Multnomah falls and bridge in Oregon State, USA
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50 Picturesque Road Trips for Safer Travel During the Pandemic

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Multnomah falls and bridge in Oregon State, USA
KingWu/istockphoto

The Road Ahead

As summer draws nearer, cooped-up Americans across the country are looking to pull the escape hatch and leave their quarantine behind. But while travel may be limited for the foreseeable future, one of the safest options for breaking pandemic-induced cabin fever — while still social distancing — is a quick stop-free road trip into nature. So gas up the car, pack a lunch, and be home by dinner with these picturesque day trips around America.

Related: 50 Most Beautiful Highway Drives in America

Paradise Valley
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Paradise Valley Scenic Loop | Montana

This classic 62-mile Montana drive outside Bozeman combines panoramic "A River Runs Through It"-style scenery with cool historic small towns to explore along the way, including Livingston. Flanked by mountains while following the path of the glorious Yellowstone River under a wide-open Montana sky, you'll never want this drive to end.

Related: Tiny Travelogue: 50 Small Towns to Visit Across the U.S.

Mount Mitchell
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Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway | North Carolina

This gorgeous 52-mile mountain drive outside Asheville, North Carolina, takes travelers along the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway (one of America's most iconic drives) as it winds its way up toward the highest point east of the Mississippi River at Mount Mitchell State Park. Cresting the Continental Divide with plenty of wide-open vistas, the drive takes roughly 1.5 hours.

Monument Valley, Arizona
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Monument Valley Drive | Arizona and Utah

There is perhaps no more iconic image of the American West than Monument Valley. Perched along U.S. Route 163 on the Arizona/Utah border, the classic red sandstone buttes have made appearances in films from "The Lone Ranger" to "Forrest Gump." The 17-mile Valley Drive is the perfect way to take in this bucket-list-worthy landscape within the Navajo Nation.

Related: 30 Stunning Photos of Iconic Landscapes in the American West

Cascade Mountains
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Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Drive | Oregon

Oregon's southern Cascade Mountains are the stars of this spirited 172-mile route through Umpqua National Forest. Instead of taking Interstate 5 between the towns of Gold Hill and Rosenberg, this route follows the natural flow of Oregon's fabled Rogue and Umpqua rivers as travelers pass an array of waterfalls, gorges, and rushing water that seems little altered by the course of history.

Overseas Highway, Florida
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Overseas Highway | Florida

If you've always wondered what it might be like to drive your car on the ocean, Florida's Overseas Highway has the closest thing to your answer. This one-of-a-kind highway traverses 113 miles over open ocean between Miami and Key West. Stop off to explore some of the lesser-known keys along the way and, however much you might be tempted, try not to dive out your window into the ocean like a dolphin.

Maine
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Maine Lighthouse Drive | Maine

Few states are better suited for scenic drives than Maine; pretty much any trip can be considered picturesque. But no image is more iconic than the Maine lighthouse perched along the coast overlooking the ocean. Experience several of these majestic wonders along this 308-mile road trip extending almost the entire coast of Maine from Kittery to Bar Harbor, with plenty of fun surprises along the way.

Related: 18 Spectacular Lighthouses to See Across America

ponderosa pine byway
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Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway | Idaho

This 130-mile drive from Boise makes its way through Boise National Forest across mountains and rivers en route to the endlessly charming small town of Stanley, where you can have "your own private Idaho" moment amid the vast open spaces. Be sure to check out the funky historic town of Idaho City along the way.

Rocky Mountain National Park Bull Moose
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Peak to Peak Highway | Colorado

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park planned to start its phased reopening May 27, so it may be packed — as much as allowed — with pent-up demand. Scenic drive seekers will still find plenty of stunning mountain vistas to enjoy along the Peak to Peak Highway from Boulder to the national park's gateway town of Estes Park. A more laid-back alternative to the more heavily trafficked Highway 36, the winding mountain road passes through a stunning photo-op church called Chapel on the Rock.

Related: Stunning Photos of Every National Park in America

Seward Highway, Alaska
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Seward Highway | Alaska

The world-renowned Seward Highway, long considered one of the best drives in America, starts just south of Anchorage and extends for two hours south toward the charming seaside town of Seward. Pull over along the way to marvel at towering mountain peaks with gorgeous coastal views dotted throughout the beauty-packed Kenai Peninsula.

