Road Trip! Buckle up and cruise our scenic byways for exceptional beauty, wildlife and history. Here are five to consider:
1. The Beartooth Highway
Visitors who travel this extraordinary byway, experience the visual trifecta of Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park, home to the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains. The windy, cliff-hugging 68-mile stretch introduces road explorers to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto. It's also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. Stunningly beautiful, the All-American Road showcases wide, high alpine plateaus, painted with patches of ice blue glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife. Plan for many stops so the driver can take in the long views! Contact: http://beartoothhighway.com
2. Seward Highway, Alaska
The road that connects Anchorage to Seward is a 127-mile treasure trove of natural beauty, wildlife and stories of adventure, endurance and rugged ingenuity. Take a day or several to explore the region that has earned three-fold recognition as a Forest Service Scenic Byway, an Alaskan Scenic Byway and an All-American Road. The drive begins at the base of the Chugach Mountains, hugs the scenic shores of Turnagain Arm and winds through mining towns, national forests, and fishing villages as you imagine how explorers, fur traders and gold prospectors might have fared back in the day. Expect waterfalls, glaciers, eagles, moose and some good bear stories. Contact: www.Alaska.org.
3. Lighthouse Tour. Maine
Travel the 375 miles between Kittery and Calais, ME, visiting lighthouses along the way, and learn about the dangers that seafaring vessels and their crew endured along the craggy Northeastern coast. Hear tales of shipwrecks and ghosts and of the difficult and lonely life led by those who kept the lights burning brightly. Visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum, where artifacts and hands-on exhibits for children provide an enticing break. Contact: www.MaineLighthouseMuseum.com; www.VisitMaine.com.
4. Monument Valley, Ariz.
You’ve seen the skyline in the movies and on television commercials. Your entire family will marvel at the 250 million year old red rock formations, the magical light, the starry night and the Native American history that infuses the iconic landscape.
Take in the 17-mile scenic loop road on your own or hire a guide to delve deeper into the storied region and to access off-limit sites. Overnight at The View hotel for the best chance to capture the incomparable sunrise and sunset hues. Don't forget your cameras! Contact: http://navajonationparks.org; www.MonumentValleyView.com.
5. Skyline Drive. Va.
Meandering along the crest of the mountains through the woods and past spectacular vistas, Virginia's Skyline Drive begins in Front Royal and twists and turns southwest through Shenandoah National Park. Hike in the shade of oak trees along the Appalachian Trail, discover the stories from Shenandoah's past, or explore the wilderness at your leisure. Contact: www.nps.gov/shen.
(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com)
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