US National Parks Scenic Drives Bucket List

America’s National Parks are some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places on Earth. Exploring the US National Parks scenic drives is a terrific way to see all the stunning landscapes from the comfort of your car!

There are a variety of scenic routes through US National Parks for you to see and photograph the natural beauty of these locations!

15 us national parks scenic drives bucket list

From amazing mountain peaks to stunning waterfalls, scenic drives through US national parks provide an excellent opportunity to uncover hidden gems and soak in majestic landscapes along the way.

For those looking for a unique way to explore these incredible destinations, here are 10 of the best scenic drives in US national parks and surrounding areas.

Use our US National Park Packing List  to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting any time of year! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

National Parks packing list for spring summer fall and winter
This site contains affiliate links which means WE may receive commissions for purchases made through these links. We only provide links to products we actually use and/or wholeheartedly recommend! As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full Disclosure Policy.

US National Parks Tips

When planning your vacation, be sure to research the best National Parks to visit by month. You’ll want to know the weather, services, lodging, and activities available for the time you want to plan your trip.

Be sure to check the current weather and road conditions during your National Park trip before heading out on any scenic drive!

Many of the scenic drives in the parks require you pay a fee. We recommend getting the US National Park pass to get discounts on admission fees at hundreds of locations across the country!

It’s always good to carry road trip supplies while exploring the various roads through the parks as well as water and travel snacks!

US National Parks Scenic Drives Bucket List

Nothing compares to the breathtaking beauty of US National Parks. From coast-to-coast, there is no shortage of amazing routes for you to check off your bucket list.

You’ll enjoy stunning autumn foliage along many of these drives at US National Parks in the Fall!

Arches National Park scenic drive
Arches National Park scenic drive

Arches National Park Scenic Drive

The Arches National Park scenic drive is a must-do activity. It includes two spur roads and takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. You’ll add more time if you plan to stop and take photos or hike any of the trails along the route.

The 43 mile road is paved with pullouts and parking lots perfect for any Arches National Park photos. Some of the arches and landmarks can be seen from the parking lot, or by a short walk.

We highly recommend getting the Arches GuideAlong Audio Tour: use the suggested itineraries in the app tour plan, or divide the commentary to create your own half, full or multi day sightseeing trips. 

View along the Bryce Canyon scenic drive

Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive

The Bryce Canyon scenic drive is the best way to see the variety of hoodoos, arches and windows at the park.

Be sure to drive to the end of the road at Rainbow Point then work your way back to the amphitheater. This way all the overlooks are on the right so it’s easy to pull in and out of each parking lot.

People come from around the world to see the stunning Bryce Canyon views along the scenic drive and at all the amphitheater viewpoints.

Bryce Canyon GuideAlong App: “The app is very informative and well worth the minimal cost. The narration was educational and somewhat humorous at times – always engaging. We learned so much about each area that we could not have know just traveling around on our own.”

Cades Cove Smoky Mountains
Point of Interest along the Cades Cove Loop Road

Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cades Cove Loop meanders for 11 miles through the captivating landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It offers a picturesque drive surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and verdant, undulating greens.

The Cades Cove area saw its initial European settlement between 1818 and 1821, and today, it presents you with a remarkable array of historic buildings, showcasing an enormous variety within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

White-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, turkeys and other wildlife are frequently spotted in the open valley of Cades Cove. Remember to keep your distance when photographing wildlife!

Great Smoky Mountains GuideAlong app: “The commentary was useful, interesting, engaging, and informative. Everyone in our group ranging from adults to young teens really enjoyed the experience.”

scenic drive in Denali National Park
Scenic drive in Denali National Park

Denali Park Road in Denali National Park

When heading into the heart of Denali National Park, you will discover a place without any sign of human interference. The Denali Park Road contains some of the most fascinating gems in Alaska.

Before reaching the park, you will be awed by this scenic drive’s beauty. You will also witness North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley. While on the way, remember to bring your binoculars for impressive wildlife sightings like wolves, caribou, and grizzly bears!

view from North Cascades Highway
View from North Cascades Highway

North Cascades Highway in North Cascades National Park

Embark on a captivating journey across North Cascades by driving approximately 30 miles along the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20).

This scenic route unveils the breathtaking beauty of old-growth forests, cascading waterfalls, and majestic mountain vistas. Take your time to fully appreciate the wonders of this region, allowing at least an hour for the drive along this picturesque and winding road.

Points of interest along the North Cascades Highway: Visitor Center, Newhalem, Gorge Creek Falls, Diablo Lake Overlook, Happy Creek Forest Walk, Ross Lake Overlooks.

