Mountain Road Trips for Every Season
Story by Patricia Corrigan
Patricia is a journalist, photographer and book author based in San Francisco.
Drive scenic routes to snowy slopes and popular peaks.
Towering snow-capped peaks. Sun-dappled lakes. Wind whispering through the trees. Sure, beaches lure some people, but when the mountains call, many of us must go.
Some head to the mountains for leisurely drives under blue skies in spring or summer, others seek out spectacular mountainside displays of autumn foliage and some prefer the stillness of white winter landscapes. Whether you’re traveling with family members or on your own, be inspired by these 18 journeys that celebrate the majesty of mountains and the joy of being in their presence.
Driving Scenic Mountain Roads
Fly fishing, wildflower watching and camping all are part of a summer road trip along the Snowy Range Byway in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming. The drive winds through dense forests and alpine tundra, with beautiful views of crystal-clear lakes below.
Canada’s Sea to Sky Highway begins in Vancouver, British Columbia, and stretches 101 miles north to Pemberton, taking drivers through towering temperate rainforests and snowcapped peaks.
The San Juan Skyway in southwest Colorado, designated an All-American Road, winds over four mountain passes and through two national forests.
The Eastern Sierra in California provides the backdrop for a photographer who is seeking closure after a personal loss.
Exploring National Parks
A road trip through Great Smoky Mountains National Park and along a nearby parkway in Tennessee and North Carolina offers stunning views of the Smoky and the Blue Ridge mountains, ranges within the Appalachians, the oldest mountains in North America.
On a spring road trip from Denver, a couple visits three national parks —Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier — and they find themselves especially enchanted with the storied Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park in Montana.
A solo traveler heads to Glacier National Park in winter. He recommends cross-country skis or snowshoes — or at least a pair of sturdy boots — for a stroll along a famous road.
Eager to avoid crowds on his solo journey to the mountains, a traveler heads to Olympic National Park in October. It rains, but that does not deter his joyous exploration of the park.
Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park makes a great family outing. The 9-year-old declares, “This feels really weird, in a really good way!” Soon, he and his younger brother adapt to the new footwear.
Skiing in Paradise
A former mining town that now enjoys a reputation as a winter athlete’s paradise, Park City, Utah, is just a 45-minute drive from the airport in Salt Lake City, so skiers can be on the slopes within an hour.
An extended family with a long history of skiing gathers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Their destinations of choice include Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods and Cannon Mountain, all close to Lincoln.
An avid skier dedicates a weeklong road trip to staying in small mom-and-pop lodges in Montana. He skis in near-solitude and then bonds with locals over nachos supreme.
Mountaineering, Glamping and More
One family shares a quest to climb all 58 1,400-foot-high peaks in Colorado. An avid climber from the family lists his favorite peaks and shares why each is special.
An introductory mountaineering course on the ice fields in the Canadian Rocky Mountains finds a woman eating lunch while hanging 15 feet down a crevasse as she waits for students practicing rescue missions. Don’t try this at home — but the adventurer does recommend the course, especially in retrospect.
Dog sledding in Montana’s mountainous Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is exhilarating and makes for great stories later around a fireplace.
In a quest to connect with nature, one couple opts for glamping in upstate New York’s Catskill and Adirondack mountains. Sturdy tents, geodesic domes and even treehouses are available lodgings.
Hikers are guaranteed scenic views in New York’s Catskill Mountains, but the vistas are available to drivers as well. The 700,000-acre retreat is just two hours northwest of New York City.
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