The autumn season may just be the best time of the year to travel along America’s growing network of scenic byways. Every state in the union has their favorite list of roads that beacon you off the crowded highways and guide you through areas of breathtaking beauty.
The National Scenic Byways Program was established in 1992 as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States for your enjoyment. The program’s vision is to create a distinctive collection of American roads, their stories and treasured places. Its mission is to provide needed resources for the byway communities to create unique travel experiences and enhance the local quality of life through their efforts to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the intrinsic qualities of designated byways in their area.
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. The program’s definition of “scenic” reaches well beyond breathtaking vistas. “Scenic” byways represent the depth and breadth of scenery in America–natural and man-made panoramas; electrifying neon landscapes; ancient and modern history coming alive; native arts and culture; and scenes of friends, families and strangers sharing their stories.
The National Scenic Byways Program recognizes over 150 outstanding byways located in every state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Each celebrates the pride and diversity of our communities as well as the stunning landscapes that have shaped our lives. These All-American roads are a selection of the best of the best from California’s Route 1 Big Sur Coast Highway with its crashing waves, rolling fog, sheer rocky cliffs, and winding curves, to Maine’s Acadia All-American Road with its craggy shorelines, granite-capped mountains, crystal lakes and spruce forest.
America’s byways are gateways to adventures where no two experiences are the same. They are roads to the heart and soul of America. To date, there are officially 31 roads anointed as “All-American Roads” and another 120 deemed “National Scenic Byways”. Here are just 20 routes you may want to try. One or more just may be on your next adventure’s route.
Selma to Montgomery March Byway (Alabama) – 43-mile byway follows the trail of the 1965 march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Talladega Scenic Drive (Alabama) – A bird’s-eye view of mountains, rock outcroppings and small rural settlements along this 26-mile road through the Talladega National Forest.
The Seward Highway (Alaska) – 127-mile highway passes jagged peaks, alpine meadows, and crystal lakes of south central Alaska between Anchorage and Seward.
Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Parkway (Arizona) – 42-mile byway travels along the spectacular north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway (Arkansas) – Dramatic views and archaeological and historical sites along this 198-mile ridge byway.
Death Valley Scenic Byway (California) – 55-mile road journeys through one of the driest and hottest environments in the Western Hemisphere.
Route One, Big Sur Coast Highway (California) – 72-mile route treks through windswept cypress trees, fog-shrouded cliffs and the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean.
Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road (California) – 64-mile road journeys across Yosemite National Park, past views of granite peaks, pristine lakes, and Giant Sequoia groves.
Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway (Colorado) – Find intact ranches, unspoiled meadows and plenty of history of the American West along this 103-mile byway.
Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway (Colorado) – 135-miles Gold Belt Tour follows historic railroad and stagecoach routes leading to North America’s greatest gold camp, three world-class fossil sites and numerous historic sites.
Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway (Colorado) – 63-mile byway climbs through the rugged Canyon of Plateau Creek to the cool evergreen forests of the mesa top, 11,000 feet above sea level.
San Juan Skyway (Colorado) – 233-mile Skyway travels through Old West towns and picturesque national parks, all in the shadow of impressive 14,000-foot peaks.
Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway (Colorado) – Find old trading posts, stage stops, graves, and ruins along this 184-mile old trader route.
Top of the Rockies (Colorado) – 75-mile byway crosses the Continental Divide twice and passes through the historic mining town of Leadville, the highest incorporated community in the U.S.
Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow Road (Colorado) – America’s highest continuously paved road, this 53-mile byway offers spectacular views of craggy peaks and passes through the alpine tundra.
Connecticut State Route 169 (Connecticut) – 32-mile, 25-town route traverses one of the last unspoiled areas in the northeastern United States with rustic farmlands, forests, farmsteads, open spaces and historic structures and features.
Merritt Parkway (Connecticut) – Art Deco bridges and magnificent foliage in both spring and fall are highlights of this 37-mile designed corridor.
Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway (Florida) – 49.5-mile highway traverses the Florida Everglades, one of the largest remaining tropical wildernesses in the continental U.S.
Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway (Georgia) – 40.5-mile byway winds its way past waterfalls and through the fertile valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians.
Great River Road (Illinois) – Follow the Mississippi River for 557 miles through cities, historic sites and cultural artifacts.