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Journey all the fun on best scenic drives

Published On: Jan 27 2012 05:29:42 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 31 2013 09:35:05 AM CST
scenic byway road leading to mountains

iStock/Veni

By Pam Gaulin, Contributing writer

Beautiful vistas are only a drive away in the U.S. You can enjoy a day trip of 15 miles or plan more than a week to cover 500 miles.

Whether a day trip, a family vacation or a romantic getaway, you can include mountains, volcanoes, desert vistas, dense forests or ocean views.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

From volcano to volcano, the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is 500 miles of road suited to those who want to enjoy the views from the car. Explore one of the world's largest plug-dome volcanoes at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Mount Shasta, Calif. Continue on to Oregon. where the scenic drive includes Lava Beds National Monument with underground caves and Crater Lake on the top of Mount Mazama.

Enter the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway in Sacramento, Calif., on Interstate 5. In Oregon, start at the intersection of US-62 and Munson Valley Road in Medford, or head east on OR-138 in Roseburg or I-5 southbound in Eugene.

Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

The 57-mile Mohawk Trail winds through the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts. The drive runs from Greenfield to Williamstown, heading toward the New York border. Along the way, enjoy a planned detour to the summit of Mount Greylock, the state's first park and the highest point in the state. Panoramic views let you see up to 90 miles away. Peekaboo views of the landscape can be seen as you drive along the winding and wooded Mohawk Trail.

Talladega Scenic Drive, Alabama

The South offers a 26-mile scenic drive courtesy of Talladega Scenic Drive in Alabama. It brings you to Alabama's highest point above sea level, on Cheaha Mountain.

Florida Keys Scenic Highway

If you like being surrounded by water by don't want to be on a boat, try the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. The 126-mile drive to Key West runs over turquoise waters and 43 bridges.

Along the way, stop and enjoy fresh seafood at local restaurants. Sink your toes in the white-sand beach at Bahia Honda State Park after you cross the 7-mile bridge. Wait out any temporary Florida rainstorm at the Florida Keys Children's Museum or the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Jump down the rabbit hole and head out onto 469 miles of greenery and scenery on the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina. This top U.S. scenic drive includes the curious Looking Glass Rock and the breathtaking Peaks of Otter. The two-state scenic drive will take you by the Jefferson National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest. Cultural attractions also wait for you when you need take a break from the road. Visit the Northwest Trading Post, Oconaluftee Indian Village or the Biltmore Estate.

Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway

Another U.S. scenic drive that is a little more than 100 miles is the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway in New Mexico. Travel through Gila National Forest, following in the footsteps of Spanish explorers and Native Americans. The drive offers geological, cultural and natural eye candy in the way of the free-flowing Gila River.

Don't miss the rainbow colors of the Open Pit Copper Mine on NM 152, the Kneeling Nun rock formation or the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, Delaware

Another one of the short but scenic U.S. drives can be found in Delaware, along the 12-mile Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway. Stop at the Winterthur Gardens and Estate and Longwood Gardens.

Ohio River Scenic Byway

Anywhere along the 943-mile scenic drive in Illinois, Indiana an Ohio you will find things to see and do. This top U.S. scenic drive follows the Ohio River through the rural and historic U.S. Cultural attractions along the way include Fort Massacre State Park, Kinkaid Mounds and the fossil-rich Falls of Ohio.

Head to the Shawnee National Forest in Southeastern Illinois to view the Garden of the Gods, a spectacular rock formation.

Santa Fe Trail

Out west, the 565-mile Santa Fe Trail starts in Lamar, Colo., and goes the way of the wagon trains into New Mexico. Follow their historic path to Bents Old Fort, the breathtaking Sierra Vista Overlook and the Comanche National Grasslands.

Acadia Byway, Maine

Down east, as they like to say in Maine, take this 49-mile trek through thick fir forests and harbor views of navy blue waters. Feast on local chowder and seafood. Shop for local arts and crafts in Seal Harbor and bring your binoculars to go birding along the scenic drive.

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