Long holiday weekends aren’t just for sleeping in and backyard barbeques. Holidays like Memorial Day should be spent in remembrance of those who gave — and those who gave all — by hitting the open road to see some of this great country for which they fought. There are a ton of great roads out there, twisty, straight and some off the beaten path. We’ve listed some of the best (and some less-traveled) for your vacation enjoyment and paired them with the ideal vehicle to maximize the experience.
Bar Harbor Loop – Acadia National Park, Maine
Length: 25 Miles
The uppermost of the New England states has some great driving roads, and the Bar Harbor Loop in Acadia National Park is one of them. Head south to take in the view of Eagle Lake, or head down Route 233 to Route 3 (“Sound Drive”) and to the coast and through Seal Harbor, then loop back north to Bar Harbor. You’ll drink in breathtaking views of the coastline, mountain byways with lake views and billowy fog that adds an air of mystery — all this over well-paved roads and plenty of places to stop for food, coffee and the after-drive brew pub adult beverage.
The Right Car to Drive: BMW M6 Gran Coupe
Kolob Terrace Road – Zion National Park, Virgin, Utah
Length: 24 Miles
This one, found in southern Utah, is more obscure, but it’s worth the venture. Start your trip in Virgin, UT at Kolob Terrace Road and head north. You’ll wind your way through beautiful Zion National Park to the Kolob Reservoir. Views of the Kolob Mountain through the pines are breathaking, and you can even take your ride off-pavement above the reservoir. You’ll enjoy some of the twisty roads on your way through Zion, and the ascent of 5,000 feet is rife with great views. The quality of the path varies greatly, so it’s best to take an SUV with great driving dynamics, especially in winter.
The Right Car to Drive: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Elk Creek Winery Loop — Owenton, KY
Length: 120 Miles
Another great drive that’s well under the radar, this long loop starts and ends near Pee Wee Valley, KY, not far outside Louisville. From Middleton, KY, head east on US 60 to Frankfort and then head north on US 127. Make your way up to Owenton, and then drive your way west to I-265 and complete the scenic loop. On your drive, you’ll head up and down rolling hills with panoramic views on a mostly two-lane road. Highway 227 heading south from the winery has some of the best driving with a very twisty path where you can mash the throttle a bit and exercise your turning skills, but exercise care, as there are a fair number of small houses along the road. Reward yourself at the Elk Creek Winery in Owenton.
The Right Car to Drive: Porsche Boxster GTS
Denali Highway, Alaska
Length: 135 Miles
Alaska should be on your bucket list, and the Denali Highway is one of the best Alaskan drives both in spite of and because of its rough nature. It’s a mostly gravel highway that leads from Paxson to Cantwell, and as a result isn’t well traveled; you can’t exactly mash the gas because the speed limit is 30 mph, and be selective about when you head there since it’s closed to traffic from October to May. But all this aside, it is an unrelentingly stunning drive with views of glaciers like the Maclaren Glacier and peaks in the central Alaska Range such as Mount Hayes, Mount Hess and Mount Deborah — all with elevations above 11,000 feet. The trip may not be a fast one, but we doubt you’ll want it to be since the landscape is one of the finest in the world. Bring a car that’s as tough as the day is long and built for off-road adventure at its most scenic.
The Right Car to Drive: Land Rover LR4
U.S. Highway 212
Length: 949 Miles
If you think you can toss the family into the minivan and drive this beast without vomiting, you’d better keep the bread truck parked in the garage. 212 is both utterly gorgeous as it heads through the heart of the natural west and brow sweat-inducing with its numerous elevation changes and tire squealing switchbacks. Prepare yourself for a long-term commitment: 212 is almost a thousand miles long and snakes its way through four states, beginning in Edina, MN and snaking its way through South Dakota and Wyoming before ending in historic Yellowstone National park in Montana. You’ll need a comfortable car but one that still can rip the apexes.
The Right Car to Drive: Audi RS 7