Terry Frederic Luehmann / Flickr

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.

Columbia River Scenic Highway, Oregon

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This road is a concrete realization of the idea that highways can sometimes improve on the work of Mother Nature. Designed and constructed back in the early days of the automobile, the route winds past a series of lovely waterfalls while taking in the best sights of the Columbia Gorge, east of Portland.

Where to Stop: Standing on a stony cliff top, 700 feet above the Columbia River, Vista House is a historic rest stop that doubles as a memorial to Oregon Trail pioneers. vistahouse.com

America’s Best Road Trips

Columbia River Scenic Highway, Oregon

This road is a concrete realization of the idea that highways can sometimes improve on the work of Mother Nature. Designed and constructed back in the early days of the automobile, the route winds past a series of lovely waterfalls while taking in the best sights of the Columbia Gorge, east of Portland.

Where to Stop: Standing on a stony cliff top, 700 feet above the Columbia River, Vista House is a historic rest stop that doubles as a memorial to Oregon Trail pioneers. vistahouse.com

Terry Frederic Luehmann / Flickr

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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