I won’t say that the United States is the world’s best country for road trips—that award goes to Australia, in my opinion—but it’s a darn close second. From the Appalachian Mountains that parallel the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains in the west, and from the Great Lakes to the wetlands of the Deep South, the United States boasts landscapes that simply beg to be explored on four wheels.
Having lived in northern New England for nearly two years, I’ve seen much of this peaceful region—and all of it I’ve seen by road tripping around. I visited Acadia National Park, explored the White Mountains and photographed every single covered bridge in Vermont. This has all added up to many hundreds, if not thousands, of miles—sometimes on the most scenic roads imaginable.
Here are my personal favorite scenic roads in New England.
5 Scenic Roads in New England
Highway 1, Maine
Sometimes referred to as Maine’s Big Sur, the coast of this forest-and-lake-covered state in the far northeast of the country is lined with imposing cliffs, rocky shores, countless bays and inlets, and the occasional sand beach. Highway 1 essentially parallels this spectacular coast from Brunswick, just north of Portland, to Calais on the Canadian border. This stunning road passes by the most photogenic lighthouses, roadside shacks selling lobster rolls and quaint little seaside villages. Suggested stops on the way include Boothbay Harbor, the ferry to Monhegan Island, and Acadia National Park.
Highway 22A, Vermont
Highway 22A runs between the towns of Fair Haven and Vergennes, incidentally the oldest town in the state, and follows the Lake Champlain Valley in western Vermont. It runs across beautiful farmlands, through state parks, and over low hilltops. The beauty of this short road is the abundance of possibilities for detours—you can, for example head down to the shore of stunning Lake Champlain, go for a swim and even take the ferry across to New York State. If you continue north, you’ll end up in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, a vibrant college town on the shore of the lake with a beautiful pedestrian mall and its fair share of breweries.
Park Loop Road, Maine
The Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park is arguably the park’s star attraction. It takes in essentially every major highlight in the park, from Sand Beach and Jordan Pond to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. You have to pay an entrance fee to access this road—it is separated from all other roads in the park—but the ticket is valid for several days and, honestly, this is the best way to explore this gorgeous national park.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
One of the most remote highways in New England, the Kancamagus Highway—named after an old Indian chief, the last leader of the Passaconaway tribe in the late-17th century—connects the tourist hubs of Conway and Lincoln. For 34 miles (55 kilometers) between those towns filled with restaurants and shops, hotels and motels, and museums and attractions, there’s nothing manmade to be found—not a house, not even a gas station. The only features you’ll find on that stretch through the White Mountains wilderness are basic campsites, waterfalls and rivers, valleys and mountains, and, in fall, jaw-dropping fall foliage. Additionally, this is also the highest highway in New England, running across Mount Kancamagus at an altitude of 2,900 feet (884 meters). The Kancamagus Highway can be combined with Interstate 93 and Route 302 to create a scenic loop through the White Mountains—this loop is known as the White Mountains Trail.
Route 100, Vermont
Easily the most scenic road in Vermont—and, therefore, one of the most scenic roads in New England—Route 100 follows the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts border all the way to the border with Quebec, Canada. This downright breathtaking road connects some of the state’s most picturesque villages, runs past Vermont’s iconic dairy farms, leads to the base of a number of popular ski resorts, and takes in some extraordinary scenery. You might even come across a covered bridge or two. Attractions along this magnificent stretch of asphalt include the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, Killington Peak, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, the town of Stowe, the Von Trapp Family Lodge, Smugglers Notch, Mount Mansfield and Jay Peak.