9 Thrilling Drives Across America

Scenic (and scary) roads from Hawaii to New Hampshire

Mauna Kea Summit Road

En español | HAWAII: Parts of Saddle Road (Route 200) across the Big Island are steep, narrow and rough enough. But 15-mile Mauna Kea Summit Road, branching north to the dormant volcano's peak, climbs through switchbacks, lava chunks and fog to observatories at 13,780 feet.

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Dalton Highway

ALASKA: Officially called State Route 11, the only U.S. road crossing the Arctic Circle consists of 400 potholed miles across tundra, with no travel services — so come prepared. View the spectacular wildlife from your car to avoid scaring (or otherwise annoying) the wolves, bears and other animals.

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Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1)

CALIFORNIA: Never lacking in bluff-hugging hairpin turns, Highway 1 is at its most dramatic through the 90-mile stretch known as Big Sur. Between San Simeon and Carmel, the road passes gorgeous beaches, scales sharp cliffs and crosses 33 bridges hundreds of feet above the shore.


Magruder Corridor/Nez Perce Trail

IDAHO/MONTANA: Driving this one-lane, 101-mile U.S. Forest Service road takes six to eight hours at a max of 15 mph. If a car driving the opposite direction appears in your path, be prepared to back up to find the rare wider spots between the mountain wall and 1,000-foot drop.

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Moki Dugway

UTAH: This graded-dirt stretch of State Route 261 is a gauntlet of switchbacks carved into the face of Cedar Mesa's red rock. The 1,100-foot descent is the longest three miles you'll ever drive, especially if you peer over the edge at the remains of cars that parted ways with the road.

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Million Dollar Highway

COLORADO: U.S. 550's steep 25 miles between Ouray and Silverton take in some of the Rockies' wildest peaks. If blind S curves and scaling  mountain passes at over 10,500 feet without benefit of a guardrail induce panic, make the trip from north to south, so you'll be in the inner lane.

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FM 170/River Road

TEXAS: The most scenic and nerve-wracking stretch of highway tracing the Rio Grande winds through arid mountainsides and slot canyons for 40 miles amid Big Bend Ranch State Park. Wild animals and rubble can make steep grades and blind rises even more difficult to navigate.

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Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway

LOUISIANA: The 18.2-mile bridge across the country's largest swamp is downright eerie. Perched on columns, the roadway is bumpy enough to shake your fillings. Moss-shrouded bald cypresses poking from the water inspire visions of swamp creatures rising from the muck.


Mount Washington Auto Road

NEW HAMPSHIRE: It's low gear all the way on this rutted 7.6-mile climb up the Northeast's highest peak for a view encompassing five states and Canada. There's nothing between you and the drop-off, and there's scant room for passing. The trip down is milder — if you have good brakes!

Pete Turner/Getty Images

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Getty Images: Michele Galli, Christian Wheatley, Kevin Forest, Steve Mason

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