Whether you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life or want to enjoy some beautiful scenery, a scenic lake drive is the perfect solution. There are plenty of breathtaking lakeside drives across America, but we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the best. So pack your bags, hop in the car, and get ready for some stunning views!
The most scenic lake drives in the US
Here are some of the most scenic lake drives in the United States, where you can enjoy breathtaking views and great road trips.
Florida Keys Scenic Highway
The Florida Keys Scenic Highway offers stunning views of crystal clear water and breathtaking bridges that connect the islands. Moreover, it is an American Road with many attractions, such as John Pennekamp State Park, The Tiki Bar, Seven Mile Bridge, and Key West. It also provides an opportunity to experience USA road trips, with plenty of overnight stays along the way.
The 113-mile stretch of Overseas Highway carries US Route 1 through the Florida Keys to Key West. The most scenic portion is Seven Mile Bridge which connects Knight’s Key (part of Marathon City) in the Middle Keys with Little Duck Key (Lower Keys). It can feel unnerving driving over all that open water, but it provides stunning views all around, so don’t miss out on this opportunity!
Park Loop Road in Maine
Park Loop Road in Maine is scenic because it offers breathtaking national park views and its most famous visitor spots. It provides access to places such as Sieur de Monts Spring, Great Meadow Wetland, Sand Beach, Otter Point, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. Additionally, it is a prime location for bird watching with raptors and birds of prey, as well as woodpeckers, waterfowl, and songbirds.
The 27-mile route takes you along the rocky coast before continuing past Jordan Pond House towards other attractions such as Eagle Point overlook or Echo Lake trailhead. You can experience Park Loop Road all year round, but summer and fall are ideal due to better weather conditions for scenic driving.
Outer Banks Scenic Byway in North Carolina
The Outer Banks Scenic Byway in North Carolina is a must-see for travelers looking for a unique coastal experience. The 138-mile drive takes you through 21 towns, two ferries, and miles of beautiful coastline. Along the way, you can explore historical sites such as Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and numerous wildlife refuges and lighthouses. In addition to its natural beauty, the byway offers up plenty of opportunities to learn about local history and culture through encounters with the Ocracoke Brogue dialect and visits to historic sites like Fort Morgan on Dauphin Island.
The Outer Banks Scenic Byway spans from Highway 12 at the Bonner Bridge entrance all the way across Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Village, with stops at various beaches, lighthouses, wildlife refuges, and more along the way. The total drive time is roughly five hours, with two ferry rides totaling around three hours each (one free from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island).
San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway in Colorado
The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, ancient ruins, deserted mining towns, and national parks. It traverses 236 miles of terrain through 9 cities, leading you past some of the best scenery in America.
The Molas Pass, located near Durango, offers stunning views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains at an elevation of 10889 feet. The Million Dollar Highway & Red Mountain Pass can be found further north along US 550 between Silverton and Ouray. It features vibrant red colors from oxidized minerals within its rocky surface. Ouray is another popular destination on this stretch, known for its picturesque mountain views and natural hot springs within its box canyon setting at “Little Switzerland Of America.”
Badlands Scenic Byway in South Dakota
The Badlands Scenic Byway in South Dakota is a scenic drive due to its unique geology and breathtaking scenery. The byway winds through rugged rock pinnacles, buttes, and multi-colored spires formed from ancient clay deposits dating back over 50 million years. It also passes through native grasslands filled with wildlife such as pronghorn antelope, mule deer, prairie dogs, and buffalo. Additionally, the byway provides 16 designated scenic overlooks and eight hiking trails for visitors to explore further.
The byway stretches 39 miles along South Dakota Highway 240 from the Badlands Northeast Entrance near Cactus Flat to the Pinnacle Entrance near Wall. Visitors can plan their itinerary at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center before beginning their drive along this two-lane road that takes approximately one hour to complete fully end-to-end.
Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway in Maine
Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway offers spectacular views of the area’s natural beauty. Along the 27-mile route, you can see lakes, islands, waterfalls, gorges, peaks, and forests and visit charming towns like Rumford and Rangely. Additionally, this route passes through part of the Appalachian Trail, providing an opportunity to experience hiking without all the hard work.
The byway also provides access to popular visitor spots in Acadia National Park, including Sieur de Monts Spring Great Meadow Wetland Sand Beach, Otter Point Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. Be sure to keep an eye out for birds, as this area is known for its abundance of raptors and songbirds, among other species!
Scenic Byway 12 in Utah
Scenic Highway 12 in Utah is a must-see scenic drive for anyone visiting the area. It offers stunning views of diverse and rugged landscapes, from lunar-like canyons to dense forests and colorful red rock cliffs. The route also passes through two national parks – Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef – so travelers can experience more of the area’s natural beauty.
