Texas Hill Country Is the Ultimate Road Trip

Texas Hill Country with its winding roads and hilly vistas of live oak trees and prickly pear is one of the most scenic places in the Lone Star State and offers some of the best wines east of California

With its scenic beauty, quaint towns, fascinating history, and varied attractions, the central part of the Lone Star State has all the makings of a fun-filled RV getaway.

For many folks, Texas evokes thoughts of flat cotton fields, desert, the humid eastern piney woods, the Gulf Coast, big cities such as Dallas and Houston, or a state so large it seems to take forever to drive across. Yes, Texas is all of these and more.

Blanco State Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Hill Country at approximately 31,000 square miles is the fourth-largest region in Texas. This vast, rural region of south-central Texas is conveniently close to all major cities. Its rolling hills are only an hour-long drive from Austin and San Antonio and a four-hour jaunt from Dallas and Houston. 

The hills dotted with sprawling cypress and oak trees make for an idyllic road trip route that’s especially picturesque in spring and fall. Some of the lushest fields of bluebonnets bloom in spring and there’s nothing more Texan than a bluebonnet photograph.

Guadalupe River State Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Motorcyclists enjoy riding the hilly, curvy, and wooded byways and highways. Visitors may see deer and other wildlife as well as Texas Longhorns grazing in fields.

I will hit a few highlights of what this large, diverse region has to offer for travelers of all ages as we journey from east to west.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s start our trip across the Hill Country in New Braunfels located on I-35 a short distance northeast of San Antonio. New Braunfels and the Canyon Lake area just a few miles to the north are home to various RV parks. Many RVers, especially young families, make New Braunfels a destination.

Besides being close enough for day trips to San Antonio, New Braunfels and the surrounding area offer attractions for visitors of all ages. One hot spot for cooling off is the Schlitterbahn Water Park which boasts 51 attractions including rivers, rides, chutes, and slides that draw tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Texas Hill Country near Kerrville© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those looking for a natural water attraction might want to take a dip in the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels. At only 2.5 miles long it is one of the shortest navigable waterways in the United States. Tubing in the river is a fun way to cool off on a hot day. Another fun family destination is the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.

More on the Texas Hill Country: A State of Mind: Texas Hill Country

Gruene in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Braunfels isn’t just for kids. Settled by Germans in the mid-1800s, the Gruene Historic District within the city limits was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The renovated historic buildings now serve as bed-and-breakfast inns, restaurants, art galleries, antique and gift shops, and a general store. You can enjoy live entertainment at Gruene Hall, Texas’s oldest continually operating dance hall. Gruene also is a popular launching place for kayaking and tubing on the Guadalupe River.

Greune in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One busy tourist destination a few miles up I-35 at exit 200 in San Marcos is the location of the Premium and Tanger outlet malls. With more than 200 stores combined at the malls, shoppers will find plenty to occupy their time.

A favorite German restaurant, the Alpine Haus is in New Braunfels at 251 S. Seguin Ave. It sits back off the road in a historic house built in the mid-1800s. The period décor is attractive, the food is deliciously cooked in Bavarian style, and the service is excellent.

Buesher State Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A block down Seguin Avenue from the Alpine Haus is the oldest continually operating bakery in Texas. Naegelin’s Bakery has been serving authentic German pastries and strudel since 1868.

Just a few miles north of New Braunfels are Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River. Several RV parks in this area will appeal to those who desire a resting place away from the city and the highway. This also is a good area for those who enjoy nature. Boating and fishing are popular on Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River attracts kayakers and tubers. Area outfitters rent tubes and provide transportation for those who glide down the gentle Guadalupe. A well-maintained nature trail awaits exploration below the Canyon Lake Dam

Guadalupe River at Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With approximately 50 wineries and tasting rooms in Gillespie County, this is the most-visited wine region in Texas. And if you thought wine wasn’t a thing in Texas, the state has eight recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). In fact, Texas is the fifth-highest wine-producing state and is home to the fifth-highest number of wineries, according to data from WineAmerica.org. Texas wine isn’t new but it is rapidly growing and the quality is only getting better as growers perfect the grapes that do best in the rocky Texas soil.

More on the Texas Hill Country: Head For the Hills: Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But wineries aren’t the only attraction. Tourists visit Fredericksburg to browse the art galleries, leather shops, boutiques, brew pubs, and other venues in its historic downtown. Lunch and dinner breaks find visitors in one of several German restaurants on the main street.

The city is a year-round destination: Oktoberfest is a no-brainer in the fall but the holidays make Fredericksburg look like a gingerbread village.

Fredericksburg Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a long history of German influence, Otto’s German Bistro is the best place in town for a Texas German dinner. For the brunch lovers, Hill & Vine offers a unique brunch menu with black-eyed pea hummus and peachy pecan pancakes. Short on time and need a bite to go? Hye Market and Deli has delicious sandwiches, perfect for lunch in between tastings. 

National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A visit to Fredericksburg isn’t complete without a stop at the National Museum of the Pacific War. The museum holds interest for visitors of all ages. Plan to spend several hours to see it all. The facility is open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission prices vary ranging up to $20 for adults.

Texas Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many Fredericksburg RV parks and campgrounds are within minutes of historic Main Street and major attractions while others are located in nearby municipal and state parks. Choose from Fredericksburg RV Park, The Vineyards of Fredericksburg RV Park, Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Oakwood RV Resort, and Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After dark, nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park while the one-of-a-kind Luckenbach General Store, Bar & Dancehall hosts a nightly picker’s circle.

More on the Texas Hill Country: “Howdy, y’all” to these Small Texas Towns

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, the 36th president was born, reared, and died. Perhaps no other president is more closely identified with one parcel of real estate including his birthplace, boyhood home, and ranch as well as his ancestors’ pioneer settlement.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature enthusiasts can experience the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. A billion years ago, the large pink granite dome known as Enchanted Rock was part of a big pool of magma miles under the earth’s surface. It pushed into the rock above in spots, then cooled and hardened, turning into the large granite dome it is today. The dome has drawn people here for thousands of years, and today, visitors can hike, backpack, rock climb, bird, and even stargaze, as the park is designated an International Dark Sky Park.

Lady Bird Johnson Regional Park near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short drive west on Texas Highway 16 finds some visitors dreaming of their youth and days gone by. Street Dreams is an auto dealership that specializes in classic and collector cars and trucks as well as related memorabilia. The two showrooms are crowded with 30 to 35 vehicles, all ready to drive away. This mini museum is worth a visit. Yes, walking among and looking at these cars does cause one to dream.

