En español | Coronavirus quarantines and concerns about flying have made “safecations” in personal vehicles more appealing than ever. It's the perfect time to roll down the windows and lap up the views on these iconic American drives — some fun for a day, others perfect for a long, leisurely road trip. (Check for COVID-19 restrictions and possible closures of attractions and rest stops.)
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PHOTO BY: zrfphoto/Getty Images
The Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia, North Carolina)
Billed as “America's Favorite Drive,” this 469-mile, two-lane route threads through rural Virginia and North Carolina from Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Built with the recreational driver in mind by President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, it includes tunnels blasted through hillsides and pull-off points with trails that showcase natural wonders such as waterfalls and blue-misted mountains. Commercial vehicles aren't allowed, and the maximum speed is just 45 mph. October is the busiest month, when leaf peepers ogle scarlet, orange and yellow foliage. Don't miss a flour-making demo at still-operational Mabry Mill in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.
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PHOTO BY: Jesse Kraft / Alamy Stock Photo
The Beartooth Highway (Montana, Wyoming)
These 68 scenic miles of the National Scenic Byways All-American Road — Route 212 in southern Montana and northwest Wyoming — were dubbed “the most beautiful drive in America” by TV's late On the Road correspondent Charles Kuralt. Start the Beartooth from the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park in Montana or, at the other end, just south of Red Lodge, Montana, then negotiate altitudes of nearly 11,000 feet as you cross Beartooth Pass. You'll find some of the country's most impressive wilderness scenery along the route, which dips down into Wyoming, including snow-coated mountains and alpine meadows where elk and mountain goats roam. You can stop to fish for trout in streams flowing adjacent to the highway. Come during the warmer months; it's closed in winter.
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PHOTO BY: Mitch Diamond/Getty Images
Route 66 (Illinois to California)
What author John Steinbeck called “the Mother Road” was created in pre-interstate days and ran through eight states, from Chicago to Los Angeles. The route was replaced by Interstate 40, but historic vestiges remain. Steer toward Arizona, where well-preserved roadside attractions lure visitors from around the world. Stand on the corner of North Kinsley Avenue and East 2nd Street in Winslow, Arizona, and take a selfie with a statue of the late Glenn Frey, commemorating the Eagles’ 1972 hitchhiker hit “Take It Easy.” Seligman, west of Flagstaff, retains the flavor of the fabled route's past. Stay in a mom-and-pop motel with kitschy vintage sign, such as Stagecoach 66 Motel. A side trip up Route 64 leads to the Grand Canyon.
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PHOTO BY: Westend61/Getty Images
The Overseas Highway (Florida)
Seascapes abound on this narrow 113-mile stretch of U.S. 1 that runs south of Miami to Key West. Also designated the Florida Keys Scenic Highway, it's an engineering feat connecting the string of coral-and-limestone islets. Cross the famed Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon, as well as three dozen other spans. Note to nature-loving visitors: If the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier is open, brake to see rescued pelicans, owls and ospreys. Celebrate journey's end by applauding the sunset, frosty drink in hand, in Key West, the original Margaritaville.
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PHOTO BY: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images
Kancamagus Highway (New Hampshire)
Renowned as a hot spot for viewing fall foliage, the 34.5-mile north-central New Hampshire stretch of Highway 112 (pronounced “cank-ah-mah-gus") cuts through the White Mountain National Forest between Lincoln and Conway. Named for a Native American leader who once inhabited the area, Kancamagus offers views of the White Mountains, the Swift River, lush forests, a covered bridge and hiking trails. The half-mile Rail and River Trail at the eastern end of the highway details the area's history and is wheelchair accessible. Pack snacks: Food and services are scarce on the route.
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PHOTO BY: Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo
San Juan Skyway (Colorado)
This vertiginous 236-mile loop in Southwest Colorado is not for the faint-hearted driver. Start or end in Durango; for a shot of frontier heritage (belly up to the bar at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the historic Strater Hotel). The 25-mile, two-lane stretch from Silverton to Ouray snakes around deep gorges and is named the “Million Dollar Highway,” perhaps for the amount it cost to build in the late 19th century or for the unmined gold beneath it. Be warned: Guardrails are lacking on drop-offs. But incredible views of the San Juan Mountains and steep canyons are worth the white knuckles.
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PHOTO BY: wendy connett / Alamy Stock Photo
Acadia National Park Loop Road (Maine)
The 27-mile tour of Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor offers panoramic vistas of the rugged, rocky coast and Porcupine Islands. You'll pass pine, spruce and pristine ponds and enjoy bird's-eye 360-degree views from the summit of 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard. Swim at pretty, shell-dusted Sand Beach if it's warm enough, or hike to watch the wild waves at Thunder Hole. During summer and fall, tuck into a succulent lobster roll served Maine-style on a toasted hot dog bun at The Travelin Lobster in Bar Harbor.
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