Driving long distances likely isn't the first activity on your mind in the winter. After all, the possibility of frigid temperatures as well as snow and ice on the roads can all pose a risk to your vehicle. However, there's one major reason why this might be the best time of year to take a road trip: Nobody else is doing it. In a recent report, CNN Travel pointed out that the reduced traffic in the wintertime can be a major advantage, making long drives far more enjoyable and relaxing. As long as you keep up with proper vehicle maintenance and check for any necessary brake service or oil change, your car should be good to go for whatever journey you choose. So the only question is, which trails are ideal at this time of year? Fortunately, Travel + Leisure magazine outlined some of their top picks around the country.
Here are a few highlights:
Arches National Park - Moab, Utah
The 36-mile route along this park's Scenic Drive features plenty to look at, but you'll be especially enchanted by snow-covered natural sandstone sculptures. Fortunately, the road is also paved and snow doesn't tend to stick, so you can ease your mind a bit about any dangers along the drive. Be sure to bring along your camera because there will be a bevy of beautiful desert photo ops. When the temperature permits, you might even want to walk along Park Avenue Trail.
Cape Cod - Hyannis, Mass.
The beach might not be the first place you think to go in the cold season, but Cape Cod National Shore is particularly stunning in winter. For the best views of the snow-covered beaches, ride along Massachusetts Highway 6A and be sure to pay attention along the one-mile stretch between Truro and Provincetown. It's fun to stop and watch the enormous eiders - or sea ducks - and seagulls braving the wind and digging into the sand. When it's not too cold, you might even want to take a leisurely stroll on the boardwalks through Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary or the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reserve.
Parke County - Rockville, Ind.
There's more than just natural scenery to marvel at while driving 24 miles on the Brown Driving Route. Between the 31 covered red bridges that arch across the rivers and streams and the horse-drawn carriages you'll spot along the way, the Amish country environment will definitely transport you back in time. Travel + Leisure noted that the Sim Smith Bridge is supposedly haunted, meaning it might be the perfect place for a night stop when there's a full moon.
Lakes to Locks Passage - Waterford, N.Y.
History buffs will delight in this 190-mile route on Interstate 87, which ends at the St. Lawrence River. Specifically, Travel + Leisure recommended stopping at Fort Ticonderoga, which features a multitude of awe-inspiring 18th?-century structures that were built during the French and Indian War. Additionally, there are multiple North Country villages along the way that are worth taking a rest at to marvel at the surroundings.
Yellowstone National Park - Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo.
You won't have to worry about traffic jams near Yellowstone in the winter. In fact, you're more likely to come across a pack of wolves or bison than a slew of vehicles. Head to Lamar Valley for optimal wolf-spotting, and of course, be ready to pump the brakes at any point if animals are crossing. Additionally, it's worth considering a stay at Old Faithful Snow Lodge, especially if you're a skiing or snowshoe enthusiast. You'll be amazed at the view of the geysers, which look especially astonishing in the cold season.