Marcos in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby Bandera is known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Here, you can attend rodeos, visit the Frontier Times Museum, hike in the 5,400-acre Hill Country State Natural Area or at the nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area, and listen to country music in the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. Kayaking on the Medina River and horseback riding are other favorite activities.

Schulenberg in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all I have mentioned in our drive across the Hill Country, more than a dozen state parks and natural areas offer miles of hiking trails, bird-watching (including the rare yellow-cheeked warbler) locations, kayaking spots, and the opportunity to observe thousands of bats emerge from an old tunnel.

Being rural and dotted with small towns, this area also boasts dozens of fairs, festivals, and farmers’ markets throughout the year.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although I have highlighted just a little of what the Texas Hill Country has to offer, I hope I have sparked your interest in visiting this beautiful part of Texas which can satisfy diverse interests and promises fun for all ages.

Read Next: Texas Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way across Texas

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

The forces of nature and their impact on the Texas landscape and sky combine to offer an element of drama that would whet the imagination of artists from any medium.

—Wyman Meinzer

America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for your Next Road Trip

Discover America’s scenic byways on your next road trip adventure

There are few things as classically American as a good-old-fashioned road trip. But that’s what happens when your country doesn’t have a robust rail system: come vacation time, your family hits the open road. It was, after all, John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley who noted that “Every American hungers to move.”

There is something romantic about hitting the open road, a journey that is both physical and emotional. The great thing about a road trip compared to any other type of travel is that we don’t always know what’s going to happen on the way. Sort of like the journey of life, no?

With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?

In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your next road trip adventure.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 180 miles

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, Cajun culture, and more can be experienced as you travel along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” Download the free personal tour app (search “creole” in your app store.) Once on the trail, open the app and make sure your location is enabled. It’s like having a personal tour guide in the vehicle with you!

Get more tips for driving Creole Nature Trail

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock All American Road

Designation: All-American Road (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic, Recreation

Location: Arizona

Length: 8 miles

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, this route is often called a “museum without walls.” The byway winds through the evergreen-covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

Get more tips for driving Red Rock All-American Road

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (1996)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Virginia

Length: 469 miles

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.

Get more tips for driving Blue Ridge Parkway

Lakes to Locks Passive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lakes to Locks Passage

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Recreation

Location: New York

Length: 234 miles

Lakes to Locks Passage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the story-filled regions that connect New York’s historic water of Lake Champlain and Lake George with the Champlain Canal and Hudson River to the south and the Chambly Canal to the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Rivers of Quebec to the north.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Tennessee

Length: 41 miles

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.

Get more tips for driving Cherohala Skyway

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it far and away the best.

Get more tips for driving Scenic Byway 12

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2000)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Georgia

Length: 40 miles

Russell- Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounds this route as it encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Winding through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians, you will find vistas atop Brasstown Bald that are jaw-dropping and the cooling mists of waterfalls are plentiful. Everywhere scenic wonders fill this region. Colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, and dazzling fall colors are some of what you will see. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream.

Get more tips for driving Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway

Designation: All-American Road (2002/2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Recreation, Historic

Location: Florida

Length: 72 miles

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the northern boundary of St. Johns County, the Byway bisects the seaside luxury and golf mecca known as Ponte Vedra Beach, and weaves through America’s oldest city, St. Augustine; finally ending at the terminus of Flagler County at a seaside park named for a true folk hero, the Gamble Rogers Memorial Park on Flagler Beach, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway connects State Parks, National Monuments, stunning beaches, nature trails, boating, fishing, preserves, estuaries and all of America’s diverse people.

Utah’s Patchwork Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 143 – Utah’s Patchwork Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Panguitch Lake along Utah’s Patchwork Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Very few routes in the U.S. exhibit a 4,500-foot elevation change that crosses six major life zones in 51 miles. The route skirts lava flow only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. This topmost rise of the geological “Grand Staircase” showcases the 2,000-foot-deep Cedar Breaks amphitheater with its vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and other coral colors carved from the Claron Formation.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1996)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Dakota

Length: 70 miles

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This byway winds around spiraling “pig-tail” shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles, and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle’s Eye, and Cathedral Spires rock formations. Forming a figure-eight route, the byway travels through Custer State Park, the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and the Black Elk National Wilderness Area. Highways 16A, 244, 89, and 87 combine to create the route.

Get more tips for driving Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Cross-Country Road Trip

Plan a route from sea to shining sea—without breaking the bank

Road trips have always been part of America’s DNA and despite skyrocketing gas prices there’s still never been a better time to see just what those amber waves of grain are all about. For many remote work has left the door wide open for new methods (and longer timelines) for exploration.

Whether by motorhome, travel or fifth-wheel trailer, camper van, or whatever trusted stagecoach you’ve got sitting out in the driveway, pulling off a cross-country road trip is incredibly rewarding—but it does take planning. From trip planning to money-saving, here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Rawhide Western Town in Chandler, Arizona along I-10 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning the route: north, south, or a little of both

Arguably the most important part of planning a cross-country road trip is to decide how to get from coast to coast. You’ll hear people talk about the “north” route, I-90 from Seattle to Boston, or the “south” route, I-10 from Los Angeles to Jacksonville. I don’t like having to choose so my road trip route incorporates a little bit of both. Also, consider the season; I don’t recommend either I-90 or I-80 during winter.

Black Hills of South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most important thing is to design the road trip around what inspires you (more on this later). For me, that means the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills, the Smoky Mountains, Charleston and Savannah, and the Southwest which dictated that we drive the northern route and then pivot straight south before turning east again and then zig-zagging a few more times and taking the southern route to the Southwest.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Write down the following numbers:

  • How many days do you have for your road trip?
  • Approximately how many miles do you intend to cover?

Start by making a list in Google Maps of all the places you want to see. You may be surprised at how naturally a route forms. You also may be surprised at how little time it takes to get from one place to the next, especially in the East.

Related article: Life Is a Highway: Taking the Great American Road Trip

Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are the most miles you’d be comfortable driving in one day? Start by considering how many hours you’d feel comfortable behind the wheel then convert that into miles.

How many days do you want to do zero driving? Consider days spent exploring towns or in national and state parks. Likely, you won’t want to drive every single day of your trip.

These numbers should give you some clarity on what your itinerary will look like.

Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sometimes following a pre-planned itinerary takes a lot of the guesswork out which many people prefer. Everyone’s tolerance for driving is different, too; you’ll need to gauge your threshold. Don’t plan to cross the country in six days if you can only handle four hours of driving at a time.

Amish Country in northwestern Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Create your itinerary

Now, start plotting days out so you can see them. You can use whatever works best for you. There are also road trip planning apps out there.

