Texas and, of course, the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona.

International Selkirk Loop

North America's only multinational scenic loop meanders through the sensational Selkirk Mountains of Idaho, Washington and British Columbia. Over the course of the 250 miles, you will pass by crystal-clear lakes and rivers, snow-capped peaks and through scores of small towns loaded with charm and outdoor sporting opportunities.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

The only volcano-to-volcano road trip on the list, this byway connects two of our nation's most geologically-interesting national parks: Oregon's Crater Lake National Park and California's Lassen Volcanic National Park. In addition to admiring the view, you'll have a chance to learn all about the volcanic forces that created such a special landscape.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Follow in the footsteps of Native Americans, European settlers and boatmen returning back north after dropping their cargo in Natchez or New Orleans on this picturesque parkway. Along the way, combine admiring scenery with learning about American history.

Chinook Scenic Byway

Passing through both Mount Rainier National Park and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Chinook Scenic Byway comes alive in the summertime. Over the course of the 85 miles of this byway, you'll experience views of Mount Ranier and the vibrant flora and fauna of the Chinook Pass.

El Camino Real Scenic Byway

First used over 400 years ago, this byway leads from just north of Las Cruces to historic Santa Fe, showing off brilliant New Mexican landscape along the way.

Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway

You could technically traverse this route in just over an hour, but then you would miss all of its charms. Combining delightful, undulating Delaware scenery with historic points of interest, take a whole day to fully appreciate this scenic road.

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway

Exploring all of the gorgeous nooks and crannies of the Chattahoochee National Forest, this 40-mile byway shows off the stunning landscapes of northern Georgia. Be sure to pull the car over at Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state and home to sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.

Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway

Cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and leave the fast-paced world behind as you motor past the small towns and fishing villages along the coast that make Maryland so special.

Flint Hills Scenic Byway

You know those tallgrass prairies full of wildflowers that you think of when you picture summertime in Kansas? Well, you will find them in the Flint Hills.

Skyline Drive

One of the star attractions in Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is a 100-mile road that's home to 75 scenic overlooks and endless opportunities for observing wildlife. Luckily, the speed limit is 35 MPH, so you have no choice but to take things slow and soak it all in.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

This 200-mile long roadway traces the path of Lewis & Clark's historic journey across Idaho. Along the way, you'll pass the stunning Clearwater River Canyon, the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River and wonderful wilderness spots in addition to historical markers about both the famous expedition by Lewis & Clark and the Nez Perce nation.

Native American Scenic Byway

Linking together historical sights scattered across the lands of the Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Yankton, Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes, in addition to providing majestic views of the Missouri River, this byway offers rugged adventure and education. You can also expect to see western wildlife like prairie dogs, bison and elk.

Ohio River Scenic Byway

The rolling waters of one of the Midwest's most important rivers are never far from view on this byway that stretches from eastern Ohio to southern Illinois. In addition to fetching landscapes, the path also passes through urban locales like Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville.

Washington Heritage Trail

Re-trace the path of our first president on this 136-mile roadway through the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. Stretching over three counties, the trail shows off everything from historic towns & industrial sites to idyllic springs, mountain ranges and former residences of George Washington.

A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway

Owning 72 miles of beachfront property on Florida's Atlantic Coast, the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway offers dreamy sea views and a step back in time. A few of the sights you will experience are pretty-as-a postcard Ponte Vedra Beach, historic St. Augustine and Flagler Beach.

Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail

You'll have a hard time believing that it ever snows in this neck of the woods when you're skirting Lake Erie in the summertime on this unforgettable byway. Highlights include historic sights, hidden islands and, of course, the rollercoaster capital of America: Cedar Point.

Death Valley Scenic Byway

There are over 3 million acres of vibrant wildlife and striking landscapes to admire in Death Valley National Park, and this road shows off some of the best sights. You'll even drive a section of the byway that is located below sea level.

Outer Banks Scenic Byway

Bounce between beach towns and barrier islands on this 137-mile byway full of historic sights, lighthouses and wildlife preserves. Hit the road early each morning to beat the crowds and to admire the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean.

Trail of the Ancients

Crisscrossing nearly 500 miles in and around the Four Corners region, this trail offers both an education in Native American cultures and the chance to see some of the West's most iconic sights. Monument Valley is the star attraction and it looks especially entrancing during the late evening sunsets of summer.

Trail Ridge Road

This is America's highest continually-paved road and as you would expect, the views from the many overlooks are priceless. At one point inside Rocky Mountain National Park, you actually reach an elevation above the tree line, crossing over into an Arctic-like environment.

Hana Highway

The two roads (Highways 36 & 360) that connect Kahului to the town of Hana offer up heavenly views of Hawaii's lush natural features. In between admiring expansive views of the ocean, pull the car over for waterfalls, beaches and gorgeous tropical gardens.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

This mesmerizing mountain road was specifically designed to blend right in with its surroundings inside Montana's Glacier National Park and in the summertime it can be viewed in all its splendor.

Copper Country Trail

Explore quaint towns and learn about the vital role copper mining played in the history of the local community-and the growth of our country-on this drive in Michigan's wild and wonderful Keweenaw Peninsula.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway

Walk in the footsteps of Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman while also getting the chance to appreciate coastal Maryland at its most magnificent on this 100-mile historic trail.

Turquoise Trail

You could speed between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on the interstate, but then you would miss out on all the charm of this enchanting byway. The Turquoise Trail takes the scenic route between the two cities, offering up excellent views of the Sandia Mountains and the chance to explore a multitude of interesting former mining towns.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway

Traveling from Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south, the 300-mile-plus Pacific Coast Scenic Byway shows off all that is special about Oregon's rugged coast. Expect to be swept off your feet by caramel-colored sands and to be seriously tempted to move to one of the small towns you pass through along the way.

Sunny days are right around the bend.

Topics From This Media to Explore

Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...

Get To Know Us Better

Agent At Home

Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

Subscribe For Free

Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me
Agent At Home

Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

Subscribe For Free

Agent Specialization: Group Travel

Laurence Pinckney

Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me