The Greatest American Highways You Need to Drive

Whether you’re in California or New Hampshire, some of the greatest roads in the world are in your backyard. Our diverse landscapes lend themselves to majestic sceneries. Driving is much more than traveling from point A to point B. It’s experiencing your surroundings in an immersive way that truly connects you to the people and places associated with the highway.  Whether you prefer ocean views or climbing volcanic summits, there are plenty of roads to suit your preference. However, if you don’t have time to explore them all, here are a few of the most breathtaking options. 

Route 66

route 66

Originally constructed in 1926, historic route 66 is an American treasure. Its 2,500 mile span took Americans across the country. Route 66 saw most of its use during the mass emigration from the Dust Bowl in the Midwest. As the interstate system began to more efficiently connect the country in the late 1950s, older highways became neglected and phased out. Now, only protected portions of route 66 remain, but they contain some of the greatest driving in the country.

route 66 mural

This route off the beaten path offers architecture from a bygone period. It’s the best way to go back in time. Check out the beautiful architecture of the County Courthouse in Illinois. There are murals painted on the sides of many older building that give a glimpse into the cultural background of this historic highway. You may also see murals of Elvis in a bar, classic American cars cruising down the highway, a milkman delivering his wares, or the route’s tagline “Get your kicks. Route 66”. The highest density of murals is found on the “1,ooo Miles of Murals” section from Pontiac, IL, to Tucumcari, NM.

You can still enjoy this national treasure on a drive from Illinois to California. Make sure to make a stop at the Grand Canyon and Cadillac Ranch in Texas. With a depth of 1,600 meters, the Grand Canyon is one of the deepest valleys in the world. Its stunning features draw thousands of tourists each year. Cadillac Ranch is a fun stop for everyone. You can add your artistic touch to dozens of vintage Cadillacs buried nose first in the ground. When the desert sun sets, consider a break at the Route 66 Drive-in Theater in Carthage, Missouri.

Technology has accelerated many aspects of our lives. From our daily commute to our communication, everything is done at breakneck speeds. Take a trip down the “Main Street of America” to catch a glimpse of America’s heyday. Just remember to keep pace with the historic setting and cruise down the highway. 

Pacific Coast Highway

pafic coast highway evening senory

From the greater Los Angeles area to the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Coast Highway artfully showcases the best of the California coast. With some sections named National Scenic Byways, the PCH’s breathtaking scenery will keep boredom at bay. Looking in one direction you’ll see blue waves breaking upon the rocky shore. The other direction will present imposing hills that stretch on for dozens of miles through windy roads. One of these most notable sections passes through Big Sur. Big Sur provides some of the most stunning hiking trails in the country. There are even several caves and waterfalls to explore. As you continue north of Big Sur, the vistas open up and the road meanders lazily along the coast.

Whether you love the ocean breezes or sandy beaches every few miles, there’s something for everyone on the PCH. If you have a convertible, don’t hesitate to drop the top and soak up the California sunshine.

Road to Hana

ariel view of road to hana

If you’re ever on the island of Maui in Hawaii, don’t pass up the opportunity to experience one of the oldest and most exotic roads in the country.

When King Pi’ilani began construction on the original Road to Hana in the 16th century, he never anticipated its worldwide recognition. The original lava rock pavement would be unfit for today’s vehicles and the vine ropes that locals used to cross East Maui’s streams would be a major inconvenience for tourists. The road was rebuilt from 1900 to 1926 to make it accessible to vehicles. It is now robust enough to accommodate adventurous tourists from all over the world.

This 64.5 mile route travels around the island and ends at the top of Mt. Haleakala. The 10,023 foot peak is just as windy as it is breathtakingly beautiful.  It should be noted that the Road to Hana is not as tame as the Pacific Coast highway and a 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Hawaii gets tropical rainfall levels which can produce muddy roads on some parts of the road.

The highway crosses 59 bridges and has over 600 turns. Most of these bridges run through lush vegetation. Plan at least 2.5 hours to make the journey due to the abundance of one lane sections and steep curves.

Overseas Highway

7-mile bridge wide view

Looking for a highway in a tropical climate without going overseas? Consider Florida! Route 1 from Key Largo to Key West is one of the most exotic highways in the world. The opaque water allows travelers to catch a glimpse of the local sea life and coral reefs. And once you reach the middle of the bridge, being miles from land in either direction is an invigorating experience in itself.  

Most of this highway is built parallel to what was once the Overseas Railroad. When the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 devastated the railroad, its parent company could not afford to rebuild. They sold the remaining segments to the state of Florida for a mere $640,000. The state of Florida rebuilt the bridge to make it accessible to vehicles and even used the original railroad tracks as guard rails which can be seen today.

            Refurbished in the 1950s, Route 1 travels along the largest area of coral reefs on the US mainland. Much of the majesty of the highway can be seen from the iconic 7-mile bridge. This bridge connects the middle keys to the lower keys and is surrounded by pristine turquoise waters.

Be Safe and Explore the Best of America

Driving these incredible highways gives you a sense of freedom, but you can only truly enjoy yourself with peace of mind. Take your mobile medical alert system from Alert1 and rest assured that we’ll send help if you need it, and for much cheaper than Life Alert costs. If you were to stumble and fall while looking at Waikani Falls at mile marker 19, the PAX would alert emergency services and get you immediate help. From the West Coast to the Midwest, there are plenty of historic and beautiful roads that will give you newfound appreciation for this country.