Once you have a basic itinerary drafted, run through it and see how it feels. Is it too rushed? Are you trying to cover too many miles? Do you think you could squeeze more stops in?

Kentucky Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make any tweaks you feel are necessary. Even though this will hopefully be a pretty solid plan my advice is to always think of it as a guide rather than something that needs to be followed 100 percent.

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you’re making alterations to your itinerary:

  • Does it feel balanced?
  • Do you have all your long drives at the beginning of the trip?
  • Will you feel exhausted when you reach your final destination or will you be ready to rock?
  • Do you have time in your schedule to be spontaneous?
  • What would happen if you don’t get home on the exact date that you planned?
Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead for national parks

Part of the adventure of a cross-country road trip is leaving room for improvisation. We don’t book RV parks and campgrounds until a day or two before our planned arrival which is great because we can be on our timetable. But this can become an issue around the national parks where campgrounds can often be booked months in advance.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As badly as you want to see Zion and Bryce Canyon, well… so does everyone else in America. It’s vitally important to plan and know each park’s entry restrictions. Consider springing for the $80 America the Beautiful National Park pass which provides access to all National Park Service sites as many times as you want in 12 months. In short, if you plan to go to more than three National Parks in one year, this is a good investment. If you plan to spend considerable time in one state or a region, look into those state or local passes too.

Related article: Epic Road Trips for this Summer and Beyond

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Design the road trip around what inspires you

Don’t miss out on great parks like Arches because you forgot to get reservations. If summer’s come to an end, you may get lucky—many parks, like Yosemite, do away with the reservation system after September 30. On the flip side, other parks like Glacier National Park or the Grand Canyon North Rim close their scenic drives in the colder months when snow is expected. It pays to do your research.

Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beat the crowds by going in the off-season—fall is an especially great time to visit—or opt for less-visited national parks that everyone seems to forget about. Get creative: America is full of gorgeous state parks, national forestsnational monumentshistoric parks, roadside attractions, and much more.

Gettysburg National National Military Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set a road trip budget

Unless you’ve got a bottomless bank account (wouldn’t that be nice?!) you’ll probably want to set some sort of road trip budget. Now, this will vary from person to person. For some, it might be more or less a target to aim for but you’ve got flexibility. And for others, it’s a strict number that you’ll need to be very mindful of the entire trip. Whichever sounds like you, setting a budget is important. 

Truth BBQ in Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you can, skip traveling to popular places over holiday weekends and possibly the week before and after as prices will be inflated (plus, it’ll be extra crowded).

Road trip costs to consider include:

  • Fuel: This category is pretty straightforward
  • Accommodation: RV parks and campgrounds
  • Food: Restaurants AND groceries; also, the cost of snacks, coffee, alcohol, ice cream… ALL the good stuff
  • Entertainment: Fun things you plan to do along the way—hiking permits, entry fees, tours, rental equipment
  • Miscellaneous: The little expenses that don’t fit elsewhere—like propane, parking fees, tolls, medicine, paying for Wi-Fi, toiletries, souvenirs, gifts
  • Emergencies: We all hope to avoid unforeseen circumstances but, they do happen. This might include RV repairs, medical expenses, etc.
La Posta in Historic Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t get gouged on fuel prices. I secretly get excited when we save money on diesel fuel. One great app to save money on gas is Gas Buddy. Simply input your location and Gas Buddy shows you the cheapest gas around you. This app alone can save you hundreds of dollars when traveling across the US. Independent truck stops often offer diesel fuel at 50 to 60 cents per gallon cheaper than the majors like Pilot/Flying J and Loves.

Related article: The Ultimate Guide to Planning the Best Summer Road Trip

Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also, driving the speed limit will help you stretch your fuel—not to mention, it’s kind of the law. Speeding can lower your fuel economy by as much as 30 percent. When you get up to places like Montana where the speed limit is 80 mph you’ll see how quickly your tank drains.

Turning off toll roads is another money saver. It never adds that much extra time and you can score substantial savings. There are some cities where tolls are unavoidable but in others, these are only slightly faster and the tolls can add up quickly. Driving from New York to Washington, DC, for example, can cost as much as $35 in tolls—each way. In cities that are infamous for their tolls, like Chicago, do a little pre-planning so you find the best route for your trip and don’t get stuck paying unnecessary fees for tolls.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have meals “on deck”. You can make some epic meals on the road but not every meal has to be fancy or overly planned out. Have some meals on hand that are just that—super simple to make.

We always have several “reserve meals” that don’t require much preparation for travel day.

Wild Turkey Distillery in Kentucky Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dining out can be one of the biggest money sucks. It may seem like sacrilege to not be seeking out the best thing to eat in each town along your route but whittling your list down to the absolute can’t-miss spots will be lighter on your wallet. Texas BBQ joints are pretty high on my must-do list.

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner. If there’s a restaurant you just have to try, plan to go there for lunch instead of dinner. Restaurants often have items that are similar to their dinner menu with smaller portions sizes and smaller price tags. This is a great way to try a specific restaurant while still sticking to your budget.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Find free things to do

No matter where your road trip may take you there should be a ton of free (or inexpensive) activities to do. Simply Google “free things to do in (enter city name here)” and you should find enough to get you started.

Alternatively, you could replace “free” with “cheap” for some more options.

Galt Farmers Market in Central Caliroenia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free activities that to seek out include:

  • Hiking and walking trails
  • Farmers markets
  • Local parks
  • Beaches
  • Visitor centers
The Okefenokee in southern Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you hit the road…

Make sure everything on the RV and toad/tow vehicle is in good working order. This means checking the tire pressure, lights, oil, transmission fluid, and all the features before heading out each day. Don’t forget preventative maintenance.

Related article: Road Trip Planning for the First Time RVer

World’s Largest Roadrunner, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be prepared for things you didn’t prepare for

Even with the most detailed and extensive planning, things happen. But being open and flexible to mishaps is how to not let them ruin your day. If and when something goes wrong, remember to not panic. Trust that you’ve prepared yourself as best as possible and you’ll get back on track in no time.

Inconveniences are also exacerbated by exhaustion, so remember to take care of yourself on the road. Eat plenty of healthy food, drink water, and get a good night’s sleep before a long driving day. Leave the windows open for airflow, especially if you’re feeling sleepy. If you need to take a power nap, find a well-lit, safe area. This should not be a chore. Driving at your best is going to make the trip infinitely better.

Other than that, fire up your best road trip playlist, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Worth Pondering…

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

—George Harrison, Any Road

America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Summer Road Trip

Discover America’s scenic byways on a summer road trip adventure

There’s nothing quite like packing up your car or recreation vehicle and heading out onto the open road. With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?

In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your summer road trip adventure.

