Summer is soon coming to an end and I am busy thinking of ways to enjoy these long days. Okay, perhaps the middle of August is too early for summer nostalgia, but it’s still good to plan ahead and make the most of this season. Road trips across America have always been a dream of mine and one day I will fulfill it, but for now I am at the planning stage and I want to share my favorite picks with you. Here are 4 scenic roads that I would travel in a heartbeat.
Maine’s rocky coastline is just 228 miles, which could easily be traveled in a day or two. Yet if you have a few days on your hands and you wish to fully appreciate this state’s beauty, I would suggest paying a visit to some of its picturesque towns. If you are flying from out of state, the best place to start will be Portland. Portland is Maine’s largest city, but it counts less than 70,000 citizens and it summarizes what I love about the whole state – small towns full of history. Its most popular destination is the Old Port district which takes you back to the 19th century with its brick buildings, fishing docks and cobblestone streets. Other popular towns include Brunswick with its numerous historic districts, combining different architectural styles and Ben Harbor, which albeit small, once attracted affluent people such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr., J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and President William Taft. If you have time to go south of Portland, don’t forget to pay a visit to the beautiful Portland Head Light, Maine’s first lighthouse, dating back to 1791.
Historic Route 66
Route 66 played a very important part in U.S. History. Often called the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, Route 66 was originally a highway when it was finalized in November 1926. Back in the 1930s with the Great Depression looming high, it was the most popular route for migrating west, helping the economic recovery of the place it ran through. It spanned over 8 states or a total of 2,448 miles. Its decline started 30 years later when the Insterstate Highway Act was signed and the route officially lost its highway status in 1985. It is now off most major maps, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring its beauty. In fact, its charm was preserved precisely for the reason that it became a secondary road. With its numerous side-road cafes, gas stations and motels, all reminiscent of a long-gone era, Route 66 is perfect for the nostalgic traveler, wishing to get a taste of a truly authentic American experience.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is another iconic American drive that’s not only picturesque, but perfect for outdoorsy people who can do frequent stops and enjoy its numerous hiking trails, picnic spots and breathtaking mountaintop views. Connecting Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles, mostly along the Appalachian Blue Ridge mountain chain from which it gets its name. Even though it’s a popular destination, the road is never crowded and it doesn’t intersect major roads or interstate highways, so you can enjoy the view undisturbed. Yet Blue Ridge Parkway is hardly an isolated road. Numerous side roads spin off the main road and lead to local communities with unique history, such as those of Little Switzerland and Blowing Rock. If you need an escape from the summer heat, now is the best time to go. In fact, due to its mountainous terrain, portions of the road are closed in the wintertime.
Historic Columbia River Highway
Perhaps I should have just named this post 5 Historical Scenic Drives to Enjoy This Summer, as this one has a lot of historical value as well. Historic Columbia River Highway was not only the first planned scenic highway in the States, but also the Northwest’s first paved road. It spans 75 miles along Columbia River Gorge, making it a perfect location for a day trip or a family picnic. The initial idea behind the construction of the road was to mimic European scenic roads and to boost America’s growing automotive industry. And to top it off, it’s the last stretch of Lewis & Clark’s expedition. So much history in just 75 miles. But don’t be fooled by how short the road is – you could spend days here if you wanted to as the place offers wonderful opportunities for cycling, hiking, sailing, photography and other outdoors adventures.
If you are wondering which one of these four routes to pick for your next trip – don’t. You will not regret any of them. So hit the road and drive safely!