The best roads to drive in North America

North America is home to some of the best roads in the world. Mountains. Coastlines. Deserts. We’ve got it all here, and it is truly a sight to see when you get into these magical landscapes. 

Some are easy to access (Mt. Lemmon outside of Tucson), while others (Denali Highway) are in harder-to-reach areas and require a flight up unless you plan to drive multiple days to get from the Lower 48 to Alaska. 

I’ve personally driven all these roads, so you can trust me when I tell you they’re pretty rad. Now, there are highly different tiers. The Icefield Parkway, connecting Banff and Jasper, is by far the most iconic road I’ve ever seen. 

Then there’s the Denali Highway, a 135-mile dirt road through the heart of Alaska. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it shows off so many natural wonders you’ll be blown away!

All in all, these iconic roads, some even could call them the best roads in the world, offer passengers an up-close look at natural beauty in every direction. 

Pacific Coast Highway/Highway 1

bixby bridge big sur
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This iconic highway stretches along most of the California coast, offering breathtaking ocean views, rugged cliffs, and access to charming towns and beaches.

Why it’s so epic: 

This is Big Sur. And there’s nothing like Big Sur in the entire world. This coastline offers dramatic views along its 100+ mile stretch and is a drive every person should aim to do in their lifetime. 

Icefields Parkway, Alberta

A journey through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, this parkway showcases glacier-clad peaks, turquoise lakes, and a vast wilderness teeming with wildlife.

Why it’s so epic: 

To put it plainly, this might be the most beautiful stretch of road in the world. I’m personally in love with the Canadian Rockies and believe it offers unparalleled beauty at such ease. In my utopia, I’d move here every summer. 

North Cascades Highway, Washington

larches at wing lake in the north cascades
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Traversing the North Cascades National Park, this highway is known for its stunning mountain vistas, alpine meadows, and a plethora of recreational activities like hiking and fishing.

Why it’s so epic: 

Almost as good as the above, Highway 20, or Noth Cascades Highway, cuts through the heart of the North Cascade’s jagged peaks and alpine lakes. It’s a brilliant area, and one shows off just how stunning an area this is. 

Plus, it’s an access point to many of the best hikes in Washington

Avenue of the Giants, California

Redwood National Park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This scenic roadway winds through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, featuring some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet, the majestic coastal redwoods.

Why it’s so epic: 

Who wants to see the tallest and oldest trees in America? If that’s you, Avenue of the Giants is the beginning of your exploration amongst the Redwoods. It’s about 2 hours south of Redwood National Park, but if you drive up from the south, you have to go through it. It’s perfect, and make sure to drive slowly so you never miss a thing!

Mt. Baker Highway, Washington

A red car drives on the road with sunset on the mountain just under Artist Point.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Leading to the Artist Point, this route offers striking views of the North Cascades and Mount Baker. It provides access to a multitude of outdoor activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and hiking.

Why it’s so epic:

This road is a cheat code. You get impressive views of the north cascades without taking a step. During the summer, Artist Point is one of the best places to hang out, with great weather and views of Mt. Baker and alpine lakes.

Denali Highway, Alaska

the denali highway cutting through alaska
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Offering unobstructed views of Denali and the Alaska Range, this mostly gravel road is a remote and spectacular journey through the Alaskan wilderness. If you’re looking for one of the best roads in the world, this one is a competitor!

Why it’s so epic: 

You get to see the untouched parts of Alaska that few people see. Most rental car companies won’t allow people here, and others won’t want to spend 5 hours driving a dirt road. But dang, was it stunning! It was honestly one of the better parts of our 22-day trip and allowed us a chance to see the true Alaska Frontier. 

Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast

places to photography in Lincoln city
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

It is known for its rugged coastline and crazy scenes; this highway offers miles of pristine beaches, coastal cliffs, lighthouses, quaint towns, and fresh seafood.

Why it’s so epic: 

You can’t have a list without the Oregon Coast. I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing a small part of this area and cannot wait to get to the southern region with epic coastal features. 

Road to Hana, Hawaii

A solo hiker hangs out under a waterfall on the road to hana, one of the best roads in the world.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

A lush, tropical journey through Maui’s eastern coast, this road is famed for its stunning waterfalls, ocean vistas, and the verdant Hana Rainforest.

Why it’s so epic: 

This is the slowest, windiest road I’ve ever driven, but it’s impressive. There are few other places you can park and find a waterfall to jump into on a whim. Then, the prize at the end is the black sand beach of Waiʻānapanapa State Park. Just remember this area requires reservations to visit. 

89A, Arizona/Utah

the gorgeous rocks above sedona
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Connecting the red rock scenery of Sedona to the towering cliffs of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, this route is known for its incredible landscapes and outdoor adventures. It’s probably not one of the best roads in the world, but it still offers some epic sights along the way!

Why it’s so epic: 

This stretch of land is far different than anything else on this list. It spans Sedona, Southern Utah, and actually goes all the way into the middle of Montana. While the road starts and stops in random places, it will take you through hidden gems and magnificent national parks. 

Going to the Sun Road, Montana

flowers and jagged peaks along the going to the sun road in montana
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Cutting through the Glacier National Park, this road is famed for its dramatic mountain scenery, glacial lakes, and the chance to spot local wildlife.

Why it’s so epic: 

It is truly one of the best roads in the world. It brings you from the forests of Glacier National Park into the alpine and amongst the peaks. For some 30 miles, Going to the Sun road offers better views than any state east of the Mississippi, and you haven’t even left the car yet. 

Once you reach Logan Pass, hop out and start exploring the epic hiking trails in the area. 

Mount Lemmon Highway, Arizona

Sunset views from mt lemmon in arizona
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Starting from the desert floor and winding up to the cool forests of Mount Lemmon, this scenic byway offers dramatic changes in vegetation and temperature.

Why it’s so epic: 

The road isn’t what makes it cool – though cyclists love it and ride up and down each day. I love it because it transports you from a desert to an alpine terrain in 40 minutes. You can be tanning at the Tucson swimming pool and playing in the snow on Mt. Lemmon on the same day! 

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park Virginia
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Running the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park, this drive is beloved for its stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its colorful fall foliage.

Why it’s so epic: 

It cuts through the National Park and offers fantastic views on both sides of the road. Additionally, there’s a ton of good hiking, including portions of the Appalachian Trail, to tackle when you’re in the area.

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside