If you’re into road trips and jaw dropping scenic drives, you are on the right page because I’m going to show you 15 of the most beautiful ones in North America that I have personally done.
- 1 The 15 scenic drives I’ve done across North America on my road trips:
- 2 This list of scenic drives is going to grow, so share your ideas below!
- 3 1) A scenic drive in Zion National Park (Road 9):
- 4 2) Blue Ridge Parkway:
- 5 3) California Coast (Route 1):
- 6 4) California’s Interstate 5:
- 7 5) Another California location: Route 133, Interstate 580 and Route 84.
- 8 6) Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge Scenic drive:
- 9 7) Red Rock Canyon (Route 157 near Las Vegas):
- 10 8) The Oregon Coast (Highway 101):
- 11 9) Cabot Trail (It is the name of the scenic road).
- 12 10) Finger Lakes scenic drive (New York State):
- 13 11) The Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies:
- 14 12) Arches National Park’s scenic drive:
- 15 13) Canyonlands National Park’s scenic drive:
- 16 14) Lake Crescent’s scenic drive (Washington Coast):
- 17 15) Vermont’s Smugglers Notch scenic drive (Road 108):
- 18 And that concludes the list of scenic drives in North America (for now):
The 15 scenic drives I’ve done across North America on my road trips:
- Zion National Park’s scenic drive (video below).
- Blue Ridge Parkway.
- California’s Coastline (route 1).
- California’s Interstate 5.
- California’s Route 133, 84 and I-580.
- Oregon Route 30.
- Red Rock Canyon.
- The Oregon Coast.
- Cabot Trail.
- Finger Lakes (New York).
- Icefields Parkway (Canadian Rockies).
- Arches National Park scenic drive.
- Canyonlands National Park.
- Lake Crescent (Washington).
- Vermont’s 108 road through Stowe.
With each scenic drive on this list, I’ll be giving you more details on each location as well as what to expect, with photos, videos and more, so you can decide for yourself which locations on this list are places you want to see.
Now anyone who has traveled across North America knows that there’s more than 15 (Way more!), so here is what you need to know before you read the following list of scenic drives I put up:
1) This is my personal list of drives. There is no order to which one is best or worst. They are all across North America so if you find yourself in a location where one of these places is listed, mark it down and go there, you will not regret it!
2) I have personally done them all and the photos you see are made by me. You can also view more on my Instagram page.
3) Since there ARE more than 10 and I do travel a lot, I will be writing more top 10 articles like this and linking to them when they are up, so the list will keep getting bigger and offer you fine folks many choices to choose from (all of which are epic, trust me).
4) If you have been to any of the places I’m going to list here or have personal recommendations for other places you think are worth looking at, I am all for it, just let me know the location below!
1) A scenic drive in Zion National Park (Road 9):
When I went to Zion National Park for the first time in 2017, the first thing that blew me away (and took my breath away and almost had mecrash a few times) was the drive through their scenic roads, of which there are 2:
- Route 9.
- And Zion Canyon’s Scenic Drive.
I’m telling you folks, there are no words or pictures to describe this drive. You NEED to do it (It’s in Utah, a few hours from Las Vegas) and you will understand and if you have already done it, tell me about it below!
I can’t tell you how many times I almost crashed when I first got there with my friend, because it was so beautiful, quiet, and we felt engulfed by the mountains that were there.
Believe me, the drive through Zion National Park’s 2 main roads I listed is a MUST and each road, while short (takes about 30 minutes or so to pass each one), is unforgettable.
And here is one of the many scenic drives I took through Zion:
Now let’s move east to the see the next spot:
2) Blue Ridge Parkway:
While Zion was close to the western end of North America, Blue Ridge Parkway is on the opposite (east) end and there are 100’s of miles to explore on this road.
It is a road located within what are known as the Blue Ridge Mountains (They stretch from Virginia down to Georgia), which is also known as the southern part of the Appalachian Mountains.
It offers a number of beautiful areas to pass by, the most important being Blue Ridge Parkway, which as I’ve said before in earlier recommendations of it, basically takes you through the heart of all of the Blue Ridge Mountains which you can see a sample of to the right:
Unlike Zion’s roads which take less than an hour to cross, the ones here stretch for 100’s of miles and can take you days to finish and that’s considering you don’t stop over and over again to see the amazing sights and hike the many trails there.
I traveled through this area on a 6 day road trip through the Appalachian Mountains in 2018 and I loved it, although after seeing similar views for over an hour, we switched to check out another scenic drive in Daniel Boone National Forest, which didn’t quite make this list, but it may in another article.
3) California Coast (Route 1):
With California, you’re going to have 800+ miles of scenic views/roads and very few areas compare to what I’m about to share with you and that is the drive along the California Coast (Route 1).
There are 3 particular parts of it that I completed:
- Big Sur (HIGHLY recommended, it’s just indescribable there).
- Fort Bragg all the way up to Oregon.
- The Redwoods and that has it’s own path you can take.
