15 Road Trips with Stunning Scenery You Have to See to Believe

These are the road trips you’ll remember for the rest of your life because they’re so stunningly beautiful.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Road trips are the classic American summer pastime. Even with gas prices skyrocketing, driving still often gives you more bang for your buck than flying to your destination, especially if you know the tricks for saving money on gas.

Following is our list of the best road trips — some shorter and more easygoing, and some longer and more adventurous. Find a friend and set out to explore the beauty and natural features of our beautiful country.

Twin Cities, Minnesota, to Alma, Wisconsin

Aaron J Hill/Adobe Buena Vista Park of the Mississippi river Lock and Dam

To get down to Winona, Minnesota, from Minneapolis or St. Paul, you can drive right down Highway 61.

If you travel into Wisconsin, stop and marvel at the view of the Driftless Region from Buena Vista Park above the highway in Alma, where you can see for miles in each direction.

Mackinaw City, Michigan, to Green Bay, Wisconsin


This stunning trip takes you from Mackinaw City, Michigan, across the breathtaking Mackinac Bridge along the western shore of Green Bay in Lake Michigan. Eventually, you reach the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Gorgeously green in the summertime and lush with fall color in October, the bridge can be treacherous in winter.

Chicago to Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Samantha Swain/Adobe Autumn Kenosha Lighthouse

Start at the bottom of Lake Shore Drive and drive up along Lake Michigan through Evanston to Kenosha.

Stop in Racine to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at the S.C. Johnson headquarters, then get back on the road to end the day drinking beer and eating brats in Milwaukee.

Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco

Chuck/Adobe Pacific Coast Highway

This is the classic California beauty road trip. Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from San Diego up to San Francisco, is a wonderland of changing scenery, from sand beaches to bridges to rock beaches to redwood forests.

The famed 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach is the highlight of this outstanding trip.

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Route 6 through Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Chee-Onn Leong/Adobe Cape Cod Massachusetts USA

Drive Route 6 from East Providence, Rhode Island, to Provincetown, Massachusetts, for the classic New England scenic trip. Route 6 stretches all the way to California, but you can pick it up in Providence and see the mansions in Rhode Island, then continue into Massachusetts and over to Cape Cod.

Sweet and cheerful Provincetown is the farthest town on Cape Cod, and it has been welcoming tourists and travelers for centuries.

Blue Ridge Parkway, through Virginia and North Carolina

Bram/Adobe Colorful fall landscape at sunset in Shenandoah National Park

This stunning 469-mile road takes you through both the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for views of the countryside like no other part of the world.

This is a peaceful ride, not a thrill ride. Stop and marvel at the Natural Bridge in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a National Historic Landmark.

Coastal Connection Scenic Byway, Alabama

George/Adobe Sunset over water

This is 130 miles of just plain beauty along the Gulf Coast in Alabama. Drive past Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the protected area of Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, and several wildlife reserves.

You’ll also pass beaches and local waterfront communities with active waterfront industry such as fishing and shrimping, tourist boating, and scientific research on the beach and in the gulf.

Highway 101, Oregon Coast

underwaterstas/Adobe Heceta Head Lighthouse Oregon

Drive the entire coast of Oregon, from the California state line up to the Washington state line, and you’ll see beautiful cliff beaches, tall mountains, and more pine trees than you knew existed.

Oregon has a dramatic and verdant beauty that contrasts mightily with the beaches and landscape of California. Often nicknamed the Pacific Coast Highway of Oregon, Highway 101 shows off what makes Oregon so different and beautiful.

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Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway, New York

nyker/Adobe Whiteface Mountain Adirondacks New York

This highway takes you directly up to the summit of almost 5,000-foot-tall Whiteface Mountain in New York state. While the summit of the mountain alone is worth the trip, the scenery on the way up and down is breathtaking, too.

There is a fee for driving, biking, or hiking this highway, so check the visitor information website for details and weather alerts.

M-22, Michigan

ehrlif/Adobe Sleeping Bear Dunes

Michigan Route 22, or M-22, runs from Manistee near the border of Michigan and Indiana all along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and up through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Stop and walk the dunes for a few hours, then get back in your car and drive up the coastline around Leelanau, and up and down back around the peninsula through Northport and Suttons Bay to Traverse City.

La Ruta Panorámica, Puerto Rico

SCStock/Adobe Street in old San Juan Puerto Rico

The 167-mile Ruta Panorámica, or panoramic route, is a network of roads that wind from San Juan through mountains and jungle, and ends up at Aibonito, a city known as the “Queen of Flowers.”

La Ruta Panorámica is thought to be the most beautiful drive in the Caribbean, but it’s an adventure trip, with steep mountains, hairpin turns, and sharp cliffs.

Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, Maine

DILIP/Adobe Rangeley Lake Scenic Byway Maine USA

The short Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway in western Maine is perfect for people who like to stop and look at things on a road trip instead of driving straight through.

At only 35 miles long, it takes you through farmland, past lakes and rivers, and through forests and valleys. Take a small detour to Smalls Falls to see the beautiful cascading waterfalls.

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Trail Ridge Road, Colorado

SNEHIT PHOTO/Adobe scenic trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

This 48-mile road takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park and the kind of mountainous beauty that has to be seen to be understood.

This route winds up to an altitude of more than 12,000 feet. Eleven miles of the road is above the alpine tundra line.

Alaska’s first highway

tiva48/Adobe Richardson Highway between Edgerton Highway and Worthington glacier- Alaska

Richardson Highway, Alaska’s first highway, goes 368 miles north from Valdez to Fairbanks, with views of glaciers, the Chugach Mountains, and the Alaskan wilderness.

The ride takes around eight hours to complete, so you should make this trip in the summer when there's plenty of daylight in which to drive, as winter in Alaska is overwhelmingly dark and you’ll miss the views.

Route 66, Joplin, Missouri, to St. Louis

pyzata/Adobe Iconic Route 66 sign in American desert land

Can you make a list of scenic drives without mentioning the drive so cool there’s a hit song about it? Whether or not you care about getting kicks, Route 66, especially in Missouri, is important for its historical value as a route west for people during the Great Depression, as well as for the nostalgic value.

Start in Joplin and drive to St. Louis, stopping along the way for scenic overlooks, lunch breaks, and the Route 66 Visitors’ Center.

Bottom line

magdal3na/Adobe summer trip

Road trips let you understand how truly beautiful and varied our country is. Ours is a nation of many different landscapes and flavors of natural beauty and wildlife.

Before your next road trip, make sure you have one of the best credit cards for gas in your wallet so that you can save money at the pump.

Then, grab your kids or your best friends and plan a series of trips to nourish your soul as you glide across the country this summer.

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Elizabeth Rollins

Elizabeth Rollins has degrees in literature and business, and she's combined these loves into a career in writing about personal finance. Her special areas of interest are debt, value, budgeting, education, and retirement.