When I cruise through the winding mountain trails of the west or glide along the dusty desert highways of the south, I feel a profound connection to my car, the land, and the road beneath me. That’s when you know you’ve found a quality route. So where are these majestic thoroughfares? Where do I go to get away from the mundane back and forth of my everyday routine and let loose on the vast expanse of highway between east coast and west? To help you choose your next cruise or more extensive road trip journey, we’ve put together a list of the seven best drives across the US and Canada.
1. California State Route 1
Mountains to the left of me, beaches to my right? Here you are, stuck in the middle as you drive south from Leggett to Dana Point California, and you couldn’t be happier about it. This 656 mile route starts in the shade of the colossal coastal redwoods, some of the largest trees in the world. You’ll complete the route just an hour and a half south of Los Angeles, and if you’re feeling extra adventurous, the Mexican border is just a couple more hours away.
2. John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway (Octane approved!)*
This portion of Highway 191 connects Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park. The shimmering surface of Jackson Lake seems almost too blue to be real, and the snow-capped mountains look like a fortress for giants. The names of some of the tiny towns along the way, Beaver Creek, Moose, and Elk, pay homage to the animals that call this area home.
3. Acadia National Byway
While this loop of a route through Maine’s peninsular Acadia National Park may seem oddly designed, it’s specifically laid out to give you the best views of everything the northeastern point of the US has to offer: craggy cliffs, frothy ocean shores, and of course a lighthouse or two. This 40 mile stretch of road lets you enjoy the little fishing towns sprinkled amongst the vibrant forests. Don’t worry, there are plenty of places to stop for lobster rolls along the way.
4. Trans-Canada Highway/Highway 17 from Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie (Octane approved!)
If you’re trying to get across Ontario, taking highway 11 might get you where you’re going a bit faster, but the slight diversion south is well worth the extra drive time. This allows you to cruise along Lake Huron and enjoy the lushness of this region rich with provincial parks. If you continue a bit farther, you can also enjoy the view of Lake Superior. The best time to enjoy this drive is at sunset when the light filters through the leaves and sets the treetops ablaze with color.
5. Pikes Peak Highway (Octane approved!)
A quick little jaunt that’s just a few miles outside Colorado Springs via Highway 24, Pikes Peak Highway takes you up a twisting, turning route to a dusty, red rock summit. You might catch a glimpse of some big horned sheep, and you’re sure to see plenty of big pine trees and little cacti. While some people have expressed concern about this being a dangerous road because of the high elevation and steep drop offs, it’s nothing the everyday driver can’t handle if done cautiously. Just take it easy on the turns.
6. Georgia’s Antebellum Trail
Eager to admire the works of man in addition to the beauty of nature? Then the 114 mile stretch of road between Athens and Macon, Georgia is perfect for your next architectural admiration excursion. This route will take you through the heart of the Peach State, allowing you to admire centuries-old mansions with soaring columns. Roll on through the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, one of the rare covered bridges in Georgia that can support traffic without the aid of steel beams. This route is sure to captivate anyone with a passion for both history and design.
7. Trans-Canada Highway/Highway 93 (Octane approved!)
Mountains, mountains, and more mountains. Have I mentioned mountains yet in this post? This route tops them all for the immersive montagne experience. There are lakes, pines, and snowy summits galore, even in the middle of summer. A summertime drive is highly recommended for this route, as the conditions can get treacherous in the wintertime, and you won’t be able to enjoy the bright teal color of the lakes if they’re frozen over. Be prepared to stop for elk or even a bear, as this route between two massive national parks is teeming with wildlife. Lake Louise is a must-see on the southern part of this journey.
The road trip is a staple of North American adventure seeking. At Octane, we want everyone to have the opportunity to take full advantage of the gorgeous scenery that a car and the open road offer. That’s why we are working hard on a route-mapping feature that will allow drivers to track the routes they drive and then save them so they can enjoy them again and again, perhaps during different seasons. You will even be able to share your favorite routes with your friends. This way, when you drive with Octane, you never stop connecting.
*Octane approved means that one of our members has driven this route him/herself and can personally attest to its greatness!
Wondering where that stunning route in the very first image is located? This is a section of the Columbia River Highway in northern Oregon. We're holding off on including it in this list because we plan to drive it ourselves someday soon and will update you about the experience when we do. Looking forward to making more routes Octane approved!