I didn’t do ALL of the California Coast, but I did drive through 100’s of miles of it (altogether, it’s about 800+ miles of coastal roads) and these 3 spots are enough to satisfy any road trip and person seeking incredible nature views, believe me.
These areas all have a bunch of parks, camping spots and are perfect for road trips.
The location you see to the right was taken about 30 minutes north of Fort Bragg in Northern California.
4) California’s Interstate 5:
California’s coast isn’t the only place to see. I’d even go as far as to say all of that state’s roads are scenic drives. But let’s isolate this one, because this scenic drive really deserves the praise.
It’s basically all of Interstate 5 that spans for 100’s of miles and I had the pleasure of driving through much of it all the way from Los Angeles to Modesto.
My goal was to check out Sequoia National Park, but that fell through due to weather conditions at the park.
However, the scenic drive through Interstate 5 really made up for that unfortunate cancellation as the beauty of this place really made me forget about Sequoia (pretty quickly too).
I’ve had the pleasure of driving across this area twice actually, and I have to say, during the month of March, this region of California has the greenest nature I have ever seen, so naturally, it will light up the beauty of Interstate 5 even more.
So if you travel through this road, do it in March. Here are other scenic drives in southern California I highly recommend!
5) Another California location: Route 133, Interstate 580 and Route 84.
Let me explain why I listed 3 locations for this choice:
I was staying at Modesto for 2 nights at a friends house and was planning to visit Big Sur from there. The trip would take me 2-3 hours to reach and while headed to Big Sur, I had crossed these 3 locations, each of which was VERY scenic and highly recommended. See why:
6) Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge Scenic drive:
East of Oregon (not far from Portland) is an area known as Columbia River Gorge, which is a beautiful area across a long lake that divided Oregon and Washington State.
Along this road (Route 30, aka Interstate 84 and also Historic Columbia River Highway, which is parallel to these 2 roads) are many viewing areas, including one of the biggest waterfalls in all of the United States, Multnomah Falls.
In fact, all of Columbia River Gorge is a scenic drive that has many waterfalls, hikes and stops to explore.
So far I’ve only checked out the Oregon side of this area, but as I hopefully explore Oregon more and more in the future and come back to Columbia River Gorge, I’ll add more recommended spots for people to check out, including what to see in Washington.
For now, if you ever have the chance, do the scenic drive through Columbia River Gorge, it’s truly amazing!
7) Red Rock Canyon (Route 157 near Las Vegas):
Red Rock Canyon is the closest and most popular hiking spot near Las Vegas, but in addition to that, there’s also a very beautiful scenic byway that goes around Red Rock Canyon.
I’ve done that drive once, while heading to a hike not far from Red Rock Canyon called Mt. Charleston, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was, as well as how close to Vegas it was located.
I would do this scenic drive only if you’re in Vegas and seeking to get out of the city even for just a day. But the nature here is both a combination of arid lands that slowly get greener as you near Mt. Charleston.
The drive can be done in under 3 hours if you leave from Vegas and only decide to drive through this area. Of course stopping and doing a hike or two while here is also recommended and there are a bunch of trails available for people to enjoy.
So I would certainly recommend doing a combination of that if you get the chance!
8) The Oregon Coast (Highway 101):
Be ready to stop and film. You’ve got 400+ miles of views in Oregon you’ll never forget. If people were to ask me:
“Vitaliy, what is the most scenic drive in America?”
One would have to be insane to NOT list Oregon’s coast and being that I drove through there, I must say, it is a contender as being the most beautiful drive I’ve ever seen in America (even though the others are incredible still, including the California Coast). It should be #1 on this list, but remember, there is no specific order to it.
Pretty much ALL of Oregon’s Coast is scenic and road 101 WILL take you through it’s most beautiful spots. Here is one of those places:
Would you believe me if I told you that this location is right off the 101 road in Oregon? Yep, it’s true (It’s called Natural Bridges) and so are so many other locations on the coast in this state you can simply view from your car while on a road trip.
This whole area will take you across 100’s of miles of these types of views.
If you’d like to get more info on the best spots in Oregon’s Coast to check out (including scenic ones), here is a list of places to see on the Oregon Coast.
And many of these places have plenty of hiking opportunities, so if driving gets annoying, here’s a list of 10 day hikes on the Oregon Coast you can explore right off the road.
9) Cabot Trail (It is the name of the scenic road).
The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is in North America, but it is specifically in Nova Scotia, Canada and it is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in the northern part of that province (Bay of Fundy is also another one to consider, as it’s in south Nova Scotia).
While my friends and I rushed through it during our road trip through eastern Canada, it still took us nearly a whole day to go the Cabot Trail and for most people who are rational and don’t rush, typically driving through it over a period of a few days is preferable.
There is certainly a lot to see on the Cabot Trail and for me personally, the western side of this scenic road was where I saw most of the best spots.
In fact, some of the Cabot Trail bears a little bit of resemblance to the California Coast, but I’d still say California is more beautiful.
