As you are looking for affordable but adventurous things to do this year, one of the best experiences you could have is taking to the open road.
From the coastlines to the mountain terrain, the U.S. has numerous experiences that could make this year the best year of travel near you, which becomes even more affordable if you can earn travel rewards with your credit cards.
Here are the top scenic drives in each state that are worth exploring this year.
Alabama: Coastal Connection Scenic Byway
The nationally designated Coastal Connection Scenic Byway at the southern tip of the state lets you explore the stunning beachfront areas of the Gulf Coast and keep more money in your wallet.
You can also enjoy incredible wildlife habitats and see what life is like for the southern farmers that make a living in the coastal plains and intense marshes of this area.
Alaska: Seward Highway
The Seward Highway is 125 miles of beautiful mountains and dramatic shorelines that runs from Seward to Anchorage.
You’ll travel through the wilderness on the Kenai Peninsula and through the stunning vistas of the Chugach National Forest.
This route also takes you through the Kenai Mountains for a unique blend of coastal and rugged terrain.
Arizona: State Route 89A (Sedona to Flagstaff)
Traveling State Route 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff takes you through Slide Rock State Park with its stunning Oak Creek Canyon, a fascinating exploration of the wilderness.
You’ll see the red rock vistas, have an opportunity to hike in the park, and even spend time swimming.
There’s even a natural waterslide that people visit for miles to explore here.
Arkansas: Pig Trail Scenic Byway
The Pig Trail Scenic Byway is a fun but twisting and turning adventure (much like a pig's tail) through the mountains.
You’ll travel from Fayetteville to the Ozark Highlands Trail crossing over the Mulberry River as you go. The trip is only about 19 miles, but you can get out to walk or, even more stunning, visit during the fall when the leaves change.
California: Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1)
California’s Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, has long had a reputation for being one of the most iconic experiences of traveling down the coast.
The Pacific Ocean is tranquil, and small (and large) beaches pop up every few moments. On the other side are beautiful mountains and incredibly tall trees.
It’s a mesmerizing 90-mile trek you’ll want to explore slowly, stopping along the boardwalks, grabbing ice cream or a hot dog, and even spending some time trekking into the mountains.
Colorado: San Juan Skyway
The San Juan Skyway is beautiful and allows for stops at Durango, a railroad town established in the 1880s, where you’re sure to enjoy stopping into one of the saloons to feel the history.
You can also explore the Silverton to Ouray Canyon stretch, which is perfect for those who want a bit more adventure than just a driving trip.
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Connecticut: Merritt Parkway
The Merritt Parkway isn’t a large trek, spanning about 37 miles, but is a limited access parkway along the northern end of New Haven County.
It’s quite beautiful when accessible and is one of the oldest parkways in the country. You’ll pass through dense forests (visit in the springtime for a sensational experience) and over architecturally interesting overpasses along the way.
Delaware: Bayshore Byway
The Delaware Bayshore Byway, often called the “road less traveled,” takes people through marshes, dense forests, open fields, and eventually, to the area’s beaches.
This byway is about 100 miles long and is one of the more biodiverse areas of the country. There are wildlife refuges here, floating cabins you may wish to stay at, and lots of birding to do.
Florida: Overseas Highway (Highway 1)
The Overseas Highway is quite spectacular, traveling 113 miles over the water as you travel from Key Largo to Key West.
You’ll travel over 42 bridges, moving from one of the keys (islands) to the next along the route. Make sure to pay attention to the limestone and coral islets that are essential to the biodiversity in the area.
Georgia: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway
The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is an exploration of the Chattahoochee National Forest, providing dozens of opportunities to hike, fish in one of the mountain streams, or climb to a waterfall.
Along the route, stop at the overlooks (there are quite a few) to capture pictures of the deeply forested areas and natural habitats.
Hawaii: Hana Highway (Maui)
The 64.4-mile-long Hana Highway on Maui is so impressive you can book a guided tour for it.
Explore the area on your own, traveling through Paia Town, the perfect breakfast destination, and checking out the stunning waves crashing on the beaches at the Ho’okipa lookout.
You can also take a stop to hike through the Waikamoi Ridge Trail (which only takes 20 minutes), and see the Twin Falls.
Idaho: Sawtooth Scenic Byway
The Idaho Sawtooth Scenic Byway is a path that seems carved through the mountains, with big, rugged mountains on either side.
