Call us sentimental, but there’s still something evocative about the image of hightailing along open roads in North America. Between the wide open plains, mountain passes, great lakes, deserts, and winding coastal routes of the USA and Canada, there’s enough to keep drivers and their cars busy for months or even years.
It’s all but impossible to sum up North America’s motoring experiences in just 6 top driving roads, but we’re going to give it a try.
Just like our last piece on the Top Driving Roads in Europe, we’re looking for more than just speed and thrills, more than just a great view, and certainly more than just an overcrowded tourist hot spot. We’re looking for the roads that offer challenging surfaces, jaw dropping vistas and motoring variety all in one.
Oh, and we’re not going to bring Route 66 into this. It’s incredible, no doubt, and it should be on your bucket list. But at almost 2,500 miles (4000 Km), it’s just a little bit too long to complete over a weekend!
So with that in mind, we’ve combed the continent for just 6 roads worth dreaming and writing about.
Here are SpeedHolic’s Top 6 Driving Roads in North America:
Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
We’ll start up north in Canada. Between the Banff and Jasper National Parks, Highway 93 N unfurls itself for just shy of 150 miles of driving pleasure. The surface is in great shape, and the journey itself offers a perfect blend of unending straights and meandering curves around shimmering lakes, verdant forests, stark cliffs and the snow capped Canadian Rocky Mountains.
You might be tempted to put the pedal to the floor, but fair warning -- you may well encounter wildlife like elk, deer, moose, caribou, wolves, and even black and grizzly bears!
Sea-to-Sky Highway, British Columbia, Canada
Staying in Canada for now before we head south over the border, the Sea to Sky Highway starts in the lowlands near the coastal city of Vancouver. Horseshoe Bay is the exact starting point. From there, the Sea to Sky Highway (known officially as Highway 99), winds its way up to Whistler Mountain and on to Cache Creek, a considerable 250 miles away.
The highway was upgraded to world class standards ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics, so there’s no need to fear a poor quality road en route to the wilderness.
Some of the highlights, apart from the driving experience itself, are the endless views of the mountains, a panoramic lookout over the ocean, waterfalls, glaciers and fjords. You might even want to stop along the way for a night or two and take in some hiking trails, but we digress -- we’re all about driving here!
Pacific Coast Highway, California, USA
The fabled Route 66 aside, there isn’t likely a more famous drive in the USA than the Pacific Coast Highway in sunny California. This is all about top-down driving in a tasty convertible, sunglasses on and music playing. The Pacific Coast Highway runs for 500 miles all the way from San Diego, through LA, and over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco to the great Californian countryside beyond, hugging the coastline most of the way.
While it’s a feast for the senses, make sure and pay careful attention to the road as some of the corners can creep up on you. Some of the incredible highlights along the way include Point Reyes, Malibu, Monterey and Big Sur.
We’d recommend taking the Pacific Coast Highway one city and day at a time, but if time is an issue, don’t worry -- you can drive the whole thing in just a day or two.
Photo by Nathan Long on Unsplash
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina - Virginia, USA
A world away from the sunny climes of California, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs between the historical Appalachian states of Virginia and North Carolina. It’s probably best experienced in the Autumn season, when the vast swathes of forest begin to change from green to golden brown.
There is a speed limit of 45 miles an hour though, but it’s a necessary one. Allow your car and your mind to settle and just breathe in your surroundings -- the magnificent Appalachian and Smoky Mountain ranges.
Along the way, some of the best places to stop and admire are the low-lying James River, and the high points of Apple Orchard Mountain and the Groundhog Mountain Overlook, which offer stunning vistas over the land below you.
Route 12, Utah, USA
Just to prove that North America is a stunningly diverse land, we head west again to the otherworldly plains of Utah. Any open road in the state is a thrill, and there are plenty of them, but Route 12 takes home the prize for Utah’s top driving experience.
There’s something almost Martian about the vast, dusty plains. The only indication that they’re of this world are the black ribbons of asphalt that seem to run right to the horizon.
Route 12 stretched around 125 miles from Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park, with quaint little western towns like Tropic and Boulder allowing you to stop, refuel and rest for a time.
Death Valley, California - Nevada, USA
The hottest place on earth, the record books say. And with a name as terrifying as Death Valley, you’d be inclined to avoid it, but no! Bring plenty of water, turn on your AC, roll your windows down or drop the roof to let the wind wash over you. Death Valley is home to some of the USA’s greatest driving roads.
Just like in Utah, some of them seem to go on forever, promising adventure and the thrill of the unknown.
Route 190 is one example of these endless roads, but trust us, it does end -- as it leads you down into the intimidatingly named Furnace Creek.
Like we said, don’t let the names put you off -- just bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and enjoy the ride through one of America’s greatest driving roads.
It wasn’t easy coming up with our favourite top 6 driving roads in North America. Let us know which one you’d love to drive. And if there’s anywhere you’d like to let us know about, please comment and fill us in.
Even better, if you’d like to share some amazing road trip images, check out our contributors page or email us at email@example.com to be featured!