Blue Ridge Parkway
Virginia is for drivers: Be sure to head down scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo: iStockphoto

Some vacations are about little more than plopping on the beach. Others are geared toward checking out the sights. Naturally, there’s inspiration at many a bend in the road, and many are close to home.

Topping the list of no brainers: Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park. It offers access to everything from the Upper, Midway and Lower geyser basins to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lake Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Fall. Hop on at junction of Yellowstone North Entrance Road and Grand Loop Road, and follow it to see Sheepeater Cliff, a prominent columnar basalt cliff, and Old Faithful Historic District. At South Entrance Road, it junctions and continues south to Grand Teton National Park.

Meanwhile, Virginia is a state known for its scenic vistas. Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest and best-known options, with endless opportunities for hiking, picnicking and taking in views. Keep your camera at the ready at Historic Mabry Mill, one of the country’s most photographed roadside attractions.  Or journey along 23-mile Colonial Parkway, which links Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, or George Washington Memorial Parkway, which skirts the southern bank of the Potomac River in the Washington, D.C.’s metro area.

Head to California and options abound, be it Death Valley’s 3.3 million acres if desert wildlife; the staggering San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway; or Lassen Volcanic National Park, which follows a dramatic track to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park.

When in Alaska, however, 3,500 miles of scenic coastal routes can be had along Marine Highway, along with opportunities to explore 33 indigenous communities. Of course, jaw-dropping scenery—not to mention access to Denali National Park and Preserve—can be had via panoramic George Parks Highway, and Seward Highway reveals jagged peaks, alpine meadows, postcard-worthy fjords and glass-like crystal lakes.

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