More Great Driving Roads

Last month, we turned the spotlight on five of our favorite summertime driving roads. Readers responded by letting us know about some of their own. So here, in no particular order, are five more great American highways recommended by you.

North Cascades Highway/Washington State Route 20


Eight thousand year ago, the longest highway in the state of Washington was a Native American trade route/trail cutting through the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Today, it’s a 436-mile highway—a driver’s paradise throughout the most gorgeous and dramatic scenery in the state

From fall until the middle of spring, some of the most mountainous stretches of Washington State Route 20 are closed due to hazardous winter weather. But as summer’s sun melts away the snow, a beautifully long, open driving road is revealed. Portions of the highway, namely The Cascade Loop, are part of the state and national scenic byway system.

Not all of this road’s grandeur comes in the form of stunning mountain scenery and water views, according to reader James Palmer. Palmer, who says the highway is one of his favorites when behind the wheel of his 1966 Pontiac GTO, gave a special shout-out to the western-themed roadside town of Winthrop and the Bavarian-theme town of Leavenworth—two must-see stops along the way.

Going-to-the-Sun Road


Mention the subject of great driving roads in a room full of driving enthusiasts, and somebody will always point to Northwest Montana and Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Completed in 1932, the GSR passes over the Continental Divide at 6,500 feet and can be a white-knuckle experience for drivers inexperienced with negotiating narrow, mountain-hugging roads. Like the North Cascades Highway, passage along the entire length of the GSR is determined by the time of year and weather. The road is closed during the winter (starting in/around September) and typically reopens after the snowmelt, usually in June.

While it’s only roughly 50 miles to the top, driving the GSR takes around two hours. But with its spectacular views—plus the very real chance of catching a glimpse of everything from moose to mountain goats—the GSR is definitely one of America’s most unique and unforgettable drives.

Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive


Running for 469 miles along the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway was built to connect Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Between scenic overlooks, places to picnic, historically significant landmarks and old buildings and structures dating back to the Civil War, it’s safe to say no other great driving road in America has as many good reasons to pullover. Skyline Drive, a National Scenic Byway, is a 105-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through the Shenandoah National Park. Lots of curves and a speed limit of 35 MPH are two reasons why readers cited this stretch as their favorite along the Parkway.

M-119/The Tunnel of Trees


A road for people who aren’t in a hurry, Northern Michigan’s M-119/Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route is scenic road of blue skies, sandy bluffs, Lake Michigan beaches, impressive homes and, of course, miles of really cool trees.

Connecting the town of Harbor Springs (north of Petoskey) and Cross Village, the 20-mile section of M-119 known as the Tunnel of Trees is something to behold in spring when the trillium flowers are in bloom and in fall when the autumn mix of roadside maple, birch and aspen trees are aflame in color. The narrowest highway in the nation with a posted speed limit of 15 MPH, Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees has been called one of the nation’s most scenic byways and “a two-lane keepsake from a long-gone era.”

Back of the Dragon


Looking to duplicate the boost in tourism that U.S. 129—the famously twisty “Tail of the Dragon” driving road—brought to Deals Gap, North Carolina, the Tazewell Virginia County Board of Supervisors announced in 2012 that it was officially rebranding Virginia State Route 16 into an alternative for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who found the Tail of the Dragon too congested in the summer driving months.

The “new” Back of the Dragon highway is a 32-mile route that crosses three mountain ranges between Tazewell and Smyth counties, features 260 curves and switchbacks, loads of beautiful scenery and dramatic elevation changes.