The 13 Windiest Roads In America That Must Be On Every Adventurer's Bucket List
There’s nothing that compares to a good, old-fashioned scenic drive. Our country is full of
beautiful routes that allow for a slow savor of the America the Beautiful, from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Pacific Coast Highway. For those looking to up the adrenaline factor, however, there are some spectacularly sinuous scenic roads across the U.S. that are nothing short of sublime. If you’re ready to take the (meandering) road less traveled, here are the windiest roads in America for your bucket list.
Columbia River Highway - Oregon
Historic Columbia River Highway, Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR, USA
With its dramatic curves and stunning mountain scenery, the
Columbia River Highway
truly is a PNW icon. As America’s first scenic highway and a designated National Historic Landmark, the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway is a 70-mile route that, when you traverse, you'll understand why it's been hailed as "King of Roads." Exploring one of the most wondrous places in the entire country, the scenic splendor of the Columbia River Gorge, with its 90+ waterfalls (on the Oregon side alone), dramatic vistas, and commanding canyons, is unrivaled along this bucket-list-worthy road trip.
Rim Drive - Oregon
Rim Drive, Rim Dr, Oregon, USA
One of the most beautiful places on the planet, Crater Lake is a shockingly blue body of water that's long captured the imagination of explorers. Established as a National Park in 1902, the lake is circumnavigated by
, a 33-mile loop that also happens to be the highest paved road in Oregon. The full loop is usually open from June through October, and features 30 scenic pullouts along its winding curves. Prior to this, accessing Crater Lake took quite some effort; the first roads to Crater Lake were completed in the early 1900s, and were treacherous, at best. So in 1913, Congress appropriated funds for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a road around Crater Lake, but it wasn't until 1926 that construction began for what we now know as Rim Drive. It was well-worth the effort, however, as Rim Drive essentially opened up Oregon's most dazzling natural wonder to the world -- just proceed with caution, and be sure to stop and pull over to enjoy the views!
Going-To-The-Sun Road - Montana
Going-to-the-Sun Road, Going-to-the-Sun Rd, Montana, USA
The U.S. is full of scenic byways and backcountry roads that will show you the best of America the Beautiful; of these routes, there’s one in Montana with a name that truly captures its splendor, and that's Going-to-the-Sun Road. This trans-mountain highway is 50 miles of pure Montana majesty, carved out of the rugged terrain and mighty mountains of Glacier National Park. And while Glacier is certainly one of the most wondrous national parks in the country,
takes the experience to another level entirely.
Pacific Coast Highway - California
Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803, USA
Pacific Coast Highway
is a glorious
tour de force
of the California Coast, stretching 656 miles along Highway 1 and connecting Northern California and Southern California, Oregon, and Washington. It is one of the most astoundingly scenic roads in the world, meant to be traversed slowly while ogling the mountains, towering trees, expansive beaches, and endless blue skies. Construction on this modern-day marvel began in 1933, with the highway completed in small segments over the next several years. In fact, it was not until the 1964 state highway renumbering that the entire route was officially designated as SR 1. On this epic route, you'll be treated to stunning ocean views right outside your car window for an iconic experience that's every road tripper's dream.
Scenic Byway 12 - Utah
Utah 12, UT-12, Escalante, UT, USA
Undulating and dynamic, Utah's
Scenic Byway 12
is one of the most scenic highways in the Southwest. This All American Road is bookended by two National Parks -- Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef -- with many scenic points of interest in between. Reaching elevations of up to 9,000 feet, this drive is an epic journey for those who are not afraid of heights. There are so many spectacular sights and points of interest along the way, from the jaw-dropping Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the glorious Dixie National Forest. After taking this amazing adventure in its entirety, you'll surely agree that Route 12 is one of the most beautiful road trips in America.
Million Dollar Highway - Colorado
Million Dollar Highway, Million Dollar Hwy, Colorado, USA
Breathtakingly beautiful but extraordinarily dangerous, Colorado's
Million Dollar Highway
is a study in juxtaposition. Constructed in the late 1800s, U.S. Route 550 (also known as "Million Dollar Road" because it's said you'd have to pay locals $1 million to have them drive it in a snowstorm) was originally intended to connect Ouray and Ironton, but gradually expanded to stretch from central New Mexico up to western Colorado. Despite a shoulder that's fairly wide, many folks are alarmed to discover that there are no guardrails along the road. However, if weather conditions are fair and drivers proceed with caution, the scenery is positively breathtaking, spectacularly sublime, and yes, million-dollar level.