Zion Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 54 miles

Zion Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Virgin River runs alongside the Byway and offers opportunities for recreation as well as important riparian habitat for wildlife. Hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and river tubing provide recreation options for every ability and interest. Highway 9 is the major road providing access to Zion National Park. It winds past the park visitor center and museum, and many famous Zion landmarks. It provides access to Zion Canyon (accessible by shuttle only during the tourist season) and then goes through the park’s mile-long tunnel. It cuts through the park’s Checkerboard Mesa area and then ends at Highway 89 at Mt Carmel Junction.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1996)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Dakota

Length: 70 miles

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This byway winds around spiraling “pig-tail” shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles, and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle’s Eye, and Cathedral Spires rock formations. Forming a figure-eight route, the byway travels through Custer State Park, the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and the Black Elk National Wilderness Area. Highways 16A, 244, 89, and 87 combine to create the route.

Related Article: Scenic Byways across America Await Exploration

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it is far and away the best.

Sky Island Parkway Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sky Island Parkway National Scenic Byway (Catalina Highway)

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Natural

Location: Arizona

Length: 27.2 miles

Sky Island Parkway Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The journey starts among giant saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert and climbs to shady conifer forests at nearly 9,000 feet passing biological diversity equivalent to a drive from Mexico to Canada in just 27 miles. Spectacular views and recreational opportunities abound -from hiking and camping to picnicking and skiing.

Related Article: Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

White Mountains Trail Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Mountains Trail National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: New Hampshire

Length: 100 miles

White Mountains Trail Scenic Byway (Mount Washington Cog Railway) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The White Mountains have long been known for natural splendor, cultural richness, historical charm, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern United States. The White Mountains Trail encompasses all these aspects throughout its 100-mile route. The Trail is a loop tour that winds through sections of the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest and past many of the region’s most popular attractions. Views abound of villages and unspoiled National Forest. Stops include views of Mount Washington and the grand Mount Washington Hotel, mountain cascades, wildlife, and the Appalachian Trail.

Old Frankfort Pike Historic and Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Frankfort Pike Historic and Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic

Location: Kentucky

Length: 15.5 miles

Old Frankfort Pike Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old Frankfort Pike National Scenic Byway extends 15 miles through a rural landscape that embodies the Bluegrass unlike any other. Here, internationally recognized Thoroughbred horse farms, diversified farms, country stores, railroad towns, and scenic landscapes have evolved over the past 250-plus years. Along the Byway are opportunities for a horse farm tour or a short side trip to neighboring attractions like Keeneland Race Track National Historic Landmark, Weisenberger Mill, and the historic railroad town of Midway.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway (Hovenweep National Monument) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Archeological

Location: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah

Length: 480 miles

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway (Mesa Verde National Park) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway provides a unique, well-preserved view of the history, memories, and traditions of the native peoples who lived in the American Southwest as hunters and gatherers thousands of years ago. The region and the scenic byway protect sacred archaeological remains and cultural and historic sites and allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the landscapes while experiencing ancient native cultures.

Related Article: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Cherokee Foorhills Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 112 miles

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway (Michael Gaffney Cabin) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best ways to see the Upcountry is to hit the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway (SC-11). This will take you from the Georgia/South Carolina border at Lake Hartwell through the rolling hills of Piedmont all the way to historic Gaffney. A replica of the city’s founder homestead, The Michael Gaffney Cabin, is located in the heart of downtown.

Utah’s Patchwork Parkway (Panguitch Lake)© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 143 – Utah’s Patchwork Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Utah’s Patchwork Parkway (Cedar Breaks National Monument) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Very few routes in the U.S. exhibit a 4,500-foot elevation change that crosses six major life zones in 51 miles. The route skirts lava flow only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. This topmost rise of the geological “Grand Staircase” showcases the 2,000-foot-deep Cedar Breaks amphitheater with its vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and other coral colors carved from the Claron Formation.

Related Article: The Guide to Driving the Back Roads

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Parkway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Natural, Historic

Location: Virginia

Length: 23 miles

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Colonial Parkway is a twenty-three-mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects Virginia’s historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Several million travelers a year use this route to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia. The Parkway serves as a thoroughfare unifying culturally distinct sites crossing several pristine natural environments while still maintaining the National Park Service’s prime directive to conserve the scenery and provide enjoyment of the same.

Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

10 of the Best Scenic Drives in National Parks

National parks with the best scenic drives

A trip to a national park is about more than just the destination. It’s the journey to these remote corners of preserved natural wonders that are equally enticing including drives to and around the parks.

In fact, many US national parks are best seen from your car—really. We’re not saying you shouldn’t get out and breathe the fresh air and smell the flowers and hike a trail but to get the best overview of wilderness and wildlife scenic drives can’t be beat. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top tips to consider when planning a road trip to a national park 

Prepare your vehicle: National parks are often located in remote areas and it may be a while for help to arrive if you break down. So be sure your vehicle is fully serviced and has a full tank of fuel before you start your adventure.

Download directions: Speaking of being remote, you may not have cell service or Wi-Fi in the parks so make sure to save routing info (including this story) to your phone in advance of your trip. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack snacks and water: Don’t count on food or supplies on the road—bring everything you need with you including picnic supplies (and be sure to carry out anything you carry in with you). 

Following are 10 of the best US national parks for scenic drives this summer and beyond.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park.

Best scenic drive through the park: best for Seussian landscapes

The route: Park Boulevard, drive from North (SR-62) or South (I-10) entrances

Route length: 35 miles

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few roads pass through Joshua Tree but entrances at both north and south ends of the park connect in a cross-park scenic drive with spur roads to specific attractions. Driving the park north to south will give you roadside views not only of plenty of the park’s namesake trees but notable landmarks like Skull Rock and the Jumbo Rock formations. As you continue south watch as the landscape and flora transform from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert ecosystems.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to get an idea of what you’ll see on a drive through Joshua Tree National Park? Pick up a copy of The Lorax by Dr Seuss. The scraggly armed trees with tufts of needles reaching towards the sky strongly resemble a “truffula tree” and the entire desert landscape has an almost whimsical feel. Make no mistake though, the rocky wonders and unusual vegetation you’ll see driving through this park—which straddles the Mojave and Colorado deserts—are both real and incredible.  

Read More: Joshua Tree National Park: An Iconic Landscape That Rocks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains got its name from the Cherokee Indians who called the area shaconage (shah-con-ah-jey) meaning “land of the blue smoke,” after the thick, bluish haze that hangs over the mountains peaks and valleys.  

