Scenic routes in the United States

Driving through roads with few cars in sight surrounded by beautiful landscapes is a way of traveling that has been in the minds of many Brazilian travelers. So how about enjoying American roads to make that dream come true?

We gathered a few of the best scenic routes we have already cruised in the US, from those most famous to a few you may never heard of.

Now is the time to convince you to cross the USA through Route 66, visit all the outlooks scattered around the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway, see the Wupatki ruins in Arizona up-close and much more. From short daytrips to longer road trips, we got you covered!

Blue Ridge Parkway

Let’s start with a route many consider the most scenic in the continental US. The 450 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway cover an enormous area along the famed Appalachian Trail.

The road cuts through green (yellow and red during the fall) mountains in Virginia and North Carolina and connects the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

A Blue Ridge é considerada uma das estradas de cenário mais bonito dos Estados Unidos

Best time of year

Since Brazil doesn’t really have a fall season, the Blue Ridge’s impact is even bigger in autumn colors. From mid-September to late-October, all the green in these images makes way to light yellows and deep reds.

The views are wonderful year-round, but some of the road’s sections may close during peak winter season. It is better to avoid those periods.

Imagine só esta cena no outono, com grande parte da vegetação no entorno da Blue Ridge em tons de amarelo e vermelho

Points of interest

The number of outlooks along Blue Ridge Parkway are quite the treat, especially in its most mountainous stretches and when close to lakes and rivers.

Obviously, the National Parks at both ends of the road are also indispensable, as well as the diverse small communities of the first European immigrants in the area.

For a more urban, but still charming, attraction, visit Asheville, in North Carolina. You may not be familiar with it yet, but its tourist attractions, brewery scene and culinary spots gather visitor from across the US.

If you can, plan for at least one night in Asheville for food, drinks and peculiar and interesting attractions.

A mansão Biltmore Estate é uma das principais atrações de Asheville, cidade que fica na rota da Blue Ridge Parkway na Virgínia

One of the most-visited attractions in Asheville is the Biltmore Estate. It is the largest private residence in the country and now hosts a museum, vineyard, impressive gardens, several shops and restaurants.

Valuable information

Because the intent behind it is integrating with nature, the Blue Ridge has sections full of twists and turns, so pay attention when driving. The speed limit can also be lower than you might expect, so go easy.

Because of its length, and the protected area around it, it is possible to observe a wide range of fauna and flora in different altitudes, which brings the feeling of being surrounded by nature’s grandeur.

Trechos da Blue Ridge Parkway cortam reservas naturais em que encontros com a vida selvagem são comuns

Again, because it is a natural and more isolated area, you need to be cautious:

  • Some sections may not have Wi-Fi or cellphone signal coverage.
  • Wild animals, such as bears, are common in some areas.
  • Do not leave belongings in plain sight when parking your car.
  • Check these tips before camping, picnicking etc.

Route 66, from Chicago to Santa Monica

The most well-known road in the United States is alive and well! One of the major icons of American road trips, Route 66 almost crosses the entire country connecting Chicago to Santa Monica.

We drove through the entire Mother Road a few years ago and it was an amazing experience we wrote about in detail in a series of articles. You will find a summary below.

Alguns trechos da Rota parecem ter saído de um filme

Best time of year

Since small towns are the life and blood of Route 66, you will have a much livelier experience when those cities are hosting parties and festivals. So, check the schedule of the cities along the stretch you will be driving through.

Overall, we recommend the period between May and September, as you will be crossing deserts and the extreme temperatures in those locations may bring concerns such as icy roads in some sections. The heat is also worrying in the summer (especially in July), so think about that before you decide on your dates.

Points of interest

It is hard to choose just a few landmarks along a road that has thousands of miles. I suggest you confirm the stretches you will be driving through and then choose the attractions that most appeal to you in that area.

A Old Chain of Rocks Bridge é um marco da Rota 66 e já serviu de importante ligação entre os estados de Illinois e Missouri

We split our Route 66 content by States, so it should be easy to find the best points of interest on Route 66 for your trip. They are dozens, but these are some of the most important ones:

  • The beginning sign in Chicago: even though it is just signage, it is thrilling to see a landmark telling your trip is about to start.
  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge: this now pedestrian-only bridge over the Mississippi river was once an important connection between the States of Illinois and Missouri.
  • Gay Parita Station in Ash Grove: gas station opened in 1930, destroyed by a fire in 1955 and restored by Gary Turner (who ran the place until his death a few years back. A true icon of Route 66.
  • Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, in Clinton: the first public-funded museum about Route 66.
  • Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo: installation with several Cadillacs that invites you to leave your mark.
  • Old motels signs, especially in Tucumcari: those into nostalgia, Americana and design will love to see these relics from the 50s and 60s.
  • HackBerry General Store in Kingsman: the kitschiest spot in all of Route 66 is also pretty much a museum due to being packed with so many memorabilia. It also inspired Lizzie’s shop in the Cars movie.

O Bagdad Cafe é uma espécie de passaporte e parada obrigatória da sua viagem pela Rota 66

  • Bagdad Cafe, in Newberry Springs: location for the 1987 cult classic. Extremely popular among fans of the movie and European tourists, but it also bears markings of Brazilian tourists on its walls. It is in the middle of nowhere and has the perfect Route 66 road trip vibes.
  • The Route 66 ends here sign at Santa Monica Pier: just like the sign in Chicago, it may become a particularly important personal milestone in your trip.

Valuable information

Since its hey-day a few decades back, Route 66 has gone through a lot of changes, not all of them positive. Some sections are not in great shape and others have been entirely replaced by more modern highways.

Apps like Google Maps will often direct you to those modern and faster highways, so it is important plan your route ahead and pay attention when driving.