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
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Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway | New Mexico

Starting and ending in the already picturesque artist community of Taos, New Mexico, this 84-mile loop circles the 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, the tallest peak in the state. You'll also pass a diverse terrain of historic small towns, alpine lakes, and ski resorts in this cinematic oasis that also served as locations for works such as "Easy Rider" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Related: 50 Iconic Movie Locations You Have to Visit

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
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Green Mountain Byway | Vermont

While it is best known as a popular leaf peeping corridor in the fall, this classic Vermont road trip is nothing short of remarkable any time of year. Traveling between the alarmingly cute towns of Stowe and Waterbury while surrounded by mountains, the roadway combines rural features and farmsteads with jaw-dropping views of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak.

Related: 17 Places to See Spectacular Fall Foliage

Edsito Island
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Edisto Island National Scenic Byway | South Carolina

This wholly unique 17-mile scenic byway about an hour south of Charleston offers a glimpse into history as you pass through classic South Carolina Lowcountry terrain en route to Edisto Beach State Park. You'll discover historic churches, wild salt marshes, laid-back beaches, and — if you're lucky — get an exterior shot of the Instagram-crushing Flowers Seafood Co. draped under Spanish moss.

 Capitol Reef National park, Utah
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Red Rock Scenic Byway | Arizona

This show-stopping 15-mile stretch of highway south of Sedona, Arizona, offers a mind-blowing representation of the classic American West blended with a palpable spiritual energy that has brought soul seekers to the area throughout history. Appeal to a higher authority as you gaze at the rugged rock formations that surround this epic road trip.

Multnomah Falls
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Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway | Oregon

As America's first scenic highway and a National Historic Landmark known as the "King of Roads," this fabled 70-mile Oregon route follows the path of the Columbia River from Portland to the delightful town of Hood River. Waterfalls abound on this marvelous stretch of roadway cutting through Mount Hood National Forest, including the oft-photographed 620-foot Multnomah Falls.

Related: Beyond Niagara: Where to Find Waterfalls in All 50 States

Chicago
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Lake Shore Drive | Chicago

One upside of the pandemic? A helluva lot less traffic. So while traveling down Lake Shore Drive might not be the most relaxing recreational activity during a typical workweek in Chicago, times have certainly changed. The world-famous 16-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 41 in downtown Chicago extends along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, passing both laid-back beaches and towering city skyscrapers.

Hawaii: Hana Highway
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Hana Highway | Hawaii

Extending 65 miles along the eastern shore of Maui, Hawaii's most famous scenic drive is an otherworldly feast for the senses overflowing with lush tropical forest, multicolored sand beaches, and ocean views extending all the way to Alaska. Passing over a whopping 59 bridges with approximately 620 curves, this highlight-reel trip takes approximately 2.5 hours.

Related: 20 Heart-Stopping Roads to Drive Around the World

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
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Texas State Highway 207 | Texas

One of the most underrated natural landscapes in all of America, Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle can be best experienced along a deserted 48-mile stretch of Texas State Highway 207 between Silverton and Claude. Marvel at views of this classic red-hued American West landscape along the border of Palo Duro Canyon State Park and picture yourself in a John Wayne flick.

Cape Meares State Park
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Trees to Seas Scenic Byway | Oregon

Connecting Oregon's Tualatin Valley outside Portland with the Pacific Ocean, this scenic drive through Tillamook National Forest gives pretty much all of it away in its name. The 68-mile byway passes rushing rivers, serene forests, and Oregon wine country before dropping you off to gaze into the ocean from Cape Meares State Park.

Related: Not Just Napa: 30 American Wineries With Good, Cheap Wine

Goats on a Field
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Enduring Farmlands Scenic Byway | Georgia

This road trip offers a peaceful cruise through charming pastoral landscapes around several historic communities in central Georgia, about 50 miles south of Macon. Travelers can get out of the city to explore scenic farmlands, historic architecture, and Civil War sites along a family-friendly 65-mile route.

