Let’s Take a Drive

I used to work for a features magazine that had me traveling all over the backroads of Tennessee. I saw some lovely places during those drives, and I’ve always been a big fan of road trips, especially to places I’ve never been. So let’s talk pretty drives today. I’ll share some of my favorites, and then I want to hear about yours as well.

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Me amid one of the lovely streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I live smack dab in the middle of Tennessee, but one of my favorite drives is through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mountains are lush and green in the spring and summer, and the fall colors bring out leaf peepers by the thousands. The Cades Cove drive is the most popular in the park. The 11-mile loop gives you access to trails, waterfalls, pullovers where you can take photos of the valley and surrounding mountains, and the opportunity to explore historic buildings such as churches, cabins, a gristmill and barn.

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Photo by Jim Peaco, National Park Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Farther away is one of my favorite places, Yellowstone National Park. A drive through the park, which ideally will take more than one day so you can explore fully, is a feast for the senses. Waterfalls, rivers, lakes, herds of bison or elk, geysers, mud pots, gorgeous geothermal pools — I’m making myself want to hop in the car and head there now.

Another of my favorite drives might surprise you. I love American History, and one of my favorite periods is westward expansion (though I hate the aspect of how the native peoples were treated in the process). I drove along a portion of the Oregon Trail several years ago in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. I visited famous Oregon Trail sites such as Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Scotts Bluff National Monument and Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Coming from a land of hills and valleys, I actually really enjoy being out on the Plains where you can see forever. It has a different kind of beauty. And it’s amazing that in places you can still see the actual ruts the wagons going west in the 1800s made in the rock.

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Yes, I’m literally a tree-hugger.

A few years ago, after attending the Romance Writers of America national conference in San Francisco, fellow author Terry McLaughlin took me for a day-long drive through the wine country and then over to Muir Woods National Monument and Muir Beach. Are you sensing a theme? Yes, I love national parks. I’ve been around trees all my life, but the giant redwoods took my breath away. Yes, I even hugged a tree. šŸ™‚ Walking through that forest was such a surreal and peaceful experience. If I lived in California, I’d love to go there more often.

So now it’s your turn. Tell me about some of your favorite scenic drives and road trips. I’m always looking for new adventures.

Comments

27 Comments

  • flchen1 says:

    We haven’t done Muir Woods yet but plan to sometime! We don’t often do car trips, but I recall driving along 17-mile drive in the Monterey area when I was younger, and it’s gorgeous šŸ™‚ And I’ve heard such interesting things about traveling along Route 66–that would be fun to explore sometime too, Trish!

  • Helen says:

    Trish

    I too love road trips and if you could get over here to Oz there are some awesome road trips around the Blue Mountains and down south with all the lovely beaches

    Have Fun
    Helen

  • Deb says:

    Trish, I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was a girl, but remember it still. It’s a beautiful place. Old Faithful was cool. We stayed in a motel that had bungalows and the prairie dogs ran all over the place and right up onto the porches.

    I have been on many road trips throughout Iowa. One of my favorite places is in Dubuque at Eagle Point Park where one can watch the barges coming through the locks and dams far below on the Mississippi. Also in that area is a Little Switzerland (and further up the road, Little Norway; called that because of the hills and the Norwegian immigrants who settled there.) The hills and valleys are breathtakingly beautiful.

    I’ve been to the Rockies in Colorado; it was a favorite vacation place for my dad when I was little. The mountains are truly beautiful; rugged and majestic.

    I also hugged a tree in Sequoia National Park several years ago. A cousin of my dad’s had grown up on a ranch near the entrance of the park, so she took us up there for a visit; another kind of rugged, natural beauty.

    • I like that you mentioned Iowa. I think sometime people don’t associate natural beauty with it or some other states, but I’ve found that every state I’ve been in has a different kind of beauty to it.

