Ten Great Driving Roads You May Not Know



May 08, 2012

Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. Time to get behind the wheel and drive! Back in March, the Historic Vehicle Association asked eNews readers to name some favorite driving roads in their area. Check out this “must drive” list of HVA member picks from across the country.

No surprise HVA members like roads with historic or pop-cultural significance. Ed Purinton of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, nominated U.S. Route 40—a one time, trans-America road that went all the way from New Jersey to Los Angeles but now stops in Nevada. Rick Werges of San Diego nominated the Pacific Coast Highway. Drive that stretch and it’ll change you, he said.  

Other member picks could best be described as unsung and—outside their region—mostly unknown. Here, in no particular order, are 10 reader favorites from across the U.S.  

 RoadsFirst

(Photo attribution: Cheyenne Dixon)

The Road: SR 74, Ortega Highway
The Place: Southern California
Why This Road Rules: Connecting Riverside and Orange counties via the Cleveland National Forest, this twisting, two-lane highway winds through the mountains from beautiful San Juan Capistrano to the Lake Elsinore Valley. “Never a dull moment,” says San Clemente’s Jeff Roessler. “I have driven this road and seen everything from bright warm sunshine in San Juan, snow in the San Jacinto Mountains, to high winds out in the desert.”

Ten2

(Image provided by: www.takemytrip.com)

The Road: US Route 97 via Blewett Pass
The Place: Washington
Why This Road Rules: A sleepy, green mountain route passing through the evergreen, alpine forests of the northern Cascades. According to reader David Robert, the segment of US-97 from Ellensburg to Wenatchee is twisting and very scenic, especially where the road crosses Blewett Pass at an elevation of 4,102 feet.

Ten3

(Photo attribution: Royalbroil)

The Road: Highway 29, Yellowstone Trail
The Place: Wisconsin  
Why This Road Rules: Running 3,719 miles from Massachusetts to Seattle, the Yellowstone Trail was the first transcontinental automobile highway through the northern tier states. Breathtaking woodland scenery is the reason Wisconsin reader Mark Mowbray gives props to the portion of Highway 29 (which roughly follows the old Yellowstone Trail route) between Chippewa Falls and Abbotsford.

 Ten4

The Road: Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Place: Montana
Why This Road Rules: Completed in 1932, the only road through the heart of Glacier National Park goes over the Continental Divide at over 6,500 feet and offers drivers arguably the best mountain scenery in America, according to reader Ken Beiser. Open after the snows melt (typically around late June), the Going-to-the-Sun road is a “don’t-look-down” kind of drive with wildflower meadows, frequent wildlife crossings and the sort of alpine scenery that offers plenty of reasons to stop the car.

 Ten5

(Photo attribution: Phil Armitage)

The Road: U.S. Route 212, Beartooth Highway
The Place: Montana
Why This Road Rules: A breathtaking, high-mountain drive of zigzags and switchbacks that’s not for the faint of heart, the section of Highway 212 between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, rises to an elevation of 10,974 feet above sea level at Beartooth Pass. The highway traces the historical route of Civil War General Philip Sheridan over the Beartooth Mountains. A number of readers, including Gary Smith of Lewiston, New Jersey, agreed with the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt, who referred to the highway as "the most beautiful drive in America."

Ten6

(Photo attribution: Bobak Ha'Eri)

The Road: M-119
The Place: Michigan
Why This Road Rules: “It’s the prettiest road in the Midwest,” says reader Jim VanDerZee, of Charlevoix, Michigan, who especially loves the stretch of M-119 between Petoskey and Cross Village in the northwest, Lower Peninsula. “On a clear afternoon in summer, you’ll enjoy a heart stopping blue sky, breathtaking bluffs and beaches along beautiful Lake Michigan, magnificent trees, and some impressive homes.”

Ten7

The Road: U.S. Route 129, “The Dragon”
The Place: Tennessee, North Carolina
Why This Road Rules: Crossing Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, this 11-mile stretch of US 129 is said to have 318 curves. Some of The Dragon's sharpest curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Beginner's End, and Brake or Bust Bend. The Dragon is considered by many as one of the world's foremost motorcycling and sports car roads. The road is wooded, curvy, and definitely not for sightseers, according to Illinois reader John Oaks.  