Related: The 40 Best Places in America to Travel Back in Time

Pikes Peak Highway
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Pikes Peak Highway | Colorado

Perhaps the most famous of Colorado's seemingly endless assortment of A-plus road trip options, this iconic 19-mile toll road takes you to the top of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet — making it one of the few "fourteeners" (mountains over 14,000 feet) that travelers can summit by car. Stop along the way to hike, fish, and observe wildlife such as bighorn sheep along the two- to three-hour drive near Colorado Springs.

Pacific Coast Highway, California
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Pacific Coast Highway | California

While it would take more than a day to properly travel the length of California's iconic 656-mile oceanfront highway, those looking for a brief respite from quarantine can split the drive into more manageable chunks. Travelers from San Francisco can get up early for the three-hour drive to the legendary cliffside community of Big Sur, where you can see a waterfall flowing into the ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, among other natural wonders.

Related: 55 Surprising Facts About America's Beaches

Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan
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M-22 | Michigan

This highly underrated road trip gem explores 116 miles of Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula (otherwise known as the pinky of the famously mitten-shaped state). Hugging the pristine coast of Lake Michigan, the road passes charming small towns such as Traverse City and the wonderful national treasure that is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Manchester-by-the-Sea
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Essex Coastal Scenic Byway | Massachusetts

This 90-mile route encompasses some of the Massachusetts coast's finest vistas, linking 14 coastal communities along Boston's North Shore from Lynn to Salisbury. From historic communities such as Salem to the beaches of Manchester-by-the-Sea, you'll cruise through a diversity of parks, beaches, and historic sights as you gaze out into the endless blue of the Atlantic Ocean.

Related: 30 Great American Road Trips Through History

Empty asphalt road at sunset
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Country Music Highway | Kentucky

You'll want to crank up the radio full-blast for a music-fueled meander through the Country Music Highway in eastern Kentucky, an area that has reportedly produced more country stars than any U.S. region per capita — Chris Stapleton, Loretta Lynn, and Billy Ray Cyrus among them. The 144-mile drive along U.S. Route 23 passes through seven counties that make up Kentucky's scenic Appalachian region.

Black Hills, South Dakota
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Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway | South Dakota

One of the country's finest scenic byways is this 70-mile excursion through the iconic Black Hills of western South Dakota. Keep your eyes peeled for the plentiful wildlife popping up amid the region's jagged rock formations as you make your way through Custer State Park, the Black Elk National Wilderness Area, and Norbeck Wildlife Preserve.

Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado
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Million Dollar Highway | Colorado

This world-famous stretch of the San Juan Skyway in southwest Colorado near Telluride isn't so named because you need a million dollars to drive it. Instead, the road takes its name from its million-dollar views. This jaw-dropping 25-mile stretch of U.S. 550 between the delightful mountain towns of Ouray and Silverton will have you pining for a bygone era … while holding on for dear life at the highway's hairpin turns.

Related: 12 Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Napa Valley
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Napa Valley Silverado Trail | California

Wine lovers can experience this 29-mile drive from Napa along the eastern edge of Napa Valley, where rolling hills, historic vineyards, and quaint small towns fill the landscape. A more laid-back alternative to the more heavily trafficked State Highway 29, the two-lane highway offers plenty of options to stop along the way and just bask in the California sun.

Coeur d'Alene, ID
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Lake Coeur d'Alene Scenic Byway | Idaho

One of America's most gorgeous lakes makes the ideal setting to begin this road trip, which extends 36 miles along the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho. You will see rolling hills, pristine national forest and, if you're lucky, even spot migrating bald eagles that have been known to frequent the area. Be sure to stop and collect your thoughts at Beauty Bay Viewpoint.

Alabama Gulf Coast Drive
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Alabama Gulf Coast Drive | Alabama

Alabama's beaches are clearly not as popular as next-door Florida's. And in the age of the coronavirus, that's a good thing. This highly underrated 125-mile drive takes travelers from the town of Daphne outside Mobile down to the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach before cutting west along the Gulf of Mexico to Dauphin Island, also known as the "Sunset Capital of Alabama."

