5 Scenic Drives for Your Next Epic Getaway

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Whether you are looking for a beautiful beach vacation or a journey to view fall foliage in the mountains, these scenic drives will inspire your next road trip.

Windmill in wild sunflower covered hills, Valentine, Nebraska, USA
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A windmill stands among wild sunflower covered hills in Valentine, Nebraska

Nebraska Sandhills Grand Tour Scenic Drive

Looking for an uncrowded landscape where the sky is dominant, storms are abrupt and dramatic, and vast grasslands teem with abundant wildlife, including birds? Look no further than the Sandhills area of north-central Nebraska, a region of grass-stabilized sand dunes that were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1984. A few scenic byways go through this area. Customize your scenic drive with this loop that combines the best parts of this remarkable region into a grand tour.

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Colorful sunset sky over the Catalina Highway on Mt. Lemmon near Tucson, Arizona.
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A colorful sunset sky and clouds hover over the hodoos along the Catalina Highway on Mount Lemmon near Tucson, Arizona.

Arizona’s Sky Island Scenic Byway

Fantastic road trips aren’t determined by the number of miles you drive but by the quality of those miles. By that standard, the winding road starting amid the suburbs of Tucson, Arizona, and snaking its way to the top of Mount Lemmon is an epic journey. The Sky Island Scenic Byway, known locally as Catalina Highway, only traverses 27 miles. Yet it is the biological equivalent of driving from Mexico to Canada. Travelers pass through five life zones as the paved road ascends from spiny desert scrub to mixed conifer forest. Every 1,000 feet gained in elevation is like traveling 600 miles to the north.

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Olympic National Park in Washington State of United States. Water sport of canoes and kayaks at Lake Crescent.
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Kayaks line the shore of Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park in Washington.

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive

Chlorophyll rules in the damp Pacific Northwest. Experience it firsthand on a drive around Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula loop, where logging trucks have given way to SUVs loaded with bikes and kayaks. You’ll easily see the green in the Hoh Rain Forest. Bigleaf maples stoop like old men under the weight of thick pads of mosses and epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants for support). And you can almost taste it in the salt-tinged air of the area’s pristine Pacific shore. Hemlock and red cedar forests trail down to beaches pounded by ocean waves. With high mountain peaks, dense forests and ocean beaches, Olympic National Park—an UNESCO World Heritage Site—is the heart of the peninsula. It’s flanked on three sides by Highway 101, which ribbons through small towns on a loop drive of more than 300 miles.

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Boardwalk to the beach
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This boardwalk leads to Orange Beach in Alabama.

Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

Take a drive along part of Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway and experience pristine beaches, historical sites, abundant nature and fabulous meals. Begin your tour on Dauphin Island. Head east on Highway 180 to Gulf Shores. Wrap it up in Orange Beach after exploring the many intriguing sites along this coastal gem. Plan on spending a minimum of two days, because the beauty of this area will certainly lure you in.

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Brainard Lake in autumn, scenic drive
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Autumn color surrounds Brainard Lake in Colorado.

Colorado’s Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Get ready for an iconic Colorado scenic drive that includes a majestic horizon of snowcapped peaks, a chance for wildlife sightings and a couple of mountain towns worthy of leisurely stops. The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway begins in Central City, only 38 miles west of Denver. Then it winds north along the Continental Divide for 55 miles, stringing together routes 7, 72, and 119 into a journey you won’t forget.

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Originally Published in www.country-magazine.com