18 Of The Best Driving Roads In America

18 Of The Best Driving Roads In America

The automobile - past or present - is truly a work of genius and we think it should be celebrated as such. Even something as simple as a used BMW 3-series, or the honest Mazda MX-5 can evoke those heart-pounding moments when you lose track of time, tempt fate, and you achieve that intense sense of freedom. And that, regardless of what you drive, is enough of a reason to drive it like an absolute goon.

But life’s all about context, and I think we’d all take driving a 115-horsepower Lotus Elan on the Nurburgring over driving a LaFerrari in bumper to bumper traffic. In other words, a great road can make all of the difference, and if you have a great car to go with it, that’s makes all of that time, money, and convincing of your significant other that cars are more than appliances, worth it.

Now the only problem is, if you're going to risk getting arrested, where should you do it? We'll we had a few ideas. So in no particular order (because they're all damn good in their own way) here are 18 places you should let your machine sing:

1. Pikes Peak Highway - Colorado (Now Paved)

Pikes Peak Highway

While we’re talking about Colorado, I might as well mention Pikes Peak. While it can be somewhat crowded, driving up Pikes Peak is something every enthusiast should do - at least just to relish in the history of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Where else can you drive where greats like Andretti, Unser (multiple), and Ari Vatanen found their way to the podium? Fun fact: its views also inspired the song “America the Beautiful”.

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2. Independence Pass  - Colorado (Closed OCT-MAY)

Independence Pass

Photo: Switchback Along Independent Pass by Rick Kimpel 

Where there are mountains, there are roads that slither through valleys, up mountains, and over passes, and one of the best happens to be a few hours drive from the heart of Denver. Its twists and turns will keep your hands busy, and its views will leave you breathless - or maybe that’s because it sits at 12,090 feet above sea level. Either way, it’s a fantastic road an one of the most scenic in the world. It's a drive best enjoyed with 3-pedals.

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3. U.S. Route 129 “Tail of the Dragon” - Tennessee / North Carolina

U.S. Route 129 “Tail of the Dragon”

Affectionately known as “Tail of the Dragon” U.S. Route 129 right on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee remains one of the best driving roads in the country - and one of the least kept secrets. With 318 curves in just 11 miles, and beautiful scenery, enthusiasts drive from all over just to let their machines sing. However, expect a heavy law-enforcement presence, as many have been seriously injured or worse on this magnificent stretch of two-lane.

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4. Blue Ridge Parkway - North Carolina / Virginia

Linn Cove - Blue Ridge Parkway

Photo: NPS Linn Cove Viaduct - Blue Ridge Parkway

Connecting Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited attraction in the national park system and rightfully so - it's one of the prettiest drives in the world. There's no wrong way to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

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5. Natchez Trace Parkway - Mississippi / Tennessee

Natchez Trace Parkway

If you’re the type who’s into vintage American steel, or history in general, then you’ll probably enjoy cruising the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. For over 10,000 years, people have been using this route to go from what’s currently Natchez, MS to what is currently Nashville, TN, and it’s hauntingly beautiful. The best part? You can drive the entire 444-mile length without much, if any, signs of civilization and no commercial traffic is permitted on the road. And if you’re a music lover this is your trip. Not only do you end in Nashville, but you cruise through Tupelo, MS - the birthplace of Elvis Presley - and you could make short trips to places like Muscle Shoals or divert to Memphis if you’d like.

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6. M119 “The Tunnel of Trees” - Michigan 

M119 Tunnel of Trees

For reasons that are self-explanatory, I had to include at least one road in Michigan, and there’s none better than the M119 “The Tunnel of Trees”  just outside of Harbor Springs, MI. I think the name pretty much sums up this road’s appeal, and if you’re there in the Fall - it’s an absolute must drive.

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7. New York State Route 97 “The Hawk’s Nest” - New York

New York State Route 97 “The Hawk’s Nest”

Photo: The Hawk's Nest by Joisey Showaa Flickr

Part of the "Upper Delaware Scenic Byway", the Hawk’s Nest and the road to get there wind high above the Delaware river. While it’s unforgettable any time of the year, this would be another fall drive that will make you believe in a higher power. Because of its steep drop-offs and tight curves, near the “nest” the recommended speed limit is 25 miles per hour, so drive or ride carefully.  

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8. Hocking Hills Loop - Ohio

Hocking Hills Scenic Byway


In 2014, Car and Driver wrote a piece called “The Aston Martin Vs. Hocking Hills”. It’s a place automotive journalists have been going for years to escape the flat, straight highways typically seen in the area, to test the athleticism of whatever the car gods have granted them. It was also rated one of the "Top 10 Most Scenic Drives" by USA Today. So if it’s good enough for them (Car & Driver), it’s good enough for us.