Ten8

The Road: Route 100
The Place: Vermont
Why This Road Rules: Mountain curves and stunning country road scenery. Massachusetts reader Larry Nirenberg says, “When I first met my wife I had a '65 Corvette roadster and my favorite road was Route 100. It wove through the mountains and many of its curves were banked as if calling to me to put a little more foot into the gas pedal. A new love, a Corvette, and winding country road through the beauty of Vermont—it doesn't get any better than that.”

Ten9

The Road: Mount Washington Auto Road
The Place: New Hampshire
Why This Road Rules: Opened to the public in 1861, this super steep, 7.6 mile toll road climbs from 1,547 feet at the bottom all the way up to the 6,145 foot summit of Mount Washington. The oldest auto race in the United States, the Mount Washington Hillclimb Auto Race, was hosted here in 1904.  C.J., a reader from Traverse City, Michigan, gives the road high marks because of the amazing views.

Ten10

(Photo attribution: Joe Mabel)

The Road: U.S. Route 7
The Place: Connecticut
Why This Road Rules: Running from Danbury to the Canadian border, Route 7 was first commissioned in 1927 and, according to reader Larry Fisher, is a road with classic New England charm. “It passes through quintessential New England towns and landscapes,” Fisher continues “while offering drivers lots of great detours, beautiful fly fishing spots, covered bridges, and views of the Berkshires.”

 

Comments

  1. Jim Averill Springfield, Oregon

    Good site, as usual.

  2. Rick Shoestock Sylva, NC

    I have driven an antique Pontiac on three of the ten of these including Rt 7, 100 and 129. Someday maybe I'll drive the others.

  3. j corrado@windermere.com

    h

  4. Rick Vermont

    For a great trip across NY's Adirondack Mountains, try NY RT 8 from Chestertown to Utica. A great "top down" drive.

  5. Tommy Taylor Deep East Texas

    I have driven or riden all eleven of the roads mentioned. My thoughts: Tail of the Dragon is THE BEST public road for my Ducati naked sport bike. Going to the Sun used to be great mountain scenery but with all of the glaciers lost to global warming, the mountains are just bare and dirty looking -- Independence Pass in Colorado in the Fall is better now. Mount Washington auto road -- I've driven it, run up (in less than 60 minutes), and skied down it. Skiing down is the best way to enjoy it. Rt. 7 is nice, especially in the Fall, but is increasingly civilized. Rt. 100 is probably a little better. 212 is a beauty and a good alternative route to Yellowstone N.P. -- skier's nick-name for Red Lodge Ski Area is "Red Ledge." M-119 is sort of boring upper mid-west with semi-historical significance -- don't go out of your way for it. The described part of US 97 feels very remote and "North-Westish" -- an excellent and fun drive. Ortega Highway is suprisingly rural and otherwise as described -- beautiful, fun and definitely "California." US Route 40 no longer even follows the historic road bed for many sections and every town on the way has turned it into an amusement park of "Highway 40 Diners." Pacific Coast Highway is the best road in the country that made intollerable by too much traffic and too many Harleys with no mufflers.

  6. Frank NW Washington State

    How could you omit Utah 12 running from Bryce Canyon NP to Capitol Reef NP? I have driven all the western roads on your list. They are all nice but, with the exception of Going To The Sun, Utah 12 reigns supreme. Of lesser interest but very worthwhile, one should drive CA 89 from Truckee to Mount Shasta and OR 395 from Pendelton to Burns.

  7. frank touchton newark de

    Route 100 in Chateau country of northern Delaware and South Eastern Pa Also Route 896 From Newark De to Strausburg Pa and US1 From Key Largo To Key West.

  8. Dennis Culligan Highland, NY

    Just drove the Tail of the Dragon in my TR6 2 weeks ago - it's a great ride but there are other roads in WV and TN that rival it. Try Route 33 from Franklin, WV to Harrisonburg, VA - 180 degree switchbacks immediatly followed by 9 degree inclines. And Route 16 from Tazewell down to Marion in VA is not too shabby either.