Best scenic drive through the park: best for fall foliage

The route: Newfound Gap Road from US 441

Route length: 29 miles

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The main gateways to Great Smoky Mountains are the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina. Between the two is the scenic Newfound Gap Road which winds for 29 miles neatly bisecting the park on the only pavement traversing the Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest national park in the east and the most visited park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains stretches from North Carolina to Tennessee. This park is ideally situated for driving itineraries with 384 miles of roads from which to choose your driving adventure. Newfound Gap, named for the high mountain pass at the state line, offers views for days, great animal spotting, and a high perch to view the hardwood forests and changing leaves come the fall. 

Cades Cove is by far the most popular site in the park. You can meander along the 11-mile driving loop through pastoral landscapes to historic log cabins and churches all the while viewing wildlife without ever having to leave the comfort of your car. 

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah

This 76,000-acre wonderland is less a park and more a sandstone sculpture garden of sunset-hued arches and domes. 

Best scenic drive through the park: best for natural architecture

The route: Arches Scenic Drive

Route length: 18 miles

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches’ Main Park Road traces 18 miles from the entrance to Devils Garden Campground on a paved roadway with numerous pull-outs and overlooks that showcase the park’s epic arches and other rock formations. A spur marked by signage for the park’s Windows Section—so named for the portholes that have been gouged from the rock—is not to be missed.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The red sandstone arches that give this Utah national park its name seem too perfectly balanced to be created by something as fickle as wind and sand. Surely, you’ll think as you drive around the amazing structures, a human architect must have lent a hand? This drive will take you past all of the soaring highlights; be sure to get out the car to get the full scope and perspective of these towering rock formations. 

Tip: After your visit here, you can add stops to southern Utah’s BryceCanyonlandsCapitol Reef, and Zion for an epic Utah national parks RV road trip. 

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Arches National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park features trees dating back more than 200 million years that have turned to stone by absorbing minerals from the water that once surrounded them. The park also includes fossilized flora and fauna, petroglyphs, wildflowers, colorful rock formations, and wildlife. Hiking trails allow visitors to see the petrified wood, petroglyphs, and fossils.

Best scenic drive through the park: best for petrified logs

The route: Petrified Forest Road

Route length: 28 miles

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trip from one end of the park to the other is about 28 miles. There’s so much to see from the Painted Desert in the north to the southern half of the drive where most of the petrified wood lies. Hiking trails along the way take visitors close to the sights. Starting in the north at Exit 311 off I-40, stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center to see an 18-minute film, hands-on exhibits, and a short walking trail.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The drive passes through a variety of environments, colorful rock formations, and scenic pullouts with spectacular views. At the Crystal Forest Trail, petrified logs can easily be seen within steps of the parking area. It’s possible to spot wildlife along the drive as well.

Read More: Triassic World: Petrified Forest National Park

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah

With over 229 square-miles, more than 35 hiking trails, and cliffs towering more than 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, Zion National Park is a pretty incredible place. 

Best scenic drive through the park: best for towering monoliths

The route: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

Route length: 54 miles

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 54-mile route starts at the intersection of Highway 9 and I-15 about nine miles east of St. George and ends at the Mt. Carmel Junction. From November until March, you’ll be able to drive the entire route but from spring through fall the Zion Canyon section is closed to cars. Take the free shuttle which makes nine stops and takes about an hour and a half.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Note: The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is accessible by shuttle bus only from March 15 to October 25 and on weekends in November. The shuttle system was established to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon.

The Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway (5 miles one way) in the northwestern corner of Zion National Park features the same dramatic desert landscape associated with the park’s main section: towering colored cliffs, narrow winding canyons, forested plateaus, and wooded trails along twisting side canyons.

Read More: Rock of Ages: Zion National Park

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is about 1-mile deep and 10 miles wide, measuring 277 miles in length, and it holds more than 10,000 years of history in that space. 

Best scenic drive through the park: best for panoramic canyon views

The route: Desert View Drive

Route length: 23 miles

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert View Drive portion of SR-64 is a scenic road that begins near Grand Canyon Village. Private vehicles can drive east along the canyon rim for 23 miles to the Desert View Services Area and the East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic Desert View Watchtower is located at Desert View. Traveling west, other stops along this route include Navajo Point, Lapin Point, Tusayan Pueblo and Museum, Moran Point, Grandview Point, Duck on a Rock, and Pipe Creek Vista.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Grand Canyon National Park

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde, Spanish for “green table”, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years from AD 600 to 1300.

Best scenic drive through the park: 700 years of Ancestral Pueblo history

The route: Mesa Top Auto Loop

Route length: 6 miles

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way of acquiring a feeling for Mesa Verde is to follow the 6-mile Mesa Top Auto Loop Road which traces Pueblo history at 10 overlooks and archeological sites. From remains of early pithouses and masonry villages to multi-storied cliff dwellings, archeological sites along this loop show how early Pueblo architecture evolved.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the road, you’ll find short, easily-accessible paved trails to view twelve archeological sites. Short trails along the Mesa Top Loop lead to surface sites such as pithouses and pueblos; overlooks of cliff dwellings tucked into alcoves; and viewpoints where you can enjoy the beauty of the landscape that was home to generations of Ancestral Pueblo people.

Highlights include Square Tower House Overlook, and views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point View and Sun Temple. The Mesa Top Loop Road is open daily, 8:00 am to sunset.

Read More: Mesa Verde National Park: Look Back In Time 1,000 Years

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Scenic vistas, diverse wildlife, outdoor adventure, historic sites, and dark skies rank among the features visitors enjoy in Big Bend.

Tip: Big Bend is best enjoyed from late fall through early spring. Winter months bring beautiful days and pleasant temperatures. Summer months are scorching and outdoor recreation can be uncomfortable and unsafe. In the winter, five visitor centers are open, ranger programs occur more frequently, and local outfitters offer more activities. In the summer, many of these operations are reduced.

Best scenic drive through the park: best for historic and geologic features

The route: Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Route length: 30 miles

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is the most interesting of the paved sightseeing routes in Big Bend National Park giving the greatest variety of habitats, geology, and a variety of interesting short walks and interpretive pull outs.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The road skirts the western slopes of the Chisos Mountains climbing up to one the park’s most outstanding views at Sotol Vista then winding down to parallel the Rio Grande at Castolon Historic District and winding up at Santa Elena Canyon trailhead where the pavement ends. Heading south from the Ross Maxwell junction there are a number of pullovers to interpretive sites, trailheads to short and longer hikes, and scenic vistas.

Read More: The Ultimate Big Bend National Park Road Trip

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Striped in yellow, amber, and purple, the colorful eroded formations of Badlands National Park dip and rise amid the prairie grasslands.

