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The Best Scenic Midwest Drives

Road trips are exciting and even better when the scenery is beautiful. If you want a view on your drive, focus on the Midwest. This oft-overlooked area sports some of the most beautiful roads in the country. You'll have plenty of chances to get the perfect photo op in the most gorgeous locations. The American landscape cannot truly be fathomed until you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, driving down a back road and contemplating the beauty before you. From the plains to climbing mountains, the Midwest region of the States has a lot of beauty for you to find.  

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01A hundred miles, fourteen waterfalls, the epic beauty of Wisconsin awaits

Wisconsin, Famous Place, Water, Waterfall, Wheel HaizhanZheng / Getty Images

Do you believe in magic? If you don't, you definitely will after you experience exploring the waterfalls of northern Wisconsin on this waterfall road trip. Travel through dirt roads, twists, and turns, chasing waterfalls where you will swear each one is more beautiful than the last.

Bring your camera and your swimsuit on this trek. You're gonna want to jump in and refresh yourself along the way.

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02Enjoy a rollercoaster of a ride through the Driftless Area Scenic Byway in Iowa

Here you have 144 miles to drive along limestone cliffs, dense hardwood forests, and lots of Indigenous effigy mounds. The closest thing to compare this trek to is a roller coaster. You’ll make your way toward New Albin and down into the wildlife-dense sloughs and wetlands near the Minnesota border.

Buckle in and prepare for a wild ride into some of the country's most beautiful roadside scenery.

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03Marvel at the breathtaking views of the Ohio River on the Ohio River Scenic Byway

 

Running alongside the Ohio River, this part of the route is like a tour of the most picturesque barns in America. It even boasts a ton of old-school tobacco ads along the highway. Take a break at the Portsmouth Brewing Company, one of the oldest breweries in the US, dating back to 1843

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04Edge around Michigan's great lakes on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Drive

Elliot Falls spills over sculpted rock at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising Michigan

Michigan boasts thousands of miles of scenic shoreline. From the choppy shores of Lake Superior are 40 miles of cliff face filled with the colors of the rainbow. Take a break and hike Chapel Rock for a picnic. Don't forget to send a card from the post office in the town called Christmas.

Bring your camera and plenty of batteries because there's not one second of this drive you won't want to capture.

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05Head into the woods in Minnesota on Highway 61

Moonrise and sunset at Split Rock Lighthouse, North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota

Going from Michigan to Minnesota along the coast of Lake Superior, this northern Minnesota drive is filled with nature's beauty. You'll wind through forests and hills as you start out from Duluth. Catch sights like the Split Rock Lighthouse, the Swedish-inspired town of Lutsen, and tons of waterfalls.

Plan to make a stop overnight and grab dinner along the shores.

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06Enjoy a slice of Route 66 in Kansas on the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway

A mere snippet of Route 66 cuts through Kansas. It is an exciting 13 miles of road that mirrors exactly what you think Kansas should look like. The Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway takes you through the high-plains region featuring mesas, red soil, and emerging canyons. Keep an eye out for armadillos and other wildlife you wouldn't expect to see in Kansas as you near the Oklahoma border.

Grab Toto and go on an adventure!

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07Experience the Ozarks on Highway 19 in Missouri

Falling Spring Mill near Winona, MO, deep in the Ozarks. It once generated electricity and ground corn, being powered by Falling Spring, which flows naturally out of the rock wall like a waterfall. Eifel Kreutz / Getty Images

Highway 19 is a gorgeous North-South route in Missouri. Follow it, and you will delight in views of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Driving the back roads through the Ozarks means you're experiencing the heart of the Midwest. Talk to the locals when you head through the small town of Eminence to see if you can catch sight of some of the last wild horses left in America.

Grab some pie for this slice of Americana.

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08Channel your inner Frank Lloyd Wright in Nebraska on US Route 83

A blacktop highway in the sand hills of Nebraska. John_Brueske / Getty Images

US Route 83 runs 222 miles through the plains of Nebraska, taking travelers on an adventure of straight roads, dunes, rivers, valleys, and homes built by Frank Lloyd Wright. This route is best observed in the summertime when the sunlight paints the roads a faint pink, and golden hour will make the best memories of your life.

You'll consider moving to Nebraska to catch these rays every day.

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09Catch the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota's Needles Highway

Cathedral Spires from the Needles Highway at Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota

 

Most of western South Dakota is a scenic drive, but Needles takes the cake. Visit the Crazy Horse Monument at Custer State Park, view the rock spires that give the Needles Highway its name. It's 14 windy miles of exposed stalagmites. Picnic at Sylvan Lake and enjoy the purest blue mountain water you're likely to see in the nation. There are plenty of hikes you can take while in the area.

Enjoy nature at its finest.

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10Test the taste-making of Teddy Roosevelt on the Ohio River Scenic Byway

Drive a 188-mile trek through the backwoods of Southeast Illinois. Enjoy valleys, the Shawnee National Forest, scenic bridges, and small towns along the way, including Metropolis, where a giant Superman statue serves as the town's claim to fame. Make sure you detour into Shawnee for a look at the Garden of the Gods and see why Teddy Roosevelt himself said Illinois was home to “the world’s most beautiful drive.”

Hiking trail leading to the Garden of the Gods overlooks. Shawnee National Forest, Illinois, USA

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