  9. Randy Rebernick Milwaukee

    Michigan has another Gem.Us Hwy 41 from Houghton/Hancock to the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula at Copper Harbor.US 41 begins(or ends) here in a cul de sac and goes south to Miami Fla.Beautiful twisty 2 lane Hwy with lush arboreal tunnels.Don't miss Brockway mountain drive near Copper Harbor.Awesome scenic overlook.On a clear day you can see Isle Royal Natl. Park.

  10. Ken Tennis Florida

    I just drove US 19 from Dawsonville, Ga to Blairsville, Ga., Over 'Blood Mountain', in our Expedition and wished, every mile of the way, I had either our Vette or our McLaren!

  11. Andrew Gilmore Yardley, Pa

    Try Route 3 in upstate NY from Tupper Lake to Watertown and on to Oswego...drove it many years ago but still have very fond memories.

  12. Andrew Gilmore Yardley, Pa

    Try Route 3 in upstate NY from Tupper Lake to Watertown and on to Oswego...drove it many years ago but still have very fond memories.

  13. Lynn Sedona, AZ

    I really enjoyed route 550 from Ouray to Durango, Colorado one summer. The two lane road twists and clings to the edge of the mountain with plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the Rocky Mountain views and several lakes.

  14. Art Wegweiser Allison Park, PA

    PA 36 thru Cook's Forest State Park in Central PA. Don't try it in summer due to lumbering campers and trailers. Good Fall and Spring twisty ride.

  15. Jeff Shake Trumbull, CT

    For over 30 years my family have been taking route 7 to Vermont's Green Mountains for the foliage in 40’ Food 2 door Sedan, 39’ Ford 2 door coupe, 37’ Ford 3 window Coupe. Trying to get our 2 Falcons up there too a 63’ 1/2 sprint covert. & 65’ 2 door hardtop. Always a memorable drive, fantastic times and memories!

  16. Pete Shaginaw NC

    Try the 'Back of the Dragon'; Rt 16 from Mouth of Wilson to Tazwell, VA. 52 miles of challinging mountain roads, not as crowded as the 'Tail of the Dragon', much steeper and tighter curves.

  17. Ted Remington Marion NC

    Though not a road to go flying along on, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an awesome road for an open roadster such as my Gazelle, replica of the old Mercedes SSK. I have yet to find a part that is not beautiful. Spring comes late to the mountains hereabouts, so from late April to early June is prime touring time. I do try to avoid the leaf lookers in the fall, but during the week it's still fun to drive.

  18. Mike Kiewra Winchester, MA

    I'm looking for a route between just-west-of-Boston and just-north-of-New Haven, Ct. for my MGA. Also any good driving loops north of Boston. This is a tough place to own a collector car.

  19. James Las Vegas, NV

    It doesn't get any better than US 199 from Grants Pass, OR to Crescent City, CA. It follows the Smith river canyon (the only undamned river in CA) and travels through Redwood National Park (the least visited of all national parks).

  20. Steve Lancaster Summerville, SC

    I just drove a part of US 19 from Beckley to Clarksburg W.Va in my 2012 R/T Challenger. It was a great drive except for about the 15 miles I was stuck behind a school bus. But for the most part I had the road to myself. I can't wait to do this again in the fall!!

  21. Jack Taggart Finger Lakes area NY

    I agree with Rt 100 and Rt 7 in Vermont, travelning both back in the 60's in our different 60's Bicks owned by my parents when I was a boarding school student traveling from New York State to upper Vermont. Today, returning to reunions and occasional trip, I drive my 69 Buick GS 400 on my annual trip (weather pemitting of course) andboth 100 & 7 are still to this day breathtaking views and memoires of old 100 I get at Rutland and 7 at Troy NY and when going that way always make the stop at Hemmings someday wishing to make a show there. My 69 which I am the second owner was a family driver from the time I bought it in '71 until 77 when I began to "save it" In 87 it had an very nicely done amature restoraton back to 100% original and saw many shows and has many trophies. In restoring and researching owners and also restoration info I ran into a guy who worked for yarss at GM and Chrysler who had a nuymber og GS vehicles and had much info on what had been built by those companies. According to him, my GS set up as it i, a plain jane rag top with a bench seat and 4 speed is one of 21 built ass such. not an option on the vehicle with no power anything including steering or brakes. It sit in my garage not driven enough with just shy of 78600 original miles and 41 years of ownership this July (2012) With duel exahaust and old thrush mufflersfrom the 87 restoration (still) it has a sound all its own