Most scenic drive through the park: best for surreal and otherworldly

The route: Badlands Loop Scenic Byway

Route length: 39 miles

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 39-mile Badlands Loop Scenic Byway (also known as SR-240) connects the Northeast Entrance with the Pinnacles Entrance near Wall. This scenic route winds up and down the contours of the Badlands with numerous opportunities to stop at overlooks and trailheads as well as less formal pullouts.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are 16 designated scenic overlooks that make for outstanding photo opportunities. Don’t miss the Big Badlands Overlook in the east or the Door, Window, and Notch Trail turnoff just a few miles further south down the road; in the west, make sure to stop at the Pinnacles Overlook and the Yellow Mounds Overlook towards the western end of the loop road. 

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Badlands National Park

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The name “Shenandoah” is an American Indian word meaning “Daughter of the Stars.” 

Most scenic drive through the park: best for colorful wildflowers

The route: Skyline Drive

Route length: 105 miles

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States at any time of the year. The picturesque 105-mile road rides the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness. The only public road through the Park, it takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the Park on a clear day.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you travel along Skyline Drive you will notice mileposts on the west side of the road (right side if you are traveling south, left if you are heading north). These cement posts help you find your way through the Park and help you locate areas of interest. The miles begin at 0 in Front Royal and continue to 105 at the southern end of the Park. The largest developed area, Big Meadows, is near the center of the Park, at mile 51.

Read More: Escape to the Blue Ridge: Shenandoah National Park

Worth Pondering…

However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure.

—Michael Frome

Road Trippin’

It’s about the journey

From the coast to the desert, here are nine road trips that will have you road-tripping through America’s finest landscapes. Some are RV-friendly while others may require a smaller vehicle to navigate.

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina Highway – Arizona

The Santa Catalinas crowned by 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon rise in ragged ridges at the northern edge of Tucson. Explore this rugged world with a scenic drive up the Catalina Highway also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway.

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 30-mile paved road winds up through dry desert terrain, past rocky outcroppings, pull-outs offering stunning vistas, and mid-level forests teaming with leafy oak trees. Don’t forget your jacket as temperatures can drop as much as 30-degrees from the bottom to the top of the road.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail of the Ancients – Utah, Colorado, and Arizona

Experience the beautiful and diverse landscapes of the Colorado Plateau on the Trail of the Ancients, a scenic route that travels through Southeastern Utah, Southwestern Colorado, and Northeastern Arizona. It connects some of the nation’s richest archaeological, cultural, and historic sites in a remote region teeming with towering sandstone formations, deep canyons, and iconic red buttes.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adventure can begin at any point on the trail but many choose to start at the famed Four Corners Monument and then travel in a counter-clockwise circle. Along the way, you’ll see the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park and the archaeological sites of the Hovenweep National Monument.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll white-knuckle it down the hairpin turns of the Moki Dugway and marvel at the sandstone monoliths and pinnacles of the Valley of the Gods. Cross the San Juan River in the tiny one-horse town of Mexican Hat, gaze in wonder at the postcard-ready views of the Monument Valley, and finally end up at the Canyon De Chelly National Monument in Northern Arizona.

Related Article: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway – Louisiana

This Louisiana byway reaches through three of the state’s southern parishes—St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary—as it winds through Bayou Teche and the Atchafalaya Basin from Morgan City to Arnaudville. Travelers can make stops along the byways 183 miles to explore inviting small towns, go kayaking in Breaux Bridge, and enjoy authentic local Cajun food.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive – Virginia

Stretching 105 miles across Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive offers 75 overlooks, picnic areas, and trails. Warm spring weather brings purple and yellow violets, masses of pink azaleas, and white dogwood flowers.

If you’re making a day trip of it, pick one of the 30-mile stretches such as Front Royal to Thornton Gap where you can stop at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking enthusiasts can head to Mary’s Rock for 360-degree views or enjoy a more leisurely lookout by driving to Pinnacles Overlook perched at 3,320 feet. The area offers numerous wineries such as Little Washington Winery and Quievremont Vineyard and Winery where you can enjoy the views while nibbling on cheese and sipping wine.

Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 24 – Utah

Starting near the City of Green River, Utah Route 24 creates a grand loop through the south-central slickrock desert and ends up back on I-70 to the west near Aurora. A section of this meandering drive between Loa and Hanksville turns the spotlight on Capitol Reef National Park. Here the scenic drive follows the Fremont River, an oasis in a parched environment.

Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 378 square mile Capitol Reef Park can be viewed as a northern extension of the huge Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, covering an additional 1.7 million acres. Capitol Reef is a sightseers and hikers’ paradise with deep red monoliths, sculpted spires, graceful arches, mesmerizing canyon mazes, and the imposing Waterpocket Fold.

Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Various side roads and unimproved roads have the tendency to turn this scenic drive into a weeklong adventure. With historic structures and plenty of grand views, this route earns plenty of raves from those who have gone before. Miles from any large city, this is a true off-the-beaten-path experience.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country – Texas

The Texas Hill Country, located west of Austin and north of San Antonio, features a landscape dotted with lush rolling green hills, spring-fed rivers, and charming small towns.

Related Article: Road Trip: The 15 Most Scenic Drives in America

Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson who led a campaign to beautify American cities, vast swaths of bluebonnets were planted across Texas Hill Country and now their bright blue blooms signify the advent of the spring season.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are countless nature trails, first-timers should start in Austin and take U.S. 290 west to Johnson City’s lovely Wildflower Loop. Then hightail it along U.S. 281 N to the town of Burnet which is widely known as the official bluebonnet capital of Texas.

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newfound Gap Road – Tennessee and North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is split in two by a single major two-lane roadway that crosses through the heart of the park and over its highest mountain gap.

This scenic drive is known as the Newfound Gap Road or US Highway 441. The roadway follows rivers, climbs steep slopes, and offers incredible views.

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the spring months, this route is awash with color as the wildflowers come alive and the trees begin to sport their bright green new leaves. A must-see are the rare Purple Catawba rhododendrons found only at high elevations that reach their peak of bloom along this well-known drive by early June.

I’ve put together my favorite itineraries to make it easy for you to explore your own backyard—wherever your backyard may be.

Mingus Mountain Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mingus Mountain Scenic Road – Arizona

Traveling from Prescott to Jerome, you start a mile high, finish a mile high, and climb a mountain in the middle. This route rises from the expanse of the Prescott Valley abruptly to the heavily vegetated Black Hills. In Yeager Canyon, the road is visually and physically enclosed by the vegetation and canyon walls.

