The Best Winter Drives in the USA

Experience America's most stunning natural landscapes dusted by snow on a winter road trip
Experience America's most stunning natural landscapes dusted by snow on a winter road trip | © H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alexia Wulff
19 November 2020

In a country marked by a vast stretch of diverse terrain, the USA offers plenty of spectacular road trip options through some of the nation’s most stunning natural settings.

In the winter, majestic natural treasures are enhanced by glistening ice-slicked trees, snow-capped peaks and a blanket of white scenery. Taking a drive at this time of year provides a glimpse into the wondrous beauty of winter without having to leave the car, and with crowds at a minimum, views are accompanied by an air of tranquility. So jump into the car, cozy up, and prepare for the best winter drives in the USA.

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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© Pat & Chuck Blackley / Alamy Stock Photo

The Blue Ridge Mountains boast some of the most stunning mountain scenery on the East Coast. A trip down Skyline Drive – which runs for 105 miles (169km) north and south from Front Royal to Rockfish Gap – reveals panoramic views of snow-dusted alpines and the valleys below. The road is perched high above the Shenandoah National Park, following the ridge of the Blue Mountains; therefore, winter enthusiasts can expect a peaceful drive and stunning vistas. Winter lovers can stop in the park to snowshoe, ski or see the frozen waterfalls.

Gatlinburg to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

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© Jeff Kinsey / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’ve ever experienced the awe-inspiring alpine beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s hard to comprehend how such a place could be any more magical. But during the winter, it is. The road traveling from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina passes through the Smoky Mountains, a vision blanketed by snow (though, since snow is less frequent in the South, it’s best to depart post-snowfall to guarantee the best views). Take the US 321 and Interstate 40 East toward the park for the best views along the route.

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

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© H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

This Colorado road – named for its “million dollar views” – boasts unparalleled mountain vistas, transporting drivers to a road deep within the “Switzerland of America.” Towering, snow-capped peaks, winding paths that traverse the mountains and the never-ending snow give way to a wealth of exquisite views. However, the road is known for its dangerous elements (sharp curves, no guard rails, steep cliffs), so be sure to prepare accordingly. The road is usually open year-round, with snow season beginning around October.

Seaward Highway, Alaska

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© Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo

There are few places boasting a more magical winter wonderland than Alaska. Winding from Anchorage to Seward, this National Scenic Byway is marked by panoramic views of the Chugach National Forest, snow-covered Kenai Mountains and miles of beautiful Alaskan wilderness. The road tends to get a bit dodgy towards Seward, passing through steep mountains, so careful planning and a proper winter vehicle are advised.

Stowe to Rochester, Vermont

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© David Keith Jones / Alamy Stock Photo

In the winter, a blanket of snow covers Stowe, a quaint Vermont village. Surrounded by tree-studded mountaintops, this town has earned its reputation for gorgeous views when fall ignites the foliage in colors of orange and red. But when snow season hits, Stowe is transformed into a winter heaven fit for the movies. Traveling along Route 100 to Rochester reveals stunning mountain views, passing Mount Ellen and the outskirts of Granville Reservation State Park.

Arches National Park Scenic Drive, Utah

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© Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo
Arches National Park is a remarkable vision any time of the year. In the winter, you can catch a glimpse of an arch-filled desert landscape covered in snow. And because there are fewer people in the park during the winter, it makes visiting this national treasure that much more memorable. Take a drive down the park’s Scenic Drive to see the Delicate Arch, one of the most visited places in the park.

Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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© EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo
A popular destination during warmer months, Yellowstone National Park becomes a place of tranquility come winter, with bison treading through the snow, wolves running across frozen creeks, and geysers puffing streams of gas into the cold air. The drive along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway to the park’s eastern entrance traces the Wapiti Valley and northern portions of the Shoshone River: expect snow-covered canyons and eroded badlands, frozen alpine vistas and a vast wilderness filled with wildlife.

California Route 120, Yosemite National Park, California

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© David Kilpatrick / Alamy Stock Photo
Yosemite is marked by crowds during the summer; in the winter, a blanket of snow transforms this natural beauty into a peaceful getaway. Take California Route 120 to Yosemite Valley – one of the most photographed and painted areas of the park – for unbeatable winter views. The park is rarely visited during the colder months; therefore, drivers can revel in California’s natural beauty undisturbed.
These recommendations were updated on November 19, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.