Related: Around the World in 20 Stunning Sunsets

Bighorn Scenic Byway
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Bighorn Scenic Byway | Wyoming

This 58-mile highway in northern Wyoming is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. (Its closest town of Billings, Montana, is two hours away.) But then again, that's key to its charms. Passing over the rugged Big Horn Mountains through canyons, forests, and meadows, travelers won't have any problems social distancing around these parts.

Great River Road, Iowa
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Great River Road | Multiple States

While no human can travel the length of the 2,069-mile Great River Road from Minnesota to Louisiana in a day, road trippers can split this epic journey along the path of the Mississippi River into segments. One of the finest stretches of road can be found along the western Illinois border near the historic town of Galena, easily one of America's most charming historic small towns. From there, the road hugs the Mississippi River for another 95 bluff-lined miles south to Moline.

Cape cod Road
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Old King's Highway | Massachusetts

This historic highway traversing the northern edge of Cape Cod is a road fit for kings. Also known as Massachusetts Route 6A, the roughly 62-mile highway from the town of Sandwich to the tip of Cape Cod at Provincetown is a quieter alternative to the more popular Route 28 on the southern edge of the Cape. Check out historic structures, breathe some fresh sea air, and, best of all, get out of the house.

Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway
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Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway | Arkansas

This 35-mile route cuts through the heart of Ozark National Forest, letting travelers enjoy sweeping views of the placid Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas while heading north from Clarksville. The road passes world-class trout streams as well as the 156-mile Ozark Highland Trail, providing ample opportunities for drivers to get in some quick fishing or hiking.

Related: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States

Lake Tahoe
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Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive | California and Nevada

While Lake Tahoe is most known for its ski slopes, one of the best ways to get a bird's eye view of its natural beauty is via the 68-mile Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive. Looping around the California and Nevada sides of the lake, you'll never get tired of sticking your head out the window to get a closer look at the deep blue shimmer against serene alpine trees and snow-capped mountains.

Chuckanut Drive
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Chuckanut Drive | Washington

Sometimes referred to as "Washington's Big Sur," this short but sweet 24-mile winding roadway in northwest Washington near the town of Bellingham passes through Larrabee State Park with exciting views extending over the Bellingham Bay toward Washington's San Juan Islands. You'll also pass historic sights such as Woodstock Farm and the quaint small town of Samish.

Superstition Mountains, Arizona
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Apache Trail Scenic Drive | Arizona

This epic 45-mile drive through the craggy mountains east of Phoenix offers one of the country's finest urban escapes for stressed-out pandemic news bingers. The road extends along Arizona State Road 88 as it winds its way through the gigantic Tonto National Forest, past the awe-inspiring Superstition Mountains (a photo-op must), before ending in glorious fashion overlooking Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
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Rim of the World Scenic Byway | California

This confidently named 110-mile scenic byway showcases Southern California's Inland Empire in style. Hugging the cliffs of the San Bernardino Mountains, this glorious roadway offers breathtaking vistas of the high-alpine Silverwood Lake as you make your way to the friendly ski town of Big Bear, where you can escape the car and stretch your legs hiking the panoramic Castle Rock Trail.

Allegheny Mountains, WV
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Bucktail Scenic Byway | Pennsylvania

Explore northern Pennsylvania's spectacular Allegheny Mountains via this picturesque 100-mile ramble through the Sproul and Elk state forests along Pennsylvania Route 120. Reconnect with nature via awe-inspiring vistas of the West Branch Susquehanna River surrounded by forest while passing through quaint towns such as Lock Haven and Ridgeway.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
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Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway | North Carolina

Some of North Carolina's most remote landscapes can be discovered in this off-the-beaten-path ramble through the Blue Ridge Mountains around Pisgah National Forest, one of the oldest and most beautiful national forests in the eastern U.S. Enjoy sweeping views of Lake James and Table Rock Mountain — spectacular scenery abounds around every turn of this 47-mile nature cruise.

Beartooth National Scenic Byway, Montana
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Beartooth Highway | Montana and Wyoming

Declared "the most beautiful drive in America" by former CBS News correspondent and fabled road trip enthusiast Charles Kuralt, this 68-mile All-American Road is one of the highest in the continental United States, passing through 20 peaks higher than 12,000 feet. Amid a million-plus acre wilderness that encompasses three national forests and borders Yellowstone National Park, this jaw-dropping road trip through parts of Montana and Wyoming is just what the doctor ordered after weeks of quarantine.

