Great roads can make something as boring as commuting into an adventure you look forward to, no matter how many times you take that stretch of road. From beautiful scenic routes to technically challenging twisty drives, here are America’s greatest roads.
Pacific Coast Highway
Technically California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway covers 650 miles of California’s best coastal views. There’s many tight turns, hills, and gorgeous views of rocky or sandy beaches. Many small towns along the way offer tons of charm (and very expensive gas). For a longer trip, head over to I-5 and visit the picturesque Mt Shasta.
Anything around Mt St Helens.
Get out of Seattle traffic and head down to any of the scenic roads surrounding Mt St Helens. The volcano last blew its top in 1980, and several nice drives have been built to get tourists to surrounding viewpoints. Go on a bright summer day, and enjoy multiple S-curves, and steep elevation changes. Pro tip: make sure your brakes are in good condition before going back down.
While the Mother Road is no longer a single highway system, you can still drive the same path migrators and vacationers took way back in the 1920s. Running from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA, Route 66 saw everything from flat plains to Ozark ranges, from mountains, to bluffs, deserts, and plateaus, all while winding into small towns. For a more charismatic look at the highway system, get your kicks on Route 66. Read more here: Route 66: The Mother Road
Cheesily called “America’s Mountain,” 19 miles of highway drive up to the peak of this 14,115 foot rock. Despite being the location of the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb, the actual drive up isn’t that hard on your average family sedan. The ascent is about like most mountain passes, but you’re really here for the history and events. Check their schedule for races, marathons, and other events that can close the pass, but leave you entertained. If you need a great drive, hit nearby Skyline Drive, but watch the drop-offs.
Utah State Route 12
The West seems to have a lot of great roads, in part helped out by the lack of people and development. SR12 is 123 miles of winding highway through some otherworldly terrain. You’ll cross part of Dixie National Forest, looking like it’s straight out of a western. Passing through Grand Staircase National Park on the Red Canyon Scenic Drive, you can’t help but pull over and take pictures. SR12 is low on traffic, so if peace and quite is your thing, this road trip is the perfect getaway.
Tail of the Dragon
318 curves in 11 miles. That is almost gearheads need to know about Deals Gap, along the NC, TN border. The mountain pass earned the nickname due to locals thinking all the curves look like a dragon’s tail. Driving it, the curves come at you fast, and many of them are blind, or hiding elevation changes or a progressively sharper corner. Add lost 18-wheelers to the mix, and you’ve got a stretch of road that can be a nightmare. It can also be a corner-carver’s dream, but head out early on a weekday for the lightest traffic.
Officially M-1, this section of highway runs from Detroit to Pontiac, MI. This is one of the best roads in the country, but is only 21 miles long, and mostly straight. It’s not on this list for engaging the driver. Instead, Woodard lays claim to some impressive automotive history. You can find early historical sites of American manufactures along the route, like Ford and GM plants, or participate in the annual Dream Cruise. This event draws around a million spectators, and witnesses everything from on-off prototypes, to super-rare vehicles like a Vector Aeromotive W8, and even the Batmobile.
Eastbound and down, on the southern tip of the United States, lies a stretch of highway that is a must drive for any gearhead. Most state and federal highways are rather boring, but the Overseas Highway looks like it is straight out of a dream. US Route 1, runs from Miami over 120 miles of beautiful coastal beaches straight into the Florida Keys. The highway follows the high points and islands, so there are plenty of curves to keep boredom away, and the destination city is just as great as the drive.
By Andy Jensen – Contributor