America's Scenic Road Trips - My Family Travels

Get on the road again with a tour of some nationally-honored Scenic Byways, whose history, culture and local importance have endeared them to travelers across the nation.

“We took our children to the Limber Pine trail at the top of Logan Canyon,” wrote Pete from Utah, on August 8. “Our daughter was excited to see the ‘bent tree’ and occupied the remainder of the hike searching for more of them.” Pete’s account of his family visit to the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway is one of a growing number of Travel Tales posted on the new public website hosted by the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program.

America’s National Scenic Byways are a collection of roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation that enable travelers to enjoy their journey as much as their destination. From Old Canada Road in Maine to California’s Big Sur Coast Highway, designated Scenic Byways stand out for their archeological, cultural, historic, natural and recreational qualities. Descriptions of length, visitor services and sights along each byway encourage detailed planning on the National Scenic Byways website (800/4-BYWAYS). In addition to providing a glimpse of scenic Americana, travelers can store their own itineraries, post pictures of their trips, and even share experiences, as Pete and his family did, with other road trip enthusiasts.

Birdwatching enthusiasts can review the best byways for catching a glimpse of their favorite-feathered friends. Destinations and birding sites are described in detail. Also included are estimated driving mileage, bird photos and a calendar of birding festivals, complete with links to birding organizations.

Now those travelers residing in North America can request a free map of America’s Byways by submitting their mailing address online. International travelers can obtain most of the same information from the website.

Here are some of the best-known National Scenic Byways, as selected by the Department of Transportation.

Selma to Montgomery March Byway, Alabama [54 Miles]
This trail marks one of the major historic events in 20th Century American history, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Route One, San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway, California [57 Miles]
This route provides access to wine country, backpacking trails, pristine beaches and the Pacific Flyway migratory bird stopover as it traverses the California coast.

San Juan Skyway, Colorado [233 Miles]
This road snakes through Old West towns like Durango and Telluride, and Mesa Verde National Park- all in the shadow of impressive 14,000-foot peaks.

Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow Road, Colorado [48 Miles]
Trail Ridge and Beaver Meadows Roads connect the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake as they cross through the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama [444 Miles]
Native Americans, Kaintuck boatmen, post riders, government officials, soldiers, and fortune seekers all moved across this trail charting new territory and creating a vital link between the Mississippi Territory and the fledgling United States.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia [469 Miles]
This parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flowers and foliage displays.

Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road, California [64 Miles]
You can observe a great diversity of flora and fauna as well as craggy mountains and meadows while crossing the Yosemite National Park valley.

Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, Colorado [63 Miles]
This “playground in the sky” climbs through the dusty canyon of Plateau Creek to the cool evergreen forests of the mesa top, 11,000 feet above sea level. The byway offers the visitor a peek at porcupines, mountain lions, coyotes, red fox, elk, and deer.

Connecticut State Route 169, Connecticut [32 Miles]
This 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 [37 Miles]
Transportation buffs will especially enjoy this corridor’s significant design, which integrates the craft of the engineer and the artist. Everyone will take pleasure in its recreational offerings and aesthetic beauty.

Ohio River Scenic Route, Indiana [943 Miles]
Traversing through the lush hills and farmlands of southern Indiana and paralleling the mighty Ohio River, this route marks a time-worn and history-rich corridor linking villages and farms through a picturesque landscape.

Edge Of The Wilderness Scenic Byway, Minnesota [47 Miles]
Leave the urban center of Grand Rapids for the natural wonders of upper Minnesota, including vistas of flat lowland meadows, swamps and lakes, rolling hills of hardwood forests, and remnants of glaciers long gone.

Lake Tahoe-Eastshore Drive, Nevada [28 Miles]
The Eastshore Drive skirts the edges of Lake Tahoe, providing visitors with breathtaking views of the Lake Tahoe Basin, while the visitors center offers accounts of pioneer and Indian history of the region.

Pyramid Lake Scenic Byway, Nevada [30.2 Miles]
As the only byway in the nation entirely within a tribal reservation, this route takes the visitor around one of the largest desert lakes in the world and provides a unique opportunity to interact with the Paiute tribe.

Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire [26.5 Miles]
This “living museum” of trees and plants highlights the natural elements and their relationship with development, telling an ongoing story of forest regrowth and ecology.

Seaway Trail, New York and Pennsylvania [518 Miles]
This touring route along the coast of the eastern Great Lakes demonstrates the forces of nature through a landscape that was formed by glaciers and shaped by wind and water. Historic and picturesque lighthouses dot the trail throughout.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, South Dakota [68 Miles]
The highlights of this byway include the spectacular Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. The rugged terrain, massive granite outcroppings, and diversity of the landscape are traversed through pigtail bridges, narrow tunnels and winding roads.

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee [43 Miles]
Cultural heritage and historic sites of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers are offered along the skyway in the grand forest environment of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Highland Scenic Highway, West Virginia [43 Miles]
The long highway in the Monongahela National Forest is recognized for its natural beauty and recreational qualities as it traverses through river valleys and up onto mountain ridges, providing breathtaking vistas as well as scenic walks through mountain bogs and cranberry glades. An international mountain biking race is held annually by the International Police Mountain Bike Association.

The Creole Nature Trail [180 miles]
Designated Southwest Louisiana’s first National Scenic Byway in the Gulf South, the route includes four National Wildlife Refuges, Civil War and archaeological dig sites and miles of natural beaches, marshlands, and prairie lands. This will also be the way to the National Hurricane Museum & Science Center, currently in development.

And for History Buffs…

According to a recent study by the TIA, 81% of US adults who traveled in 2003 included historic or cultural activities in their trips. We know that history lovers want to share their passion with their kids, and that more of you may be motivated to go the road trip route with backseat fidgeters if the destination is both delightful and historic. That’s why we’re so pleased with a new online mapping program developed by the 50-year-old National Trust for Historic Preservation. In a cure for its midlife crisis, the Trust has decided that historic sites are ready to leap off the bookshelves and onto the Internet, where families can find them by simply inserting a zip code.

We went to the site, Preservation Atlas, and chose to plan our trip by looking for a “Dozen Distinctive Destinations.” There were so many (far beyond a Baker’s Dozen stretched the breadth and height of the USA) that we picked one of our favorite zip codes – 90210 to refine the search. Voila! You can see from the image at left that we landed in Beverly Hills looking for historical significance (!) and quickly discovered that our family was also near the following wonderful sites (numbers from map):
1. The Egyptian Theatre (323/461-2020), a true classic of Hollywood’s Golden Age, open for $5/PP tours and $10/PP for tour and a movie.
2. The Art Deco Georgian Hotel (800/538-8147) in Santa Monica, right across from the oceanview esplanade.
3. Bullocks Wilshire Building, a Deco classic department store.
4. Millennium Biltmore Hotel (213/624-1011), an early Deco masterpiece in downtown LA that’s a short walk from the classic Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry, an edifice likely to be found on this site in another 50 years.

Give this site a try; it’s not so easy to use but the results are great. Your family can play with it to search a database of the thousands of National Trust offerings, including America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the fascinating collection of Historic Hotels of America, hundreds of historic sites and the up-and-coming attractions that will use preservation grants for restoration.

And we guarantee you will all learn something together.

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