The 185 miles of this eastern Canadian route loops around the end of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Enjoy ocean views, cliffs, and rock formations interspersed with forests that change colors in the early autumn.
Where to stay: Sea Parrot Oceanview Manor. Right on the Cabot Trail and facing the ocean, this 13-room inn offers plenty to do on the water and on the lawn, or just kick back in an Adirondack chair and enjoy the views.
Since this 138-mile route traverses the whole state along the Green Mountains, expect all the Vermont postcard staples: maple syrup mills, ski towns and red barns on dairy farms. It’s alive with color in autumn and it passes through 20 towns to explore after a meal stop.
Where to stay: Stone Hill Inn. This luxury B&B well removed from the main drag sits on land with a waterfall, and each room has a fireplace, king bed and Jacuzzi tub for two.
Stretching 109 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains between Front Royal and Charlottesville, this roadway takes the high road through the Shenandoah National Park. Historic sites, wineries, and working farms nudge up to protected old growth forests. At just an hour from D.C., it’s a weekend jaunt from the nation’s capital.
Where to stay: The Farmhouse at Veritas. Set at the end of Skyline Drive, before it turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway, this converted 1836 farmhouse surrounded by forests and grapevines is now part of Veritas Winery. Best part? You can walk to the tasting room.
North Shore Drive
It’s hard to lose sight of huge Lake Superior while driving 143 miles along its shore from Duluth to Grand Portage, by the border of Canada. Passing through eight state parks and Superior National Forest, the shoreline road also cruises by sandy beaches and lighthouses that provide a strange sense of being by the ocean.
Where to stay: MacArthur House Bed and Breakfast. This peaceful six-room inn with a grand breakfast offers relaxation and reasonable rates, and is close to a long list of activity choices to take advantage of the scenic region.
Trail Ridge Road
This 58-mile route is “the highest continually paved road in the United States,” running as high as 12,183 feet (3,700 meters) through Rocky Mountain National Park. Wildlife sightings of elk and bighorn sheep sometimes punctuate the view,s and at some points the road is above the tree line.
Where to stay: Romantic Riversong Bed and Breakfast Inn. Located on 27 wooded acres, the changing leaves are right outside your window in this inn that used to be a grand high society getaway home. It features a giant stone fireplace and a location right in the midst of the national park.
State Route 12
America’s glowing southwestern landscape are on full display on this 124-mile route between two national parks: Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. In between it passes through Red Canyon and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Head 30 miles north from Bryce to connect to the 55-mile Patchwork Parkway passing through the Dixie National Forest.
Where to stay: Skyridge Inn Bed and Breakfast. Located on 27 wooded acres, the changing leaves are right outside your window in this inn that used to be a grand high society getaway home. It features a giant stone fireplace and a location right in the midst of the national park.
This high alpine road through Glacier National Park is only fully open the whole 50-mile stretch for two or three months in the summer. Traveling over the spine of the Rocky Mountains, it passes tall peaks, lakes, and meadows that spring back to life after the snow recedes. Bighorn sheep are a common site at Logan Pass.
Where to stay: Good Medicine Lodge. Regularly showered with awards and travel magazine accolades, this classic western lodge was made from solid cedar timbers and is decorated in a western motif with fabrics influenced by native American textiles.
The High Road
Climbing from the desert city of Santa Fe to the town of Taos in the Rocky Mountains, this 56-mile route passes through deserts, meadows, adobe artist towns, and the Carson National Forest. It ends at San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, made famous by painter Georgia O’Keefe and photographer Ansel Adams.
Where to stay: Adobe and Stars Bed and Breakfast Inn. Expect Kiva fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs and panoramic mountain views from this eight-room B&B situated between town and local ski resort. Some rooms have romantic whirlpool tubs, balconies, or double showers.
Route 1 Big Sur Coast Highway
The full Pacific Coast Highway drive of 655 miles is best done over several days. The most famous section is the Big Sur region seaside stretch between Ragged Point (north of San Simeon) and Carmel. This 72-mile trip passes an elephant seal colony, wide beaches, pounding surf, a redwood forest and Hearst Castle.
Where to stay: Green Gables Inn. This Queen Anne Victorian, built in 1888, is one of the most famous inns in all of California. Overlooking Monterrey Bay right on the rocky coast, a stay here means an impressive breakfast, afternoon tea, and attentive service.
Running between the popular tourist draws of Jasper and Banff, this stunning 144-mile drive puts the rockiest of the Rocky Mountains on display. With jagged peaks covered in snow and glaciers still pushing down in between, the challenge is to keep eyes on the road instead of the big mammals often spotted along the way.
Where to stay: Banff Beaver Cabins. With six rooms and cabins a block off the main drag in central Banff, this is a great spot if you’d like to stroll around town and try the local restaurants after a day of driving.
The Hawaiian Islands’ most scenic drive winds 38 miles across 54 bridges and alternates between the ocean and the jungle. The cliff-hugging route passes waves and waterfalls, with the thick forest parts offering places to take a hike. With more than 600 curves there are plenty of overview points and places to park and take a swim.
Where to stay: Ala’aina Ocean Vista B&B. You’ll have the lush four acres of this tropical Hawaiian paradise all to yourself except the innkeepers as you take in views of sweeping views of the ocean, mountains and jungle while enjoying your outdoor tub and shower.
—by Tim Leffel