Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. Time to get behind the wheel and drive! Back in March, the Historic Vehicle Association asked eNews readers to name some favorite driving roads in their area. Check out this “must drive” list of HVA member picks from across the country.
No surprise HVA members like roads with historic or pop-cultural significance. Ed Purinton of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., nominated U.S. Route 40 — a one-time, trans-America road that went all the way from New Jersey to Los Angeles but now stops in Nevada. Rick Werges of San Diego nominated the Pacific Coast Highway. Drive that stretch and it’ll change you, he said.
Other member picks could best be described as unsung and — outside their region — mostly unknown. Here, in no particular order, are 10 reader favorites from across the U.S.
The Road: SR 74, Ortega Highway
The Place: Southern California
Why This Road Rules: Connecting Riverside and Orange counties via the Cleveland National Forest, this twisting, two-lane highway winds through the mountains from beautiful San Juan Capistrano to the Lake Elsinore Valley. “Never a dull moment,” says San Clemente’s Jeff Roessler. “I have driven this road and seen everything from bright warm sunshine in San Juan, snow in the San Jacinto Mountains, to high winds out in the desert.”
(Image credit: Cheyenne Dixon)
The Road: U.S. Route 97 via Blewett Pass
The Place: Washington
Why This Road Rules: A sleepy, green mountain route passing through the evergreen, alpine forests of the northern Cascades. According to reader David Robert, the segment of US-97 from Ellensburg to Wenatchee is twisting and very scenic, especially where the road crosses Blewett Pass at an elevation of 4,102 feet.
(Image credit: www.takemytrip.com)
The Road: Highway 29, Yellowstone Trail
The Place: Wisconsin
Why This Road Rules: Running 3,719 miles from Massachusetts to Seattle, the Yellowstone Trail was the first transcontinental automobile highway through the northern tier states. Breathtaking woodland scenery is the reason Wisconsin reader Mark Mowbray gives props to the portion of Highway 29 (which roughly follows the old Yellowstone Trail route) between Chippewa Falls and Abbotsford.
(Image credit: Royalbroil)
The Road: Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Place: Montana
Why This Road Rules: Completed in 1932, the only road through the heart of Glacier National Park goes over the Continental Divide at over 6,500 feet and offers drivers arguably the best mountain scenery in America, according to reader Ken Beiser. Open after the snows melt (typically around late June), the Going-to-the-Sun road is a “don’t-look-down” kind of drive with wildflower meadows, frequent wildlife crossings and the sort of alpine scenery that offers plenty of reasons to stop the car.
The Road: U.S. Route 212, Beartooth Highway
The Place: Montana
Why This Road Rules: A breathtaking, high-mountain drive of zigzags and switchbacks that’s not for the faint of heart, the section of Highway 212 between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, rises to an elevation of 10,974 feet above sea level at Beartooth Pass. The highway traces the historical route of Civil War General Philip Sheridan over the Beartooth Mountains. A number of readers, including Gary Smith of Lewiston, N.J., agreed with the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt, who referred to the highway as "the most beautiful drive in America."
(Image credit: Phil Armitage)
The Road: M-119
The Place: Michigan
Why This Road Rules: “It’s the prettiest road in the Midwest,” says reader Jim VanDerZee, of Charlevoix, Mich., who especially loves the stretch of M-119 between Petoskey and Cross Village in the northwest, Lower Peninsula. “On a clear afternoon in summer, you’ll enjoy a heart-stopping blue sky, breathtaking bluffs and beaches along beautiful Lake Michigan, magnificent trees and some impressive homes.”
(Image credit: Bobak Ha'Eri)
The Road: U.S. Route 129, “The Dragon”
The Place: Tennessee, North Carolina
Why This Road Rules: Crossing Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, this 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 is said to have 318 curves. Some of The Dragon's sharpest curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Beginner's End, and Brake or Bust Bend. The Dragon is considered by many as one of the world's foremost motorcycling and sports car roads. The road is wooded, curvy, and definitely not for sightseers, according to Illinois reader John Oaks.
The Road: Route 100
The Place: Vermont
Why This Road Rules: Mountain curves and stunning country road scenery. Massachusetts reader Larry Nirenberg says, “When I first met my wife I had a '65 Corvette roadster and my favorite road was Route 100. It wove through the mountains and many of its curves were banked as if calling to me to put a little more foot into the gas pedal. A new love, a Corvette, and a winding country road through the beauty of Vermont — it doesn't get any better than that.”
The Road: Mount Washington Auto Road
The Place: New Hampshire
Why This Road Rules: Opened to the public in 1861, this super-steep, 7.6-mile toll road climbs from 1,547 feet at the bottom all the way up to the 6,145-foot summit of Mount Washington. The oldest auto race in the United States, the Mount Washington Hillclimb Auto Race, was hosted here in 1904. C.J., a reader from Traverse City, Mich., gives the road high marks because of the amazing views.
The Road: U.S. Route 7
The Place: Connecticut
Why This Road Rules: Running from Danbury to the Canadian border, Route 7 was first commissioned in 1927 and, according to reader Larry Fisher, is a road with classic New England charm. “It passes through quintessential New England towns and landscapes,” Fisher says, “while offering drivers lots of great detours, beautiful fly fishing spots, covered bridges and views of the Berkshires.”
(Image credit: Joe Mabel)