There’s hardly anything as American as national parks. The concept of protected natural areas was invented in the United States in 1872, with the founding of Yellowstone National Park. It’s unquestionably one of the country’s best ever inventions.
Additionally, with scenic and historic roads such as Route 66 and California’s Highway 1, the U.S. is also one of the world’s best road trip countries. So, naturally, there’s nothing better than road tripping through America’s national parks. We’ve compiled the following list of the ten best roads in United States National Parks.
So, pick yourself a road and a park, rent a car and head out for the drive of a lifetime!
10 Best Roads in United States National Parks
10. The Racetrack, Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
Best known for its strange moving rocks, the Racetrack is a stunningly beautiful place set in a secluded valley flanked by the Last Chance and Cottonwood Ranges.
The drive to the Racetrack in Death Valley National Park is very remote and rather rough. Standard rental cars are not recommended. High-clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicles are a necessity when visiting this area. The road to the Racetrack is approximately 26 miles long, running through a desert landscape dotted with Joshua trees.
9. Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park, Maine
The best way to explore Acadia National Park in Maine is driving (or cycling) the superb Park Loop Road. This loop road starts at the visitor center and circles around the park, passing its main highlights on the way.
While it is possible to drive this scenic road in a few hours, it is strongly recommended to take your time. At least two days are suggested. Highlights on the Park Loop Drive are the summit of Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach, the Thunder Hole and picturesque Jordan Pond.
8. Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road runs from Estes Park to Grand Lake. It is 48 miles long, 11 miles of which are above the tree line (higher than 11,500 feet) and offer downright spectacular views.
It takes in everything from evergreen forests to tundra and alpine vegetation. This type of vegetation is normally found in Canada or Alaska. The area is home to mountain species such as bighorn sheep, marmots and ptarmigans, as well as around 200 species of small alpine flora.
7. Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
A 33-mile drive around Crater Lake, the namesake lake in Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, the Rim Drive offers road trippers epic lake views from every possible angle. The drive itself doesn’t take longer than two hours.
However, the whole trip can last a whole day when you include stops at overlooks and do some hiking. Because of its high altitude, the Rim Drive is generally closed from about mid-October to June.
6. Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park, California
Tioga Pass Road is unparalleled when it comes to visual stimuli. Running for 59 miles from Lee Vining to Olmstead Point in California’s Yosemite National Park, this seasonal drive is one of the absolute best roads in United States national parks.
During the drive, you’ll climb 3,200 feet to Tioga Pass, situated at a 9,945-foot altitude. The jaw-dropping views include the High Sierras and Tuolomne Meadows. Near the end at Olmstead Point, you’ll be able to catch a first view of Half Dome, arguably the park’s most famous landmark.
5. Teton Scenic Loop Drive, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
One of the most awe-inspiring national parks in the United States, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is home to the Teton Scenic Loop Drive, one of the most photogenic roads in United States national parks.
About 42 miles long, this epic loop road takes you through the heart of the park and past the iconic T.A. Moulton Barn. This is one of America’s most photographed barns. It’s exceptionally scenic, set in a field with the Teton Mountains in the background.
4. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
One of the most spectacular mountain roads in United States national parks, the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park offers breathtaking mountain views along its entire length.
It was one of the first roads running over mountain summits rather than around them. This fact alone should trigger your desire to go and see what the landscapes look like. This is one of America’s greatest mountain roads.
3. Kolob Terrace Road, Zion National Park, Utah
The Kolob Terrace Road is an off-the-beaten-path road in one of Zion National Park, one of Utah’s 5 National Parks. It offers some of the best backcountry scenery of any national park in the United States.
This wonderful road leads to remote spots such as South Guardian Angel and Das Boot, as well as to amazing hiking areas like Hoodoo City and the Subway.
2. Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Running for 50 gorgeous miles through both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway starts at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It ends in Kings Canyon National Park.
Along the way, you can enjoy some of the best mountain views in the Southwest. The road also passes by many hiking trails, waterfalls, rocky outcrops and, most notably, the Kaweah River’s whitewater canyon.
1. Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive is one of the top roads in United States national parks. It runs for 105 miles along the ridge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, featuring no fewer than 75 overlooks on the way.
This is one of the most popular and accessible national parks in the entire nation. Numerous hiking trails start off of Shenandoah Skyline Drive, incidentally the only road through Shenandoah National Park. Wildlife is abundant in this lush park and you’ll most likely spot a black bear and several deer during your visit.