The Best Park-to-Park Scenic Drives - Page 2

Gorp.com
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Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington  (iStockphoto)

3. Zion National Park to Grand Canyon National Park
Southern Utah's narrow and twisting canyons gives way to the one and only Grand Canyon, the majestic swath carved by the mighty Colorado River.

Route: U.S. 89A, then Arizona State Highway 67 (Grand Canyon Highway) to the North Rim or Arizona State Highways 89 and 64 to the South Rim.

Mileage: 125 miles to the North Rim, 250 miles to the South Rim.

A Good Place to Start: A 5-mile round trip gets you a superlative view of Zion in all its majesty from Angels Landing, 1,500 feet above the Virgin River.

Pit Stop: If you need a place for an overnight stay, in Kanab try the decidedly retro Quail Park Lodge.

Finish Line: Finish at the floor of the Grand Canyon, of course. Note that the North Rim shuts down most services in mid-October but usually remains open for day use into November.

4. Olympic National Park to North Cascades National Park
From the wettest and westernmost points in the lower 48 in Olympic National Park to some of the most striking mountain scenery in the West, this scenic drive across Washington State truly has it all.

Route: U.S. 101 to Port Townsend Ferry to Washington State Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway).

Mileage: About 200 miles.

A Good Place to Start: The Hoh Rain Forest is the best such forest on the West Coast. The Hoh River Trail takes you from road's end to the top of Mount Olympus.

Pit Stops: Spare some time to head to Rialto Beach, a rugged wilderness coast where you can camp or slumber in style at the nearby Manitou Lodge. After the ferry, stop to take in the views at Deception Pass State Park.

Finish Line: Cascade Pass is ideal for a finish. The trailhead is a 23-mile drive from Marblemount; from there it's 3.7 miles to the top of Cascade Pass or 23 miles to the village of Stehekin, accessible only by boat and boot on Lake Chelan.

5. Big Bend National Park to Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The rugged desert of West Texas is just the place to get away from it all, and these two parks in the Lone Star State rarely attract crowds.

Route: F.M. 118 to U.S. 67 to U.S. 90 to Texas State Highway 24 to U.S. 62/180.

Mileage: About 250 miles.

A Good Place to Start: Start by rafting the Rio Grande with a local guide service, then hike the Chisos Mountains. Make sure to stop in Terlingua for a meal at La Kiva or the Starlight Theatre.

Pit Stop: From Terlingua, take the scenic route along the river through Big Bend Ranch State Park, then head north to Marfa. The quirky arts town is worth an overnight: Stay at the Hotel Paisano, and take a day to tour the galleries at the Chinati Foundation.

Finish Line: Many say that McKittrick Canyon is the prettiest spot in Texas, and it's hard to argue, especially when the trees explode with fall colors. Hike up to the Notch for one of the best views in the Southwest.

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