Plan your next road trip by including a drive along one of America’s National Scenic Byways, Parkways, or All-American Roads.
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Take a Drive on America’s National Scenic Byways
You know we call our country America the Beautiful, but you may not know that one of the best ways to see America is by driving our National Scenic Byways. There are five major road networks administered by four federal agencies. Some roadways overlap and are included in more than one system because they meet the criteria to be classified on more than one list. Use the resources listed here to plan your next road trip and include a drive along one of America’s national scenic byways.
America’s Byways are administered by the Federal Highway Administration of the United States Department of Transportation. Under the umbrella of America’s Byways, roads are identified according to six specific criteria: archaeological, scenic, natural, cultural, recreational, and historic.
1. National Scenic Byways meet at least one of the criteria.
2. All-American Roads meet two or more of the stated criteria.
Check out our post on the Cherohala Skyway, our favorite National Scenic Byway so far. It is an incredible drive through the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, especially in the fall. You can find an exhaustive listing including location, description, distance, maps, and photos of all National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads by clicking here.
BLM Back Country Byways
Back Country Byways are administered by the Bureau of Land Management and are all located in the Western United States. Roadways are classified into four types ranging from paved roads to trails and according to required vehicles such as automobiles, 4X4s, and ATVs. The BLM web site has many outdated and broken links, however you can find listings of the Back Country Byways by clicking here and here.
National Forest Scenic Byways
National Forest Scenic Byways are primarily administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and are designated to showcase America’s National Forests and meet the demands of recreational driving. You will not find much helpful information on the National Forest web site itself, however there are links to two excellent PDF brochures that include detailed listings of the NF Scenic Byways here and here.
The National Park Service manages five designated National Parkways. These roadways pass through scenic corridors of federally protected parklands and often connect historic or cultural sites. The National Park Service web site does not feature a parkways page per se, but individual parkways do have dedicated pages such as the one for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
America’s Scenic Byways
The formerly comprehensive federal roads website Byways.org was shut down unexpectedly in September 2013 due to funding cuts. However, the independent site America’s Scenic Byways has opened to restore the lost content from Byways.org to the public domain, and it is an excellent resource for backroad riders. Be sure to check it out here!
We Would Love to Hear From You!
I enjoy dialogue with readers, especially when they share scenic routes from around the world. So what has been your most memorable scenic drive or road trip? And if you have driven any of America’s Scenic Byways, I would love to hear your experiences! I invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and I always respond!
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National Scenic Byways & All-American Roads
National Forest Scenic Byways PDF
National Forest Scenic Byways Partnership PDF
I’m driving from Long Island to Gainesville, FL in a few weeks. Want to travel scenic secondary routes. Did the mountains on the way up. It’s hard to find a continuous route of scenic routes—suggestions welcome—I have about 4 days.
Hi Annie! I drove from Florida to Long Island back in 1993 in a mini-van with another family, but I am pretty sure we stuck to the highways. I would have suggested Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and continuing along the Blue Ridge Parkway as part of your route, but if you have already done the mountains you may prefer something else. A coastal drive could be lovely, such as through North Carolina’s Outer Banks, South Carolina’s Low Country, and Georgia’s Sea Islands. You could research scenic byways along your route, or you could just do what I do. I have found the best way to see regions of the country along the backroads is to use the “Avoid Highways” setting on Google Maps. You will discover off-the-beaten-path sites and lovely parts of the country by default. Backroads don’t always need a scenic byway designation to be beautiful drives. I wish you safe travels and thanks for stopping by Backroad Planet!
Thank you for featuring these special road trips that capture so much! Consider a trip to the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways and our neighboring states.
Hi Lenore! We would welcome the opportunity to drive the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways. Do you host media?
My wife and I recently completed a counter-clockwise tour of the southeast for the express purpose of driving scenic byways. We also threw in stays in Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA. The byways were the Ashley River Scenic Byway outside Charleston, the Savannah Rivers Scenic Byway in Northwest SC, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway in northeast Georgia, the northern portion of the Natchez Trail Parkway (had already done Natchez to Tupelo portion), and the Talladega National Forest Byway. Then went to Apalachicola, FL, on a whim and ended up doing the Big Bend Scenic Byway. Then home to Ft. Pierce, FL. About 2600 miles in 12 days (we spent a long weekend visiting with a daughter). Ashley River is short, but historical. Savannah River Byway was a waste, as there is nothing to see from the road; two sidetrips led us to lakes in the area. Russell-Brasstown was excellent, but made me wish for something stronger than a Honda CR-V. Natchez Trace in Tennessee was okay, nowhere as interesting as the lower portion. Talladega was decent UNTIL we got to the ROAD CLOSED sign without previous warning. Had to U-turn and exit the parkway; ended up same place we had begun the day. Not funny. Big Bend was interesting and a bonus; life-long Floridians, we had never been in the Florida Panhandle.
Now we are looking forward to finishing the Blue Ridge Parkway next year. I am bookmarking your site for further information.
WOW! What a wonderful scenic road trip you had, Al! We have driven a few of the scenic byways you mentioned: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway (near Pinebox, our North Georgia log cabin), the Natchez Trace Parkway, Big Bend Scenic Byway, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Like you, we need to finish the Blue Ridge Parkway (between Cherokee and Mt. Airy, NC), and also the Natchez Trace Parkway (between Lorman and Jackson, MS). Thanks for stopping by, Al, and keep us posted on your travels!
Can you think of a scenic road trip from the middle of Kansas to any of the surrounding states?
Hi Regina! Our post An 8-Day Kansas-Missouri Road Trip which includes a link to the post Drive the Kansas Flint Hills Scenic Byway might help you out. The day I drove the Flint Hills Scenic Byway was one of my most memorable days on the road.
Absolutely. BLM and Forest Service roads are among my favorite. Unpaved roads are my really, real favorites!
Haha! Backroad guy that I am, I agree. I have no problem with unpaved roads, but I have to confess the moment the pavement turns to gravel, sometimes my stomach asks, “What am I getting myself into?”