The United States is a country built for driving. There are so many wonderful roads that feature incredible scenery and keep the driver's attention focused on the road, only because they're fascinated by the beauty unfolding in front of their eyes. Mountain slopes, green valleys, historical sites, and enchanting vistas - aren't they enough to inspire your wanderlust and make you want to throw everything else away and hop behind the wheel of your car right now?
However, not all road trips are as relaxing and romantic as you may think. In fact, some of the roads in the U.S. seem to be more dangerous than others. You might be surprised to learn that this great country allows drivers to take unsafe routes, but, hey, keep in mind that there're 2.7 million miles of roads in the United States. It means that we should expect that some of these miles will be less safe than others and arm ourselves with knowledge.
Planning a road trip across the United States, we need to be aware of the routes that will offer us to enjoy the ride to the fullest, see beautiful roadside attractions, and visit pretty towns along the way. In the meantime, we also have to know which roads are considered to be especially dangerous, to either get ready to be extremely careful or avoid these routes altogether.
So let's see the list of 10 lesser-known scenic road trips to take in the Northern United States (no, you won't see the famous Route 66 and Pacific Coast Highway here), as well as 10 dangerous highways that should be avoided in the South of this beautiful country.
20 Take: The Selkirk Loop, Washington & Idaho
The Selkirk Loop, aka International Selkirk Loop, is an international circle around the Selkirk Mountains. Located in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and southeastern British Columbia (Canada), this scenic road passes through rivers, lakes, mountains, as well as some of the prettiest towns of Northern USA.
The loop starts (and ends) in Newport, Washington, and takes you through Cusick, where you can see the beautiful Gardner Cave, Nelson, to witness its 350 preserved heritage buildings, Kootenay Lake, to take the world's longest free ferry, Creston, a town that is famous for its fruit fields and downtown murals, Sandpoint, where you can see 20 art galleries, and many other cool spots.
19 Avoid: Interstate 10, Arizona
Interstate 10 stretches almost from coast to coast, but, for some reason, the 150 miles that go from Phoenix to the border of California are not as scenic as you may think. This part of the road goes through a desert, so you'll only see some tumble-weed and cacti along the way. Nothing spectacular at all.
Besides, this road is also listed among the most dangerous roads in the country. There's even a special website that offers regular updates on traffic accidents on Interstate 10. According to an Arizona Public Safety Officer Sgt. Dan Larimer, most of these accidents are caused by the long stretch of the road, which leads to high speeds and inattentive driving.
18 Take: The Loess Scenic Byway, Iowa
In Iowa, you can find a whole bunch of formations called loesses. Basically, these formations are hills formed by silt. They're incredibly beautiful, so you can expect to see a lot of marvelous landscapes (like the one in the photo above), while you're driving through Iowa. Keep in mind that the fall scenery stretching on loesses is formally qualified as a National Natural Landmark and plan your next road trip in the Northern USA accordingly.
The Loess Scenic Byway stretches from Sioux City, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska. On these 220 miles, you're going to witness numerous parks that'll startle you with their beauty, as well as nature centers and nice places to eat.
17 Avoid: Highway 550, Colorado
Even though Highway 550, aka Million Dollar Highway, in Colorado is very beautiful, it's better to avoid driving there, unless you're a super experienced and attentive driver. Another condition for you to safely drive on this road is being able to handle the elevation of 11,000 feet above the sea level. So if you're absolutely sure that you won't have altitude sickness, you're good to go. But... are you really sure?
Other things that make Highway 550 so hazardous is the weather that changes very swiftly on this altitude and absence of guardrails and shoulders on the road. So swerving off the road might easily mean plunging down the cliff. Yikes!
16 Take: Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
One of the most scenic routes in Northeastern USA, Mohawk Trail began as a Native American trade route back in the days before European settlers arrived at the continent. In April 1973, the trail was added to the list of National Register of Historic Places.
These days, anyone can drive along this scenic route and see its multiple attractions. You can find a number of viewpoints there, from where you may take a look at the unique landscapes of the state of Massachusetts. I'm not even going to enlist all the parks, waterfalls, and other natural beauties you can find on the route! Just see them all for yourself and don't forget to drop into one of the gift shops along the way and buy some interesting souvenirs.
