Prettiest Winter Drives in the Volkswagen Passat
Plan an escape this season with our list of the most picturesque regional winter drives to take in your Passat.
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The start of winter can be the start of an exciting new season of road trips. With a reliable, fuel-efficient* 2012 Passat, a world of adventure awaits in winter too. This holiday season, escape for a day or a weekend to one of these scenic getaways.
East: Finger Lakes Region, New York
Southwest of Syracuse, set out on a road trip that wanders past the long and slender Finger Lakes, along hillsides striped with vineyards. Several area wine trails mark particularly scenic routes, like the 41-mile Canandaigua Wine Trail that loops around Canandaigua Lake with sweeping views. Near the south end of Seneca Lake, stone paths and bridges snake through the deep serpentine gorge of Watkins Glen State Park, a treasure trove of icy waterfalls and snow-covered grottos.
East: Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
You’re never far from the water in eastern Maryland, where the Chesapeake Bay takes a salty bite out of the state. Begin your drive in stately Annapolis, where the narrow streets are lined with more 18th-century homes than anywhere else in the nation and sailboats fill its well-protected harbor. Cross the bay and wander south along the meandering Eastern Shore to discover crab-fishing fleets and picturesque villages tucked among countless snowy bays and inlets. Winter is ideal for visiting historic towns like Easton and St. Michaels, when you can appreciate their charms without the crowds.
Midwest: North Shore, Minnesota
Clear skies and reliably deep snow make the dramatic scenery sparkle in Northern Minnesota. Begin near Duluth, a busy maritime port on Lake Superior. Minnesota Highway 61 hugs Superior’s north shore for 149 miles, passing several state parks, lakefront towns and the Split Rock Lighthouse, high atop a 130-foot bluff. Inland, the land rises steeply—home to ski resorts and deep forests inhabited by wolves, moose and other wildlife. Near the Ontario border, the Gunflint Trail leads west into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which provides a beautiful backdrop for Nordic skiing.
Midwest: Traverse City, Michigan
Lake-effect snowfall from Lake Michigan coats Traverse City in an average 80 inches of snow a year, making it a winter playground for skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. Use delightful Traverse City as a base, then travel up the bay’s western shore onto the Leelanau, a peaceful landscape with a state park and an 1858 lighthouse guarding its tip. Return south along the Lake Michigan side to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to take in the immense dunes rising up hundreds of feet from the lake.
West: Pacific Coast, Oregon
Like a tiny tide pool brimming with life, the Oregon Coast—just two hours west of Portland—offers a lot to explore. Travel through the rolling snow-covered hills of Willamette Valley wine country to Pacific City, where fishermen still launch open-deck dories through the crashing ocean waves. Skip busy Highway 101 and follow the majestic Three Capes Scenic Drive north, along Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. Among these headlands you’ll find dramatic cliff-top views that echo with booming waves and the playful calls of sprawling sea lions. In winter, keep an eye out for migrating gray whales.
West: SoCal Desert, California
Along with its famous beach scene, Southern California also offers stunning desert scenery. From San Diego, steer inland to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a rocky landscape studded with spiky agave, ocotillo and stout barrel cacti. The park also hides a fertile green oasis, a tumbling creek shaded by fan palms and an idyllic sunny winter climate. You could explore this immense 600,000-acre park for days, with its 500 miles of dirt roads and hiking trails. Then head north to playful Palm Springs and vibrant Joshua Tree National Park.
Mountains: Bozeman and West Yellowstone, Montana
U.S. Highway 191 from Bozeman to West Yellowstone typifies the state’s soul-stirring scenery. But Montana is also an outstanding winter sports destination. Alpine skiers and snowboarders head for the slopes at Big Sky and Moonlight Basin, while Nordic skiers can hardly do better than the sprawling trail networks of Gallatin National Forest. Continue south toward Yellowstone National Park, where the highway is crisscrossed by the Gallatin River, teeming with trout and famous for winter fly-fishing. Keep a watchful eye on the road, since wildlife crossings here include elk, bighorn sheep and even bison.
Mountains: Red Rock Desert, Utah
Southern Utah redefines desert with its surreal world of red-rock canyons, arches and pinnacles that seem to glow at sunset. Five national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches—offer endless areas to explore. North and east of St. George, nearly every road qualifies as a scenic drive, including Utah highways 9, 12 and 24. Marvel at geologic wonders like Zion’s sinuous slot canyons and the twisted spires of Kodachrome Basin and Goblin Valley state parks. Snow blankets the higher elevations in winter—adding even more drama to the fiery red landscape.
South: Coastal Bend, Texas
Start in Corpus Christi, a beguiling city filled with first-rate attractions and waterfront restaurants along the downtown Seawall. Then travel the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway to Mustang Island—a sandy barrier island that curves along the coast—and city life suddenly feels far away. At Mustang Island State Park, paths spiral through wild dunes and onto long stretches of balmy beach that provide a welcome blast of sun and heat in winter. In Port Aransas, guided birding walks help visitors enjoy hundreds of native and migrating species, and deep-sea fishing charters set out for the big tuna and wahoo that swim in the Gulf.
South: Gulf Coast, Florida
A long string of sandy islands hugs the Gulf Coast of Florida, from Tampa Bay south to the Everglades. Winter here means snow-white beaches, sultry temperatures and rustling palm trees. Near Sarasota, Siesta Key is often named one of the world’s best beaches, with sand as soft as sifted flour. Bodysurf in the gentle waves and watch for dolphins arcing through the Gulf waters. Farther down the coast, south of Fort Meyers, Sanibel Island is famous for the seashells that wash up in great mounds along its shores.