  22. Chris Vetter Crows Landing CA.

    1 st Paragraph I believe US 40 west ended at Oakland CA if before 1938. A ferry was used to cross the bay before the bay bridge was built. then it would of began possibly at the 5th street on ramp in San Francisco.

  23. Edwin My wife and i ended up being quite cheerful Raymond maaegnd to complete his homework through the entire ideas he had while using the web page. It's not at all simplistic just to continually be releasing guidance that many some people could have been trying to sell. So we grasp we need you to appreciate for that. Most of the illustrations you have made, the simple blog navigation, the relationships your site make it easier to foster it is mostly wonderful, and it is making our son and us understand the subject is enjoyable, and that's rather important. Thank you for all!

    My wife and i ended up being quite cheerful Raymond maaegnd to complete his homework through the entire ideas he had while using the web page. It's not at all simplistic just to continually be releasing guidance that many some people could have been trying to sell. So we grasp we need you to appreciate for that. Most of the illustrations you have made, the simple blog navigation, the relationships your site make it easier to foster it is mostly wonderful, and it is making our son and us understand the subject is enjoyable, and that's rather important. Thank you for all!

  24. Greg Oliver Rehobth Beach, Delaware

    I minor correction, US 40 does not end in Nevada, it currenlty ends at the junction with I-80 in Park City, Utah. Also I have driven Us 50 from its current western end point at I-80 just west of Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD most recently in my 1959 Ford Ranchero. At both end of the road there is a sign that say the other end is 3083 miles. I don't know a another US highway with those signs at each end. Like US 40, US 50 originally ended in San GFrancisco, CA. I have driven almost the entire lenghts of US 2, 20, 30, 40, 50, 90 and of course Route 66.

  25. David Cherrick University Place, WA

    A great outing is to start (or finish) in La Conner, Washington, a quaint pioneer town in western Washington, and travel north to Edison, then up the Chuckanut Hwy to Fairhaven, just south of Bellingham, Washington. Great antiquing in La Conner, stop at the fantastic bakery in little Edison, enjoy the twisty asphalt carved into the cliff and looking out on the San Juan Islands as you head north on Chuckanut, and finish in Fairhaven at a brew pub or period restaurant. Great day. All the great things to do in Skagit Valley can be enjoyed from a base of operations at the Swiss Family Farmhouse. Google it or go to www.airbnb.com/rooms/1206430. What to do in Skagit Valley you ask....how about; La Conner antiquing, Tulip Festival in April, Deception Pass bridge and park, Whale watching, Padilla Bay interpretive center, salmon and halibut fishing, Anacortes Arts and Crafts fair, old time Skagit County Fair, Burlington Berry-Dairy Days, clamming and crabbing, Taylor Shellfish Mud Run, hiking in the North Cascade Mountains, historic Lincoln Theatre, Snow Goose Produce, Rexville Grocery, October Farm Fest, and so much more!

  26. Dick Rhindress Stephentown, NY

    I cannot fathom the omission of the combined Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkways riding the crest of the Appalachians through Virginia and North Carolina. Totally within National Park Service lands they are focused on the views, wildflowers, and wildlife. Not to be zipped through but savoured at leisure. ... The creators of this list cannot seem to decide between the challenge of the drive vs. the cultural and natural beauty of the route. I can think of a few additions that those of us who preserve antique 4WD could offer. For a drive that favours the scenic and cultural, pick up the Guide to Covered Bridges from Vermont tourism and design your own route to see them all, it cannot fail to impress, dirt roads included. Plus you can even enjoy it during Leaf Peeper season because those folks rarely venture off the paved highways like Rt.7 or Rt.100