Following Fiona contains affiliate links which may earn me a commission for any bookings at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Check out the Privacy Policy for more information.

Best Drives in the USA

These are my favourite but by no means all of the great drives in America. I drove just over 22,000 miles on my 48 state road trip, but there still a huge amount of ground I didn’t cover.

I’d happily do these drives again, along with a few others that I haven’t made it to yet.

Pacific Coast Highway – California

Also known as California State Route 1, it’s a classic for a reason. This road is 650 miles in total and runs down the length of the California coast. There are points where you will be a bit further inland but there is plenty of oceanside driving. 

It’s possible to do it in a few days but it’s worth giving yourself at least 5 days to be able to stop and enjoy the ocean and the drive itself.  It gets pretty busy at the weekends but whenever you can go, it’s a beautiful and classic drive. Try to drive from North to South so you are on the side of the road closest to the ocean.

View of the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway

Glacier National Park – Montana

The Going-To-The-Sun road in Glacier National Park is simply spectacular. It’s not open all year round as it’s a winding road on the side of a mountain, but it is absolutely worth doing. 

This was one of the first mountain drives in did in the USA and it made me want to do as many as I could. You need to reserve a slot to access the park so plan it in advance. It’s also very high up with a vertical drop by the roadside in many places, so be mindful of this if you are a nervous driver (although there is at least a barrier unlike some other roads on this list).

Mountains by the side of the road in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming

Bison grazing on grass in Yellowstone National Park

Go and see some wildlife and geysers. This was the first time I saw bison and they are absolutely everywhere. Leaving the park on my first day took an extra hour thanks to all my bison friends standing in the road until a ranger appeared to move them on!

It takes longer than I expected to get to the main part of the park before you get to the really scenic bits. Leave at least two days to visit Yellowstone as it is an absolutely massive place. Yellowstone is the home of the famous geyser Old Faithful. On busy days it can be difficult to find someone to park for Old Faithful, so it’s best to try and get there early in the day to try and beat some of the crowds. 

I was staying in Cody and then moved on to Jackson, WY after my second day which also takes you through Grand Teton National Park and past some beautiful lakes with mountains in the background. 

Beartooth Highway – Wyoming and Montana

I wouldn’t have heard about this one if it wasn’t for a random conversation with a biker sitting next to me at a restaurant bar. 

It’s a winding, steep road through Wyoming and Montana. You drive through mountains and the views are incredible. You can only do this one during the day (it would be wasted at night anyway) and it’s closed in winter. There are lots of tight turns and you definitely wouldn’t want to be up there on icy roads. 

Winding road through Beartooth Highway with mountains in the background

Badlands National Park – South Dakota

There are plenty of places to stop in this National Park to take Instagram worthy pictures of the classic rock layers. The views make it virtually impossible to complete the drive without stopping, but there is plenty to see from your windscreen if you do stay in the car.

It’s a beautiful place to watch a sunset and worth visiting even if it’s a bit out the way. 

Florida Keys – Florida

Drive across bridges over bright blue water. It really is a great drive if you can get yourself right down to the tip of Florida for it. 

You can do it in one day from Florida City, south of Miami. Or leave yourself a few days, stop in the individual keys to explore and wander around the southernmost tip of the continental US. 

A black bear cub running across the road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee and North Carolina

I saw bears running across the road in front of me. Need I say more?

Well, if I must, then I’ll add that you can see rivers and wildlife and mountains. It connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway, another famous US drive. 

Road downhill through clouds in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park – Washington

There’s definitely a pattern for my favourites. Mountain roads with tight turns at high elevation. 

This one is high enough that under certain conditions you are actually driving through low clouds. 

This makes it a beautiful drive but also one that could be closed at any time if visibility and road conditions become dangerous. 

Grassy hills in foreground with Rocky Mountains behind in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

You have to book a slot for this park and I almost missed mine by going to the wrong entrance (I’ll blame Google Maps but it really was my fault…) 

My favourite bit about this park is the unpaved Old Fall River Road. It’s a one way narrow uphill road with no guard rail and tight turns. It’s not one for big vehicles as camper vans might not be able to get around the corners very easily, but an SUV would be fine. It leads up to the  two way Trail Ridge Road which is the paved road that most visitors take. Both roads are closed in winter but it’s a great place for a summer drive. 

One note – watch out in case your car insurance doesn’t cover you for this type of road. 

Monument Valley – Arizona

After thousands of miles driving through mountains and valleys, Monument Valley was a revelation. There are several parts of Arizona and New Mexico that have landscapes that feel more like Mars than Earth. The drive takes you on a 17 mile loop beside implausibly red sandstone buttes. It’s quite a bumpy drive at time, but all types of cars go through so is much more straightforward than some of the other drives I have mentioned.

Red rock formations and blue skies in Monument Valley

Route 66 – 8 states from Illinois to California

I feel ambivalent about this one. It’s a classic and famous trip so I have to mention it, but there are parts of the drive that are a bit depressing. You go through a lot of towns that are pretty much abandoned which is a bit sad.

There is still a lot to see but personally I didn’t drive more than a few hundred miles of Route 66 and I’m ok with that. For some of it you are actually on the I40 which is definitely less interesting. A few highlights remain, including the musical highway section just outside Albuquerque and Cadillac Range near Amarillo. 

Final Thoughts

A lot of these are in National Parks, but throughout the country there are roads with amazing views if you just stay off the interstate. It makes the journey longer, but much more enjoyable if you aren’t in a rush. 

There are a few roads through National Parks that don’t require payment, but for most of them you will pay an entrance fee even if you are just driving through and not stopping. Do yourself a favour and buy an annual pass when you get to the first one.

Once you have been to 3 National Parks you will have saved money by getting the annual pass, and the National Parks are well worth visiting for some of the best scenic views. Some National Parks require pre-booking a day pass to make sure they don’t have too many people in the park at a time.

Check the National Park Service website for the rules for the park you want to visit. You won’t be able to book the same day so think about it in advance. Rocky Mountain National Park was the hardest one I visited to get tickets for – they were selling out within 10 minutes of release. Create an account with the NPS website in advance so you are ready to snag a ticket as soon as they are released. 

Also, some of these roads are closed in Winter. Check ahead before you leave

Finally, check out my post on the differences between driving in the UK and the US to help you get ready for your road trip.

Please Share!