Whether it’s Utah or Iceland, something about a seemingly endless and open road makes me want to travel.
Ruta 23, Argentina
This view of Mt. Fitz Roy on the road into Chaltén, Patagonia, Argentina, has become one of the most iconic images of South America. Perhaps even more open than the road into Chaltén is the Ruta 40 (pictured further down), Argentina's principal North / South highway, still unpaved in sections.
The Panamericana describes the unofficial "system" of highways which, if connected all together, form the world's longest road, a route from Alaska to Argentina (nearly 30,000 miles) with the only non-driveable part being the Darien Gap in Colombia. This shot is near Nazca, Peru, which takes its name from the Nazca people who drew massive figures and lines in the desert.
The Cabot Trail is an 185-mile scenic loop through the northern tip of Nova Scotia, with part of the loop running through Cape Breton Highlands National Park and some of the most undeveloped stretches of coastline left on the Atlantic.
The east side of Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park. Note that for almost the entire summer season, private vehicles are not allowed on the road. However, there's a lottery each year, the winners of which can purchase permits to drive the road in September (weather permitting).
The Badlands feel otherworldly and ancient almost more than anyplace I've ever been. Give yourself time to stop and climb up on the mesas and other features, reminding yourself it was all ancient seafloors at one time.
Running from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah N.P. in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mine drive that traverses many of the last remaining wilderness areas in Southern Appalachia. Because the speed limit along the entire parkway is 45 mph and there are regular turnoffs for trails, overlooks, and facilities such as folk art and nature centers, the Parkway has a "national park" feel even though it's technically a scenic drive. The bridge pictured is the Linn Cove Viaduct, an elevated section of the parkway wrapping around Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina.
At over 3,000 miles, the Ruta 40 through Argentina is the longest continuous section of highway in the Panamericana. South of Rio Negro province, the 40 has long stretches between towns / services, and there are still many sections left unpaved. Bring plenty of water.
Until you've been to the Middle East, you may have preconceptions of the terrain as "small." In fact, both Israel and Palestine have incredible open spaces. From photographer JJ Merelo: "the winding high road, in the middle of the Palestine desert, heading toward Mar Saba."
Mendoza has some of the best access to backcountry and wilderness of anyplace on earth. It's the gateway to Aconcagua, the Western and Southern Hemispheres' tallest mountain. There are immense, wide open roads to travel throughout the region; especially recommended is taking the pass (Paso Internacional Los Libertadores) if you have the opportunity to drive between Santiago and Mendoza.
People who haven't visited New York may only associate the state with urban areas. There's actually a surprising amount of Appalachian wilderness once you get out of the city. Pictured below is Whiteface Mountain's "Wishbone."
Running though some of the most concentrated sections of wilderness and national parks in the desert Southwest, State Route 12 goes for 122 miles across part of Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park, as well as various parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, before ending five miles west of Capitol Reef National Park.
Less a single official highway than a series of interconnected roads in British Columbia, the Powder Highway connects several epic mountain towns, including Revelstoke, Fernie, and Golden, with some of the best snow sports conditions, infrastructure, and backcountry access in the world.
Baja, Mexico, seems almost made for road trips unlike anywhere else I've been. When you get away from the coast and into the Sierra (as in this image of Rumorosa in Baja California Norte), the crowds will drop away fast.
This is the Doris Montgomery Pass on Nevada Hwy 374 leaving Beatty and going to Death Valley. Halfway up in the frame (there's a thin line visible in the middle of the valley) is the boundary to Death Valley National Park.
Lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon'i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar, the Avenue of the Baobabs is one of the most iconic roads in the world, and yet isn't a national park or any kind of organized tourist destination.
Probably the oldest road in this collection, the Silk Road began during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE) in China, evolving as a system of interlinking trade routes that eventually ran more than 4000 miles across the Afro-Eurasian landmass, connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa. Now you can find sections of it as open paved highway.
When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, I found Pennsylvania to have the most surprises as far as towns, terrains, and roads. You'd drop down the gaps after long sections hiking the Allegheny Plateau, and never know what you'd find in the valleys -- dilapidated coal mining towns, Superfund sites, dank highways where nobody would pick you up, or -- sometimes -- these quiet open spaces where you'd see coyote tracks in the snow.