20 Scenic Drives in North America (Perfect For Road Trips)

If you’re into road trips and jaw dropping scenic drives, you are on the right page because I’m going to show you 20 of the most beautiful ones in North America (that I have personally done). 

Contents

The 20 scenic drives I’ve done across North America (Update: Even more added!):

scenic drives in north america new 02

  1. Zion National Park’s road 9 scenic drive.
  2. Blue Ridge Parkway.
  3. California’s Coastline (route 1).
  4. California’s Interstate 5.
  5. California’s Route 133, 84 and I-580.
  6. Oregon Route 30.
  7. Red Rock Canyon scenic drive.
  8. The Oregon Coast (Road 101).
  9. Cabot Trail drive.
  10. Finger Lakes road 14 (New York).
  11. Icefields Parkway (Canadian Rockies).
  12. Arches National Park road.
  13. Canyonlands National Park (Grand View Point Road and White Rim Road).
  14. Lake Crescent scenic drive (Washington).
  15. Vermont’s 108 road through Stowe and Smugglers Notch.
  16. Yosemite National Park (Valley Scenic Drive)
  17. Utah’s Road 12.
  18. Sedona scenic drive (89A).
  19. Monument Valley (3 scenic drives).
  20. Vermilion Cliffs Scenic drive (Honey Moon Trail).
  21. North Shore scenic drive (Minnesota).
  22. Virgin River Gorge (I-15 scenic drive in Arizona).

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.

This list of scenic drives is going to grow, so share your ideas below!

Now anyone who has traveled across North America knows that there’s more than 20 (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) 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) Zion National Park’s scenic drives (Road 9 and Canyon drive):

zion national park scenic drive north america

Length of drive: 20+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: 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 me crash a few times) was the drive through their scenic roads, of which there are 2:

I’m telling you folks, there are no words or pictures to describe this scenic drive’s beauty.

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.

I’ve done many scenic drives in north America, but this one is on my top 3 list.

Now let’s move east to the see the next spot:

2) Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive:

blue ridge parkway scenic drive north america

Length: 400+ miles.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Description: 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 (Scenic drive route 1):

california coast scenic drive route 1

Length: 500+ miles.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Description: 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:

I didn’t get a chance to explore 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 (an incredible scenic drive):

california interstate 5 scenic drive north america

Length: 200+ miles.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Description: 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 three times 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. A good place to see while you are traveling through here is Pyramid Lake.

So if you travel through this road, do it in March.

Here are other scenic drives in southern California and just as well, here are more scenic drives in Northern California that I highly recommend

5) Another California location: Route 152, Interstate 580 and Route 84:

california scenic drive north america

Length: 100+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: 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 drive that is highly recommended.

Here is one of the places I saw:

It is a state park on route 152 that is amazing to look at. I really wish I’d stopped more often instead of focusing on reaching Big Sur, but being tight on time and needing to fit my driving schedule forced this to happen.

Anyway, if you drive anywhere in California, leave several hours open to seeing amazing places like this (because they will pop up often).

I only regret not spending more time in these amazing spots!

6) Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge scenic drive:

columbia river gorge scenic drive in oregon

Length: 30+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 

Description: 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 scenic drive

Length: 20+ miles.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Description: 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, one of North Amerioregon coast scenic drive north america ca’s best scenic drives):

Length: 400+ miles.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Description: No list of scenic drives in this continent can be complete with mentioning the Oregon Coast, which I happen to have driven through several times (and highly recommend).

Be ready to stop and film if you’re traveling through this area because you’re going to have at least 400+ miles of views that you’ll never forget. In fact, if people were to ask me:

“Vitaliy, what is the most scenic drive in north America you’ve seen?”

Well I’d mention the spots on this list, but I’d include the Oregon Coast for sure. Some may even say the Oregon Coast should be #1 scenic drive on this list, but remember, there is no specific order to it and I’m just sharing places I’ve seen in North America.

Pretty much all of Oregon’s Coast is scenic and road 101 WILL take you through it’s most beautiful spots (including the one I used in this picture).

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.

And just as well, there are many sea cave spots on the Oregon Coast too that you can explore.

9) The Cabot Trail (It is the name of the scenic drivethe cabot trail scenic drive canada):

Length: 100+ miles.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Description: 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 (Road 14, New York State):

finger lakes scenic driveLength: 50+ miles.

Rating: 4.7 out of 5.

Description: There are a ton of scenic drives 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:

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 famous Icefields Parkway scenic drive in the Canadian Rockies:

icefields parkway canadian rockies scenic drive

Length: 100+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: This scenic drive is in the Canadian Rockies which is located in Western Canada.It is one of the most famous scenic drives in Canada (and the world) and once you drive through it, you’ll understand why.

I traveled through this area during a road trip there and I will never forget it. 

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 park road (main scenic drive):

arches national park scenic drive north america

Length: 20+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: I’ve been fortunate enough to visit all of the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah and one of the best scenic drives I did in those parks was at Arches National Park.

Note: Utah has many astonishing scenic drives you can explore, and the ones in the National Parks there are just the beginning.

Just as well, Utah also has amazing hiking trails you can also check out, some of which are close to the beautiful drives there too!

Now as for Arches National Park, I have been there twice and though I explored more of the park my second time around, I was still blown away by the scenic drive there just as much my second time as when I saw it for the first time.

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.

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 (Grand Point View road and/or White Rim trail):

canyonlands national park scenic drive north america

Length: 100+ miles (in Utah).

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: 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.

There are 2 ways to drive inside Canyonlands National Park:

  • One is through the main road over the park (Grand Point View Road).
  • The second is actually through a drive that goes down into the park itself (known as the White Rim Trail).