Along the way, you’ll likely see deer and elk grazing. You can stop at one of the adventures nearby, such as a round of golf at White Clouds Golf Course, a bit of kayaking on the Big Wood River, or fishing on Redfish Lake.
Illinois: Great River Road
What makes the Great River Road the best in the state is that it follows the Mississippi River, providing dozens of opportunities to stop along the way.
You can pull off to take a paddlewheel boat trip or journey up on a gondola to reach the bluffs. You may also want to do some canoeing or retrace the steps Lewis and Clark took.
Indiana: Ohio River Scenic Byway
The Ohio River Scenic Byway in Indiana provides opportunities to spend time canoeing or fishing. You could set up a primitive camp at one of the campgrounds along the way and watch the stars come out.
Also notable are the antique shops, museums, farmer’s markets, and a few artisan wineries you may want to explore. This 302-mile journey also allows you to stop at a casino for a different adventure.
Iowa: Loess Hills Scenic Byway
Running along the western border of Iowa is the Loess Hills Scenic Byway. This 200-mile journey takes you along a 15-mile-wide land formation made up of stunning hills, dunes, and glacier-carved pathways.
It’s easy to imagine how the wooly mammoth trekked this area. Along the way, stop for a bike ride through the forest, hike through the Loess Hills, and do some birding.
Kansas: Flint Hills National Scenic Byway
Deep native grasses, blooming wildflowers, and the open prairie greet you along the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, a stunning 47-mile journey carved out thousands of years ago.
Stop and tour the Kaw Mission and Lake Chance Store Museums, or bike or hike through the Flint Hills Trail State Park to see the natural habitats.
Finally, check out the Bazaar Cattle Pens just to see the expansiveness of the area on the open plains.
Kentucky: Red River Gorge Scenic Byway
Quite the geological stunner, the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway moves through the Daniel Boone National Forest through a deep canyon road.
This is a destination to check out for true backcountry camping that’s well within your budget. There are lots to see nearby, including the Nada Tunnel with its stone arches and biking and hiking trails through the gorge.
Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail
Creole Nature Trail, also known as Louisiana’s Outback, is a journey into the wilderness where you can go crabbing and fish on the Gulf of Mexico.
You can also relax on the beach as long as you look out for the alligators lurking in the nearby marshes.
Some come to hunt, while others enjoy shelling. Take a boat tour of the Gulf or just relax under the sun.
Maine: Acadia All-American Road
Travel the 40-mile trail along the Acadia All-American Road, which doesn’t take long in itself. However, there’s plenty of adventure (that’s pretty affordable) to enjoy along the way.
You can tour lighthouses, do some skiing in the winter, hike in the summer, check out the Hull’s Cove School House and Church of Our Father, historical treasures in the area, and take in the ponds, lakes, and river views.
Maryland: Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway
Exploring Maryland along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway is 419 miles of fun for history lovers. Stop at the Mount Harmon Plantation and the C&D Canal Museum.
You can enjoy the Kent Museum for its local artisan works or stop at Crystal Beach, which sits along the Elk River, to fish, swim, or relax.
Be sure to check out the Colonial Port at Chestertown or take to the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail.
Massachusetts: Mohawk Trail
The historic Mohawk Trail is a dazzling natural beauty, but it also started as a Native American trade route that linked key tribes to each other.
This outstanding experience will provide opportunities to explore all of Berkshire County, including options to stop at the Thompson Memorial Chapel, a stunning Gothic structure from 1904, and tour the Williams College Museum of Art.
Enjoy the small-town charm along this route before heading into North Adams for dancing and a fantastic dinner.
Travel along the 116 miles of M-22, right along Lake Michigan. This trip spans three counties, providing options for sand beach exploration, golf, and tours of locations like Point Betsie Lighthouse.
The most enjoyable free activity is exploring Crystal Lake for a bot ride or some fishing. For others, it may be that in areas along Glen Arbor and Leland’s Fishtown, you won’t have to worry about too many tourists to take in the area's natural beauty.
Minnesota: North Shore Scenic Drive
North Shore Scenic Drive spans 154 miles, traveling along Lake Superior. You may know of Highway 61 from the Bob Dylan song, and it is truly an All-American Road.
There are rocky cliffs, numerous pine forest hikes, fishing, sailing, jet skiing, and just about anything else on Lake Superior. This trip takes you from Canal Park in Duluth to the Canadian border.
Mississippi: Natchez Trace Parkway
Are you looking for a historic forest for hiking? The Natchez Trace Parkway, which travels through the Old Natchez Trace forest, is the perfect 440-mile journey.
People have used this route since the Native Americans called it home. Along the trip, you can do some primitive camping, bike or hike through the forested areas, or go horseback riding.
Take a self-guided tour of the Trail of Tears, which pays homage to the 1838 devastating round-up of the Cherokee.
Missouri: Route 19 (Ozark National Scenic Riverways)
A bit of a different experience is the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which are accessible along Route 19.
Located in the state's southern portion, this is one of the best options for people who love the water. You can kayak, canoe, or boat down the river.
On land, there’s hunting, fishing, and horseback riding to try out. You can also visit historic sites like the Buttin Rock School and Alley Spring.
Montana: Going-to-the-Sun Road (Glacier National Park)
The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park offers rough mountain terrain to explore, limiting access during winter.
This 50-mile trek is incredible, with tall waterfalls, deep valleys lush with forested areas, and stunning wildflower patches that spring up from nowhere.
Nebraska: Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway
Take the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway to see some impressive but rural areas. You’ll see (and perhaps venture out to) the sand dunes and explore the open plains.
One of the most mesmerizing sights here is the migration of the sandhill cranes.
Visit Custer County Historical Museum and stop at one of the local craft breweries for a meal along the route.
Nevada: Extraterrestrial Highway (Nevada State Route 375)
The best road trip in Nevada is along Extraterrestrial Highway, more officially known as State Route 375.
Much of the path is into deep desert conditions along the Nellis Air Force Range.
Eventually, as you pass through the Tikaboo Valley, you’ll come upon the restricted Area 51, which many claim is a hotbed for UFO sightings.
Pro tip: You may want to make some extra money before going to Nevada since there are plenty of tempting entertainment options everywhere you go.
New Hampshire: Kancamagus Highway
Another natural wonder is the Kancamgus Highway, which spans 34 miles along Route 112. Yet, the White Mountain National Forest provides some of the most stunning views, especially in early spring or fall.
During your trip, you can explore the Swift River, hike through the Rocky Gorge, and see the Sabbaday Falls.
This area has several campgrounds, numerous hiking trails, and wilderness to explore. Along this route, there are no restaurants or shops, just nature to keep you company.
New Jersey: Palisades Scenic Byway
The Palisades Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful explorations of nature throughout the state. It’s just 19.1 miles long but creates a dozen locations to explore or more.
For experienced hikers, take to the Giant Stairs. For those who love the water, you could go crabbing or spend some time jet skiing.
Stop at the Undercliff PicnicArea for lunch, and hike to the State Line Lookout. Some of the area’s best fishing happens at the Alpine Lookout.
New Mexico: Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway
There’s history and nature along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, all worth seeing along this 50-mile journey.
You could explore Golden or Cerrillos, both of which are old mining towns. Stop at one of the area’s brewing companies or thrift stores while in the area.
Consider taking a tour of the Origami in the Garden sculpture garden or hike into the Santa Fe County Open Space and Trails.
New York: Lake Shore Drive (Finger Lakes)
New York isn’t all urban city, and Lake Shore Drive along the Finger Lakes is a testament to that.
Stop at Kershaw Park to walk along the beach or splash in the water. You can also launch small crafts here. You could explore wine country while in the area as well.
North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is well-known for its natural beauty. It's part of the longest linear park in the country, spanning 469 miles.
The natural elements here are enough to keep many happy, but there’s much more to do. You can fish and camp. There are numerous historic places to visit, including the Appalachian Mural Trial.
Take to Asheville to hike or enjoy one of the wineries nearby. From big-city fun to remote bed and breakfast, you have options here.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park Scenic Byway
In North Dakota, nature is everywhere, but the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Scenic Byway puts it on display. It is a space dedicated to conservation.
Check out the Caprock Coulee Trail, which is a challenging hiking trail up along the ridgeline. Reach the River Bend Overlook and have a seat.
Simply watch the sunset, the bighorn sheep and bison, and take in the panoramic views of the region.
Ohio: Hocking Hills Scenic Byway
In the heart of Ohio is the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, which follows Route 374. There’s plenty to do here, including exploring the native Adena culture that lived in the region 7,000 years ago.
You can do some rock climbing, hike through the dense forest, and step back in time at some of the more remote hiking into one of the gorges.
Oklahoma: Talimena Scenic Byway
If you’re on a mission for spectacular views, especially at sunset and sunrise, explore the Talimena Scenic Byway, a 54-mile route through the state.