15 Avoid: U.S. 431, Alabama
Reader's Digest and some other outlets have repeatedly called U.S. 431 in Alabama one of the most dangerous roads in the country. Even though this road stretches only 98 miles from Phoenix City to Dothan, Alabama, the number of accidents happening there is rather high. One of the main reasons is limited visibility, as well as traffic density on the two-lane sections of this road.
Previously, there were more two-lane sections, so U.S. 431 was even more dangerous. Thankfully, the road was reconstructed and most of it got four lanes, except for some of the sections going through small towns, where drivers still have to be extremely careful.
14 Take: The Seward Highway, Alaska
If you want to take a road trip in Alaska, you should certainly go by the Seward Highway that stretches from Anchorage to Valdez over about 280 miles. It's one of the most beautiful highways in the country that features glaciers, waterfalls, and desolate Alaskan landscape that will take your breath away.
This scenic route has a number of interesting spots that you'll enjoy checking out, while on the road. Take a look at the Eagle River Nature Center to see a glacial river valley. Visit Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site for splendid views. Don't forget to get to Glen Allen for gas and stop at the Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site to walk on the glacier.
13 Avoid: Highway 17, South Carolina
Want to see something incredibly pretty, but at the same time absolutely odd? Are you sure? Well, it's your decision, but I'd still advise you to stay away from Highway 17 in South Carolina.
On the one hand, this highway is really scenic. It features beautiful valleys and peaks of Beaufort County. But on the other hand, it also has a number of sharp turns, blind curves, and narrow lanes along the route. To make things worse, there're also mountain lions in this area that can jump on the road at any given moment, make you freak out and, possibly, even ruin your car.
So what do you think? Will you drive on Highway 17?
12 Take: Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
State Route 112, aka Kancamagus Highway, has everything a driver might want from a road trip. There're pretty overlooking spots, numerous tall trees that change their foliage to a myriad of colors during autumn, scenic lakes and mountains, as well as important historic sites.
Keep in mind that when you're set to drive the Kancamagus Highway, you leave behind all the luxuries of the modern world, since there're no gas stations, restaurants, or hotels along the road. But it shouldn't frighten you. Instead, unplug from the world for a moment, enjoy driving through a beautiful forest and feel like you found a time machine that took your back in time.
11 Avoid: Interstate 95, Florida
Nice views of the Southern USA might make Interstate 95 attractive, but keep in mind that it's better to avoid driving on this road. Due to the number of traffic accidents along this route, Interstate 95 is considered to be one of the most hazardous roads in the United States. These accidents are most often caused by the road's high volume coupled with distracted driving.
If you absolutely have to take Interstate 95, keep in mind that you have to be extremely careful on the road. Slow down whenever necessary and be constantly aware of your surroundings, even if you only need to take a short drive on this unsafe road.
10 Take: Highway 61, Minnesota
Want to see stunning cliffs and marvelous hills? Then take a road trip along Highway 61 in Minnesota. Along the way, you'll find numerous viewpoints overlooking the Mississippi River, but they're only part of all the beauty you're going to see during your trip. The road closely follows the contours of the chief river in North America, so you'll never find yourself too far from the edge. Driving by this road feels so peaceful that you'll never want to stop.
Make sure to take your passport with you, because at some point you might want to cross the border and drive into Canada so that this incredible road trip doesn't end.
9 Avoid: State Route 138, California
In Bolivia, there's an infamous North Yungas Road that's commonly known as "death road" or "highway of death". Did you know that there's a road in the United States that should have a similar name, according to some drivers? It's California's Highway 138. Due to the huge number of deaths and injuries on the road (on average, they're about 10 fatalities happening there every year), it's also been labeled "blood alley".
These dangers are caused by the twisty two-lane roads and steep turns. Improvements are ongoing on the road to make it safer for the drivers, but Highway 138 still remains in the list of the most hazardous roads in the USA.
8 Take: Ocean Drive, Rhode Island
Some people might think that there's nothing interesting in Rhode Island because it's such a tiny state. If you think so too, know that you're completely wrong! Rhode Island has a number of pretty places, including its Ocean Drive, aka the Ten Mile Drive that's called one of the most scenic drives in the country. Just take a look at the photo above and you'll understand that it's not a lie. Splashing ocean waves on the one side and magnificent landscapes on the other side - what else should a driver wish for?