Yet the Cabot Trail is one of the best scenic drives I would recommend you do in North America. It’s very popular and exciting to explore.
10) Finger Lakes scenic drive (New York State):
There are a ton of scenic roads in New York State, but the one I want to recommend to you on this list is in the Finger Lakes area, and there’s more than one there.
Now Finger Lakes has 5 lakes you can check out, each of which offers their own scenic road you can travel through, but the one I was visiting was on the western end which is Seneca Lake, and in that spot are a lot of viewing areas and long roads to check out.
The roads that are worth seeing on that lake and in the Finger Lakes area are:
- Seneca Lake.
- Watkins Glen State Park.
- Seeing Ithica Falls and the scenic roads there.
- Also checking out Middle Falls west of that (one of my top 10 waterfalls in all of New York State).
Basically the point is Finger Lakes itself has 100’s of miles of exploration available, especially for scenic drives, and the regions near Finger Lakes also offer a ton of other awesome scenery as well, so I recommend you check them out too.
If you choose to go through all 5 lakes, you can expect it to take a couple of days, but it’s worth the road trip. We were able to enjoy one of the most popular spots there.
11) The Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies:
Here is a preview of what the Icefields Parkway has in store for anyone driving through it and I assure you, this is just a sample:
With over 200 miles of views like these, you’ll have days worth of driving and stopping and even then, you’re unlikely to see all the beauty this area has.
But with the few days I had to go through this region, I have to say, it is one of the top scenic drives I’ve ever done in North America and I think you may feel similarly about it if you get the chance to do it too.
The Icefields Parkway is very famous and I would honestly recommend going here before fall to avoid the crazy traffic it gets during the other months.
But it is truly a spectacular drive and region of North America that is unforgettable.
Now moving back to the dessert:
12) Arches National Park’s scenic drive:
Not only did the park itself offer awesome adventures I was able to fit into a single day, but the scenic drive through the park was also a major treat and I’ve included a dashboard camera video I took from some of it below.
This is the kind of scenic drive where you’ll probably want to stop a lot and there will be many opportunities to do that.
In fact, I’d recommend focusing on doing hikes at Arches National Park first and saving the scenic drive for last when you’re exiting it, as there is only one road that leads in and out of it.
That’s exactly what I did and it basically helped me enjoy the parks hikes and the drive itself without one activity interrupting the other.
Here is a dashboard video I took while I was driving out of the park with my friend:
So if you enjoy desert drives, then Arches should be on your list! And the good news is that the next scenic drive on this list isn’t far from Arches:
13) Canyonlands National Park’s scenic drive:
Canyonlands National Park is less than 1 hour away from Arches, so if you do a scenic drive there, I recommend doing it here, because the landscape is totally different which I found very surprising, yet it’s one of the things that makes Utah state such an amazing area to explore.
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to record a video of my drive through there and that’s because unlike the other spots on this list, the scenic drive’s best spots are always seen on the side of the road, not in front of it.
So if I was going to film anything, I would have had to place the camera on the side of the car, which I will do next time.
But I was able to hike a few spots in Canyonlands during my short visit there, such as the spot you see to the right:
It is a very beautiful and alien looking national park that I really enjoyed exploring.
So just like Arches, I recommend hiking through some of the areas there first and then doing the scenic drive at the end.
14) Lake Crescent’s scenic drive (Washington Coast):
Whenever I think back to my visit to Washington’s coast, one of the standout areas had to be Lake Crescent that spans for many miles and the scenic drive there is one you may want to take multiple times.
I certainly did because I couldn’t believe how beautiful this drive was the first time I did it!
This park and much of the Washington Coast really makes for a beautiful scenic drive and it just so happens to also be the same 101 road that spans across Oregon State.
But let’s stick to this jewel which is Cresent Lake. It is just a stunning drive and overall scenic place to explore and it gives you some cool access points to explore Olympic National Park.
I really loved what I saw while driving through this area and I will absolutely return to this park the next chance I get (which will be soon).
Lake Cresent is one of the best scenic drives I’ve done in Washington State and frankly, all of North America.
15) Vermont’s Smugglers Notch scenic drive (Road 108):
Vermont is an extraordinarily beautiful state and certainly not short on scenic drives.
But the one I want to focus on is the one that has left an arrow in my heart since I first drove through it years ago and that is the mountain drive road, also known as road 108 in Smugglers Notch Vermont.
It is a short scenic drive, but it is one of the most beautiful short drives I’ve ever done.
No matter what season I visit this area, I always make sure to drive through Smugglers Notch.
It is beautifully designed, and there are many areas where you will probably want to stop just because it looks so inviting.
And yes, there are hiking trails, and plenty of other attractions to explore.
Here is a video of my drive there:
And besides the drive, check out my article on Smugglers Notch to see what else there is to do there too.
And that concludes the list of scenic drives in North America (for now):
As I have said, I WILL be adding more top scenic drives as I go through them personally and again, if there any spots on this list you enjoyed and visited, let me know, but if you know of other places equally or even more beautiful, please let us all know!