Farm to Market Road - Texas
FM Road, FM Rd, Kopperl, TX 76652, USA
Deep in the heart of Big Bend Country,
Farm to Market Road 170
, locally known as El Camino del Rio, is a scenic drive that captures the "bigger is better" spirit of Texas. The route follows the western course of the Rio Grande, starting just outside Big Bend National Park and passing through Big Bend Ranch State Park. Along this solitary stretch of road, steep climbs and sharp curves show off magnificent vistas of canyons, mountains, and the resplendent Rio itself. The dry atmosphere makes the blue skies seem to go on forever -- but keep your eyes on the road, as it contains sharp curves and some of Texas’s steepest paved grade.
Natchez Trace Parkway - Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee
Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez Trace Pkwy, Tennessee, USA
Spanning 444 miles through three states (Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee), the
Natchez Trace Parkway
passes by more than 90 points of interest, which run the gamut from natural wonders to perfectly-preserved historic sites. In addition to its numerous landmarks, this route is also notoriously curvy, with speed limits capped at 50 mph to keep motorists safe. This is a road designed to showcase the bucolic beauty of the American South, and you'll want to allow for plenty of time to sit back, soak up the scenery, and see where the road takes you -- because it's going to be someplace beautiful.
Cherohala Skyway - Tennessee and North Carolina
Cherohala Skyway, United States
The Blue Ridge Parkway gets a lot of (well-deserved) attention in North Carolina, but it's not the only superlative scenic drive in the state:
is another immensely beautiful route through Tennessee and North Carolina! One thing the Skyway has that the Parkway lacks is scores and scores of twists and turns -- the former is notoriously sinuous, and, as such, must be approached with caution. In fact, in its 43 miles, the Cherohala Skyway has exactly 318 curves where the recommended speed is only 20 miles per hour, which, if you're doing the math, puts the full trip around three hours. Nevertheless, if you love adventurous drives with dramatic dashboard views, this is the road for you.
The Dragon - North Carolina
The Dragon, Deals Gap, US-129, Robbinsville, NC 28771, USA
Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Deals Gap, also known as
, is said to be the curviest road in the country. It's an 11.9-mile stretch of the Cherohala Skyway that's widely known for its thrilling curves and challenging course. But the curves aren't the only parts of this thrilling drive to elicit white knuckles from motorists; just staying in your own lane and making sure others are doing the same in hundreds of curves can be unnerving, even for the most experienced of drivers. For drivers willing to slow down and be patient, the reward is epic: once inside Tennessee, the Tail of the Dragon Overlook is one of the most dazzling vistas in the country.
Kancamagus Highway - New Hampshire
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury, NH 03224, USA
Considered by many to be one of the most scenic drives in the Northeast, if not the entire country,
is a treasure trove of natural beauty. At just 36 miles long, Kancamagus Highway packs quite the scenic punch, rolling through charming covered bridges, past wondrous waterfalls, and into the heart of the lush White Mountain range. This drive is especially lovely in the autumn, when fall foliage paints the landscape of the Northeast in fiery reds, bold oranges, vibrant yellows, and buttery golds. This mountain road features numerous s-curves, however, requiring a slow and steady hand behind the wheel. With this stunning scenery, though, that's something you'll be all too happy to oblige!
Hana Highway - Hawaii
Hana Highway, Hana Hwy, Hawaii, USA
It can take more than two and a half hours to travel the 52 miles from Kahului to Hana along the eponymous
, which traverses past sea cliffs lush with blooming mango trees and vistas straight out of "Jurassic Park." But this drive is
for the faint of heart. Hana Highway is perhaps the most popular scenic drive on the island of Maui -- and possibly all of Hawaii -- but it’s also a nerve-wracking, white-knuckle inducting journey that will test even the steadiest hand (and stomach). This incredible highway is home to a staggering 620 curves, making it the windiest road in the Aloha State, and one best attempted with a slow and steady hand (and foot!). But if you happen to have a strong stomach, there's no better way to revel in the resplendence of the Aloha State, making Hana Highway a bucket-list must.
Dalton Highway - Alaska
Dalton Highway, Dalton Hwy, Alaska, USA
There are many ways to experience the rugged resplendence of the Last Frontier, from camping and hiking to stargazing and snowshoeing. But you don't have to be an avid outdoor enthusiast to revel in the state's untold beauty; simply buckle up and drive the
. Constructed in 1974, this 414-mile road passes through incredible landscapes that you simply won’t find anywhere else in the world, meriting the route a top spot on any adventurer's bucket list. One of the most striking points of interest along the way is the Brooks Range, a 126-million-year-old mountain that spans from western Alaska all the way to Canada’s Yukon Territory. The entire range is within the Arctic Circle, and most of the drive along the Dalton is also within this grand region, too! The road is a designated Scenic Byway, too, and once you travel it for yourself, you'll understand why.
While we invite you to enjoy the ride along America’s windiest roads, we urge you to slow down and proceed mindfully, as these roads, which breathtakingly beautiful, can be quite dangerous.
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