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9. California Highway 1 - California

Highway 1

We’d be remiss not to mention the legendary Pacific Coast Highway that hugs the coastline of California and affords views better than what you see on postcards, as Highway 1, near Big Sur, is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world. As cliche as it sounds, a convertible is highly, highly recommended.

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10. Highway 164 “Monument Valley” - Utah

Monument Valley

Photo: Fabio Achilli, Flickr

Thanks to many-a-John-Ford-film, Monument Valley is the archetypal western landscape, and there’s a certain spiritualism to it - just like driving a muscle car through the desert. In fact, that’s exactly what you should do, and do it here.

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11. Valley of Fire Highway- Nevada

Valley of Fire Road

Photo: Balint Foldesi, Flickr

Speaking of epic desert roads, the Valley of Fire Highway in the great state of Nevada is likely a great place to meet Satan - you know should you need to sell your soul for that Corvette Z06 you’re driving. Seriously, though, this stretch of two lane effortlessly meanders through the desert in such a way that it’s a soul-soothing experience.

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12. Twisted Sisters a.k.a. TX 335, 336, 337 - Texas

Twisted Sister TX 337

Photo: Larry D. Moore

Enthusiasts come from near and far just to drive (or ride) the notorious “Twisted Sisters”. Along the 210 mile ribbon of pavement you’ll find everything from cafes to BBQ joints catering to motorists who’ve come to let their machines sing.

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13. Route 128 “Wine to Waves” - California

California Highway 128

If your passengers are wine snobs, they’ll be happy to encounter many great wineries along Route 128. As for us? This cruise-able stretch of road is just enough to drive away the big city blues. Not to mention you’ll get to see some epic redwoods.

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14. Angeles Crest Highway - California

Angeles Crest Highway

Photo: DJ Drüe, Flickr

One of the prettiest drives in North America, Angeles Crest Highway which sometimes errs on the side of dangerous, offers motorists a place to explore their vehicles athletic side with a backdrop like no other. If you live in Southern California, it’s an absolute must drive.

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15. Road to Hana - Hawaii

Hana Highway

If you’re like me, you enjoy the beach for a day or so (daydreaming about cars of course) and then you start to get antsy. Thankfully the Road to Hana is a great way to relieve some of that need-to-drive in one of the most unique and picturesque states in the U.S. - Hawaii. Remember, don’t drive it like you stole it - drive it like a RENTAL.

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16. Going to the Sun Road - Montana

Going to the Sun Road, Montana

 

Going to the Sun Road is 50 miles of pure mountain bliss that leads you up to the sky right through Glacier National Park. In fact, I’m going to recommend taking your time - not only because of the steep drop-offs, sharp turns, and varying road conditions - but because it’s so extraordinarily beautiful. It truly is the type of landscape that’ll make you believe in a higher power.

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17. U.S. 550 “Million Dollar Highway” - Colorado

U.S. 550 Million Dollar Highway

Photo: flamouroux, Flickr

The 25-mile stretch of U.S. 550 - commonly known as “the Million Dollar Highway” is a hair raising stretch of the San Juan Scenic Byway that connects Durango to Ouray in a part of Colorado loosely referred to as the Switzerland of America. It’s views are some of the best in the world, but it’s not without its risks: this road is known for its narrowness, lack of guardrails, steep drop-offs, and unpredictable weather. Mid to late July through late August are the best times to cross this one off the list.

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18. Skyline Drive - Virginia

Skyline Drive Virginia

Photo: Nicolas Raymond, Flickr

Skyline Drive is essentially an extension of the Blue Ridge Parkway we mentioned earlier and is one of America’s greatest hits. This popular 105-mile road takes you on a tour of the Shenandoah National Park, offers breathtaking “back-east” views  from atop the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is a great way to escape the constant chaos of the D.C. area. It’s places like this that are a Godsend when life takes you to D.C.

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Other honorable mentions include...

Old Highway 95 - Idaho

What some like to call “the Stelvio Pass” of the U.S. (although it’s not quite the legendary Italian road) features a variety of switchbacks that’ll make for some great fun. And it’s in Idaho - which means a) you’re bound to see some great scenery and b) traffic shouldn’t be much of an issue.

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Overseas Highway - Florida 

A classic that makes many lists, there's something surreal about driving over the ocean. Drive it at dusk, take in the sights, and have a Hemingway-of-a-time when you get to Key West. 

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And pretty much anything in Kentucky... but you already knew that. 

Grab a hot cup and let's go. 


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