Talladega National Forest
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Talladega Scenic Drive | Alabama

Cruise the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 feet on this laid-back meander along the ridge of the Talladega Mountains just outside the town of Oxford. The route extends for 26 miles along Alabama State Road 281 through the Talladega National Forest en route to Mount Chena State Park, with glorious views of the forested terrain framed by gently sloping mountains.

Alaska Highway, Yukon
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Haines Highway | Alaska

If you really want to go off the grid for some serious social distancing, you can't do much better than Alaska's remote Haines Highway. Starting in the breathtakingly scenic small town of Haines about 90 miles north of Juneau, the 148-mile highway is surrounded by eye-popping mountain vistas as well as an array of wildlife — including plentiful bald eagle sightings.

Colorado Route 92
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Kebler Pass | Colorado

Open in the summer months from roughly May through October, this show-stopping scenic drive carves an unforgettable mountain-lined path through the West Elk Mountains of Gunnison National Forest in southwest Colorado near Crested Butte. Cutting through one of the largest aspen groves in the United States, this route along Gunnison County Road 12 is legendary for its color-packed fall foliage but makes for a remarkably soul-cleansing experience any time of year you can take it.

Related: 23 Scenic Roads You Can Drive Only Around the Summer

Mississippi Delta Great River Road, Mississippi
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Crowley's Ridge National Scenic Byway | Arkansas

Explore America's largest alluvial plain on this 212-mile route that navigates the border area between southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. The popular motorcycle route passes through seven state parks as well as the St. Francis National Forest and the mighty Mississippi River, with plenty of historic sights and Civil War battlefields along the way.

Related: 16 Epic Motorcycle Rides Across America

Rangely lakes
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Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway | Maine

Deep into the woods about 75 miles northwest of Maine's capital city, Augusta, this 52-mile auto excursion feeds hungry nature seekers a full plate of picture-perfect lake and mountain vistas. Scale the Appalachian Mountains as you ascend north from the town of Rumford to take in awe-inspiring views of the moose-dotted alpine environment surrounding Rangeley Lake State Park.

Related: The Best State Park in Every State

Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway
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Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway | New Mexico

This easy 50-mile day trip along New Mexico State Road 14 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe takes visitors through historic mining towns such as Cerrillos (where the movie "Young Guns" was filmed) as it explores the rugged Old West terrain surrounding the 10,679-foot Sandia Peak paired with panoramic views along the Sandia Crest.

Payette River
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Payette River Scenic Byway | Idaho

Explore the full suite of nature surrounding Idaho's capital city of Boise via this 111-mile windows-down cruise heading north on Idaho State Highway 55 toward the charming resort town of McCall. You'll pass three state parks and two national forests along the way, but be sure to save some time soaking in the scenery at the almost incomprehensibly gorgeous Payette Lake.

Chinook Scenic Byway
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Chinook Scenic Byway | Washington

Billed "Washington's most scenic byway," this 92-mile route from the town of Enumclaw an hour outside Seattle to the town of Nachez along State Route 410 is most well known for its mind-blowing vistas of Mount Rainier as it makes its way through the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee National Forest lands bordering Mount Rainier National Park. In a word: Wow.

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia
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Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway | Georgia

Travelers seeking to experience the all-encompassing natural beauty of Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia are encouraged to point their GPS toward this 40-mile national byway. Scenic overlooks abound as you explore the mountains and valleys of the southern Appalachians, with optional pit stops for fishing in a local stream or hiking part of the Appalachian Trail.

Related: 20 Amazing Hikes in the U.S

lake superior
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Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway | Minnesota

Those looking to unplug from society completely can make their way to the Minnesota Northwoods near the town of Grand Rapids, where they can hop on this 47-mile scenic sanctuary along Minnesota State Highway 38. The road passes an astounding 36 lakes as well as the heavily forested Chippewa National Forest, home to America's largest bald eagle population outside Alaska.