America's Most Extreme Road Trips

Get your heart racing and adrenaline rushing with these totally exhilarating adventure runs.

By Reed Jackson

THE ICIEST: DALTON HIGHWAY IN ALASKA

Haul Road (pictured above), is a frozen luge of a highway and home to some of the most breathtaking views under the northern lights. It’s also where a writer for My Ford Magazine braved the brutal 500-mile stretch of gravel and snow in the Ford Explorer to test the SUV’s capabilities. (It did great.) Before you go, study up on the science of black ice—a common phenomenon on this highway—and learn how you can avoid it. With harsh weather conditions and a serious lack of cell phone reception and service stations, Haul Road is not a good place to get stuck in a ditch.

 

Photo: Darryl Cannon

THE CURVIEST: TAIL OF THE DRAGON IN NORTH CAROLINA

Its name says it all. The 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 along the North Carolina-Tennessee border is a paved monster of sharp dips and curves, each with its own ominous nickname, such as Gravity Cavity, the Whip and the infamous Pearly Gates. But scary names aside, this twisty road provides some stunning views of the Great Smoky Mountains, and it can be safe as long as you abide by the 30 mph speed limit. It’s a good idea to also make sure your vehicle’s shocks and struts are in top condition, as they’re crucial to your vehicle’s steering. Read this article to learn about the problems that could arise if they’re worn out and to find out when to have them replaced.

 

THE STEEPEST: WAIPIO VALLEY IN HAWAII

The signs at the beginning of the Big Island’s Waipio Valley Road are adorned with exclamation marks: “WARNING!” “PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!” “ONLY FOUR-WHEEL-DRIVE VEHICLES PERMITTED!” It’s for good reason. Often called one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the Waipio can be as hazardous as it is picturesque. Sitting 2,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean on emerald-green cliffs, the road is a gateway into the beautifully raw Hawaiian landscape. The journey requires extra-vigilant driving, but its spectacular waterfalls, taro fields and swaths of jungle make it worth it. Check your windshield wiper blades before you leave, so the area’s rainfall doesn’t impede the fantastic views.

 

THE HOTTEST: DEATH VALLEY ROAD IN CALIFORNIA

Death Valley has more miles of roads than any other national park, which provides ample opportunities for exploration of the dusty and dramatic countryside. Its rocky terrain makes it a paradise for mountain biking enthusiasts who like a challenge. It’s also one of the hottest places on earth, so that means your car needs to be nothing short of a polar bear’s pen at the zoo in order for you to stay comfortable in between rides. Before you go, check that your vehicle’s ventilation and cooling systems are working properly. Scorching temperatures can also sap your battery of its energy, which means you’ll need it to be at full strength for the journey. Get it checked as part of The WorksTM maintenance package.

 

THE HIGHEST: STATE HIGHWAY 82 IN COLORADO

Want to go on a roller coaster ride but don’t like waiting in line? Try this extreme route, which has an elevation of 12,000 feet—the stretch called Independence Pass is the highest paved state highway over the Continental Divide in Colorado—and includes plenty of plunges and swoops to make your stomach twist. It’s open only in summer because of the heavy snowfall in the winter, which is fine because you wouldn’t want to be sliding around on these crazy roads. The overlooks are epic, offering views of three of the tallest peaks in the state, including La Plata, Mount Massive and Mount Elbert (the tallest mountain in Colorado). Make sure the ride isn’t too hair-raising by getting your brake pads checked beforehand.

 

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