Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is iconic—and for good reason—but this also means that driving on it can feel more like you’re sitting in rush hour traffic than enjoying some of the best views in the nation. Thankfully, the West is home to many scenic drives that are less-traveled yet equally scenic.
Here are seven of our favorite drives within—or near—a national park or preserve, from California’s Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks to Montana’s Bison Range. (Many of these roads are seasonal and open only during the summer, check ahead before you go).
Arches Scenic Drive, Arches National Park, Utah
It’s one of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks, and while Arches’ visitors numbers reached 1.8 million in 2021, this red-rock stunner feels almost empty compared to Zion. Sure, the park’s 36-mile Arches Scenic Drive can get crowded during summer months, but getting an early start on this round-trip route is a great way to avoid the masses and focus on the scenery instead. We’re talking gigantic rock fins, precariously balanced boulders, and more than 2,000 natural stone arches sure to make your jaw drop.
The route begins just north of Moab, but the first true opportunity to see the park’s legendary arches is 9.2 miles in, just beyond the Balanced Rock viewpoint. This is also where you’ll find a turn-off for Windows Road, an absolute must for views of some of the park’s largest formations, like Double Arch and the castle-like Turret Arch. Other must-stops include the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, where a short walk offers prime vistas of the 52-foot-tall freestanding geologic wonder, and the trailhead for Devil’s Garden, a 7.8-mile loop hike that includes a bevy of shorter spur trails and plenty of breathtaking terrain.
Reservations are required to enter the park April 1 – October 31, 2023 and have a $2 processing fee. The entrance fee is $30/vehicle.