Soaking up stunning scenery while winding down the open road is an experience that can’t be bought. And, when it comes to that open road, America’s got it covered, whether you’re seeking a thrill ride with sharp cliffs and hairpin turns or a journey down the east coast filled with quaint wayside pit stops.
Find my most ride-worthy picks below!
Despite its name, this road is a national scenic byway (not a highway), open from April to October, as the road is too narrow to be open during wintertime. When the road was first being built, some challenged the highway’s construction, calling it the “impossible highway.” Construction was completed in 1922, silencing those naysayers.
Image Credit: AllBlackHills.com
This is a slow, 14-mile road threading its way through the 71,000-acre Custer State Park (30 miles south of Rapid City). It will take you about one hour to wind your way around sharp turns - and sometimes - under narrow tunnels.
Take in the enthralling rock formations resembling granite spires and picturesque views (including Legion Lake, Center Lake and the Cathedral Spires) adorning the path. Watch for wildlife, including the many deer populating the area. You will also make your way through an 8’4” wide tunnel called the Needles Eye, famed for the granite spire gracing the entrance, a spire that looks like a sewing needle because of its shape and the “eye” that’s been hewn by the elements over time.
A designated All-American Road, this 123-mile stretch along the central California Coast is a twisting, cliffside road with slight shoulders and sheer dropoffs. Clocking in at five hours taken at a casual pace, Pacific Coast Highway includes the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway.
Image Credit: The Travel Channel
The route starts at Monterey and goes through the art colony of Carmel. Then, travelers are led through Big Sur, which showcases the Pacific banked by towering mountains. Eventually, this austere landscape evolves into hills dappled with oak and takes a jaunt past Hearst Castle. Morro Bay, a haven for fluffy sea otters and blue herons, brings the journey to a close.
You can experience this road at anytime of the year. However, mudslides have been known to happen in Winter.
Route One is a beautiful trip year-round, but late summer - when the water is warmest - is often the best time to visit. And, this may come as a surprise, but Maine’s coast (5000 miles) is actually longer than California’s.
In your trek along Southern Maine, you’ll see plenty of sandy beaches: If you’re tempted to stop for a sun tan, make sure you find some deep-fried lobster tail on a stick, or sink your teeth into a famed lobster roll.
As you head north for midcoast Maine, you’ll catch views of craggy coasts, rocky beaches, and the Atlantic, while passing by a few of the 65 lighthouses in the area. Since there are many boating towns in this vicinity, the scenery will also include the local fishermen and quaint towns.
Image Credit: NewEngland.com
Eventually, you’ll reach downeast Maine and Acadia National Park scenery, the second-most visited park in America. The Park is modestly sized, yet still showcases breathtaking views.
There are so many places to stop here that you may want to plot out what you’d like to see before you leave. There are plenty of sites you can use to plan your trip if you’d like to make a few stops for cuisine, attractions like roller coasters on the beachfront, and lodgings.
This ride is for thrill seekers: the Tail has 318 turns - many banked like racetrack curves - in 11 miles of road at a mainly flat elevation. The Tail’s official site is clear that this is not a road for a sightseeing excursion: You’ll be too busy keeping your eye on the road as the trees whizz past to take in any sights of the surrounding forest.
Image Credit: Roadtrippers.com
To add to the adventure, some believe this road may be haunted. Past travelers have sworn they’ve heard ghosts while traversing the road at night. Sadly, roughly one person dies on this road each year, leading to the belief that ghosts roam the area.
This 236-mile loop will captivate you with gorgeous views, as you wind your way past waterfalls, huge beds of wildflowers, and historical sites along the way. First, you’ll encounter the town of Durango, an 1880s train and commerce center. If you’re a historophile, you might want to take one of the walking tours to see the saloons, hotels and houses of the time, or take a break from your bike and hop onto a steam locomotive that journeys far into the San Juan Mountains.
Next on the San Juan Skyway is the area of the byway between Silverton and Ouray: The canyonside “Million Dollar Highway.” There are theories on how this name was born. Perhaps it was the amount of money it cost to build its million-dollar views, or maybe the name refers to the gold ore still in the roadway’s fill. The highway brings you up and over the Red Mountain Pass (which summits at 11,075 feet), then leads you through the Uncompahgre Gorge, where the canyon yawns steeply beside your bike into the depths below.
Image Credit: Colorado.com
The town of Ouray follows with preserved, mining-era buildings, a hot springs, and mountain views. The road then takes you past Telluride (situated in a box canyon), with more historic buildings like the New Sheridan Hotel and Sheridan Opera House.
End your seven-hour-long journey as the road turns southerly and connects to Dolores and the neighboring Mesa Verde National Park, where the cliffside dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan people can be found.
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