Scenic, Historic and Backcountry Byways in Arizona

A Joshua tree along the Joshua Tree Scenic Road
A Joshua tree

When I was young, my folks often kept copies of Arizona Highways on the coffee table. Reading each new issue was almost a religious experience for me as the magazine was always filled with great photos of other-worldly landscapes. And throughout those years of my youth, my family spent a lot of time dragging me back and forth across the continent: in the summers we'd be further north but the winter trips always crossed Arizona. I still remember waking up in the back seat of the car and looking out to see dinosaurs everywhere (it was in a gas station in Holbrook on Route 66, and those concrete dinosaurs were still there in 2009).

An active copper mine along the Gila-Pinal Scenic Road
An active copper mine along the Gil-Pinal Scenic Road

At one time or another, I've traveled nearly every designated scenic byway and highway in Arizona, the Swift Trail Parkway, the Desert-to-Tall-Pines Scenic Road and the Black Hills Back Country Byway being the only exceptions. I also haven't traveled El Camino del Diablo, the Agua Caliente Scenic Road or Rug Road but those look to be new additions to the BLM list of Backcountry Byways and Scenic Drives.

Update 2020: Checking out the links that worked a few years ago shows that many have simply disappeared since 2018 (the last time I looked at these things in any depth). It looks like Arizona DoT has reduced support for the Scenic Byways program to a few lines on an obscure page at the back of their website, leaving all promotion up to private enterprise. But they are still designating new Scenic Byways.

Mingus Mountain Scenic Road
Coming down the north side of Mingus Mountain

Scenic, Historic and Backcountry Byways in Arizona

Map of Arizona Scenic Byways
Red Rock Scenic Road
Looking north from the Village of Oak Creek on the Red Rock Scenic Road
Red and white rocks rising above the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road
Just above the roadway of the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road