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Monday, September 1, 2008

Top 10 Scenic Drives in the US.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway
Often been referred to as "America’s Favorite Drive." It’s certainly the country’s first rural parkway – parts of it date back to 1930s (when construction began as a make-work project during the Depression) – and the longest, with breathtaking scenery and dozens of recreational opportunities to distract you when you need to stretch your legs.

2. Hana Highway also called "The road to Hana"
A drive on Maui’s beloved Hana Highway offers such an awe-inspiring display of natural beauty that you’ll soon revel in the same sentiment. This serpentine trek starts off in Paia, famous for its surfer-swept shores, and zigzags east along the coast for more than 50 miles, all the while embracing 600 hairpin curves, 54 one-lane bridges, and some of the island’s most spectacular sights.

3. Highway 1
California’s State Route 1 (aka Highway 1) skirts the Golden State’s glorious Pacific coastline from “So Cal,” near San Luis Obispo northwest to the forests of Monterey. While the twists and curves, and occasional precariously-perched cliff-top road, may prove challenging at times (one section has been ominously dubbed Devil’s Slide thanks to landslides and erosion that have occasionally made the road impassable), the magnificent vistas of ocean waves breaking on rocky sea-sculpted shores, windswept beaches dotted by frolicking otters or sea lions, and magnificent forests presiding above it all can rouse even the wariest of drivers behind the wheel.

4. Highway 12
Windswept red-rock canyons, towering sandstone formations, pristine lakes, and pine-studded mountain ranges combine for an altogether over-the-top sensory experience in Southern Utah. The setting for several stunning national parks, this remarkable road connects those at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, and offers unique beauty and seemingly limitless recreational opportunities on a stretch of land between the two parks’ boundaries.

5. Going-to-the-sun Road
This spectacular 52-mile drive is the best way to see the dramatic remnants and rugged path left by gargantuan glaciers in Montana’s striking Glacier National Park. Only open from early-June to mid-October (or until first snowfall), the Going-to-the-Sun Road, aptly named for its ever-escalating sky-high stretch with switchbacks up and over the magnificent Continental Divide, traverses Glacier National Park from West Glacier to St. Mary and covers untapped wilderness, rugged mountains, glistening lakes, deep river gorges, glacial canyons, and the long Garden Wall.

6. Million Dollar Highway
Despite varying explanations as to the origin of its name (one claims it cost $1 million a mile to build in 1924; another says it contains $1 million in gold ore), there’s no disputing the fact that the 75-mile stretch of scenic highway known as Million Dollar Highway is a breathtaking journey through the majestic mountain passes of western Colorado. Crossing part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, and following route U.S. 550 between the old mining towns of Silverton and Ouray, the route’s twists and turns wend high above the Red Mountain Pass – an 11,018-foot-high collapsed volcano whose lava flow was found to contain gold in 1860 – and past the deep Uncompahgre Gorge, into which flow several waterfalls.

7. Red Rock Scenic Byway
If you're looking for a sublime experience and are a lover of the great outdoors, Mother Nature has blessed you with Sedona. Known for its massive, monolithic, red-rock formations that seemingly change shape and color with every passing ray of sunlight, Sedona's almost otherworldly scenery has long beckoned visitors to stand in awe of its grandeur. State Route 179, a 7.5-mile sliver of road designated Red Rock Scenic Road, serves as an excellent introduction to some of the area’s most superb natural splendors and amazing vistas.

8. Seward Highway
The Seward Highway serves as the asphalt thread linking metropolitan Anchorage to Alaska’s agreeable little portside town of Seward on magnificent Resurrection Bay. Fittingly, for a road that connects such contrasting locales, the 127-mile stretch cuts through equally diverse landscapes – from glistening glaciers to alpine meadows, and jagged peaks to majestic fjords. Many miles of the route hug the base of the rugged Chugach Mountains and the shore of Turnagain Arm, winding past waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife; keep your eyes peeled for grazing sheep and mountain goats in the cliff tops, and beluga whales racing through the frigid waters below.

9. Sonoma and Napa Valleys
Although we don’t condone drinking and driving, there’s no better way to get a taste of Northern California’s pastoral wine country than by driving through the Sonoma and Napa valleys. A 132-mile-long drive starts in Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco, and follows three highways (Sonoma Hwy, St. Helena Hwy, and Redwood Hwy) through breathtaking acres of sprawling vineyards, forested hills, oak woodlands, several state parks – including beautiful Clear Lake State Park – as well as a handful of historic sites. Our preferred itinerary heads down and around Sonoma and Napa, then loops up to St. Helena, Calistoga, Middletown, and Cobb, before culminating in Hopland. Some of the highlights include the ghost-town of Silverado (made famous by writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote about his honeymoon there); the expansive ranch belonging to author Jack London; the charming colonial town of Sonoma; and the famed Hopland Brewery, a microbrewery serving up frosty local beer (a nice change from all that wine).

10. U.S. Route 1
Traversing some of the oldest roads in the country, U.S. Route 1 takes you on a historic journey through New England, covering five states (namely, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine) and encompassing a bevy of sights, coastal villages, state parks, and notable cities. We recommend starting in Connecticut and driving all the way up to the coast of Maine, following the highway up to Providence, where the city’s colonial history is displayed in numerous museums and historical sites (particularly so Roger Williams Park, where Williams landed and founded his colony).


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