A criação de novas estradas deixou para trás comunidades fantasmas ao longo da Rota 66

Another significant concern is keeping your gas tank filled when approaching more isolated sections. It is not unusual to go through dozens of miles seeing nothing but mirages of old gas stations in the form of their ruins.

Forest Road 545, no Arizona

After those two long roads, we give you a shorter route perfect for a daytrip from a nearby city, like Flagstaff, that many people use as a home-base while visiting Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

FR 545 is a loop about 35 miles long connected to Highway 89. The entire route out of Flagstaff, through the entire scenic route and back to town is about 75 miles long.

Em alguns trechos da Forest Road 545 no Arizona, vemos apenas o deserto se estendendo até onde a vista alcança

Best time of year

We are in the desert once again, where extreme temperatures are common, so it is best to avoid peak summer, when you would normally face 100 °F and afternoon showers. Also avoid winter because severe weather may cause road closures.

That leaves us with April to June as the ideal period. But if you do not mind the heat and are OK with maybe getting some rain, July through September also works.

Points of interest

FR 545 connects two major attractions in the area: Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments.

Closer to Flagstaff, you will find this National Monument comprised of more than 600 volcanoes and a trail that leads you up its biggest cinder.

O Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument é um dos atrativos da Forest Road 545 no Arizona

The impact of being face to face with a volcano, even one that has been dormant for almost a thousand years, is even greater when you walk the trails, look around and see how far-reaching an eruption is and how it affects everything it touches.

Even after centuries, only the most-specialized vegetation can reclaim the area affected by the volcanoes’ discharges.

At the other end of the road is the Wupatki National Monument, a set of native ruins built people who migrated precisely to avoid the volcanoes’ eruptions to the South.

Em um dos extremos da Forest Road 545 no Arizona estão as ruínas do monumento nacional de Wupatki

About 800 years ago, Wupatki had more than 100 rooms and was possibly the largest and wealthiest settlement in the area. Today, only a few sections remain after being abandoned by the natives and vandalized by raiders.

Besides the pueblo that gives the monument its name, the site contains other buildings and archeological findings.

Valuable information

The entire central Arizona region is in high alert due to massive fires sweeping the area recently. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument was damaged and is temporarily closed.

According to the National Parks Service, all structures that guaranteed the safety of its visitors (such as trail signage and paths) has been lost. That means it will probably remain closed for a while.

It is also worth noting that you need to pay an entry fee to visit the monuments. A single fee gives you access to both sites. Tickets are valid for 7 days, but you can do both in a single day.

Taconic State Parkway

A rarity among highways all over the world, the Taconic was always meant to be a scenic route. Engineers worked alongside landscape artists to make sure the road and its surroundings would be coordinated and to create a safe route as beautiful as possible.

It starts about 45 minutes North of de Manhattan and follows the Hudson River North for over 100 miles, always surrounded by trees and rolling hills.

Passeios pelos arredores de Nova York - Taconic State Parkway: uma das mais famosas estradas cênicas do estado de NY, corta inúmeras cidadezinhas e proporciona vistas incríveis.

Best time of year

Once again, the fall landscape will probably have a greater impact on the Brazilian visitor, while Winter weather may cause road closures. The scenery is still beautiful in Spring and Summer, just without those typical Northern autumnal colors.

Points of interest

All the small towns on the Hudson River Valley are full of attractions. So many that we already wrote an article about the Taconic State Parkway’s main attractions.

O Vale do Rio Hudson, ao longo da Taconic State Parkway está repleto de atrações de outono e de Halloween

Among them, there’s a 10-thousand carved pumpkin Halloween extravaganza and shops throughout the road that sell the products of local brands.

By the way, the region is so keen on Halloween that a city changed its name to Sleepy Hollow for being the birthplace of the book’s author.

Passeios pelos arredores de Nova York - Taconic Sculpture Park: conheça o artista Roy Kanwit, que decidiu encher o gramado de casa com várias das suas esculturas

Speaking of heads, pay attention and you will see one of Taconic Sculpture Park large pieces from the road. This open-air gallery is another Taconic icon and displays 30 years of owner Roy Kanwit’s art.

Highway A1A – Florida’s Historic Coast

This scenic route connects several of the oldest towns in the United States, National Parks, Monuments and major historical landmarks. This has granted the route the title of All-American Road.

You will enjoy 90 miles, from Jacksonville Beach to South Daytona Beach, by the sea. There is no better route to explore Northern Florida’s beaches.

A Historic Coast da Flórida está repleta de importantes marcos históricos dos Estados Unidos

Best time of year

Obviously, the summer is great to enjoy the beaches, but it also attracts thousands of other people. So, I would say the best time to visit is between March and May, when you get pleasant weather and not-so-high prices.

Points of interest

There are the beaches, of course, but there’s also St. Augustine. Not only it is America’s oldest city, but it is also full of historical, cultural and culinary attractions.

It has also got a lighthouse! And you can go up the stairs for a beautiful view of the Atlantic.

O farol de St. Augustine é uma das principais atrações da cidade

Flagler Beach also draws large crowds with its beaches, nostalgic vibes, nature trails and activities on the Matanzas River.

Valuable information

Especially during summer, some sections are subject to heavy traffic. So, if you do not have much time, and do not want to waste any, try the less densely populated stretches of the A1A south of St. Augustine. Just make sure to turn back before Daytona Beach.

The importance of scenic routes

Between State and Federal roads, there are hundreds of scenic routes in the US. These titles are meant to help preserve the roads and strengthen the communities around them by providing tourism-generated income.

New York state alone has more than 90 scenic roads, with some that are really close to Manhattan and that could be part of your next trip to NYC.

Going to another State? That is also great! All US States have scenic routes and many of them are a lot closer to your next destination than you think!

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