Best Scenic Drives

Let's Travel - - U.S.A. | CONTENTS - Words and im­ages by Shane Boocock

If you’re think­ing of tak­ing a road trip on the high­ways and by­ways of Amer­ica then these scenic routes are some of my favourites to nav­i­gate. Hav­ing spent nine years trav­el­ling the back roads in North Amer­ica as a for­mer ad­ven­ture tour guide, I’ve come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that the USA has some of the most spec­tac­u­lar road trips any­where in the world. It’s the al­lure of the open road and the “un­known” that lurks in the shad­ows that brings me back time and again. So, here are five routes that I think you’ll en­joy once you get out on the open road.

The best way to go about driv­ing these routes is to hire a car or an RV (recre­ational ve­hi­cle - what we call a camper­van) from a com­pany like El Monte RV, who have a va­ri­ety of rental lo­ca­tions across the USA. You can also hire a GPS, or do what I do and pick up a new Rand McNally road map for about US$10 from most gas sta­tions or Tar­get stores. Just re­mem­ber to stay to the right hand side of the road and en­joy the jour­ney…the mem­o­ries will last for­ever. 1 High­way 1 – Santa Mon­ica to Carmel, Cal­i­for­nia This route can be driven from ei­ther di­rec­tion in two or three days, how­ever most people be­gin their jour­ney on High­way 1 in Santa Mon­ica. Your first stop should be the rich play­ground of Santa Bar­bara, some­times known as the Amer­i­can Riviera, a place that’s fa­mous for it’s beau­ti­ful Mediter­ranean like cli­mate and ex­pen­sive homes, it’s beaches and the Santa Bar­bara Pue­blo Mis­sion, built in 1786. Fur­ther north you’ll pass through Pismo Beach and Mor­row Bay where otters and sea lions laze on the Pa­cific shore­line. It re­ally starts to get in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful north of San Simeon where the well-known Cal­i­for­nia at­trac­tion, Hearst Cas­tle, lures tourists in­side it’s mar­bled walls. The road then starts to twist, spi­ral and bend in and out of windswept bays be­fore you be­gin climb­ing high into the cliffs of the Santa Lu­cia Moun­tain Range. Be­fore you know it you’ll ar­rive un­der a canopy of gi­ant red­woods in Big Sur where there are nu­mer­ous, lux­ury re­sorts, camp­grounds and mo­tels. The next day is a 45-minute drive into the small but pop­u­lar town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, home to Clint East­wood and many fa­mous gallery artists.

2 Go­ing to the Sun High­way, Glacier Na­tional Park, Wy­oming This is Rocky Moun­tain coun­try and this aptly named route, built in 1933, is all it’s made out to be and more. Your start­ing point will be ei­ther Kal­ispell or White­fish be­fore you en­ter Glacier Na­tional Park. Your first stop will likely be the camp­ground just in­side the lip of the park at Ap­gar, on the shores of Lake McDon­ald…once home to Kute­nai In­di­ans. The park boasts 50 glaciers, rugged wilder­ness moun­tains, glis­ten­ing lakes, river canyons and lots of griz­zly bears. The 52-mile route with nu­mer­ous look­out points switches back and forth on the as­cent be­fore reach­ing Lo­gan Pass on the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide at 6, 680 feet (2,030 m). This is the only place in Amer­ica where it’s wa­ters flow to the Pa­cific, Hud­son Bay and the Gulf of Mex­ico. Thou­sands of feet be­low is the gla­cial val­ley, shaped like a well-worn sad­dle; thou­sands of feet above high, snow-cov­ered moun­tains dom­i­nate the sky­line. It is only open early June to mid Oc­to­ber. 3 His­toric Route 66, Ari­zona As you travel part of Route 66 in Ari­zona you’ll find some au­then­tic and his­toric Route 66-era, ho­tels, mo­tels, trad­ing posts and gas sta­tions, many of them lov­ingly re­stored and pre­served. Most of this route is now des­ig­nated In­ter­state 40 so it is worth ‘side-track­ing’ off to small towns when pos­si­ble, to visit por­tions of the old Route 66. Start­ing on the edge of Cal­i­for­nia at a town called Nee­dles make your way through Fort Mo­jave In­dian Reser­va­tion to visit the small min­ing town of Oat­man, in the high moun­tains, on some of the orig­i­nal Route 66. Even­tu­ally you’ll drop down into King­man where just out of town you can pick up Route 66 again tak­ing you out to Peach Springs and the Huala­pai In­dian Reser­va­tion, where you can take a one day Colorado River raft­ing trip or ex­pe­ri­ence the Grand Canyon SKY­WALK in an area know as Grand Canyon West. From Peach Springs there are more stretches of Route 66 be­fore you even­tu­ally reach the Ari­zona town of Flagstaff, which is worth stay­ing overnight.

4 Mi­ami to Key West, Florida This is a drive I first did in 1980 and I must have driven it a dozen times since and I never tire of it. The hard­est part is es­cap­ing all the Mi­ami traf­fic and the strip malls and stores that line the route for the first 25 miles (40 km). Then you have 100 miles (160 km) or so to lazily drive be­tween some of the most beau­ti­ful is­lands in the Con­ti­nen­tal USA. The trip can be cov­ered in about 3 - 4 hours depend­ing on traf­fic but I sug­gest you stop off en­route to lap up the laid-back life­style that has been adopted here. I’ve al­ways camped at John Pen­nekamp State Park in Key Largo, as the co­ral reef here is great for kayak­ing, div­ing or snorkelling. Marathon Key is also a wor­thy rest stop but the high­light is al­ways Bahia Honda State Park, where you can camp right on the wa­ter’s edge. The rest of the trip to Key West will en­tice you to try a lit­tle fish­ing, some of the best in the States. Plan on spend­ing at least three days in Key West at the end of your trip, as it re­ally is the end of the road. 5 Zion Canyon Na­tional Park to Bryce Canyon Na­tional Park, Utah Just en­ter­ing Zion Na­tional Park will whet your ap­petite for what fol­lows. Lo­cated 300 miles (480 km) south of Salt Lake City, this lit­tle trea­sure is per­fect to get a road trip started on. Watch­man Camp­ground is just in­side the en­trance. From here you can get shut­tle buses to ac­cess the canyon proper. If you have time for just one hike make it to the top of An­gels Land­ing and all will be stun­ningly re­vealed be­low. The next day head west driv­ing through the sin­gle lane 1.1 mile (1.76 km) tun­nel, built in 1930, that cuts through a range of strik­ingly bright red, or­ange and pow­dery white sand­stone de­posits. Switch­backs take you through a maze of fa­bled ver­mil­lion coloured rock for­ma­tions be­fore you drive to higher el­e­va­tions on Route 89 be­fore even­tu­ally turn­ing west onto Route 12 to Bryce Canyon. Here you have the op­tions of stay­ing in mo­tels, Na­tional Park camp­grounds or pri­vate camp­grounds.

St. Mary Lake, Glacier Na­tional Park

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