Colorado: With the Rocky Mountains as its spine, Colorado has a wealth of terrific roads. Our pick is the San Juan Skyway; a 236-mile loop that offers a bit of everything you’ll find that’s wonderful about driving in Colorado. Tracing the routes of US-160, CO-154, CO-62, and US-550, there are curves a-plenty, plus the scenic mountain towns of Durango, Silverton and Telluride.
New Mexico: Running 105 miles between Santa Fee and Taos, “The High Road” is a scenic back road that passes through old Spanish villages and the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s a bit of a complicated route, comprised of New Mexico Highways 68, 518, 75, 76 and then back to 68 into Santa Fe; The High Road offers up some great driving, along with a nice cross-section of what New Mexico is all about.
Texas: A state this big is bound to be chock full of deserted byways and the Lone Star State definitely has its fair share, towering above them all though is the aptly-named Devil’s Backbone. Texas Ranch Road 32 follows the crest of a ridge in that part of Texas known as “The Hill Country.” Rife with twists and turns, the Backbone is also rumored to be haunted. You’ll pick it up about 50 miles south of Austin.
Talimena Trail, Oklahoma
Oklahoma: The Talimena Trail does what few other mountain roads in the States can. It runs east to west. The Trail is shared with Arkansas, though the best part of the drive is in Oklahoma. Designated Oklahoma Hwy 1, the road gets its name from the two towns at either end of it, Talihina, Oklahoma and Mena, Arkansas. Alpine valleys, turquoise lakes, and a broad variety of curvaceous pavement make this the sports car road in Oklahoma.
Kansas: Panoramic views of tallgrass prairie, wagon ruts left behind by pioneers on the Santa Fe Trail, and Native American historic sites are among the many features of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway comprised of KS-177 and KS-57 running between US-56 and I-35 in Kansas. The route also runs through one of the country’s newest National Preserves, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Nebraska: Endless rolling sand dunes, covered in short prairie grass, interrupted only by bright blue lakes and the largest hand-planted forest in the US, (the Nebraska National Forest), are among the highlights of Nebraska Route 2. Slicing nicely through the heart of the state, the road runs some 286 miles between Grand Island and Alliance, where the road meets US-385.
South Dakota: Needles Highway (SD Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake) is one of the shortest roads on this list, but given its location, it’s well worth driving. Located in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, it winds through pine, spruce and aspen forest with vistas of granite spires called the Needles—from which its name is derived. Completed in 1922, the road was designed specifically to take advantage of the natural beauty through which it passes.