National Scenic Byways

A view of Independence Pass along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway in Colorado
Independence Pass, Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Colorado

The United States Secretary of Transportation has designated 150 sections of road across the country as America's Byways®. The classification is further broken down into "All-American Roads" and "National Scenic Byways." These are pieces of highway that have earned the designation through their beauty, their charm and their connections to American history. Some routes follow trails left by Native Americans, like the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in Colorado. There's the Cherokee Hills Byway (Oklahoma) and the Native American Scenic Byway (North & South Dakota) which explore the history and the heritage of Native American tribes and the countryside(s) they live in. Then there's the Amish Country Byway in Ohio, a journey through a bygone era that is still present. Some byways follow paths taken during significant events in modern American history, like the Selma to Montgomery March Byway in Alabama. Probably the longest All-American Road is Historic Route 66 as it crosses Illinois, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Many of America's Byways are also part of the US Forest Service network of byways and/or the Bureau of Land Management's Backcounty Byways. However you want to look at it, these 150 scenic byways are among the cream of the crop when it comes to taking a leisurely (and beautiful) "Sunday drive" and experiencing some of the best that America has to offer.

The Federal Highway Administration took direct control of in September 2013, changing all the urls and reducing the data available on the site to only the 150 National Scenic Byways. So while I was scrambling to "correct" all the references and links I was also mourning the loss of a huge amount of data and photos about the 650+ other designated scenic byways in America. Thankfully some of the states have picked up that "burden" and have done a better job of representation than the FHWA would have. In the process of sorting that out I've found all kinds of state-approved scenic byways that had been left in the lurch by the feds. What has kinda fallen through the cracks are the US Forest Scenic Byways... and while the USFS can do an excellent job of displaying their stuff, much of it is hidden in pretty obscure places.

A view along the Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway in Colorado
Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway, Colorado
National Scenic Byways
A view at the foot of Independence Pass in Colorado
At the foot of Independence Pass, Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Colorado