Take the road less traveled, or perhaps the long way home. When you’re riding in luxury, the journey there is always more fun. Cruising along, you see stunning landscapes you wouldn’t get the pleasure of exploring if you took more well-traveled routes. There’s also something to be said for opening up your engine to its capabilities and truly enjoying the responsiveness of the steering, the grip of your tires, and the roar of those horses galloping under your hood. To appreciate your best life and the luxury ride you drive, hit the road on these 5 scenic routes that your car will glide along like a dream.
1. Big Sur Coast
Head from Monterey to San Luis Obispo for 141 miles of towering mountains along the Pacific coast. It’s said to be the longest and most popular scenic route in California and won’t disappoint when you have an itch to meander through the winding mountain roads. Best in shared company, the Big Sur Coast drive is one that features landscapes so striking, you’ll be pulling off to appreciate it much more than your car would like. Fortunately, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés to refresh at while appreciating the views.
It’s very narrow with twists and turns along Hwy-1, and on weekends, a heap of patience is required as there will be many other drivers along for the ride. Check the road reports for mudslides and other dangerous factors before setting out too or you might find yourself rerouted. As it’s very remote, cell service can often disappear. If you’re planning on staying overnight, booking accommodations in advance, particularly during the summer when travel along this route is at its peak, is advised.
Discover the natural wonders, wildlife, and lighthouses along the way. Don’t miss a stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a truly charming and upscale coastal village, or Hearst Castle, a royal experience of history and resplendent décor.
2. Malibu Coastal
For a nice drive along the coast with stunning Californian beaches to your left, head north from Malibu to Lompoc on the Pacific Coast Highway for the Malibu Coastal drive. This 121-mile drive meanders along the California coastline.
One of the prettiest parts of this drive is a bit north between Malibu Canyon Road and Mugu Rock. It’s here you’ll be treated to beautiful scenery and luxurious hillside homes. Along the way, check out the state parks, or enjoy nature uninhibited by seeking out areas labeled ‘Beach Access’ to explore instead. Other notable attractions worth pulling over for are the Point Hueneme Lighthouse, a fine example of Art Deco architecture, and the wreckage from the La Janelle cruise ship just adjacent for a historically-fascinating pit-stop.
Lotusland is a more peaceful place to stop. With gorgeous botanical gardens that will rival the views of your drive here, you’ll want to revel in the harmonious vibe you’ll find here. It requires reservations though so be sure to set those in place before you hit the road.
3. Rim Of The World Scenic Byway
Aptly named for the spectacular views among the cliffs in the San Bernardino Mountains, the Rim of the World Scenic Byway is a 110-mile jaunt that takes you through mountains and lakes. Just go east from Los Angeles, San Diego, or anywhere in Orange County and you’ll be on your way to a beautiful adventure.
Any time of year is a perfect chance to hop in your car and take the scenic route, though snow tires are recommended during winter. Take your time and plan on a 4-hour journey that will lead you to some spectacular photo opportunities, at Silverwood Lake Overlook for example, which you’ll find off State Highway 138.
Lake Arrowhead is another stunning stop you’ll find if you detour on State Route 173. You’ll find a beautiful mountain lake for hiking around or kayaking across, or stop in the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa and enjoy a little pampering before you get back on track. The Pacific Crest Trail is another spot for adventure, though if you’d prefer to relax, a steamboat ride aboard the Arrowhead Queen might be just what you need.
From State Route 18, make your way toward Big Bear Lake Village, filled with alpine scenes and mountain cottages. In the winter, skiing and snowboarding are great ways to explore while ziplining will give you thrills any time of year. Don’t miss Castle Rock Trail if you’re up for steep hikes amid Ponderosa pines. The pay off is an immaculate view of Big Bear Lake and the chance to see wildlife up close.
4. Red Rock Scenic Drive Las Vegas
While it’s just 13 miles in length, the Red Rock Scenic Drive in Las Vegas is one with plentiful scenic stops with trails to explore at every turn. It’s 20 minutes from Las Vegas, in the heart of the sandstone canyons and cliffs, just outside of Summerlin. This route will take you right through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and there’s a fee to enter this one-way road.
Once inside the park, you’ll find an outdoor exhibit that will bring you closer to the history, geology, and wildlife. Be ready to snap photos of coyotes, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and even mountain lions and bobcats. From the visitor center, you can continue to take the drive up into Calico Hills. You’ll soon find Sandstone Quarry, a great hike that pays off with a finish at the Calico Tanks, pools of rainwater that form in the sandstone concavities.
From there, keep climbing by car and encounter places like High Point Overlook, slightly over 4,000 feet in height with a stunning vantagepoint of the canyons. Ice Box Canyon will give you the chance to hike the desert and finish with a splash at the waterfall in season, or you can continue on the loop and stop for another view from Red Rock Wash Overlook. After that, you can place your bets on Vegas, or keep on driving through the famed Strip to watch the twinkling lights.
5. Lake Tahoe Loop
Drive around the famed Lake Tahoe in one big loop! This 72-mile jaunt that runs partly through Nevada is the place for breathtaking vistas and exploring the crystal clear water of the lake.
Because this scenic route is just one big loop, you can start it anywhere. It utilizes three highways – US 50, NV 28 and US 89. Along it, you have the choice to stop anywhere you like for outstanding views, recreational activities, shopping, and dining. Some portions of the loop will take you closer to the lake while others will take you further. It’s easy to pull off anywhere and access it though.
Choose hiking trails to stretch your legs, including the famed Tahoe Rim Hiking Trail. In winter, the ski resorts will give you plenty of refinement and fun on the slopes at Diamond Peak, Heavenly Ski Resort, Squaw Valley, and more. In winter, you can’t take the Lake Tahoe Loop on US 89 on the west shore because it’s closed. Other portions will remain open as long as the weather permits, but checking it out first before getting in your car will always be a smart move.
Sublime weather awaits in the summer with sunny days that get to 80F and nights that dip into the 30s or 40s. Be sure to stop and see the Emerald Bay Overlook and the Vikingsholm Castle while you’re there too!