As summer approaches, thoughts turn to vacations and beautiful open roads. There are many opportunities to combine a relaxing vacation with a scenic road trip. Three popular vacation destinations offer just such car opportunities.
Independence Pass, Colorado Rockies
Whether you are looking for a summer vacation or a winter ski getaway, Colorado has something for everyone. Lush green in the summer and a fabulous white wonderland in the winter, there are over 2 dozen nationally designated Scenic & Historic Byways to enjoy. A favorite is the drive from Denver to Aspen. Driving up to Twin Lakes and over Independence Pass, you will reach elevations of 12,095 ft and see amazing views at the top of the pass.
Twin Lakes alone is worth the trip. The area started as a mining camp and you can still see plenty of old mining ruins. It’s a beautiful area with a rich history. Although Independence Pass is closed during the winter (it closes with the first snow as early as September, and re-opens sometimes as late as May), the trip to Twin Lakes is magnificent. There you will find skiing (cross-country and downhill), snowshoeing, ice-skating, hiking, biking, boating, and more depending on the season.
When the pass is open, you can drive up a narrow single-lane road with switchbacks galore. You will climb above tree line where the views are panoramic and spectacular. As Hwy 82 continues over the pass, the views are breathtaking and wildlife abounds. You may see elk, wild mountain sheep, and even a black bear or two.
Red Rock Scenic Byway, Arizona
Although only 7.5 miles long, Red Rock Scenic Byway is a spectacular drive that winds through some of the high desert’s most awe-inspiring terrain. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.
Located in central Arizona about 110 miles north of Phoenix and 40 miles south of Flagstaff, it is just a few hours south of the Grand Canyon. The byway provides a feast for the eyes as it winds through hills and washes covered in yucca, juniper, cacti, and piñon pines as well as through the extraordinary, prehistoric Red Rocks. Also known as Route 179, it starts in Sedona and runs south, ending at Interstate 17 near Rimrock.
While the drive itself can be completed in 20 minutes, take a day or two to enjoy hiking, golf, biking, and more. There are clearly marked trailheads and off-road bike paths along the way. Spend some time exploring the red rock formations which seem to change shape and color as you view them from different angles and in different light. Most of the drive cuts through the diverse Coconino National Forest where you can view a diversity of wildlife including elk, deer, hawks, eagles, coyotes, and more.
A-1-A Scenic Byway, Florida
Running from Ponte Vedra Beach to the north and Daytona Beach to the south, with cozy Flagler Beach and historic St. Augustine in between, this byway is a vacation destination unto itself. Located on the northeast coast of Florida, this National Scenic Byway is actually three individual state scenic highways: Scenic and Historic A1A, A1A River and Sea Trail, and A1A Ocean Shore.
A great beginning point is Ponte Vedra Beach, at the northern end. Ponte Vedra Beach is a beautiful location with wonderful beaches, world-class resorts, and private retreats where the stresses of life are washed out to sea. Then, drive south about 30 miles to St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest continuously-occupied city. Enjoy this historic, coastal town with quaint cafés, stores, museums, art galleries, and parks.
Continuing south, the traveler is treated to miles of pristine coastline, large ocean sand dunes full of native wildflowers, and sea oats. With miles of white sand and coquina beaches, you will have plenty of spots to take a dip or just lay on the beach. You can charter a fishing boat or just swing your feet over the pier while fishing from land. Boardwalks and trails offer opportunities to explore the areas without damaging the habitat. Likewise, kayaking tours are available on the Intracoastal Waterway for an intimate look at the aquatic ecosystem.
While road trip destinations abound, there are few that “have it all.” Next time you are looking for a chance to get out on the open road during a vacation, consider the natural beauty of these scenic byways. For these locations, the drive is half the fun.
Photo credit: Maroon-Bells Lake by Homer Edward Price/flickr
Author Sandy Landsford is an accountant and blogs for carinsurance.org.uk, a site where you can get cheap car insurance. Get a quote today!