Top 6 scenic drives in North America for your next adventure

If you want to make the most of your Mitsubishi, take it for a drive on one of the finest roads in Canada or the United States. Here are half a dozen of the very best.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge is a twisting, undulating spine that runs diagonally for 766 kilometres across Virginia and North Carolina. It was built as a scenic road and is designated as a National Parkway, so there are no commercial trucks and anyone in a hurry is away on the interstate.

The two-lane highway stays up near the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, sometimes several thousand feet above the valleys to each side, and there are plenty of places to pull over and take in the beauty of the forested vistas. It’s the best to carry your own snacks or drinks, because there are no communities beside the road and only a handful of restaurants, all of them table-service.

The true pleasure, however, is the drive itself: gentle, well-posted curves beneath the trees on smooth tarmac with numerous passing points if needed, creating an unrushed journey away from the bustle of everywhere else

Scenic Byway 12

Scenic Byway 12 takes the high ground across south-central Utah to link to the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park with the cliffs of Capitol Reef National Park. Along the way, it passes the multi-coloured rock buttes of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, with hiking trailheads leading to the mountains and waterfall of the area.

The highway is classified as an All-American Road, and it can be snowed in during winter, especially at the 2,928-metre-high point of Boulder Mountain Pass. It’s often pleasantly cool in the summer when the lower areas of the state are too hot for comfort – there’s even a winding stretch called the Hog Back that runs along the very crest of the ridge, at 2,100 metres high, with sharp drops to each side and no guard rails. Not for the faint of heart!

Beartooth Highway

There’s no good reason for the Beartooth to exist, except that its construction gave paycheques to thousands of workers during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It’s an adventurous road that links Wyoming and Montana and is best driven from east to west; the tarmac climbs almost 2,000 metres in a 20-kilometre series of switchbacks to Beartooth Pass, then slides back down toward Yellowstone National Park.

During the climb, the landscape transitions from dense forest to alpine tundra, and the road passes countless mountain lakes in the Absaroka and Beartooth ranges. There are 20 peaks to be seen that are more than 4,000 metres high, with glaciers on their slopes. By the time you reach Cooke City, you’ll want a break at one of the many seasonal restaurants and coffee shops in town.

It can snow even in the summer at higher altitudes, and the road is closed in wintertime. When it reopens for the spring, the cleared snow to each side often creates a trench for the highway that reaches high above the roofs of cars and trucks.

Northern Gaspé

Many road-trippers know the Cabot Trail that circles Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, but the 800-kilometre highway around Quebec’s Gaspé peninsula is just as beautiful and just as dramatic, with a French accent.

Like the Cabot Trail, Highway 132 is best driven counterclockwise so you can stay closest to the water. The south shore is the most populated: the road is wider, with towns catering to vacationers who come for the comparatively warm and sandy beaches, and continues to the tourist destination of Percé Rock.

Beyond Percé, the highway twists and winds through the rocks to Gaspé, the largest town in the area, and then it seems to unflex and relax along the northern Gaspé shoreline as it returns to the more populated regions of Quebec. Along the way, it rises and falls with the hills beside the Gulf of St. Lawrence before finally dropping back down to the water. Small villages offer fine Quebec cuisine and handicrafts, but this is primarily a well-tended market road, built to service the fishing ports of the coast.

North of Superior

When the Trans-Canada Highway was planned in the 1950s, there was a debate about the best route to take through Ontario north of Lake Superior. A lumber supply route already existed deep in the forest, but politicians wanted to attract American road trippers, and they eventually agreed to a road that would hug the shoreline of the big lake. It was a challenge to construct: the area was so swampy that crews would build a road one day and return the next morning to find it swallowed up by the quagmire.

In the end, the highway from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay was completed in 1960, and it is designed to be enjoyed by drivers and tourists. It takes a long day to complete the 700 kilometres, with the most scenic stretches following the shoreline north to Wawa, and across from Marathon to Thunder Bay. It’s a trucking route, but many truckers cross the American border to take the faster interstate in the United States, so it’s not overrun with heavy vehicles.

The road is often high above the water, plunging through rock cuts to open up yet another forested, lakeside vista that reminds you why the area is one of the most beautiful on Earth.

Fraser Canyon

The Trans-Canada Highway travels along the Fraser River for 100 kilometres between Hope and Lytton, but the mostly commercial traffic is now on the faster Coquihalla Highway to the east that links Hope directly to Merritt and Kamloops. This leaves the Fraser route to those who prefer to enjoy the drive.

Before roads were built, the mountainous area was almost unnavigable. When explorer Simon Fraser first visited in 1808, local natives guided him through the deep and narrow Hells Gate section of the canyon on wooden planks suspended over the fierce water by ropes strung high above. It must have been terrifying.

These days, the road itself is relatively sedate, but it stays close to the canyon and the rushing water is never far away. It adds a sense of adventure to any drive through the Rocky Mountains, or just a day trip from Vancouver to make the most of your Mitsubishi.

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