1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming from The 16 Best Winter Drives in the U.S.
The 16 Best Winter Drives in the U.S.
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Photo Modified / Jeremy Weber / CC BY 4.0
Start from the Mammoth Hot Springs and drive 52 miles on the Grand Loop Road. Everybody goes there in the summer so you shouldn’t expect any traffic. The winter is a great time to take this trip if you want to see wolves who were re-introduced to the park in 1995 after 70 years. Plan to go skiing or just hike along the trails through the Upper Geyser Basin.
2. Route 66: Illinois to California
Photo Modified / Jeremy Weber / CC BY 4.0
This is the ultimate American trip – the legendary 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. It has been featured in just about anything – TV, music, movies. The trip is also authentic. Many places still keep the original two-lane highway. The most popular locations along the trip are in the Southwest but Illinois has something to offer as well. Stop by Pontiac and visit the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum. Along the way you’ll also find stunning panoramas, charming towns, and rocky cliffs, and beautiful deserts and parks. If you really want to see what it’s like to be “alone” on the road, go west from Kingman past the saguaro cacti and loose boulders. You’ll get to Oatman, an old gold-mining town. Don’t forget to visit the Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is 50,000 years old.
3. Along South Dakota Highway 240
Photo Modified: Flickr / Joel Hernandez / CC BY 4.0
Just 40 miles of driving on the Badlands Loop Road can energize you for weeks ahead with the dozens of picturesque views. Go to the Badlands National Park, which had slowly formed by deposition and erosion starting 69 million years ago. Cedar Pass Lodge is the only lodging and restaurant in the park. It’s going to be cold but you can expect to not cross paths with many (if any) other people on your way, expect the park rangers and maybe lots of sheep.
4. Columbia River Highway, Oregon
Randimal / Shutterstock
This historic highway has a lot of beautiful scenery to offer. It was considered an engineering breakthrough when it was built and is now a National Historic Landmark. Drive along it and you’ll see the incredible Multnomah Falls, the tallest along the way, and Columbia River Gorge. And what a view that is! One of the best places for majestic pictures is the Vista House at Crown Point. If you feel like diving in icy waters, go to the Oneonta Gorge.
5. Nevada to Utah though Zion National Park
Tobin Akehurst / Shutterstock
Fly to Las Vegas, have some fun there for a night or two and rent a car going to the park. It’s just about 240 miles in one direction. Spend about a week driving through the desert to reach the high cliffs of Zion, Utah's First National Park. While you’re at it, visit the Bryce Canyon National Park and see how hoodoos and forests are mixed together, a spectacular view in the winter.
6. Minnesota to Wisconsin
Photo Modified: Flickr /Sweet Alize / CC BY 4.0
Want to see some amazing ice caves? Get on Route 13 from Duluth and head to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The trip can take you between three and six days because it’s about 250 miles, including coming back. You can go hiking into out-of-this-world icicles. Nordic skiing is another thrilling option if you chose to go on this road trip. It’s long the 107-kilometer Birkebeiner trail system.
7. Route 50 in Nevada: Loneliest Road in America
Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock
It’s only 350 miles. If you want remote roads, this is the trip for you. Even certificates “I Survived the Loneliest Road in America” are available to make it official. Buy qualifying cards at the Ely or Fernley (north of Silver Springs via U.S. 95) and make sure you “check in” on your way. You’ll pass Dayton, which back in the day was a Pony Express station and where Nevada’s first gold strike took place. You can stop at Virginia City and where Mark Twain used to work as a journalist. Just when you start to feel a bit startled because of all the sagebrush and sand all around you and nothing else, you’ll come across Fort Churchill, the abandoned army post from 1860. It’s beginning to sound a lot like a classic western movie…
8. New York City to Pennsylvania
Zack Frank / Shutterstock
Go on a magnificent 7-day 348-mile long drive through nature. You can go skiing on you way, enjoy the view of forests (possibly covered in snow), or ice-skate on a frozen pond. Visit the Norman Rockwell countryside. Get on Route 6 is you want access to 19 state parks, six forests and the Allegheny National Forest to see the Kinzua Dam, one of the largest in the U.S. Visit the state's own Grand Canyon.
9. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
Pung / Shutterstock
This may be an only 50-mile trip but not a single yard goes by without a scenic view. The road cuts the Glacier National Park in half and it’s a National Historic Landmark. You will see forests, lakes, snow covered mountains, deep ravines, and a variety of wildlife in one trip. Don’t be intimidating by the tall mountaintops all around. It’s inspiring! But don’t look up so often because the road can get quite narrow at times. If you stop at the St. Mary Lake, the second largest in the park, you’ll be able to take startling photos of the 100-foot Virginia Falls.
10. Chicago to Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin
Mark Baldwin / Shutterstock
This is the ideal trip if you want to rotate visiting big and small cities. Take the I-43 going west and then the Wisconsin Highway 57. You start with Chicago, pass by Northern Door County. Stop in Milwaukee and try some of their famous bratwurst and beer. Them you may feel like trying something new – consider ice fishing in Peninsula State Park. Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula was settled by hardy Scandinavian fishermen and loggers.
11. Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
digidreamgrafix / Shutterstock
You can start from Front Royal and drive all of the 105 miles on the Skyline Drive, north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. This is the only public road through the park. Mornings are going to be frosty but beautiful. Waterfalls crystallize in the winter and the more enthusiastic of you can get to them by snowshoeing or skiing. There are many picnic areas along the route. Many prefer the Elkwallow and South River because of the opportunities to “meet” with raptors and many animals.
12. Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee
This is the Lookout Mountain Parkway. See waterfall and canyons in one 120-mile trip. Stop by the Rock City Gardens to see some rare foliage and unusual sandstone formations. Rock City is near Ruby Falls. It’s off Rte. 157 in Georgia, just south of Tennessee. The mountain is just about 10 miles wide but it has plenty for you to see such as various plants, oaks, maples, poplars, dogwoods. Along the way you’ll also see rural byways with lots of cascades, canyons, and caverns. Stop on your way to see the Little River Canyon and the Noccalula Falls Park. Definitely stop at Point Park. At its highest point – 2,126 feet – you can see the Tennessee River, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia. So bring binoculars…
13. The High Road to Taos, New Mexico
Photo Modified: Flickr / David Baron / CC BY 4.0
The 56 miles between Santa Fe and Taos offer a charming view but twisted road through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Take a ride for a couple of hours and drive into the beauty of the high desert in the winter as snowflakes have likely settled on the pine trees. This road is a beautiful way to experience the state and visit a lot of historical places along the way.
14. Red Rock Country, Arizona
David Byron Keener / Shutterstock
Get on Interstate 17 and head to Montezuma Castle National Monument. This extraordinarily preserved ancient cliff dwelling will take your breath away. Stay on State Route 179 north, which is the one known as Red Rock Scenic Byway, and go to the Slide Rock State Park so you can actually do what the name suggests – slide down waterslides carved into the rock.
15. Oregon Coast
jfwalker / Shutterstock
The trip should start from Eurika, California actually. Drive 480 miles to the famous Cannon Beach in Oregon. Drive along the coast if you want to see gray whales as they move from Mexico. Now is their migrating season. Don’t forget to bring binoculars…If not, go to the Whale Center in Depoe Bay in Oregon. Make sure you drive all the way to Cannon Beach. The Haystack Rock there looks majestic in the winter. Bonus: You’ll see fewer people as opposed to any other season.
16. Great River Road, Minnesota to Louisiana
July Flower / Shutterstock
It’s called the Great River Road because it’s along the 10 states the Mississippi River passes –Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. So if you have a fascination with the Mighty River, look no farther. You’ll find lots of farms, upland meadows, swamps, thick forests, cliffs, and parks and wildlife refuges along the way. You’ll come across a few malls and casinos, too.