The 124-mile long drive starts off at US 89 near Panguitch in the west and ends at SR 24 near Torrey in the northeast corner of Utah. It winds through some of the most beautiful areas around Southern Utah, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and Escalante – home to some of America’s most stunning slot canyons – making it a must-see for anyone looking for an epic road trip experience!
Circle Scenic Byway in New Mexico
The Circle Scenic Byway offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty of the state’s deserts, mountains, forests, and ancient Indian pueblos. It winds through beautiful wildflower meadows and has art galleries scattered along the way.
The drive is 83 miles long and takes you around Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest mountain. Keep an eye out for quartz and feldspar rocks that dot this region – some are 2 billion years old! Begin your journey in Taos, and make sure to stop at Artesanos de Questa, an artisans’ co-op located along the way.
North Shore Scenic Drive in Minnesota
North Shore Scenic Drive in Minnesota offers breathtaking views of the serene wilderness along the shoreline of Lake Superior. It rivals some of the best ocean views with its 150 miles of rocky coastline and breathtaking cliffs and beaches bordered by the Sawtooth Mountains.
The drive begins in Duluth, Minnesota, and ends in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Small towns along the way offer cute restaurants and shops for when you want to stop and explore.
Tips for making the most of your road trip on a lake drive
Research the area ahead of time
Before setting out on any road trip, research ahead of time is always a good idea. This is especially true for a lake drive, where the scenery can be pretty varied, and there may be many things to see and do along the way.
When researching your route, try to find out as much as possible about the area ahead of time. This includes things like the best time of year to visit, what kind of weather you can expect, and what kinds of things there are to see and do.
Find a place to stay nearby.
When planning your lake drive road trip, be sure to find a place to stay nearby so you can fully enjoy the experience. Many beautiful, scenic lakeside hotels and resorts offer great views and amenities. Make sure to research the options in advance so you can book your stay well in advance.
Explore the local attractions
The first stop on your lake drive should be to explore the local attractions. Many lakes offer excellent fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities. You can also find scenic drives that take you through some of the most beautiful countrysides in the country. After all, you’ll want to have something to do when you’re not driving!
Take a bike ride or go for a run.
Taking a bike ride or running while on a lake drive can help make the most of your trip by allowing you to explore and experience the area more actively. It allows you to take in the beauty of the landscape, get some exercise and fresh air, and enjoy some downtime away from your car.
To take advantage of this opportunity, find a scenic spot along your lake drive where you can park your car and get out to explore on foot or bike. You may also want to plan ahead to access running trails or bike paths nearby if there aren’t any already available at your destination. Additionally, consider packing light workout gear such as resistance bands or weights if desired for added convenience during your trip!
Try a new activity
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy on a lake drive. If you’re looking for something new, consider renting a canoe or stand-up paddleboard. Canoeing is a great way to explore the shoreline and get up close and personal with nature. SUPing is a bit more challenging, but it’s a great workout, and you’ll enjoy stunning views from a different perspective.
Take time to enjoy the scenery.
Taking time to enjoy the scenery on a lake road trip can help make the experience more enjoyable. By slowing down and taking in the breathtaking views, you will be able to appreciate all of the natural beauty surrounding you. Stopping to take pictures or visiting scenic attractions like parks and historical sites can also help slow down your pace and allow you to take in all the beautiful surroundings. Additionally, taking time out from your road trip games every once in a while can help calm your heart rate after an exciting drive along winding roads or past stunning landscapes.
Plan ahead for weather changes
If you’re planning on taking a lake drive, be sure to plan ahead for weather changes. While the scenery can be breathtaking, the roads can also be treacherous in bad weather. Be sure to check the forecast before you head out, and pack a few extra blankets and snacks, just in case. And of course, don’t forget your camera to capture all the stunning views!
What should I pack for a lake drive?
Whether you’re planning a road trip to one of the most scenic lakes in the US or want to enjoy a beautiful drive, you should pack a few things. First, make sure you have a good map of the area. Second, pack snacks and drinks for the drive. Third, pack a picnic lunch or dinner at one of the scenic overlooks. Finally, don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning views!
What are the best times of year to take a lake drive?
There’s no wrong time to take a lake drive, but the best times are during the spring and fall. The weather is usually milder, so you can enjoy all the scenic views without having to worry about the heat or cold. The leaves also change color during these seasons, making for a beautiful drive.
How do I plan ahead for weather changes?
When planning your lake drive, be sure to take into account potential weather changes. Spring and fall can bring unpredictable weather, so it’s always a good idea to have a plan B in case you need to change your route. If you’re driving in winter, be sure to check the forecast and road conditions before you go. And no matter what time of year it is, always pack a first-aid kit and plenty of snacks and water in case of emergency.