Andre Jenny / Alamy

The country's best ribbons of highway are more than just means to the end. Highways threading the Florida Keys, California valleys, and Hawaiian isles are destinations in and of themselves.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

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For most of its 469-mile route, the Blue Ridge Parkway alternates between grand panoramas and up-close looks at lush forests and meadows. That’s no surprise considering that it runs atop the Appalachian Mountains between Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains of far western North Carolina. The parkway is a leisurely cruise rather than a roller coaster, with one exception—its most breathtaking section, the Linn Cove Viaduct, which skims the treetops as it winds around the parkway’s highest peak.

Where to Stop: Grandfather Mountain. Rising high above Linn Cove, this 5,837-foot peak offers great views and the famous “Mile High Swinging Bridge.”

America’s Best Road Trips

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

For most of its 469-mile route, the Blue Ridge Parkway alternates between grand panoramas and up-close looks at lush forests and meadows. That’s no surprise considering that it runs atop the Appalachian Mountains between Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains of far western North Carolina. The parkway is a leisurely cruise rather than a roller coaster, with one exception—its most breathtaking section, the Linn Cove Viaduct, which skims the treetops as it winds around the parkway’s highest peak.

Where to Stop: Grandfather Mountain. Rising high above Linn Cove, this 5,837-foot peak offers great views and the famous “Mile High Swinging Bridge.”

Andre Jenny / Alamy

America’s Best Road Trips

Heading west from New Orleans, you enter bayou country, where alligators and herons splash in the swamps and Spanish moss hangs heavy overhead. Sunlight filters through, and for a glorious moment, you feel like the only driver on this scenic road.

While Louisiana’s Highway 31 is finest in spring and fall, when the weather is pleasantly cool, it’s summer that heralds peak road-trip season for much of the U.S. And we’ve compiled the best American routes just in time for you to plot your vacation.

These drives feature spectacular landscapes, roller-coaster-worthy dips and bends, and wildlife spotting (look out for bald eagles and nesting peregrine falcons along Maine’s Acadia All-American Road). For each trip, we’ve included a can’t-miss stop along the route, perfect for stretching your legs while absorbing splendor—and quirks—of your surroundings.

Take in the blazing golden poppies blooming throughout the Mojave Desert in California’s Antelope Valley as you cruise toward a lookout that offers sweeping panoramic views. Climb through rainforests and apple orchards along the Cascade Loop in Washington, stopping for the beer gardens and kitschy trinkets of the Bavarian Alps–inspired hamlet of Leavenworth. Or check out the lighthouses and underwater coral-reef parks on U.S. 1 in the Florida Keys, then brake to frolic with dolphins before crossing one of the longest bridges in the world.

Rebecca Hiscott

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