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Friday, May 19, 2006

Top 10 scenic road trips

Life, Digital Camera

MSNBC has released it's picks for the 10 most scenic trips in the U.S.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway: Stretching some 469 miles along the Southern Appalachian Mountains and linking two eastern national parks -- Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and North Carolina/Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains -- the Blue Ridge Parkway has often been referred to as "America’s Favorite Drive."

  • Hana Highway: It’s no wonder the spirit of aloha 'aina (love of the land) is the bedrock of Hawaiian tradition. A drive on Maui’s beloved Hana Highway offers such an awe-inspiring display of natural beauty that you’ll soon revel in the same sentiment. This serpentine 55-mile trek starts off in Paia, famous for its surf-swept shores, and zigzags east along the coast, all the while embracing 600 hairpin curves, 56 one-lane bridges, and some of the island’s most spectacular sights.

  • Highway 1: California’s State Route 1 (aka Highway 1) skirts the Golden State’s glorious Pacific coastline from around San Luis Obispo northwest to the forests of Monterey. The magnificent vistas of ocean waves breaking on rocky sea-sculpted shores, windswept beaches dotted by frolicking otters or sea lions, and magnificent forests presiding above it all can rouse even the wariest of drivers behind the wheel.

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road: Windswept red-rock canyons, towering sandstone formations, pristine lakes, and pine-studded mountain ranges combine for an altogether over-the-top sensory experience in Southern Utah. The setting for several stunning national parks, Utah Highway 12, also known as Highway 12 Scenic Byway, is one of only 27 nationally designated All-American Roads -- the highest honor a road can get for attractive scenery.

  • Million Dollar Highway: This spectacular 52-mile drive is the best way to see the dramatic remnants and rugged path left by gargantuan glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Only open from early-June to mid-October (or, until first snowfall), Going-to-the-Sun Road, aptly named for its ever-escalating sky-high stretch with switchbacks up and over the magnificent Continental Divide, traverses Glacier National Park from West Glacier to St. Mary and covers untapped wilderness, rugged mountains, glistening lakes, deep river gorges, glacial canyons, and the long Garden Wall.

  • Red Rock Scenic Byway: Despite varying explanations as to the origin of its name (one claims it cost $1 million a mile to build in 1924; another says it contains $1 million in gold ore), there’s no disputing the fact that the 75-mile stretch of scenic highway known as Million Dollar Highway is a beautiful journey through the majestic mountain passes of western Colorado.

  • Seward Highway: If you're looking for a sublime experience and are a lover of the great outdoors, Mother Nature has blessed you with Sedona. Known for its massive, monolithic, red-rock formations that seemingly change shape and color with every passing ray of sunlight, Sedona's otherworldly scenery has long beckoned visitors to stand in awe of its grandeur.

  • Sonoma/Napa Valleys: The Seward Highway serves as the asphalt thread linking metropolitan Anchorage to Alaska’s agreeable little portside town of Seward on magnificent Resurrection Bay. Fittingly, for a road that connects such contrasting locales, the 127-mile stretch cuts through diverse landscapes -- from glistening glaciers to alpine meadows, and jagged peaks to majestic fjords.

  • US Route 1: There’s no better way to get a taste of Northern California’s pastoral wine country than by driving through the Sonoma and Napa valleys. A 132-mile-long drive starts in Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco, and follows three highways (Sonoma, St. Helena, and Redwood) through acres of sprawling vineyards, forested hills, oak woodlands, several state parks -- including beautiful Clear Lake State Park -- and a handful of historic sites.

  • Highway 12: Traversing some of the oldest roads in the country, US Route 1 takes you on a historic journey through New England, covering five states and encompassing coastal villages, state parks, and notable cities. We recommend starting in Connecticut and driving all the way up to the coast of Maine, following the highway up to Providence, where the city’s colonial history is displayed in numerous museums and historical sites.

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