My favorite all-time drive is in Utah. Just past Torrey on Highway 24 is State Highway 12. Turn right on it to go from merely scenic to mostly awesome. This marvel of a road passes through the north end of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and skirts the south end of Bryce Canyon before ending at Federal Highway 89. Many writers try to put this driving experience into words and become frustrated. See why for yourself.
My 2nd favorite drive is in Alaska. State highway 8, also called The Denali Highway, takes lucky travelers from Paxson to The Park. When Ruth and I drove it several years ago, it was not paved. However, the surface was so well maintained that this made no difference. As far as I know, 24 miles of 8 is now concrete, but that leaves a lot of gravel to negotiate. Perhaps it had just been groomed when we drove it. It helped that, being a rainy Sunday, we were about the only people on this road for almost its entire length. We stayed overnight in the Tangle River Inn. It wasn’t the best accommodation we’ve ever experienced; but, considering where it was, it was definitely memorable. We stayed in a small cabin called The Dog House. I’ve always maintained that Alaska is an oversized landscape. There’s nothing like it in my travel experience. Driving The Denali Highway is like seeing already-too-big Alaska magnified.
Just a few weeks ago we drove Highway 60 from Show Low to Globe and judged it among the best. Over time, we’ve seen most of this federal highway that almost completely crosses Arizona for 369 miles, and this is the most scenic part of it. At first we planned to drive it at night but changed our minds and were glad we did. Most scenic routes have occasional viewing areas where travelers can pull off to admire the view, but this part of Highway 60 is continuous view. One time we pulled off the road to change drivers, and Ruth & I found ourselves overlooking a magnificent canyon that was not even listed as an attraction.
One of my favorite drives requires foresight. I’ve been lucky to drive it twice. Just south of Missoula, Montana, Highway 12 turns right at Lolo. You’re now on what will become curving road with no services for long stretches. Those who head west with half a tank might regret they didn’t fill up. Plan to spend most of a day driving 12 even though it looks doable in a few hours. This route follows the one taken by Lewis and Clark, which adds a romantic, historical dimension to the day.
We definitely have a panoramic and diverse country to explore.