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These Lesser Known Scenic Drives Roll You Way Beyond the Crowds

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It’s every American driver’s dream—and rite of passage—to cruise the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 66, Florida Route 1 from the Keys up the peninsula, and all those other famous scenic byways you don’t need us to shed any more light on. They’re sung about, written about, spoken about, and definitely driven on by more cars than we care to point you toward today.

Looking for the beautiful byway less taken on your next road journey? Consider taking any of these hidden finds en route to your final stop—unless, of course, the drive itself is the destination. Then sit back, enjoy the ride, and keep both eyes open. There’s plenty to see along these spectacular drives, minus all the usual gawking traffic in front of you.

Bighorn sheep by a jeep on the road in Badlands National Park
Danita Delimont / Shutterstock

1. Badlands Loop, South Dakota

With 16 scenic overlooks across a 39-mile loop, this detour through South Dakota’s otherworldly Badlands is a quick, unpeopled detour from the Black Hills throngs at nearby Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Deadwood, and the likes. Out here, you really will feel like you’re on moon—but with bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs thrown in. The one-hour loop that is SD Highway 240 is among the nation’s most humbling, and is perfectly paired with the nearby Wildlife Loop scenic byway—if you don’t mind some bison-induced traffic jams.

Be sure to see: Wall Drug—The all-encompassing commercial tourist attraction in otherwise tiny Wall, SD is at the northwest corner of the loop where highway meets I-90. You really can’t miss it.

Circular road on San Juan Skyway in Colorado.
Gestalt Imagery / Shutterstock

2. San Juan Skyway, Colorado

This Rocky Mountain stretch of southwest Colorado provides travelers with some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery and beautiful high-altitude towns. A hot spot for winter recreation, ski towns like Telluride and Durango are just as stunning in summer—the former hosting many popular festivals, like the Telluride Film Festival and Telluride Bluegrass Festival. But back to the meandering mountainous byway itself: The 230-mile stretch showcases the Hermosa Cliffs, San Juan National Forest, and the famed Million Dollar Highway (the portion between Silverton and Ouray) which supposedly cost $1 million per mile to build. The views alone are worth every penny.

Be sure to see: The Double RL Ranch—No, you can’t stop to see Ralph Lauren’s 16,000-acre property, but you can gawk at it as you drive past. It keeps going, and going, and going…

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