The Most Beautiful Drives in America

Stories from Travel + Leisure
Oct. 23 2011 7:16 AM

On the Road

America's Loveliest Drives

1319037353655

This piece is reprinted from Travel + Leisure.

Automobile ads love to show shiny vehicles cruising open highways under blue skies, with mountains and beaches nearby. But when was the last time you took a drive like that? For most of us, our cars are merely workhorses to haul us around town.

But it’s easy to break out of the rut. Magnificent roads are never far—routes that slice through forests, dance along the coastlines, and thread through mountain passes. They’re scenic drives, yes, but they’re also classically American. And once you find the right route, it’s easy to rediscover the exuberant freedom of the open road.

Advertisement

The first cars were by and large playthings for the rich and powerful—just picture Jay Gatsby winding his yellow Rolls-Royce down the parkways of Long Island. But at the same time, special scenic routes were constructed in what are still some of the country’s most beautiful spots. When more Americans started driving, it created a road-trip frenzy that lives on today.

Some of these roads are justifiably famous, including what’s arguably America’s most scenic drive: California’s Route 1, around the town of Big Sur. Rocky cliffs plunge down to open ocean, creating a severe distraction while you navigate this narrow road.

Other roads may not be household names, but are nevertheless an integral part of the American fabric. Highway 31, west of New Orleans, takes you through classic Louisiana countryside, past lazy bayous and swampy lagoons filled with alligators and herons.

And some of these great American drives are still relatively new. Between Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park and its Dr. Seuss-like Bryce Canyon, Highway 12 runs past sandstone cliffs and a forest of deep green junipers. Yet this road was simply a challenging four-wheel-drive track until the last stretch was opened in 1985. And the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, a project started in 1935, wasn’t fully completed until 1983. That’s when the Linn Cove Viaduct, which snakes around North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain, was finished.

So next time you find yourself stuck in rush-hour traffic, skip the road rage. Instead, find the iconic American road closest to you and put yourself in that automobile ad.

More from Travel + Leisure:

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.