  • Susan Sey says:

    We just did a road trip from Mpls/St. Paul to Yellowstone this summer. We went through N Dakota on the way out, South Dakota on the way home. We saw some of the most amazing country–think badlands & buffalo. But what really surprised me was the Little Bighorn Mountains. Somehow I hadn’t considered them & they just blew me away. Def. worth the 40 hours I probably spend in the car this summer….

    • Anna Sugden says:

      We loved our trip from Minn/St Paul through South Dakota – starting with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s hometown of De Smet, then driving across the state, through the Badlands to Sturgis, Deadwood and the amazing monuments in the Black Hills.

      • What I want to know is did you both stop at Wall Drug in Wall, SD? Half the fun of driving through South Dakota is reading all the many, many Wall Drug billboards.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    We’ve done loads of road trips in our time, especially through different parts of the US. Like you, we used conferences as our starting point.

    My favourite trip was through Utah and Arizona. We started at Grand Junction, drove to Moab and the Arches National Park, then down through Four Corners and Monument Valley to Lake Powell, home of the slot canyons and Rainbow Bridge, then through the mountains to Las Vegas. Spectacular!

    You could add to that the trip we did through Arizona – Tucson, Tombstone, Sedona and the Grand Canyon and that’s an awesome part of the US!

  • Joan Kayse says:

    Ok, I’m thinking American domestic cause a road trip in Ireland had no comparison šŸ˜€

    We took a bus tour to Monterary and Muir woods when RWA was in SF. LOVED that coastline drive. Muir woods was pretty….once our hearts crawled out of our stomachs back to our chests. The drive in a small bus on one lane CURVY road made us all wet our pants :0

    But my favorite was when RWA was in Reno. A friend and I rented a car and drove up to Lake Tahoe…part of it anyway. Freaked my freak to see “Bear Crossing” signs! The lake was the closest to the crystal blue of Ireland’s. We were walking around a small park on its shore. Heard a scrabbling in the bushes. I’m thinking “Bear!”….

    It was a squirrel

    šŸ˜€

    • LOL on the squirrel story. You know, on one of my other road trips, I was driving through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and a black bear jumped out in the road right in front of me. I nearly had a heart attack, especially since I was in a rental car at the time.

      Joan, I did that trip to Lake Tahoe with some friends when we were in Reno, too. Such a beautiful place (Tahoe, not Reno). Another drive we drove up to Virginia City, which was also really cool.

  • Shannon says:

    My favorite drive goes through a Nation Forest but not any National Park. It’s the road from the Spokane International Airport (flights from Canada). Along the way is the dam and overspill for Lake Coeur d’Alene at Post Falls into the Spokane River. Then there is downtown Coeur d’Alene with its small shops and beautiful beach.

    I-90 headed toward St. Maries goes past Lake Coeur d’Alene where it’s slightly less developed so there’s room for bald eagles. I-90 goes over 4th of July Canyon where the explorer Mullan scribed a tree with the date and surveying notation. My dad, a surveyor, used Mullan’s old records to set points in Northern Idaho.

    We then turned off on to Idaho 3 that wound itself though mountain plateaus with fields. In one of those fields was an elk farm where they raise the elk for urine production. Hunters use it to disguise themselves. It then goes past the Coeur d’Alene River and Swan Lake.

    We knew we were almost home when we saw Mission Point along the Shadow St. Joe. It was where the Shoshone Indians spent the summer and fall along Round Lake. They harvested berries and roots on the hill and wild rice from the lake.

    • Sounds like a beautiful drive. When I was going to Washington to visit my sister several years ago, I drove from Tennessee all the way to Tacoma. When I drove around a curve in the mountains and saw Lake Coeur d’Alene, I nearly drove off the side of the mountain. It’s so pretty.

  • Trish, I’d love to come on a long drive with you (hmm, this is starting to sound like a slow boat to China!). I’ve got really interested in U.S. national parks since reading the Nevada Barr books about ranger Anna Pigeon. Even if I’m not crazy on the story of those, I always love her descriptions of the settings.

