Most Beautiful Drives in America

Anyone who’s ever piloted a recreational vehicle for very long in America— and its 4 million-odd miles of highways and byways—will develop some favorite drives based on sheer looks alone.

Where, though, are the best of the country’s most beautiful drives?

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking to take an All-American road trip, look to one of these routes.

Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the most scenic roads in America, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile road that winds along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains providing an unique view of picturesque landscape and history.

The Parkway connects Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park at the north end with North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the south end.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66

One of the original highways in the U.S. highway system, Route 66 stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, totaling in 2,448 miles of ribboning highway. A major route for western migration in the 1930s, the route is chock-full of history, nostalgia, and sites you’ll see nowhere else. Stop at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas or see a living ghost town with gunslingers and burros (Oatman, Arizona). When it comes time to park for the night, stay in a tipi-shaped room at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, perhaps after a visit to Petrified Forest National Park.

Monument Valley on the Grand Circle Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley on the Grand Circle Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Circle Tour

This road trip takes thrill-seekers to six national parks including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon. Other natural wonders on the route include Monument Valley and Lake Powell, a winding reservoir rather than a lake. Road trippers will have a one-of-a-kind adventure with views of desert lakes and barren mountains, and experiences like guided horseback tours, ATV trails, and river guides.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail

The Creole Nature Trail, one of only 43 All-American Roads in the U.S., runs 180 miles through three National Wildlife Refuges. The main route is U-shaped with spur roads along the Gulf shoreline and angling into other reserves like Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge and the Peveto Woods Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary.

This is the Louisiana Outback.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

The history and culture of the area blend together, making Scenic Byway 12 a journey like no other.

Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch, not far from Bryce Canyon National Park. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina Highway

Climbing to over 9,000 feet, with a near 7,000-foot elevation change in a mere 24 miles, the Catalina Highway (also called the Mount Lemmon Highway) is a brilliant ascent with countless curves, numerous vistas, and three major switchbacks. The best news is since there’s only one paved road up this mountain, when you reach the top, you’ll have no choice but to turn around and let gravity assist in your descent.

A little over halfway down, at the apex of the biggest switchback, do yourself a favor and pull off at Windy Point Vista. There’s a scenic overlook that gives a great view of the descending road and a great photo op. Take it in.

Gold Rush Trail

Angels Camp on the California Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Angels Camp on the California Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The California Gold Rush expended 125 million troy ounces of gold, worth more than $50 billion by today’s standards. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the gold in the Mother Lode is still in the ground.

Permanent towns developed in areas where more extensive operations spent decades tunneling deep into the hills.

The original mining-era buildings in these towns are now home to unique shops—but my interest lay elsewhere, in the gold mining history of these towns.

Many of these historic and picturesque towns still exist, linked by California Highway 49, the Gold Rush Trail.

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.

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