10 beautiful scenic drives through national parks

Going-to-the-Sun Road
A red car drives along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. EdwinM/Shutterstock
  • You can drive through US national parks, but some routes are more scenic than the rest.
  • Take Going-to-the-Sun Road through Montana’s Glacier National Park to see the wildlife.
  • Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, is the highest paved road in the US.
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Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park has a scenic landscape around every turn.
Tioga pass road in yosemite
Tioga Road. UniversalImagesGroup/Getty Images
Tioga Road is a tricky drive because it’s always a guess as to when it will open for the season. Every winter, snow piles itself on the high road, making it difficult to plow each spring. Sometimes the road opens in May and other years, it opens in late June. But when the road does open, you’ll get spectacular views of meadows, lakes, and peaks. 
Going-to-the-Sun Road is a great way to see the wildlife up close in Glacier National Park in Montana.
A car drives along Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana.
Going-to-the-Sun Road. Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images
At its highest point, Going-to-the-Sun Road is 6,646 feet (2,025.70m), and it will take you two hours to drive the entire 50 miles (80km) through the majestic Glacier National Park. Along the way, you can spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep. But the Jackson Glacier Overlook, which is just off the road, has the best views of a glacier. 
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming offers spectacular views of water and mountains.
The grand lake scenic drive
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive. DEA/S. AMANTINI/Getty Images
Jenny Lake Scenic Drive is a small road that will only take 15 to 30 minutes to drive through. The road follows the east shore of Jenny Lake, which was formed 12,000 years ago. Along the road, you’ll also be greeted by views of the mountains. 
Summit Road on Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park is the perfect place to watch the sunrise.
A coach drives along Summit Road on Cadillac Mountain.
Summit Road. John Greim/Getty Images
Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is 1,530 feet (466.34m), making it the highest peak on the North Atlantic coast. From October 7 through March 6, the mountain becomes especially popular because it is the first place to see the sunrise in the US. To get to the top, you have to take Summit Road, which is scenic in itself. Along the way, you can stop at several observation points to take in the national park. 
Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, is the highest paved road in the US.
Cars take the trail ridge road, rocky mountains
Trail Ridge Road. Andy Cross/Getty Images
Trail Ridge Road — also known as US 34 — is 12,183 feet above the ground, making it the highest paved road in the country. The 48-mile (77km)-long road gives spectacular views of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.
Kolob Canyons Road in Zion National Park, Utah, is a great way to see the crimson canyons.
An SUV drives along Kolob Canyons Road in Zion National Park.
Zion National Park. George Frey/Getty Images
Kolob Canyons Road is 5 miles long and will take you through some of the best landscapes of Zion National Park. The canyons in this area are known for their sweeping heights and 2,000-foot (609.60m) cliffs. The National Park Service says this road is a great place to find hiking trails and to have a multi-day trip into the canyons. 
Rim Drive in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, was designed to follow the shape of the landscape.
Rim Drive in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Rim Drive. Education Images / Getty
When driving down the 33-mile (53km) Rim Drive, you will pass lakes, forests, and meadows. The road was constructed to give drivers the best panoramic views possible. In fact, the National Park Service writes, “The contours of the road were designed to complement the natural landscape, and disappear from view as you look across the lake from any point.” 
Skyline Drive is the best way to experience all of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
The trees along Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
Skyline Drive. Karen Bleier/Getty Images
Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and takes you straight through the scenic landscapes of Shenandoah. Along the way, you can see Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, black bears, wild turkeys, azaleas, and goldenrod.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a narrow road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
A historic mill on the side of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. ehrlif/Shutterstock
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is so narrow that it only has enough space for cars — no trucks or trailers — to experience the scenic, 6-mile (10km) route. Along the road, you can stop to see several waterfalls, hiking trails, and historic buildings in the park. 
Geology Tour Road in Joshua Tree National Park, California, offers incredible views of an unusual landscape.
The road through Joshua Tree National Park in California.
Joshua Tree. Mario Tama/Getty Images
The Geology Tour Road is 18 miles (29km) long through Joshua Tree National Park. Along the way, you can stop at 16 designated areas that celebrate the unique, arid landscape of the desert, so it will take you about two hours to make a round trip, according to the National Park Service.