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America's loveliest spring drives

Frank Jaquier

The Texas Hill Country bluebonnet tour is possible thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who led a campaign to beautify American cities, and in her native Texas, vast gardens of bluebonnets were planted across Texas Hill Country.

Remember when Dorothy dozes off among scarlet poppies in "The Wizard of Oz"? Well, those vivid flowers weren’t just a figment of Hollywood magic. Similar poppies set California’s Antelope Valley ablaze in spring, luring road-trippers from L.A. and beyond.

Slideshow: See where the best spring drives are

The arrival of spring inspires us to break out from winter’s hibernation and embrace the fresh outdoors. A road trip naturally satisfies that spontaneous travel urge, and we’ve mapped America’s best spring drives — routes that bring you up-close to nature’s finest floral displays, from a California poppy tour to Texas Hill Country’s bluebonnets.

Of course, flowers in bloom aren’t the only draw for these American road trips, many of which meander by woodlands, lakes, small quaint towns, even historic mansions and museums. Consider Colorado’s 232-mile San Juan Skyway, which takes visitors up melting snowcapped mountains, past natural hot springs, and through restored ghost towns.

It’s an officially designated American Byway, one of nine we’ve featured, among them, Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway in South Carolina. “These byways offer travelers the ability to pack up the family, hit the road, get out in nature, and take a trip that’s affordable and easy,” says Michelle Johnson, director of National Byways Research Center. “It’s really the all-American thing to do.”

That American pastime may feel under threat lately, with average gas prices reaching all-time highs. Yet you don’t need to travel far to enjoy some of spring’s loveliest drives — these routes start at 25 miles — and free smartphone apps such as GasBuddy and AAA’s TripTik can point you to the cheapest nearby fuel options.

Some of Travel + Leisure’s other favorite gas-saving tips include: pack light (less weight in your vehicle means better gas mileage); charge it (many credit cards give cash back on gas purchases); and drive steady (conserve fuel by going easy on the pedals).

“Everyone wants to get there faster,” says AAA fuel expert Ginnie Pritchett, “but going the speed limit can actually pay off and get you more miles per gallon.”

No matter which route you travel and no matter how many detours you take, spring into action this season by road-tripping through America’s most awe-inspiring floral landscapes.

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