Park Loop Road in Acadia in the fall
Park Loop Road in the fall

Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park

The Park Loop Road serves as one of the primary road systems on Mount Desert Island, offering a distinct route exclusively for motor vehicles separate from local roads and non-motorized carriage roads. It was constructed over several decades between 1921 and 1958. This road provides convenient access to Acadia National Park.

Spanning 27 miles, the Park Loop Road is a renowned scenic drive that winds its way around the eastern side of Mount Desert Island, seamlessly connecting the park’s lakes, mountains, and picturesque shoreline.

For the full “tour” experience, start at Hulls Cove Visitor Center. The road heads south along Paradise Hill Road before beginning the “loop” section. Follow signs for the one-way section to Sand Beach.

With the Acadia GuideAlong app you don’t miss a thing and you’ll learn so much about the park!

rim drive at Crater Lake
Rim Drive at Crater Lake

Rim Drive in Crater Lake National Park 

Approximately 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama, located in Oregon, unleashed an explosive eruption that resulted in a remarkable and perfectly formed caldera. Over time, this caldera has transformed into the deepest lake in the United States, sustained primarily by snowfall and rainfall.

Embarking on a journey along the Rim Drive in Crater Lake National Park offers a captivating experience, providing breathtaking vistas of the Cascade Mountain Range, as well as volcanic features such as cinder cones, craters, and scenic trails. One of the highlights of this drive is the opportunity to behold the mesmerizing sight of the crystal-clear lake for which the area is renowned.

Check out the GuideAlong Oregon Coast app if you’ll be extending your trip!

View of Shenandoah National Park from Skyline Drive
View from Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park

Stretching for 105 miles along the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive is a National Parkway traversing the entire length of the park. It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the Park on a clear day.

This scenic drive predominantly follows the ridge of the mountains, offering panoramic views and an unforgettable journey through nature’s grandeur.

Skyline Drive is generally open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. If it’s closed due to inclement weather, you may still enter the Park on foot at one of the entrance stations.

You can enter Shenandoah with your vehicle at only four places along Skyline Drive:

  • Front Royal Entrance Station (mile 0) by Rt. 66 and 340 in Front Royal, Virginia.
  • Thornton Gap Entrance Station (mile 31.5) by Rt. 211 near Luray, Virginia.
  • Swift Run Gap Entrance Station (mile 65.5) by Rt. 33 near Elkton, Virginia.
  • Rockfish Gap Entrance Station (mile 104.6) by Rt. 64 and Rt. 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway).

You’ll want to download the Shenandoah GuideAlong app as you drive – It’s just like having a tour guide along for the ride. 

view from Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain National Park
View from Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Trail Ridge Road, often called Rocky Mountain National Park’s majestic “highway to the sky,” has been a source of awe and wonder since its inception.

Covering the 48 miles between Estes Park on the park’s east side and Grand Lake on the west, you’ll drive eleven miles of this scenic road above the treeline near 11,500!

It then winds to its high point at 12,183 feet elevation where you can see expansive views! The Rocky Mountain News aptly described it as a “scenic wonder road of the world.”

Definitely get the Rocky Mountain GuideAlong app to hear fun facts about the park as you drive!

Highway 9 at Zion National Park

Zion National Park Scenic Drives

There are FOUR Zion National Park scenic drives to explore the different areas of the park!

Zion Canyon – Most of the year, you’ll need to use the Zion National Park shuttle or ride a bike to access Zion Canyon. The shuttles are free. You can rent bikes in Springdale.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway – this road and Tunnel is a must-drive! The tunnel is 1.1 miles long and the elevation gain is 800 feet. Driving along Highway 9 from Zion Canyon to the east entrance is breathtaking! Take advantage of the pullouts to stop and take photos, or even take a hike.

Kolob Terrace – enjoy time away from the crowds here! This road is accessed west of Springdale in the town of Virgin. You’ll see a different side of Zion there.

Kolob Canyons – this five-mile drive is spectacular. It’s accessed 40 miles north of Zion Canyon.

Zion GuideAlong App: “The tour made it easy to go to all the must sees, gave advice and history of all the stops.”

More National Park Scenic Drives


national park guides and maps

Scenic Drives Near US National Parks

In addition to the scenic drives that take you through the National Parks, there are many other scenic routes near the parks! Here are a few Utah Scenic Drives we recommend near the Utah National Parks:

Grab this free printable list of scenic drives to add to your bucket list! Simply click the graphic below.

get the free national park scenic drives checklist

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *