Mountain Road Trips for Every Season
Above photo: A traveler photographs the pristine mountain views in California's Eastern Sierra. Photo by Megan Snedden
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
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.
RelatedView all articles
Read more stories about road trips.
Count on ocean views, stately mansions and signature dishes.
Three national parks in three days makes a great getaway.
Two Californians explore three national parks in their home state.
North America features an abundance of roaring falls.
The 440-mile drive pays homage to the state’s diverse landscape.
Plan a fun getaway for a weekend or a longer trip for two.
On road trips, she joyfully embraces the paranormal; he’s a skittish believer.
The Sea Islands of South Carolina offer exciting coastal cuisine, including Gullah soul food.
This scenic region runs north from San Francisco through Redwoods National and State Parks along Highway 101.
A pie lover eats her way through the Hoosier state.
Traveler’s long-awaited road trip starts in Seattle and winds through the Northwest.
Canada’s smallest province has the largest concentration of lighthouses.
Rich culture, great seafood and lively music distinguish this Nova Scotia journey from all others.
Don’t just talk about going the long way; take it.
Cozy beach town is a short drive — and a world away — from San Francisco.
A couple soaks up Oahu’s charm on a romantic getaway.
Even if you don’t catch a thing, you can still savor the experience.
Relax, dine and play in the area’s charming coastal towns.
All the destinations are beautiful and within a day’s drive.
A world traveler reconnects with her California roots.
The 409-mile drive across Nevada features sand dunes, hot springs and plenty of social distancing.
A national park and nearby parkway offer stunning views of the ancient Appalachians.
New Brunswick’s coastal communities live with the pulse of the ocean, which provides an unforgettable experience.
Explore the trails of Southwest Virginia with easy day hikes.
The route through the Medicine Bow Mountains features fly-fishing, camping and more.
Geological wonders offer clues to Wyoming’s distant past.
Native American land inspired an iconic art form.
Mom-and-pop lodges offer affordability and community.
The secret is out at this hidden cave system near Cancun.
A road trip from Cabo San Lucas is worth your time.
The Northeast features memorable destinations for your next vacation.
Riding waves renews joy and restores confidence after a bad mountain fall.
Challenging drive leads to beautiful vistas and simple food.
Legendary resorts ensure a relaxing journey.
During a road trip up the coast, five residents share their passion for the Pacific.
A photographic journey along an iconic mountain range on the West Coast brings healing and much more.
Once stricken by grief, a world traveler returns the gift of kindness on the way to Big Sur.
A world traveler explores southern Vancouver Island and looks for a place to call home.
Parents and grandparents help nurture children’s interests on their family vacation.
The Hawaiian island’s tropical embrace offers a memorable vacation in paradise.
On the “Mother Road,” you’ll find welcoming smiles and the guardian angel of the trail.
This road trip takes you on a musical journey through southwest Virginia.
The All-American road traverses slickrock and features a petrified forest, a beautiful waterfall and gourmet dining.
Pack your shorts, T-shirts and sandals and head for somewhere warm that you can cruise with the top down.
A road trip on the Overseas Highway brings visitors to the homes of sea turtles, endangered deer and Ernest Hemingway.
If you’re willing to stop and take some time, you’ll find gems along this infamous highway.
A weekend road trip through Illinois farmland leads to classic diners, drive-ins and big city splendor.
Drive beyond the Old City walls to discover the joys of rural Quebec.
Road trip continues through the northern California redwoods and on to sunny SoCal beaches.
Take a scenic drive from Quebec City to see whales.
The most underrated state in the U.S. deserves our attention.
Town embraces its connection to UFOs and little green people.
Choosing the “old road” opens up a world of appealing characters and beauty along the “Main Street of America.”
A dozen spas pamper guests with mud baths, massages and mineral pools.
The leisurely road trip takes drivers through America’s South.
Visit the Southwest’s most otherworldly natural attraction.
From A (Acadia) to Z (Zion), national parks offer ideal destinations for a weekend trip or longer vacation.
Hike, swim or just enjoy the views on this rural road trip.
An easy road trip takes you from a world-class city to a top national park.
A trip from Denver to Montana shows off the vast and varied scenery in the U.S.
See more of the island’s natural beauty at Rincón, Culebra and Vieques.
Soak in the hot springs, ride the narrow-gauge railroad or stay in a cozy lodge during this road trip.
Fans of “liquid gold” can set up tasting tours at wineries and shops.
From roaring waterfalls to colorful trees, the park is a year-round spectacle.
You’ll feel like royalty at this unique winery in Napa Valley.
The drive from Olympic National Park to San Francisco features spectacular views of towering forests.
A road trip through the Badger State reveals culinary gems for everyday folks.
From po’boys and jazz to barbecue and blues, take a food-driven road trip between America’s Southern sister cities.
People are discovering the origins of their food.
From New Orleans to the Northeast, one foodie sets out to explore the sweet beyond.
Maine’s inlets, bays and islands hold countless wonders and mysteries.
There’s plenty to see and do in Madison, but if you have an extra day or two you might want to explore the surrounding area by car.
Rocketeers should drive to these space-related destinations.