Every house you encounter on the way is a masterpiece of architecture. Every turn you take opens new attractions. This route is so beautiful that you're very likely to take it more than once!
7 Avoid: Interstate 15, Los Angeles to Las Vegas
Interstate 15 stretches from Sweet Grass, Montana, all the way to San Diego, California. However, only its 181-mile section between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is considered to be extremely dangerous. The stats speak for themselves: this road has almost double the death rate of other highways in the United States. Interstate 15's long and straight shot through the desert is considered to be one of the main reasons why the amount of traffic accidents is so high there. This kind of road makes it easy for drivers to increase speed and stop paying attention to their surroundings.
So if you need to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (or vice versa), try to find a safer route.
6 Take: Park Loop Road, Maine
Maine's Park Loop Road encircles the Acadia National Park that's incredibly beautiful place by itself. This route allows you to easily explore the park because it connects its lakes, mountains, forests and rocky shores. The road is moderately trafficked and it stretches over 24.5 miles, offering a number of activity options to the park's visitors.
While taking the Park Loop Road, take advantage of the numerous parking areas and observation points. Stop often, take photos, and just enjoy the scenery around you. Just remember that Park Loop Road in the Acadia National Park isn't a place to speed up due to the abundant wildlife.
5 Avoid: Highway 99, California
According to ABC 7 News, Highway 99 that runs through California's Central Valley has recently been named the most questionable road in the United States. Even though Highway 99 is relatively short, it has the biggest number of fatal accidents per 100 miles of any other roadway in the country.
Besides, it was also named the darkest highway in the USA, because it doesn't have enough lighting. Seems like it's one of the reasons why this road is so dangerous! Combined with numerous two-lane sections, it makes the 424-mile long Highway 99 extremely deadly.
Would you dare to take this road on your next trip? I wouldn't recommend you to do it...
4 Take: Cascade Way, Oregon & Washington
Do you want to see a modern take on the Oregon Trail? Then check out the Cascade Way and see the most beautiful spots in the Pacific Northwest! The route starts at Bandon, Oregon and stretches to Port Angeles, Washington. You'll need about 8.5 hours to drive along this road. Of course, it might take more time, because you're going to want to stop every now and then to enjoy the marvelous scenery.
Get ready to stop at a couple of camping sites on the way to hike around and see the beautiful mountains. You're going to take a lot of photos, so make sure that your camera is well charged!
3 Avoid: Interstate 4, Florida
Running 132 miles from Tampa to Daytona Beach in Florida, Interstate 4 averages 1.4 fatal accidents per mile. It competes with the previously discussed Highway 99 in California for the title of the most dangerous road in the country. In fact, it was a "proud bearer" of the same title right before Highway 99.
Supposedly, Florida's lax laws regarding cell phone use while driving are the cause of such a huge number of fatal accidents on this road. So better avoid driving there, but if you can't choose an alternative route, be extremely careful and watch out for the drivers, who are talking on the phone and stay away from them. And, of course, don't add to the problem and avoid using your own phone while driving.
2 Take: U.S. Highway 2, aka The Great Northern Road
Are you ready to learn more about the ultimate Northern U.S. road trip? Then behold the Highway 2, aka the Great Northern road, that spans over 2,500 miles. The starting point of this route is Augusta, Maine and the ending point is Seattle, Washington. Going through New England, touching part of southern Canada and upper Midwest, and ending in the Pacific Northwest, this scenic route has everything you want to see in a road trip.
Along the way, be sure to check out the roadside attractions. Visit Montpelier, Vermont to see beautiful nature and spend your time at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks or North Branch Vineyards. Driving through Duluth, Minnesota, see what people call an outdoor person's paradise. Enjoy your drive through West Glacier, Montana. These are only a few of the things you can see on Highway 2!
1 Avoid: Saddle Road, Hawaii
Can you imagine that Hawaii's Route 200, aka Saddle Road, is so dangerous that some car rental companies won't even allow you to take it, while you're driving their car? It might sound incredible, but keep in mind that this road actually a lot of hazards. Vision-obscuring fog and single-lane bridges can baffle even an experienced driver. Thankfully, much work has been done to widen the two-lane roads and make them less rough, but limited visibility remains a hard-to-solve problem.
Fun fact about this hazardous road: it got its name for being the "saddle" in between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. The views are marvelous but drive there only if you're completely ready for the route's dangers.