Roads Less Traveled: 2014
Our favorite roads of the year.
All year long, we capture beautiful, interesting, and thrilling roads from around the world. Here are the greatest ones we visited in 2014.
NY Route 97
Sparrow Bush, New YorkJanuary 2014
Most people traveling across New York State's southern tier take Route 17, a divided four-lane highway that is in the process of becoming Interstate 86. That's fine, because it makes for less traffic on Route 97, which parallels Route 17 to the south. Route 97, also called the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, makes its squiggly way northwest from Port Jervis seventy miles to Hancock, New York. As the name suggests, this road follows the Delaware River, which separates New York from Pennsylvania and also affords plenty of recreational opportunities for fishing and rafting. Nowhere is the view more dramatic than in the section known as Hawk's Nest, where Route 97 is scratched into the granite cliffs and the Delaware meanders far below.
Photography by Joshua Paul.
Sicily, ItalyFebruary 2014
It has been a long time since Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio raced the Targa Florio in Mercedes-Benz 300SLRs, and attempts to resurrect the event have met mixed results. Still, the roads of Sicily on and around the original route beg to be driven. The race, contested in various forms from 1906 to 1977, started in Cerda and then looped through the Madonie Mountains. The road shown here goes through the town of Savoca. Photography by Martyn Goddard.
Col de Braus
Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'AzurMay 2014
The roads near the French Riviera are among the most spectacular in the world, and none are more challenging than the Col de Braus. The six-mile collection of hairpin turns ascends the Alps to an elevation of 3287 feet before descending into the village of Sospel (an excellent lunch stop). It's easy to imagine Lancia Delta S4s and Subaru Imprezas in controlled slides on the snow-covered mountain passes, which have long been a part of Monte Carlo Rally lore. Photography by Martyn Goddard.
Northumberland Heritage Coastal Route
Bamburgh, United KingdomJuly 2014
The Northumberland Coastal Route is a scenic, 39-mile stretch that passes by Bamburgh Castle and on to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last town in England before the Scottish border. This twisting country route is challenging, especially in a 1965 Lotus Cortina.
After driving the coast, head inland to Upper Denton and visit Hadrian's Wall, a stone fortification built in AD 122 to protect the Roman Empire from the Scots.
Your trip should also include a stop at Howick Hall in the village of Howick. Have tea at the ancestral home of Earl Grey. Yes, that Earl Grey. Photography by Martyn Goddard.
Vålådalen, SwedenAugust 2014
The west side of Sweden is home to some spectacular scenery, which looks even better from the driver's seat of a 1972 Dodge Challenger. The road winds through the uneven terrain to Vålådalen, a mecca for outdoor adventures and hiking.
The nearby resort of Åre offers world-class alpine skiing. If you don't ski, you can do some kiteboarding on a frozen lake or rent a snowmobile. After the day's activities, enjoy the good food, live entertainment, and spa at the Hotel Fjällgården, which opened in 1910.
In the warmer months, the region offers plenty of opportunities for biking, hang-gliding, rafting, and even a moose safari. Photography by Mats Lind.
Isle of Man TT
Isle of Man, UKSeptember 2014
Since 1907, motorcyclists have pursued the Tourist Trophy (TT) on the Isle of Man, which sits between the United Kingdom and Ireland in the Irish Sea. Harrowing but thrilling, the 37.7-mile Mountain Course leads through lovely glens and lonely moorlands. Thousands ferry over to watch the races and sample the course between sessions. The 2015 Subaru WRX STI seen here set a lap record in June 2014.
Trip NotesGreat the fairies at Ballolona Bridge between Douglas and Castletown, a tradition observed by racers who want to avoid being cursed in spite.Eat at Grosvenor Country Inn in the northern village of Anderas. If you can't make the Thursday steak night, get full-on locally made sausages and the isle's own Okell's ales. Photography by Michael Shaffer.
Lake Argyle Road
Lake Argyle, also known as the Ord River Dam, isn't quite in the middle of nowhere, but it's next door. The best 10 miles of this narrow, twisty road snake up and over the dam wall. It makes for a terrific, impromptu hill-climb, but watch out for kangaroos and wallabies. Seriously.
If you camp at Lake Argyle, there's a small general store for supplies, but be ready to spend a lot in this remote area.
Kununurra, the closest city, has about 4,500 residents, a selection of cheap motels, and a couple of decent pubs. Don't challenge any of the miners to drink games -- you'll lose.
For the real Australian Outback adventure, stay at the Turkey Creek Roadhouse, 180 miles southwest of Lake Argyle. Despite the name, it's home to an impressive collection of free-range peacocks, including a cranky albino peacock.
Photography by Thomas Wielecki.
Outside of Kobe, JapanNovember 2014
Mount Rokko is a popular destination for the residents of nearby Kobe and Osaka. By day, they enjoy hiking, golfing, and visiting the Alpine Botanical Garden. At night, though, the roads snaking up the mountain peaks are taken over by illegal drifters, sliding sideways and rubbing bumpers in heavily modified rear-wheel-drive cars. They call it touge, which translates from Japanese to "mountain passes." You can safely enjoy these stunning roads during the day, but keep an eye on your rearview mirror after sunset.
From Mount Rokko, take a cable car ride to Arima Onsen, one of Japan's oldest hot-spring resorts. Bathing is possible at both inns and public bathhouses.
Head into downtown Kobe and sink your teeth into some red meat. Yep, this is where Kobe beef comes from. Try Wakkoqu restaurant.
Kobe Port Tower, a 354-foot tall building wrapped in spiraling, red steel tubes, provides panoramic views of the surrounding bay area.
Photography by Dino Dalle Carbonare.
50 miles north of Anchorage, AlaskaDecember 2014
Driving along the valley floor of the Hatcher Pass Management Area in Alaska, you feel like you're in an IMAX theater. Look up, and white-capped mountain peaks rush at you from all directions. Out your side window, lush, snow-sprinkled green tundra stretches endlessly. This slice of the Talkeetna Mountain Range is so close—yet so far—from Anchorage, the biggest city in the 49th state, and you've got 300,000 acres of wilderness to play in. Just come ready to play, because there's only one paved road heading in and, although it remains open year-round, four-wheel drive is essential in winter, which lasts from early October to early June.
The long winter offers snowcat skiing, backcountry skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling. Make the most of the short summer by picking berries, riding horses, and panning for gold.
Independence Mine State Historical Park is home to a long-closed gold mining camp that, in its time, produced the modern equivalent of $17.2 million worth of gold.
Smoked halibut and hot buttered rums are good choices on the menu at Hatcher Pass Lodge. The lodge's little red huts are quaint, quiet, and surprisingly romantic.
Photography by A.J. Mueller.