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to record a video of my drive through this park 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 to do the second drive into the depths of the park (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 state’s northern region):

washington coast scenic drive

Length: 20+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: 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):

smugglers notch scenic drive vermont north america

Length: 5 miles only (but worth it).

Rating: 5 out of 5 for me.

Description: 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.

And besides the drive, check out my article on Smugglers Notch to see what else there is to do there too.

16) Yosemite National Park (Valley Scenic drive in California):

yosemite valley scenic drive in north america new 07

Length: 30+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: Valley drive is considered the top drive in Yosemite National Park not just to drive through but it’s basically the heart of the park where you see the giant mountains from the bottom and find access to the top hikes and views (and even swimming).

I drove and explored a bit of this park a few years back and the Valley drive was without a doubt my top choice.

When you reach this area of the park, you will be driving through one of 2 main entrances and those have their sights, but nothing compared to what you’ll see in Yosemite Valley.

That picture you see for Yosemite is called Tunnel View and yes it that amazing. Yosemite’s Valley drive is a must not just if you are in the park but in general across all of North America.

17) Utah road 12:

utah road 12 scenic drive in north america new 02

Length: 200+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: It’s the main drive that takes people not just through the 5 national parks, but also is extremely scenic across most of it.

You will also find amazing (none) national park spots like Grand Staircase Escalante and Red Canyon driving through here and overall, Utah’s road 12 is one of many scenic drives in Utah state I recommend checking out.

This is not a drive I’d recommend doing in a day either as it’s extremely remote with very few areas to stay at in between.

Your options (if you do this whole drive) are:

18) Sedona’s road 89A (Arizona):

sedona scenic drive north america new 01

Length: 15 miles (with access to many other roads/hikes).

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: Sedona has been a missing piece of my explorations but one I finally got to check out in 2022 and one of the first things that stood out to me was the scenic drive that I took to get there, which is 89A. I took it from Flaggstaff and went south to get there and it’s totally worth doing.

89A is a short drive, but it takes you through some of the best views of Sedona, the town itself and also provides side road access to plenty of amazing hiking trails and here are just some that I have done:

This road will also take you past a famous state park in Sedona, something you should also check out (it was closed when I went through there).

19) Monument Valley (Utah, 3 scenic drives to see):

monument valley scenic drive in north america new 03

Length: 50+ miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: On the same trip I took to see Sedona, I had also planned it out to see Monument Valley. However due to logistics and bad timing, I wasn’t able to see everything I am about to suggest on this list, but Monument Valley has 3 main scenic drives to check out, 1 is inside the park itself (it’s a private reservation) and the other 2 are actually outside Monument Valley and here is the list:

  • The first one is the 17 mile drive inside Monument Valley (requires reservation ahead of time).
  • The second one is road 163 outside of Monument Valley (takes you through amazing views and that Forest Gump spot).
  • The third is Valley of the Gods which is off road 163 and is also about 17 miles in length (no pass required).

They are all close to one another so I highly recommend doing all 3 scenic drives if you go here.

20) Vermilion Cliffs (Honey Moon Trail, Arizona):

vermilion cliffs scenic drive in north america new 04

Length: 10 miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: When I explored Vermilion Cliffs, my intent was to just check out a hike I had heard a lot of good things about which is Cathedral Wash. That still remains a top hiking choice in my opinion!

What I didn’t plan on was seeing the stunning views and subsequently amazing scenic drive that was in the region.

Honey Moon trail is a short scenic drive through the eastern part of Vermilion Cliffs and it’s a beauty.

It does require a fee to enter the area, but it’s worth it.

There is also the scenic drive around the whole region worth checking out if you have the time and this will also have you crossing popular hikes like the Wave (one of the America’s top hiking trails).

21) North Shore (Minnesota scenic drive along Lake Superior):

north shore minnesota scenic drive in north america new 09

Length: 150+ miles.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Description: North Shore lies on the eastern Minnesota Coast (the only coastline there) and that takes you through Lake Superior.

Along the way, you will see a lot of coastal cliffs, sea caves (lake caves technically) and have opportunities for plenty of adventures, including beautiful hikes, trails, kayaking adventures and a lot more (even the northern lights!).

I did a 3 day road trip through the North Shore and loved it.

Although the scenic drive may be a little dull at times, it’s what it leads to many times that makes it worth going to. Read up on my Minnesota North Shore trip for details on that! You will actually have hikes along the coast and plenty of hikes opposite of that (inland).

Do a road trip here if you are in Minnesota (or traveling along the upper United States in general).

22) Virgin River Gorge (Also on interstate 15, but in Arizona):

virgin river gorge scenic drive in north america new 08

Length: 20 miles.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description: Every single time I driven to Zion National Park from Las Vegas (or vice versa), I went through a small section of Arizona State along Interstate 15 and on that short drive, I passed through the amazingly beautiful Virgin River Gorge.

I had done this drive several times so far, but have yet to actually stop anywhere to check out what’s out there (and there is plenty based on initial research).

The point is though that the scenic drive through this small area is absolutely amazing and every time I go through here, I am in awe of how beautiful it is (almost got too distracted several times because of that).

This is definitely a must do scenic drive if you are in the area and not too far from it, you will find a cool place called Valley of Fire State Park (it also has a nice scenic drive).

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!

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2 thoughts on “20 Scenic Drives in North America (Perfect For Road Trips)”

    • Hi Judy, thanks for the recommendation! I have always wanted to visit Yellowstone and when I eventually do, I’ll be sure to do this drive and add it to the list!

      Reply

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