Mingus Mountain Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Descending from the top of Mingus Mountain to the Verde Valley there are spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim, San Francisco Peaks, and the red sandstone cliffs of the red rocks. This scenic road makes a smooth transition into the history of the mining area as it meets the Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood Historic Road.

Related Article: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Spring Road Trip

Indian Creek Scenic Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indian Creek Scenic Drive – Utah

Amidst the red rock of the Moab area, the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic byway leads to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Traversing across high sage plains, the route eventually leads to Indian Creek and Newspaper Rock Recreation Site.

Newspaper Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This Utah Scenic Byway traverses a high altitude (6,000 feet) sage plain before plunging into Indian Creek Canyon on its way to Canyonlands National Park. Along the way it passes the Dugout Ranch, one of the oldest operating cattle ranches in southeast Utah. The byway accesses Newspaper Rock BLM Recreation Site and cuts through the Canyon Rims BLM Recreation Area, a vast landscape of desert and low elevation mountain terrain with hiking and four wheeling opportunities.

Indian Creek Scenic Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beginning at the junction of US Highway 191, 14 miles north of Monticello, the paved Byway travels west across the sage plain and descends the switchbacks into Indian Creek Canyon. It follows the canyon until the landscape opens out into a broad valley at which point the Byway accesses a county road which leads to the Abajo Mountains and Beef Basin within the larger Canyon Rims Recreation Area. The byway terminates at the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Related Article: Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

Worth Pondering…

Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.

—Confucius

Texas Road Trips Sampler

Take a leisurely drive and avoid traffic, feel reinvigorated along the coast, and how to enjoy a north-south road trip

Ready to take the roads less traveled? Along this pair of spring road trips you have an option to avoid the traffic of Interstate 35 from DFW to the Hill Country and feel invigorated along the coast. This drive takes you along Texas’ version of the Pacific Coast Highway. If you want to see the variety of vistas that Texas has to offer then load the RV, buckle up, and get ready for these fun spring drives.

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hug the Coast Highway

Distance: 217 miles

Overall vibe: Seafood and seaside breezes

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t be fooled by the name. State Highway 35 is the antithesis to the behemoth with which it shares a number. Interstate 35 is a white-knuckle fight for highway survival while its country cousin is an easy cruise through green marshes and across bays with intermittent glimpses of the Gulf of Mexico.

Tricolored heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise known as the “Hug-the-Coast” Highway, this 35 predates I-35 by more than 40 years. With only one lane on each side most of the way, it’s a quaint retreat—a throwback to Sunday drives where the journey was the destination.

Related Article: 4 Texas Road Trips: These You Have to Take

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This slow ride begins south of Houston in West Columbia, the tiny town with the distinction of having been the capital of the Republic of Texas for about three months in 1836. 

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing on the road as Route 35 steers you straight toward Matagorda Bay. In the town of Palacios, home to birders and fishermen, stop at The Point. The hybrid convenience store and Vietnamese and Mexican restaurant has become the social hub of the town. You can grab fishing gear, breakfast tacos, and authentic Vietnamese food or grab takeout for a picnic on the docks overlooking the bay. If you’re lucky, you might catch the flash of a roseate spoonbill in flight.

Port Lavaca

Grab your fishing pole, sunscreen, and beach chair…it’s time to go to Port Lavaca. This coastal town has all the seaside fun you could ask for but without all the crowds found in other Gulf Coast locales.

Port Lavaca © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Checking out Port Lavaca’s beaches is a no brainer, regardless of whether you’re looking for a quiet barefoot stroll, hunt for shells, or kick back and relax. Start at Magnolia Beach, also known as the only natural shell beach on the Gulf Coast. Lay out a blanket and soak up the sun, or cast a line from the fishing pier. For more sandy beaches, relax in the shade of a thatch-covered cabana at Lighthouse Beach or swim or paddle board in the tranquil waters of Alamo Beach.

Related Article: Texas Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way across Texas

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can keep on trucking toward Rockport or take a 45-minute side trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine sanctuary overlooking San Antonio Bay attracts more than 400 species of birds and is the winter home of the endangered whooping cranes. Heron Flats, an easy 1.5-mile walking trail, promises glimpses of leggy birds high-stepping through marshes as they seek their supper.

Big Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The natural wonders continue 10 miles north of Rockport in Goose Island State Park where the Big Tree prevails. Scientists have calculated this live oak could be more than 1,000 years old—and it’s so resilient even Hurricane Harvey couldn’t knock it down.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fulton and its historic mansion and the seaside resort town Rockport are worthy stops, especially for dockside seafood at places like the Boiling Pot or Charlotte Plummer’s.

Fulton Mansion State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Rockport, it’s only 28 miles to Portland where it’s time to say goodbye to this laid-back coastal road as it merges south into the bigger US-181. 

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heading toward Corpus, you are thrust back into the rush of multiple lanes and cars in a hurry to get somewhere—a jolt after so many miles of traffic-free driving. The intensity of it brings to mind the other bigger, faster 35. It’s a reminder of just how good you’ve had it on the mellow side of the coast-hugging highway.

Related Article: Visit SIX Iconic Texas Landmarks on One Road Trip

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The DFW Metroplex-South Texas Scenic Workaround

Distance: 370 miles

Overall Vibe: Pretty as a picture

San Antonio

No matter where you are or the time of day, Interstate 35 is a crapshoot. You never know when traffic is going to back up, or why. There is an alternative for a north-south road trip: US Highway 281 running between the western Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and greater San Antonio. It is less traveled, less billboarded, and less congested—and usually, worth the extra hour especially whenever I-35 is all jammed up.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alas, US-281 is no longer a secret thanks to Google Maps and Waze. The route which goes through Hico, Hamilton, Lampasas, Burnet, and Marble Falls has unpredictable bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic. To bypass these conditions the time has come to suck it up, factor in at least two more hours of drive time, and take the long way to South Texas. Fortunately, you’ll be passing through some of the prettiest western landscapes Texas has to offer.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After leaving Dallas, make your way to downtown Fort Worth then drive 75 miles west on Interstate 30 and Interstate 20 to Exit 361, south of Strawn. Head south on State Route 16. The two-lane road starts in the Big Country and transects the Hill Country. If you’re relatively new to Texas, this is a fine introduction to some of the state’s finest natural beauty. Plus, you’ll be avoiding the horrible, ongoing interstate highway construction in Waco.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granted, SR-16 is a longer way and posted speed limits drop below 55 passing through small towns. But since each one justifies stopping for one reason or another depending on your level of curiosity and available time, slow down at least and enjoy the scenery.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On this route you’ll pass through the boomtown ghost town of Desdemona to Comanche where you can stop for a bite to eat at Stone Eagle Beer Garden. If in need of a beautifully crafted custom pair of boots set up an appointment at the family-owned and operated Kimmel Boot Company.

