If you are planning to travel for spring break but are dismayed by continuing airline price hikes, why not hit the road instead? Gas is cheap and this may not be a trend that lasts long. So grab your gear, get in the car and get going on one of these five scenic drives.
Pacific Coast Highway
California’s Pacific Coast Highway is possibly one of the most exhilarating drives in the country – and in springtime, it’s even better. As you navigate the tight turns on narrow roads that hug the dramatic coastline, wildflowers populate the hillsides with their colorful blooms.
This drive can be modified to be as short or long as you like. The most spectacular portion of the journey is between San Simeon, Calif., and Monterey, Calif. Don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium (book tickets in advance), the elephant seals or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
One of the best ways to experience this stretch of highway is to camp along the way. If you plan on camping between Monterey and San Simeon, try to book space in advance or to arrive early to get a spot. There are also a number of boutique properties. For those who want a more luxurious experience, check into the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur.
Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway
A marvel of engineering, scenery and history, the Columbia River Highway is known as the “King of Roads.” The road is constantly shifting revealing sweeping panoramas and varying views of the Columbia River Gorge.
To begin your journey, start in Portland and head to Troutdale and over the Sandy River. Along the way, you will see orchards, fields of blueberries and glimpses of Mount Hood. Once at the Columbia River, prepare to be wowed by places such as Chanticleer Point, Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam, The Dalles and the Lewis and Clark trail.
There are a number of small towns along the way that not only have historical significance but also offer the perfect place to lay your head for the night.
Three Great Canyons in the Southwest
Combine a trip to three of the nation’s most beautiful canyons with a circle drive, roundtrip from Las Vegas, to the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce. From red rock canyons to juniper forests and natural arches, this drive includes some of the desert’s most stunning accomplishments.
Head first to Zion National Park where you will find dramatic slot canyons and lush forests. The brave can head to the Narrows of Zion River where they can splash about in the chilly waters as canyon walls climb 2,000 feet above with just 20 feet between them.
Bryce is next, and here you can immerse yourself in the mysterious hoodoo formations. Paria View is one of the best overlooks and there is a hoodoo in the Queens Garden that is said to resemble Queen Victoria – you be the judge.
Next stop, the majestic Grand Canyon. Plan to stay and walk around the rim at sunrise or sunset to make the most of your journey. Don’t miss the shuttle along Hermit’s Road or Mather Point for some of the park’s most stunning vistas.
Follow the Blues Highway
Take a musical journey on the Blues Highway, or Highway 61 between Memphis and New Orleans through Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburt, Leland, Cleveland, Clarksdale and Tunica Miss. The highway has been an inspiration to blues artists, including B.B. King, Charley Patton, Son House, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and more. Many artists have immortalized the route in their songs.
The highway follows the Mississippi for most of its run and is designated the Great River Road. Highlights of the journey include “the crossroads” of highways 61 and 49, known as the most famous intersection in music history; the Delta Blues Museum; and Dockery Farms.
Drive Through the Florida Keys
Grab your flip-flops and your beach towel and head to the Keys. Follow U.S. 1 from Key Largo to Key West for a laidback, kitsch-filled adventure in this sandy paradise.
Begin your journey in Miami, and it’s a straight shot to the Keys. If you want to avoid traffic and have a little fun, follow Card Sound Road into Key Largo – just make sure you have cash for the tolls. Give yourself time to explore Islamorada, where dive fans will find the History of Diving Museum. Continue on the road to Marathon, and on to Key West where you will find Ernest Hemingway’s home and the beautiful Smathers and Fort Zachary Taylor beaches.
Historic Route 66
It is arguably one of the most famous stretches of road in the U.S. Visitors come from around the world to travel its length from Chicago to Santa Monica through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Interstate highways have long since bypassed the original stretch of the highway, and the road is actually no longer part of the U.S. Highway System, but exists currently as a National Scenic Byway.
Because much of the road was decommissioned as a highway, it is no longer possible to drive the route uninterrupted but with careful planning, the more than 2,400-mile journey can be undertaken.