These 8 great roads are our pathways to freedom

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Unsplash/Justin Lawrence

If you’re here reading this, you likely feel (as we do) that driving is more than a means to an end. A to B is not the point. Beyond the pavement, roads are emotional avenues that help us experience a slice of freedom, transcend monotony, and lead more enjoyable lives. Naturally, not all paths offer that type of liberating experience. But you best believe we remember our personal favorites.

Here at Hagerty Media, we’re celebrating Independence Day this year by sharing with you the roads our staff of editors love and long for. Enjoy, and share your most-loved roads with us in the comments. Happy 4th!

Belle Isle (Detroit, Michigan)

Scott Pruett 1999 GP
Robert Laberge/Allsport/Getty Images

Belle Isle has been a Detroit landmark for 30 years; it’s a natural beauty punctuated with apex curbing and waterside straightaways. The thought of your tires sharing the same pavement with the likes of Alex Zanardi, Danica Patrick, and Hélio Castroneves is second only to the romantic sunset views of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario as the backdrop. Don’t limit yourself to the road course, either. The rest of the island has rally-like features, and even a bridge that—if not taken with prudence—has the potential for an airy launch. Beware, too, that this is a state park policed by the DNR, and you’ll quickly note that the standard flow of traffic is counter-course to the now-defunct Grand Prix road course. — Alejandro Della Torre

Highway 36 (Missouri & Kansas)

Kyle Smith

This sounds like such an odd one compared to what everyone else has suggested, but Highway 36 from Hannibal, Missouri to Marysville, Kansas does it for me. This is a painfully straight stretch of road, but this scenic 55-mph-friendly route is a staple of my old car adventures on drives from my current home in Traverse City, Michigan, to my family home in Kansas. The small communities it goes through and the small Erector-set looking bridge that is used to cross the Mississippi feel charming when the rest of my year is spent on super slab highways and coach seats on airplanes. — Kyle Smith

Pigsah Highway (North Carolina)

porsche in pigsah national forest road
Juan Silva/Getty Images

North Carolina, not far from its southern border, is home to one of the east coast’s greatest driving roads: Pisgah Highway. (According to me, anyway.) Officially designated U.S. 276, this gorgeous, squiggly romp through Blue Ridge country starts just north of the quaint college town of Brevard and runs through the Pisgah National Forest, intersecting with the historic Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a technical route suited to small, lightweight cars with usable power—think small BMW, Miata, or Datsun 240Z—but macho machines like the Corvette, Camaro, or Mustang will still enjoy plenty of longer stretches to flex V-8 muscles. Don’t skip the lookout points, waterfalls, and hiking trails around every delicious bend. Or maybe that’s the vinegary BBQ talking? — Eric Weiner

Yerba Buena Road (California)

Malibu with view Pacific Ocean
EyeWolf/Getty Images

It’s tough to pick a favorite section of pavement in Malibu because there are so many that offer great vistas and engaging corners. The one that checks all the boxes for me is Yerba Buena Road. One of the great delights of this winding, two-lane stretch is that it’s fun to drive even at the speed limit. There are great views of the scrubby Malibu hills and the Pacific Ocean at various points, too. Along the way you’ll find turnouts for trailheads that have great hikes, a bathroom stop near the midpoint, and when Yerba Buena hits Pacific Coast Highway, you’re at Neptune’s Nest—a great lunch spot. We have used this route for several of our road tests and reviews over the years, and we’ll likely keep coming back. — Brandan Gillogly

“Hocking Ring” (Ohio)

Route 374 Hocking Hills
Jim Crotty/Getty Images

Deep in rural Southeast Ohio, a unique triumvirate of snake-like roads combine for the most thrilling circuit outside of an actual race track. Back in the day, buff books used this route to shakedown everything from economy cruisers to ultrafast supercars. The loop, which is comprised of tight esses of varying cambers and radii, circles Hocking Hills State Park, by way of state routes 374, 56, and 664. Unlike many of the point-to-point paved ribbons in United States, the “Hocking Ring” as it’s known by enthusiasts, makes one large 13-mile loop. Want another go? Just keep your foot in it. Another boon: the location is far more obscure than Tail of the Dragon or Highway 1, so dense traffic is rarely an issue. And should you tire, the area is well-known for its bucolic parks. Pack a hammock and a lead foot. — Cameron Neveu

State Highway 97 (Idaho)

Coeur d'Alene Lake and Highway aerial view
Shunyu Fan/Getty Images

Idaho is, in general, underrated. They like it that way; Idahoans hate when outsiders talk about it too adoringly, for fear of the secret getting out (see: Colorado). So hopefully the state’s citizens will forgive me for spilling the tea on Highway 97. I’ll never forget the outer reaches of Lake Coeur d’Alene, which I first saw while on a family vacation as a kid. Just 10 miles southeast of the city of Coeur d’Alene, whimsical miles of road border sections of the lake’s eastern shore. The route wiggles and twists through Idaho’s towering pines, with tight turns and plenty of turnoffs for stretch breaks and lake views. To this day, I’ve thought of returning in something other than the rear seat of a ‘98 Plymouth Voyager. To really do it right. For a complete loop, the northern stretch of State Highway 3 is also great, weaving around ranch country and the Coeur d’Alene River before reconnecting with U.S. 90. It is roughly 70 total miles of impeccable driving. Go, but keep it off Instagram. — Bryan Gerould

Highway 27 to Highway 14 North (Arkansas)

Rural Arkansas autumn hills
Getty Images

It’s the smallest line you can make on a map, a barely-there representation of my favorite road. It’s Highway 27, east to Highway 14 North, starting out in Marshall, Arkansas, and ending up in Yellville. It was the way home to my parents when they lived on the White River in Norfolk, a tiny village that is barely there, too. It started out as a shortcut the day I took the road in a Peugeot 405, and later on a BMW R50/5, if that tells you how long ago it was, and it became ingrained in me as an exercise in ultra-rural landscape carved up with good pavement and tight turns. In the fall, it’s beautiful. Any day, it’s profoundly mind-clearing. — Steven Cole Smith

BC-99 (British Columbia, Canada)

Highway 99 in summer aerial
Getty Images

Whoops, this one isn’t even in America! Just think of it as a belated Canada Day celebration. British Columbia, out of Vancouver, is home to one of the most magnificent roads that I’ve ever had the privilege to turn a wheel on. BC-99, better known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway, runs along the west side of B.C. from West Vancouver all the way to the world-famous Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort (and well north of that). The car you choose is almost immaterial here, provided there are big windows for the endless sightseeing. Bolder drivers may choose a classic convertible to enjoy the endless greenery and incredible views of the Howe Sound. Others may opt for the luscious ride of a modern grand tourer—say, a Lincoln Navigator or a Dodge Charger, cosseted in total comfort while drinking in the Great White North’s natural beauty. The blend of sweeping curves, blue waters, and craggy mountains ensure that one run up BC-99 will be more than enough to vault it up your list of great byways of North America. Pro tip, though: bring a raincoat. — Nathan Petroelje

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