6 Little-Known Scenic Drives That Every American Should Explore

Rugged mountains, unbelievable vistas, lush forests, and awe-inspiring landscapes are just some highlights of what you'll find along America's roads and highways. Who can resist the lure of the open road and the freedom to explore mesmerizing sights, right from the comfort of your car? Every road trip enthusiast has heard of America's most famous scenic drives: the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana and the iconic 17-mile drive along California's Highway 1 in Big Sur, California, but as impressive as these drives are, more obscure routes can be just as visually compelling. Lesser-known drives may have been overlooked, but their beauty can be just as dramatic,  perhaps offering extraordinary vistas of largely undiscovered parts of America. Here are six little-known scenic drives that every American should explore in their lifetime.

  1. Trail of the Ancients

    Exploring this nine-hour drive gives you the opportunity to explore the intriguing occupation of the Native American peoples in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Often referred to as the "Archaeological Heartland of America," this route offers a remarkable glimpse of some ancient Pueblo ruins, The Grand Gulch Canyon, and the Four Corners Monument, where you can stand in four states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona all at once. Be sure to turn off your engines and put on your hiking boots, as many hiking trails dot the landscape.

  2. Oregon Coast Highway

    Although the drive along California's Pacific Coast Highway 1 is famous for its beautiful coastline views of the Pacific Ocean, the lesser-known U.S. 101 route from the Oregon-California border, starting from Astoria, Oregon, travels through many coastal towns, sand dune parks, lighthouses, and giant offshore rocks known as sea stacks. Many of these are worthy stops along your drive, the most famous being a stop just north of Florence, which is home to one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Along the way you'll also pass the world's largest sea cave of sea lions.

  3. Hana Highway

    The 69-mile drive to the town of Hana in East Maui is an excursion that captures the spirit of Hawaiian tradition, culture, and natural beauty. You'll want to hold your breath and live in the moment along this beloved drive, which starts in Paia, famous for its surfing shore that zig-zags east for another 60 miles of spectacular sights. All in close proximity, you'll pass Waikani Falls, Ka'eleku Caverns, black sanded beaches, fresh water caves, and the Keanae Arboretum. Your final destination of Hana will be a culminating point of fantastic experiences, where you'll breathe in the sweet scent of eucalyptus air, kick back, and relish in the local culture.

  4. Columbia River Gorge Highway

    With so many interactive attractions along this route, it's no wonder the Pacific coastline has three remarkable highways, one of which is the Columbia River Gorge Highway, which is beautiful any time of the year. Along the route to Portland you will find the world's second-largest monolith Beacon Rock, winding trails, and majestic forests. Hood River in Oregon has snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and many worthy photo stop points. You'll enjoy every minute of the only sea level route through the Cascade Mountain Range.

  5. Monument Valley Highway 163

    A staple backdrop of the American West, you'll find the same landscapes of Monument Valley featured in many commercials and movies like Forrest Gump, but don't let that fool you. The scenic landscape of Monument Valley is so diverse and unique, the photographs characterized as "The American West" can only be found in Monument Valley. In the 24 miles from Kayenta, Arizona to just north of Utah's border, you will find sacred Navajo grounds and iconic rock formations: Three Sisters, Mittens, Elephant Butte, Mexican Hat, and The Thumb. Clusters of unique and iconic sandstone buttes provide a striking contrast to the surrounding scenery, the largest monolithic butte rising 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Almost a spiritual journey, the Colorado Plateau region is a drive that should be on everyone's bucket list.

  6. North Carolina Highway 151

    Celebrated as Blue Ridge Parkway, a famous route through the Appalachian Mountains, the first few miles of North Carolina 151 are worth the thrill of having an open winding road and plenty of natural landforms practically devoid of other cars.

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