  • catslady says:

    We did take a couple of days and traveled in Arizona to the Grand Canyon and Sedona which was gorgeous. I’ve also traveled by car from PA to FL and back more than once and from PA to MS and around NY, WV, NJ, OH and D.C. with a few stops here and there.

  • Hey Trish!

    One of my favorite drives is in Mid-October NE of Columbus on State Route 3. It winds through the hill country and Amish country. With the changes in the leaves it’s a beautiful drive!

    And of course you know I adore the Blue Ridge where that first picture came from. Such lovely and lush landscaping there!

  • LOL – I was just about to say that Ohio is flat and pretty boring drive-wise – then I saw Suz’s post. šŸ™‚
    Still, I love scenic drives. Love driving through the smoky mountains – watching the mist rise in wisps is sort of magical. Loved the drive from Phoenix, AZ to Sedonia and on to the Grand Canyon – Wow! Driving through Maryland is gorgeous – mountains on the west end of the state, ocean on the east. Love driving in the NE – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine as they have tiny curvy roads that wrap around stone fences and historical markers. That’s one where you don’t want to be the driver.

    Speaking of not wanting to be the driver, there’s a road in Maui (Hawaii) that’s called Divorce road because it’s often one lane, tight curves around the top of a cliff. Beautiful scenery though.

  • Becke Turner says:

    Trish,
    What fun. To all that love National Parks, keep in mind you can buy a pass. It’s well worth it if you go to more than one park.

    My favorite road trip was through the state of Utah. We took the scenic routes and it was breath-taking. Arches, Canyon Lands, Bryce, Zion, Antelope, Lake Powell area. I can’t say enough. Everyone should see for themselves. We hiked and rode horses through many of them.

    Many of these places appear on calendars and even on the MS PC screen savers. We’ve traveled throughout the West, but nothing in my opinion compares to this state.

  • Kaelee says:

    Trish ~ Next time you are in Yellowstone go a bit farther west and take the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. Back before you needed a passport to visit the USA from Canada we would try to make that trip at least every couple of years. It’s a summer only road but the scenery is awesome.

  • Mozette says:

    I haven’t really gone on a day trip on my own yet – as driving a long distance is still something I’ve yet to do. And so, seeing I’m at that age where I want to go and drive somewhere far and be able to come home, I’m hoping to get away whenever I want.

    Mum and Dad have always called the shots when it came to day trips… they drove, paid for petrol, food and all the rest, and I’ve always wanted to be able to do that. And the strange thing is that they’re always shocked when I’ve had a big day out somewhere doing things and have come home late in the afternoon… whereas when I was overseas, it was something I did all the time.

    I just can’t wait to begin doing it with my own car next year. šŸ˜€

  • Laurie G says:

    Car trips:
    Trip to Key West from mainland Florida. Love the contrast between the color of the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

    Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin north along the Mississippi River… the Bluffs by Wyalusing State Park and Lacrosse are beautiful.

    Door County Wisconsin Hwy 42 from Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Fish Creek, SisterBay up to Washington Island and around Bailey’s Harbor and back down. Beautiful!

    Two Rivers to Manitowoc , Wisconsin 7 miles along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

    Loved Olympic National Park and the road to Hurricane Ridge also the view from Port Angeles, WA overlooking The Strait of Juan de Fuca

    Hwy 1 especially around Carmel , California
    Road along the coast Astoria, Oregon south

    Loved road through the tunnel at Zion near Hurricane Utah
    Going through Virgin Canyon -Arizona gorgeous!

    Road going around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    Going to the Sun Hwy through Glacier Natl Park

    I agree with the drive around Couer d’Alene, Idaho

    Road between Banff and Jasper Natl Parks -Canada View of Lake Louise!

    Road through the mountains in TN to Chattanooga Hwy 24

    Road from Cody, WY to Yellowstone Natl park
    Roads around Warm Springs, Virginia

    West Virginia through the mountains Hwy 64?