Buckle up for a tour of highways with hairpin turns, steep cliffs, narrow lanes, extreme weather, and dizzying heights.
Colorado State Highway 82
Risk Factor: The road from Aspen is not for those who fear heights. Not only is it the highest paved lane in Colorado—12,100 feet above sea level at Independence Pass in the Rocky Mountains—it's also full of steep drop-offs, tight curves, and narrow stretches that can fit only one car at a time. For these reasons, the Colorado Department of Transportation closes down the route through Independence Pass each winter. Even if you make it out of the winding mountain roads, once you get near Cañon City on Highway 82, there's a trek across the soaring, 1,260-foot-long Royal Gorge Bridge. Towering 955 feet above the Arkansas River, it held the record for being the highest suspension bridge in the world until it was bested by China's Beipanjiang River Bridge in 2003.
Why you might be tempted to drive it anyway: Independence Pass is right on the Continental Divide, and at the summit you can find scenic overlooks that make the best use of the high elevation; you can also take a side trip to the ghost town of Independence. The Royal Gorge Bridge has its own attraction, a 360-acre amusement park that's currently being rebuilt after a 2013 fire but is expected to reopen in summer 2014.
More From Condé Nast Traveler:
Vegas' Most Expensive Hotel Suites
Must-Try Desserts Around the World
Rooftop Hotel Bars with Incredible Views
Florida's Best White Sand Beaches