Summer’s here—and you’re probably getting hot under the collar. There’s nothing like a cool breeze off the lake to mitigate a blistering heat wave. Mapping out a riverside ride usually means twistier roads too, and it always pays scenic dividends. Check out these ten trips that serve up good asphalt, stellar scenery and lots of cool waves.
1. Zion National Park, Utah
State Route 9 begins in southern Utah and passes through Zion National Park, paralleling the Virgin River part of the way. It’s a tourist-packed zoo in the summer, but all that is worth the sight of million-year-old sandstone monoliths towering over the rushing water. The soaring cliffs, buttes, and mesas make for a picture perfect ride, and if you continue east to Highway 89, you can hit another watery hot spot—Lake Powell.
Route: State Route 9 (Zion-Mt. Carmel Hwy.)
Waves: Virgin River
Chow: The Bit and Spur, Springdale, UT
2. PCH, Central California
There’s a reason this is on everyone’s bucket list. 300 miles of nonstop twists, turns and visual overload will do that. There’s San Luis Obispo with Morro Bay, the historic grounds and castle at San Simeon, the white-knuckle cliffs of Big Sur, and the photogenic Bixby Creek Bridge to name a few landmarks. Pull in to Nepenthe restaurant for a cinnamon roll on the back patio and soak up the ridiculous view.
Route: CA-Hwy 1, between San Luis Obispo and Monterey
Waves: Pacific Ocean
Chow: Nepenthe Restaurant, Big Sur, CA
3. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington
Lewis and Clark were just a few of the adventurers that got drawn in by the awesome Gorge. If you’re in no hurry, head east from Portland toward the Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway, a cool two-lane that winds through old growth Doug Fir and what seems like dozens of waterfalls. State Route 14 across the river is faster, sunnier and less-trafficked, so it’s your choice. Kick back with a hoppy microbrew and killer thin-crust pizza at Solstice in Bingen, Wash.
4. Lake Michigan, Wisconsin/Michigan
Lake Michigan’s 1600 miles of shoreline are accessible to nearly 12 million folks, and it’s an easy and scenic cruise up the western shore from Chicago or Milwaukee to the glorious greenery of northern Wisconsin, especially in the lighthouse-happy Door Peninsula. Continue on to Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge for a real road trip, or head back down to Harley’s state of the art museum in Milwaukee when you’re done, and shack up at the IronHorse Hotel.
Not only is your payoff the ethereally stunning lake, but the journey there is pretty damn awesome too. Some of the finest roads in the west, including epically scenic but very touristy Highway 50, run down to the lake, and you can spend days touring the surrounding area without ever hitting the boring meter. The loop around Tahoe can get pretty congested come summer, so head east on Highway 430 for a little fun. Park it at Zephyr Cove and take in the scenery.
Route: Hwy 50
Waves: Lake Tahoe
It may seem short, but Going-To-The-Sun Road is still an engineering marvel; one that twists through Glacier National Park’s interior for 50 miles. This National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark is the only road that crosses through Glacier over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. The drive itself is brief, but count on frequent stops along the way to gape at the spectacular natural beauty.
Route: Going to the Sun Road
Waves: Saint Mary Lake; Lake McDonald
Chow: Elkhorn Grill, Hungry Horse, Mont.