U.S. Highway 20 (Central and Eastern Idaho, USA)
We need to put a disclaimer on this entry (as well as a few others). This particular stretch of U.S. Highway 20 can be rife with tourists owing to its proximity to West Yellowstone, Montana, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But at the right time of year (either between Labor Day and Thanksgiving or the nebulous space between spring break and summer vacation), Eastern Idaho offers incredible scenery, excellent roads, and cheap accommodations. If the traffic gets too cumbersome, turn off at Fish Creek Road, an entertaining and nearly empty loop that gets you nowhere, fast. A note of warning: Weather in this part of the world is highly variable, so plan for a little bit of everything.
Indiana State Road 135 (Indiana, USA)
Connecting Indianapolis with the Kentucky border along the south, State Road 135 tends to be lightly trafficked, particularly just south of Indianapolis through the small town of Nashville (Indiana, not Tennessee). Scenery and foliage are impressive, making it a perfect road for a casual cruise before dinner, although dozens of corner complexes also provide the enthusiastic motorist with something to look forward to. Nashville and nearby Beanblossom are off-the-beaten-path favorites, particularly the latter’s novel covered pedestrian bridge.
Image credit: Serge Melki via Flickr, cropped
Dempster Highway (Yukon Territories / Northwest Territories, Canada)
Here’s where the term “driving road” becomes a little loose. Dempster Highway is intended for the vehicular adventurer and not the sports car enthusiast, since it offers nearly 500 miles of maintained crushed gravel instead of pavement. Connecting the Yukon province’s Dawson City to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, the Dempster’s end point is more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, making it an excellent (and surprisingly accessible) place to chase the midnight sun. Open year-round, the Dempster Highway is treacherous, with only a few fuel and repair shops along the route. It’s not a vacation for the faint of heart, but all sorts of vehicles have tackled the Dempster, including Honda motorcycles and old BMW wagons.
Image credit: Teo Romera via Flickr, cropped
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (South Dakota, USA)
Like U.S. 20, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway can often be clogged with dawdling tourists. If that’s the case, try and shake the lead from your foot and just enjoy the drive. Winding through South Dakota’s Black Hills between the towns of Spearfish and Savoy, the road skirts past ponderosa and aspen forests, clear mountain streams, and towering limestone rills. And if the road clears (or you hit the pavement early in the morning), it rewards a skilled driver with smooth pavement and not too many radar- or laser-based killjoys. For those who are spending a day or two in the area, nearby Iron Mountain Road is another excellent choice.
Image credit: jimmers54 via Flickr, cropped
California SR 140 (Mariposa to El Portal, California, USA)
State Route 140’s proximity to Yosemite National Park means it’s all but guaranteed to be heavily trafficked on weekends and during the summer. But catch it on a weekday morning and it provides an excellent canvas upon which to paint some bold and sweeping lines. Curves tend to be fast, although there are a few surprising complexes that drop speeds significantly. And if traffic or police are a significant concern, nearby SR 41 and SR 49 provide a similar driving experience with fewer interlopers.
Cherohala Skyway (Tennessee / North Carolina, USA)
The Cherohala Skyway is a treasure of Southern Appalachia, giving intrepid motorists a taste of the adventure and self-reliance that makes the region so famous. Dozens of twists and turns over the road’s 43-mile stretch ensure plenty of technical, challenging driving, and there isn’t a single gas station, repair facility, or hotel on the route, ensuring that most of the road’s patrons are there to move, not meander. Nearby Deals Gap, Tennessee, serves as the terminus for the region’s other legendary driving road, the Dragon, so there’s clearly plenty to enjoy in the area.
Image credit: Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons, cropped
Imogene Pass (Colorado, USA)
Imogene Pass – which gains a gasping 4,300 feet of elevation from Telluride, Colorado, before descending into nearby Ouray – is an off-roader’s dream. While not as technical or obstacle-ridden as Utah’s Metal Masher or California’s Rubicon Trail, Imogene Pass nevertheless taxes one’s nerves, particularly if encountering oncoming traffic on any of the route’s extremely narrow spots that just so happen to butt up against a sheer dropoff. Imogene can be a bit anxiety-inducing, but it also offers incredible views of the San Juan Mountains, and history buffs will appreciate the ghost town of Tomboy midway up the Telluride side of the pass.
Angeles Forest Highway (California, USA)
The nearby Angeles Crest Highway gets all the attention, and for good reason – ACH’s 66-mile route passes through just about every ecosystem Southern California has to offer. But the Angeles Forest Highway has a few aces up its sleeve. One is the beautiful Big Tujunga Narrows Bridge, which rises 275 feet from the canyon floor. There are also several short tunnels, for those who prefer a little sonic to go with their scenic. And Angeles Forest ends near Palmdale and Lancaster, making the road a perfect jumping-off point for a visit to California’s legendary poppy fields. The lesser-known highway’s curves and twists are every bit as entertaining, too.
Million Dollar Highway (Colorado, USA)
Taken as a whole, U.S. Route 550 between Montrose, Colorado, and Bloomfield, New Mexico, offers nothing but incredible views and entertaining roads. But the 23-mile stretch north of Silverton, Colorado, is probably the most legendary. Nicknamed the Million Dollar Highway owing to large lodes of silver and gold that were found in the nearby mountains in the 1870s, this section of road offers excellent pavement and decreasing-radius switchbacks – be careful though, guardrails on the Million Dollar Highway are few and far between.
Image credit: Mike McBey via Flickr, cropped
Hummingbird Highway (Cayo / Stann Creek, Belize)
Belize’s Hummingbird Highway is one for the passengers. Driving-wise, it’s not the best; connecting the nation’s capital of Delmopan to the coastal city of Dangriga, it’s often clogged with tourists and travelers. But those who have the luxury of looking away from the road will find themselves overwhelmed with lush jungle beauty and plenty of local color in each of the several small towns on the route. Belize also boasts incredible national parks and nature preserves, making it easy to take a break from the road for some hiking and eco-tourism.
Image credit: Frank Wynes via Flickr, cropped
D414 State Road (Trpanj / Ston, Croatia)
Driving from Trpanj’s ferry terminal south toward the medieval Walls of Ston requires a cruise on the D414 State Road. Belying its utilitarian official name is some of the most incredible scenery on the Adriatic Sea, with cold and imposing limestone hills on one side of the road giving way to lush coastlines on the other. D414 is narrow in places, but ample turnouts and classically European lane discipline makes preserving momentum easy. D414 connects to D8, Croatia’s section of the Adriatic Highway, at its southern terminus.
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