Several gateway cities are on the way, allowing you to learn about the area's history, including towns like Broken Bow and Fort Smith.
Oregon: Historic Columbia River Highway
Drive the Historic Columbia River Highway, a 75-mile stretch built in 1913, to see some history in this area. You can also jump out and explore the hikes along the water.
The Cascade Locks, Hood River, and the expansive Mitchell Point Tunnel are along the route.
Pennsylvania: Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway
The Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway is a 68-mile adventure along Routes 711 and 381. You can stop to explore the rapids and see the waterfalls along the way.
There are several biking and hiking trails, but if you want to cool down on a hot day, get into the water for some whitewater rafting.
Rhode Island: Ocean Drive (Newport)
Ocean Drive in Newport is a winding road that follows the coastline for about 10 miles. As you take the trip, stop at the Bellevue Avenue area to see some of the area’s oldest homes.
You can take to the trails at Brenton Point State Park or hit the water at Gooseberry Beach.
South Carolina: Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway
The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway takes you on a 112-mile trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Along the way, you can hike through Caesar’s Head State Park to reach one of the waterfalls.
Explore the small-town charm of Landrum, which is perfect for antique treasures. You can also check out Campbell’s Covered Bridge, built in 1909.
South Dakota: Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway)
Easily noted as one of the best of the country’s scenic byways, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is an incredible view of the Black Hills.
You’ll be able to visit Mount Rushmore, check out the deep forested areas and mountain peaks, and explore Needles.
The Norbeck Wildlife Preserve is an excellent place to learn about and support conversation in the area.
Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Scenic Drives
A number of drives exist through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the best is the Newfound Gap Road which spans the distance between Cherokee and Gatlinburg.
The views of the mountains are impressive, especially in the fall when the leaves turn. Several overlooks exist, and a few hiking trails are sure to beacon you to explore them.
Texas: River Road (FM 170)
Texas may be known for its long roads, but the most beautiful is River Road, also known as FM 170. It allows you to explore the valleys and deep gorges of the Big Bend Ranch State Park.
An enchanted hike through a forested area, a canoe ride along the river, or an adventurous climb up the cliffs make this a great choice for many people.
Utah: Scenic Byway 12
Scenic Byway 12 in Utah links Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park. When here, be sure to hit the hiking trails in Capitol Reef and trek to the Larb Hallow Overlook.
For 124 miles, you’ll be able to see red rock formations, deep alpine forests with bears and deer, and several open meadows.
The Dixie National Forest is one of the best places for hiking and biking along this route.
Vermont: Green Mountain Byway
The Green Mountain Byway is a path through the Green Mountains, spanning 250 miles. Several small towns dot the path, including Stowe, Morristown, and Waterbury. Along the way, you can hike to Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield.
Virginia: Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park)
Skyline Drive is about 105 miles long, taking you through the Shenandoah National Park. The area is beautiful throughout the year, with mountain views around every bend in the road.
The Big Meadows Campground and Loft Mountain Wayside are a few stops along the way.
Washington: North Cascades Scenic Highway
The North Cascades Scenic Highway is quite a lush forested area. It’s a 140-mile adventure through the North Cascades National Park, taking you across mountains, waterfalls, and alpine glaciers.
Do some primitive camping, hike through Skagit Valley, and explore the Methow Valley Country.
West Virginia: Highland Scenic Highway
The Highland Scenic Highway travels through the Monongahela National Forest.
This 43-mile trip allows you to reach heights in the park to create fantastic panoramic views of the deep valleys and towering mountains here. You can also do some day hiking and backpacking in the area.
Wisconsin: Great River Road (Wisconsin segment)
The Great River Road follows along the Mississippi River, taking you through 33 villages and towns as it does, most of them right along the river.
Many of these villages serve as important trading posts, fishing areas, and commercial destinations throughout history.
Today, you can geocache, explore the locks and dams along the river, and do some wine tasting. Stop off at one of the boats for a tour of the Great River, too.
Wyoming: Beartooth Highway
Beartooth Highway is noted as a top motorcycling highway, taking visitors through the zigzagging mountains of Beartooth Pass.
The views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, along with the glacial lakes in the area, are breathtaking. You’ll want to stop wasting money on airlines when you take this drive.
You can stay in your car and easily travel along these scenic paths, and with a good credit card with rewards, such as the ability to earn cash back, you’ll be able to cut down on the cost.
With a scenic drive, you can stop off wherever your heart desires along the way for a meal, a hike, or perhaps to do some canoeing. There’s excitement around every bend.
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