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There is a reason they call it “America the Beautiful”. On your next road trip, roll down that car window and feast your eyes. Here are some classics.

1. Hana Highway (Hwy 360), Maui, Hawaii: 38 miles from Pauwela to Hana
The most spectacular coastal drive in all of Hawaii, the Hana Highway winds its way deep into jungle valleys and back out above a rugged coastline. Not for the faint of heart, the road is a real cliff-hugger, with 54 one-lane bridges, roadside waterfalls and head-spinning views. Gas up, pack a lunch and bring your swimsuit!

2. Turquoise Trail (Hwy 14), New Mexico: 45 miles from Albuquerque to Santa Fe
The Turquoise Trail has been a major trade route since at least 2,000BC. Today it is the scenic back road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, lined with quirky communities. Sights along the way include Tinkertown (an animated miniature village) and gorgeous desert scenery.

3. Columbia River Highway (Hwy 30), Oregon: 74 miles from Troutdale to The Dalles
Finished in 1915, this gorgeous winding highway was the first paved road in the Northwest and America's first scenic highway. It was also part of the Oregon Trail and the last leg of Lewis and Clark's expedition. There are gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower displays in summer and awe-inspiring views all year round. Hikers have plenty of trailheads to choose from, and cyclists can cruise two stretches of the old highway renovated for non-vehicle use.

4. Pig Trail Byway (Hwy 23), Arkansas: 80 miles from Ozark to Eureka Springs
Just north of the town of Ozark (no, you are not yet in the Ozark Mountains), this spectacular drive is lined with wild echinacea and lilies and climbs through Ozark National Forest and into the mountains. This is an excellent way to reach the friendly town of Eureka Springs.

5. Highway 12, Utah: 107 miles from Torrey to Bryce Canyon National Park
Locals call this "colour country" for the eye-popping hues that saturate the Southwest landscape. The scenic road passes through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ending at the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park.

6. Overseas Highway (Hwy 1), Florida: 160 miles from Miami to Key West
Large parts of this divine island-hopping highway were built on bridges left from the hurricane-destroyed Overseas Railroad. Now, streams of travellers swarm down from the mainland to indulge in the alluring jade-green waters, laid-back island lifestyle, great fishing and idyllic snorkelling and diving. It is not called "Margaritaville" for nothing!

7. Delmarva Peninsula (Hwys 50 and 13): 210 miles from Annapolis, Maryland to Virginia Beach, Virginia
These unbroken miles of bird-dotted wetlands and serene waterscapes are hours from one of America's busiest urban corridors. Virginia's Eastern Shore is full of dock towns where watermen live off the Chesapeake Bay and has the feel of a remote, maritime escape. The flat topography is made for bicycling.

8. Route 66 (initial section): 300 miles from Chicago, Illinois to St Louis, Missouri
America's "Mother Road" kicks off in Chicago on Adams Street just west of Michigan Avenue, but in Illinois, much of the old road exists only in scattered sections paralleling the interstate. Still, there are many roadside attractions and oddball stops to make, plus pie shops and drive-ins for eateries.

9. Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1), California: 332 miles from San Francisco to Santa Barbara
No trip to California is complete without a jaunt along the almost surreally scenic Highway 1, one of the US's most iconic roads. Slipping out of the City by the Bay, the narrow road ribbons above the ocean, overlooking beaches on one side, and soaring redwood trees on the other. Slow down - this region wants to be savoured, not gulped.

10. Blue Ridge Parkway: 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park, Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
The south-western tip of Virginia is the most rugged part of the state. Turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and you will immediately plunge into dark strands of dogwood and fir, fast streams and white waterfalls. Wildflowers bloom in spring and fall colours are spectacular.

Further information:
For America's "official" scenic roads, visit www.byways.org.

 

© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Top 10 scenic drives - USA’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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