From Alaska to Hawaii to North Carolina, the USA offers some of the most extreme driving conditions in the world. Truly, where else can you find scorching hot temperature and blizzard-like conditions within the same state? From extreme changes in altitude to winding switchbacks, thrill-seeking drivers can very easily experience a range of road conditions and breathtaking views on a single tank of gas. The best news is that you won’t even need a passport. Here are just a few of the most extreme driving locations in the U.S.
Highway 89 — Arizona
Featuring the notorious Red Rock Canyons and the sprawling Prescott National Forest, this drive winds through a series of valleys and mountains offering dramatic views and just about every possible road condition known to man. Be cautious of sudden shifting weather patterns, especially along the 30-mile stretch between Flagstaff and Sedona, where the elevation suddenly climbs as you cut through the Oak Street Canyon. With such a variety of road and weather patterns, you’ll definitely want to take a few minutes to brush up on Arizona’s specific driving laws and insurance regulations in advance.
The Road to Hana — Hawaii
The Road to Hana (or as it’s officially known, The Hana Highway) is a 60-mile stretch of road that connects Kahului with the sleepy town of Hana on Maui’s eastern coast. The narrow, winding road features 59 bridges (mostly one-lane) and a whopping 620 curves. Many of the bridges are original, dating back to the original construction of Hawaii Route 31 in 1910. Not only is the Road to Hana one of the most nail-biting driving experiences in the United States, it also offers some of the most beautiful views of rainforests and waterfalls on the entire planet. And once you make it to Hana, you’ve only got one choice of road for your trip back to Kahului.
White Rim Road — Utah
If you want to go really extreme, look no further than the White Rim Road in the Canyon Lands National Park. A full trip can take several days to complete and the roads are rated for high-clearance vehicles only even when weather conditions are favorable. That said, the area is prone to sudden rain storms that can greatly alter the road and can even render it impassable. Those souls brave enough to take the trip (or anyone sensible enough to have planned ahead) are rewarded with a view of the Grand Canyon that you really can’t get any other way. They’ll also have a heck of a story to tell when it’s all over.
Denali Highway — Alaska
Travelling 135 miles from Paxon to Cantwell, the Denali Highway was once the only access road for the Denali National Park. The road is mostly gravel and, in true Alaska form, the weather can shift wildly from crystal-clear blue skies to white-out blizzard conditions at the drop of a hat. Not only does the Denali Highway make for a challenging drive, it also intersects some of the most jawdropping mountain regions in the United States. Not only can you spy Mount Deborah and Mount Hess in the Alaska range, but on a clear day you can even catch a glimpse of the peak of Mt. McKinley, the highest one in North America. That’s not even mentioning the lush runs of the glacier fed river that will guide you to your destination.