Must-drive roads in every state
Road trips are a classic American tradition.
The Great American Road Trip isn’t quite as old as the car itself, mostly because the roads that existed when the first automobiles were taking to the streets in the early 1900s. If today’s drivers think winter potholes are bad, the streets when the automobile was first being developed were meant for horse and buggy. People still traveled and the first successful cross-country road trip took place in 1903. It wasn’t until cars became more accessible and paid vacation time was given to workers in the post-World War II boom that Americans really started turning their wanderlust into a trip from sea to shining sea.
Now there’s around a car per person and 4.18 million miles of road in the United States, according to a February 2017 report by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. It’s all but impossible to drive down every single one just like it’s impossible to see everything the U.S. has to offer in only one trip. Stacker utilized the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and state travel guides to locate must-drive roads in every U.S. state to help any would-be road tripper to narrow down their options. We researched roadways for the devilishly daring, the tranquil soul, the lonesome and lovesick, the wildlife lover, the fisherman and more, leaving no parkway unturned in order to bring joy to road warriors across the nation.
Walt Whitman understood the importance of traveling highways and byways, as made evident when he said, “I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” Hit the gas pedal and take to an open road of your own this summer. Read on to learn about must-drive roads in every state.
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Alabama: Lookout Mountain Parkway
Prepare for 93 miles of mountain laurel and rhododendrons. Lookout Mountain Parkway spans three states from Alabama to Tennessee, and it’s home to the world’s longest yard sale. Every August, people holding yard sales line the parkway with everything from bike parts and overalls to antique china and vintage luggage.
Alaska: Seward Highway
Arizona: Apache Trail
Interested in rugged sandstone canyons and a ghost town? The Apache Trail, also known as Highway 88, snakes 45 miles through Arizonian peaks and valleys in an area historically known for its mining towns. For Wild West fun, stop by the Goldfield Ghost Town, a dusty old town with a steakhouse saloon.
Arkansas: Crowley Ridge Parkway
The Crowley Ridge Parkway emerges from northeast Arkansas, running along Crowley’s Ridge for over 200 miles. Besides touring Civil War battlefields and bountiful orchards, visitors can stop by the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, where Ernest and Pauline Pfeiffer converted their old barn into a writing studio for Hemingway.
California: Pacific Coast Highway
Running along roughly 650 miles of craggy cliffsides on the Pacific Coast of California, Highway 1 boasts the Golden Gate Bridge, Big Sur, the boardwalk of Santa Cruz, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the Danish Village of Solvang, the surf of both Santa Barbara and Malibu, San Diego’s Sea World and more. The longest drive between In-N-Out locations is just over three hours.
Colorado: Pikes Peak Highway
Beginning at 7,400 feet, Pikes Peak Highway climbs an additional 6,715 feet in only 19 miles to the mountain’s summit, which tops out at 14,115 feet. Don’t forget a fishing pole, as the highway has three different well-stocked lakes to cast a line into.
Connecticut: Connecticut River Loop
You don’t have to travel to Europe to see a castle: There’s one along the Connecticut River Loop. Passing through the iconic New England towns of Essex and Old Lyme, this 32-mile loop boasts a 20th-century castle. The Gillette Castle, built between 1914 and 1919, was originally owned by actor William Hooker Gillette, most notable for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
Delaware: Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway
The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway is for the old soul romantic. Along the approximately 12.25 miles of 20th-century mansions and enchanting gardens, stop by the 60-acre wild garden at the Winterthur Museum (former estate of Henry Francis du Pont) or see simply luscious native orchids in the garden of Mt. Cuba Center.
Florida: A1A Coastal Byway
This 72-mile, mostly two-lane roadway boasts nearly 100 different art venues and premier galleries. Along the A1A, make a pit stop in St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, to view the “Lost Colony” collection at the St. Augustine Art Association, which includes the works of E.B. Warren, Walter Cole, Tod Lindenmuth, William L’Engle, Emmett Fritz and others.
Georgia: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway
With views of the Chattahoochee River and the Appalachian Mountains, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway’s 41-mile loop offers some of the most luscious views of Georgia’s timberland. Four different states can be seen from the top of Brasstown Bald Mountain.