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Via Editors' Favorite Drives

Via Editors
View from Ecola Point State Park at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, image
Photo caption
The Oregon Coast offers scenic views such as the one looking south from Ecola Point State Park at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.


Do you wonder who puts Via together every issue? By way of introduction, here are some of our editors' answers to "what's the best drive you've ever taken in the West?"

See for maps and driving directions.

Along the Oregon coast in nice weather, from Newport south to Florence on Highway 101. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew, the windows were down, the radio was on. Everything just seemed right. —Brett Shanley, intern

We pulled out of Furnace Creek in Death Valley on an October morning in the mid-1980s hoping that our VW camper's dying battery—alternator kaput—would last as far as Lone Pine, Calif. It pulled us uphill, topped a rise, and gave up. The engine wouldn't even run downhill. We coasted onto the wide shoulder, unfurled the awning, made some tea, and had the world to ourselves—no traffic, not a cloud in the sky, not a sound that we didn't make ourselves. Clean, cool, complete quiet, the most quiet I'd ever known. Eventually a car came along, a sheriff as it happened; he radioed to Lone Pine; an hour or two later a speck appeared where the road came over the horizon, a AAA flatbed truck whose driver winched our ailing camper aboard and hauled us 50-some miles to town. We were glad to see him, of course, but we'd have been just as glad to wait a while longer. We'd had our favorite breakdown. —John Poppy, executive editor

I like the ride on Highway 180 from Highway 245 to Road's End in King's Canyon National Park in the California Sierras. The views are tremendous (and so is the drop!) as you drive along the cliff's edge. —Eric Smillie, contributing editor

Though it's full of stomach-churning twists and turns, I love the drive through the redwoods up in northern California, specifically from Willits to Mendocino. The ferns and trees are always so lush and green, and even when it's hot outside the canopy overhead makes everything seem cool. —Matthew Craggs, events editor

Heading south on 395 from John Day in eastern Oregon takes you into the heart of a big-sky landscape. After winding through forests, the road drops down into wide-open grasslands. We stopped at Burns for antiques and not much else. After frequent roadside stops to look for raptors in fields and on fence posts, we arrived at Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge, where the mosquitoes hovered around the car, and made a dash to the visitors' center. In a tiny museum next door, dimly lit and hushed, we pulled out drawer after drawer of dead stuffed birds.

On to Frenchglen Hotel, a tiny hostelish old wooden house with rooms upstairs. From a screened-in front porch (insurance against more mosquitoes), we watched a peregrine falcon atop a phone pole opposite, plucking apart some rodent. Next day, drove to the Alvord Desert without seeing another car and up a not-too-rocky, but definitely dusty road on the east side of Steens Mountain to a local hot springs that looked out onto a shimmering white playa.

Driving toward northern Nevada, we watched wide desert skies, bluffs in the distance, little storms crossing blue mountains many miles away. On the lookout for bighorn sheep, we saw, instead, a herd of wild horses pounding down a hillside and disappearing into the sagebrush. —Leslie Endicott, senior editor

Among other favorites, I like driving Durango to Silverton, Colo., paralleling the route of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train ( —Tannie Soo Hoo, publication coordinator

Taking the Crater Lake Highway towards Crater Lake, Ore., early in the morning, I saw huge dark mountains dotted with all sorts of trees I'd never seen before. Closer to the park, we stopped to see the Pinnacles, volcanic flutes carved out of rock. It was otherworldly, and I wish I had had more time to explore. —Megan Ma, intern

I love the 50-mile stretch of Highway 25, the Airline Highway, that runs south from Hollister to Bitterwater, Calif. (to the turnoff where you head west toward King City). It's best to drive it late in the day, shortly before dusk, when the light is perfect. It is a slow unfolding of classic Steinbeck country: rolling hills, grazing cattle, spreading oaks, occasional deer. The road wends through Tres Pinos, through Paicines (where my wife and I got married), past vineyards, through cattle country, past the entrance to the Pinnacles National Monument, and by more timeless California ranches. It's a drive that is good for the soul. — Bruce Anderson, editor

My favorite is Nevada's Highway 50 — about a half-dozen mountain passes, Sand Mountain, the Shoe Tree, a handful of old mining towns, and miles of open road. It's like you're in The Road Warrior. — Ron Evans, senior editor

Every year, my family and I would drive from Oakland, Calif., up to Cheney, Wash., to visit my grandparents. It was a two-day drive, but it was always fun, even though we were all crammed into a 1979 Mazda GLC with no air conditioning. The views were amazing, especially around Mt. Shasta and up through Oregon. We would always stop in Salem for the night at a wonderful little hotel (I forget the name); it had a lovely shallow pool with seahorse fountains. —Miriam Wild-Smith, intern

Photography by Mary Beth Seibert/Courtesy America's Byways


This article was first published in March 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.