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5 Epic U.S. Road Trips for Nature Lovers
Discover diverse landscapes, scenic coastlines and breathtaking backdrops across America.
From the legendary Overseas Highway along the Florida Keys to the dramatic forest- and national park-lined Blue Ridge Parkway, there are plenty of enticing drives across the country.(Getty Images)
Embracing the great outdoors can be revitalizing. After all, taking in awe-inspiring scenery along classic routes can help you unwind, recharge and boost your overall well-being and connectivity to the world at large. So, if you're ready to admire spectacular landscapes across the country, get your hiking gear, sketch pad and walking stick in gear and pack up the car for a road trip to remember.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Take a week to drive 469 miles along this winding and scenic mountain range named for its misty blue color. Connected by two national parks – Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the parkway stretches from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. In Front Royal, make sure to check out the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center to hike along part of the parkway, and visit Fox Hollow and Snead farm for an exhilarating adventure. At Shenandoah National Park, which is just west of the District of Columbia, you'll find 500 trails filled with scenic paths and thick forests. Plus, there are many unique cabins, restaurants and antique shops along the route. Many people use this parkway to visit other major attractions, but the views and natural sights (including more than 1,400 known species of plants) of the Blue Ridge Parkway merit a trip all on their own.
The Loneliest Road (Route 50)
Despite its melancholy name, the Loneliest Road in America is an awe-inspiring route for bonafide nature lovers. Set off on a wild adventure that stretches from Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. Driving across the country, you'll experience diverse weather conditions and beautiful scenery. This road trip weaves through brilliant mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevada, Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. Camp out and stargaze in iconic national parks like the Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where you can spot thousands of stars on a clear night and catch jaw-dropping views of the Milky Way.
This scenic stretch is perfect for car lovers and nature lovers, alike. The drive begins in Pontiac, Illinois, where the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum and the Pontiac Oakland Auto Museum pay tribute to the classic brand. However, the backdrops along Route 66, all the way from Illinois to California, are especially spectacular. You'll pass by legendary natural wonders, such as the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River and the Black Mountains. This nostalgic route is also legendary for its link to pop culture. It's been featured in iconic poems, rock songs, television series and even John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Grapes of Wrath."
The Great River Road
Follow the might of the Mississippi River as it winds north from Minnesota and south to Louisiana. You'll cover 3,000 miles through 10 states, along with plenty of off-the-beaten-path towns. Another iconic road trip that taps into national nostalgia, this route will take you to interesting heights and takes about 10 days to complete. Wisconsin and Iowa offer striking and hilly terrain, and the Delta region spanning Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans yields unforgettable views. If you're a history aficionado, you won't want to skip stopping in Vicksburg, Mississippi, which features stories attractions like the Vicksburg National Military Park, along with a myriad of shops and restaurants. If you make it to New Orleans, toast a well-traveled road trip with the world's first mixed drink – the Sazerac, which was first created in the Crescent City.
The Overseas Highway (Route 1)
The Overseas Highway, a 113-mile drive along Route 1 connecting the Florida Keys offers the ultimate road trip for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, alike. The highway was historically developed for the Florida East Coast Railway in 1912, but it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. As a result, road construction turned the route into a beautiful, winding highway. This trip only takes a few hours, spanning from Miami to Key West, Florida. Make sure to carve out some stops for fishing, eating freshly caught seafood, enjoying a picnic and catching beautiful sunsets along the way. And don't skip stretching your legs and taking in spectacular scenery at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Seven Mile Bridge and Bahia Honda State Park.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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