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Lonely Planet Top 2023: 10 Best Scenic Drives in US National Parks

A journey to a national park is much more than simply a trip to a destination. It’s the adventure of discovering these tucked away areas of natural beauty that can be equally delightful, from the drives leading up to them and then exploring all around their boundaries.

Indeed, many of the United States’ national parks are best appreciated from the comfort and convenience of one’s own automobile.

This is not to discount the pleasure derived from stepping outside and taking in nature’s sights and smells; however, for an all-encompassing view of untouched wilderness and extraordinary wildlife, nothing can compare to these awe-inspiring drives.

Top tips to consider when planning a road trip to a national park:

1 – Before you set out on your journey to explore the national parks located in remote areas, it is important to ensure that your vehicle is fully prepared. Make sure that it has been serviced properly and has a full tank of gas so that you don’t encounter any unexpected breakdowns while travelling. Doing this will help to ensure that if something goes wrong, assistance can arrive as quickly as possible.

2 – Before you set off on your remote journey to the park, be sure to save all essential routing information including this story onto your phone so that you have access to it even if there is no cell service or WiFi available. Downloading these directions in advance will ensure an easy and stress-free trip!

3 – Pack snacks and water to ensure you are sufficiently prepared for your journey. You should always bring along all the food and supplies that you think you need, as depending on what is available out on the road could be uncertain. Bring a picnic basket with all of the essentials and make sure that everything you brought with you is taken back home when your trip has ended.

1 – Best scenic drive through Joshua Tree National Park: best for Seussian landscapes
The route: Park Boulevard, Drive from North (HWY 62) or South (I-10) entrances
Route length: 35 miles
Bucket list nature highlights: Cap Rock, Ryan Mountain and Skull Rock

2 – Best scenic drive through Yellowstone National Park: best for bison
The route: Lamar Valley Road, enter Northeastern gate
Route length: 29 miles
Wildlife bucket list: bison, elk, grizzly bear

3 – Best scenic drive through Acadia National Park: best for bird watching
The route: Park Loop Road, from Hulls Cover Visitor’s Center
Route length: 27 miles
Wildlife bucket list: peregrine falcon, bald eagle, snowy owl

4 – Best scenic drive through Haleakalā National Park: best for sunrises
The route: Haleakalā Highway, from Crater Road
Route length: 37 miles
Bucket list nature highlights: cinder cones, volcanic crater

5 – Best scenic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park: best for mountains
The route: Trail Ridge Road, start at Fall River Entrance
Route length: 48 miles
Wildlife bucket list: elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes

6 – Best scenic drive through Grand Tetons National park: best for mountains
The route: The Grand Teton loop drive from Moose Junction to Jackson
Route length: 42 miles
Wildlife bucket list: pronghorn sheep, bison, bald eagles

7 – Best scenic drive through Glacier National Park: best for glaciers
The route: Going-to-the-Sun Road, from West Glacier Entrance
Route length: 50 miles
Wildlife bucket list: bighorn sheep, mountain goats

8 – Best scenic drive through Great Smoky Mountains: best for fall foliage
The route: Newfound Gap Road from US 441
Route length: 30 miles
Wildlife bucket list: black bears, elk

9 – Best scenic drive through Arches National Park: best for natural architecture
The route: Arches Scenic Drive
Route length: 22 miles
Bucket list nature highlights: Balancing Rock, Windows Arch, Delicate Arch

10 – Best scenic drive through Crater Lake National Park: best for lake views
The route: Rim Drive from North Junction
Route length: 33 miles
Wildlife bucket list: mule deer, elk, black bear

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