Scenic drives offer incredible opportunities to see the national parks from the comfort of your car. They appeal especially to those with limited mobility or children in need of less strenuous activity. Others may just need a break from all that walking! Scenic drives present a fantastic alternative to hiking, and an equally glorious way to view natural wonders – just be aware that many roads close during the winter months. And while most national parks have several scenic drives to choose from, these are some of our favorites:
Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
This scenic drive boasts the highest continuously paved route in all of the United States. On your journey, you’ll reach a maximum height of over 12,000 feet! Along the way, you’ll encounter majestic views of the Continental Divide, flowering columbine and golden aspens in the fall, plenty of elk year-round, and much more.
Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
This 50-mile highway crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, where you’ll come face-to-face with magnificent scenery, as well as mountain goats and sheep. A park-operated bus tour can help you avoid road congestion in the summertime.
Park Loop Road, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Mountains, meadows, and lakes, oh my! Grand Teton’s star attraction offers a spectacular scenic drive through diverse features. You’ll also see plenty of wildlife – including elk, bison, and bald eagles – in their natural habitats!
Cadillac Mtn., Acadia National Park, Maine
Travel up this mountain for the first glimpse of the sun’s rays as they brush the United States in the morning, and the first tentative appearances of the stars as they emerge in the night sky. You won’t be able to help feeling awed and peaceful here.
Kolob Canyons Road, Zion National Park, Utah
Sweeping red mountains tower over the earth along this scenic drive through Zion National Park. And at only five miles, it requires less of a commitment than the others on this list – great if you want to pause and take a short hike along the way!
Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, California
Begin at Tioga Pass and travel through marble mountain ranges dotted with shrubs and trees. You’ll drive through picturesque Tuolumne Meadows on your way to shimmering Tenaya Lake, then take out your cameras at Olmstead Point to capture some great photos of Half Dome. Plan about three hours for a round trip, but definitely don’t miss this one!
(You can learn more about scenic drives available in Yosemite and Zion, plus others found in the American Southwest, by reading our itinerary here.)
Want to learn more about scenic drives through the national parks? Contact our experts at Visit USA Parks for more information, and for help crafting the perfect vacation.