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Technically, you don’t need anything other than a car and a driver’s license to do a scenic drive. Technically. This accessibility is what makes scenic drives so great. But, if you want to kick your experience on a scenic drive into high gear, there are plenty of ways to do that, too. Our favorite way to take a scenic cruise over the top? Do it in a sweet vintage ride. We’ve paired three of our favorite scenic routes with classic cars to get you inspired.
The route: Palouse Scenic Byway
The car: 1970s AMC Pacer
We think that the Pacer is severely underrated, just like the Palouse Scenic Byway. All of the glass used in its “fishbowl” shape means better views of the rolling hills along the route. And like the Pacer, the Palouse Scenic Byway is a little different. The byway doesn’t have a direct route it follows; instead, it’s a network of backroads that wind through the otherworldly landscape of eastern Washington.
Soak up the sights as you meander from town to town, and make sure to stop and take advantage of the offbeat attractions along the way. From the unreal beauty of Palouse Falls and the quirky artistry on display at the Dahmen Barn to the eerie Elberton Ghost Town and the authentic college town vibes of Pullman, there are loads to see and do.
The drive: Sawtooth Scenic Byway
The car: 1953 Corvette
Take this iconic classic through the old-school, charming small towns along Idaho’s Sawtooth Scenic Byway. No wonder equally iconic author Ernest Hemingway had such a deep love for the forests and mountains here. Hemingway spent the last years of his life here in Idaho, dying in 1961, a few short years after this Corvette hit the roads.
The Corvette will stand out (duh, it’s a vintage Corvette, it would stand out anywhere) but it’ll feel right at home cruising through the densely forested Sawtooth Mountains to various resort towns that have the faint but palpable vibe of being stuck back in the 50s. Kind of a lot like the car, actually. Start off the route by exploring underground (the Shoshone Ice Caves is a totally unique stop) and then chill out with a dip at Gold Bug Hot Springs. After that, explore Hemingway’s Ketchum and pay your respects at his grave, then finish off the adventure with a visit to the famously stunning Redfish Lake.
The drive: Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
The car: 1960s VW Bus
It doesn’t get any better than cruising around California’s Kings Canyon in this counterculture classic. There really is no better car to road trip in than the VW Bus, and there’s no better place to road trip than Cali. Plus, the bus gives you enough space that you could easily camp out in the park with it.
The route mostly winds through Kings Canyon National Park, but it starts in the adjacent Sequoia National Park. It takes you right past the park’s best attractions, including the General Grant Grove, where you’ll find the world’s third-largest tree, and Boyden Cavern, filled with strange and unusual formations. You’ll also want to stop and take advantage of the waterfall hikes and scenic loops along the way, too. You’ll feel totally safe as you descend into the canyon and take the road as it hugs the base of towering cliffs in the sturdy VW bus. The route dead-ends, at which point, you can turn around and feel the thrill of doing the drive again in reverse, with all new angles and views to admire.