Related Article: Everything’s Bigger in Texas: Best Road Trips from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin

Drive past the wind farms of Priddy on your way to Goldthwaite, home to the Texas Botanical Gardens at Legacy Plaza and Mills County Historical Museum (note, the museum is only open Monday through Friday).

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue on SR-16 until you hit San Saba, the Pecan Capital of the World. If you have some time, park your car and take a walking tour of downtown and the lively main drag. Then, head to Cherokee where the bluebonnets should be in full bloom this time of year. If hungry, make a pitstop at Cherokee Corner Cafe.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next up is Llano, the heart of the granite part of the Hill Country and a traditional barbecue town with options that include the original Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que and Inman’s BBQ and catering (known for turkey sausage). Take the Farm to Market Road 965 junction to see the bulging pink granite mountain known as Enchanted Rock within Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. From here, you’ll drive to Eckert, a ghost town at the western end of the Willow City Loop wildflower drive, and Fredericksburg where all the action can be found on its charming Main Street.

Windseed Farms near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From here, you have the option of cutting away at Fredericksburg onto US-290 and going to Austin or taking US 87-and Interstate 10 for a more direct route south to San Antonio.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

Scenic Byways across America Await Exploration

On the road again

On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

“On the Road Again” is easily considered Willie Nelson’s signature song. On a flight together, Nelson was asked by the producers of the Honeysuckle Rose film to write a song about touring to be used as the movie’s theme song. By the time they had landed, the lyrics to “On the Road Again” had been composed. The song rolled up to No. 1 in 1980 and earned a spot in the Grammy Song Hall of Fame.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many aspects to travel. We go to places we’ve never been because we want to be surprised. We travel to see new sights and experience fresh things. We seek new places that might teach us about the world and ourselves.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While your plans may be for travel to a specific destination, a road trip need not be limited to getting to one location as fast as possible. Throughout America there are National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads, ready to introduce you to memorable adventures off the interstate while driving toward your primary destination.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two road designations include a collection of 150 diverse tracks identified by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as possessing intrinsic qualities that make each route particularly worthy of a driving experience.

Alabama Coastal Connection (Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A National Scenic Byway designation recognizes roads with one (or more) of six attributes contributing toward a unique travel experience. They must be scenic (natural and manmade), natural (undisturbed beauty), historic, recreational, archaeological, or culturally significant.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All-American Roads meet the same criteria, but must also feature multiple qualities of national significance. Also, All-American Roads must be considered worthy as stand-alone destinations.

Related: Introducing New Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“These roads are truly unique,” says Doug Hecox, a spokesman with the Federal Highway Administration. “They are special routes that offer unequalled ways to enjoy different facets of America. Sadly, too few people know they exist.”

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To get your “personal mental engine” started thinking about the possibilities, here is a sampling of these federally recognized routes to whet your appetite for adventure as you get “on the road again.”

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

State: Utah

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it is far and away the best.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail

State: Louisiana

Designation: All-American Highway

Length: 180 miles

Often referred to as “Louisiana’s Outback,” the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, and Cajun culture await discovery along this route through the marshes of Louisiana.

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway

States: Colorado and Utah

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 512 miles

If you have children interested in dinosaurs, this route encompasses one of the best areas in the world to find dinosaur fossils and for the public to see what paleontologists have uncovered. Key attractions include active quarries where you can watch paleontologists search for fossils embedded in stone, backcountry sites where you can view dinosaur fossils and footprints, and museums that display fossils, replicas, and information about dinosaurs. Nearby “side trips” include Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

States: North Carolina and Virginia

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 469 miles

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.

Related: Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

Santa Fe Trail and Historic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway

States: Colorado and New Mexico

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 565 miles

The Santa Fe Trail was one of America’s first trade routes. Operating between 1821 and 1880, it was critical to westward expansion, and remnants can still be seen along the byway. The byway partially follows the route and passes Fort Union National Monument where 170-year-old wagon ruts are still visible. Other points of interest include stage stops, trading posts (Brent’s Old Fort), pictographs, and the longest dinosaur track in North America.

Alabama Coastal Connection (Fort Gaines) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Coastal Connection

State: Alabama

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 130 miles

This route and the waterways it follows are significant to the state of Alabama and the region for many reasons. Among them are the National Historic Landmarks of Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the protected lands of the Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Gulf State Park, beaches and sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes scrub forests, freshwater swamps, and uplands.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

State: South Dakota

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 68 miles

This byway will lead you on a delightful adventure as it winds its way around spiraling “pig-tail” shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles, and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle’s Eye, and Cathedral Spires rock formations.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country Byway

State: Ohio

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 76 miles

Discover the cultural and historic treasures of the Amish and northern Appalachian people as you drive around the curves and over the hills of the pastoral countryside. Experience simple living and sustainability along charming country roads, taking you to a bygone era still present, manifest in the people and their lifestyle.

White Mountain Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Mountain Trail

State: New Hampshire

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 100 miles

The White Mountain Trail offers New England’s most rugged mountain scenery as it travels through three historic “notches” or mountain passes. Views abound of villages and unspoiled National Forest. Stops include views of Mount Washington and the grand Mount Washington Hotel, mountain cascades, wildlife, and the Appalachian Trail.

Related: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Great River Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Great River Road

States: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 3,000 miles

This byway twists and turns through 10 states as it meanders vertically through the center of the nation. It follows the entire route of the iconic Mississippi River from its Minnesota source at Lake Itasca to where it enters the Gulf of Mexico. Along the byway, there are thousands of places to visit, and more than 70 official interpretive centers such as museums and historical sites, as well as charming, small river towns and one-of-a-kind mom and pop restaurants.

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Byway

States: Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 180 miles

The 180-mile Journey Through the Hallowed Ground byway corridor from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Monticello, Virginia is “Where America Happened.” It is said that this three-state route spanning Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia holds more historic sites than any other in the US. It was an active transportation route during the Revolutionary War, a critical transition zone for the Underground Railroad, and a key battleground during the Civil War.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Parkway

State: Virginia

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 23 miles

The Colonial Parkway not only illustrates the English colonial experience in America but is also an outstanding example of American parkway design. Retaining its original scenic and historic integrity to a remarkable degree, the 23-mile route connects the historic sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

States: California and Oregon

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 500 miles

Several scenic days await exploration along this route connecting Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lava Beds National Monument, and Tule Lake National Monument. Crater Lake National Park is also on the route. The violent eruption of the Mt. Mazama volcano 7,700 years ago was 42 times as powerful as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Lava flows sealed the bottom of the caldera, creating Crater Lake, the seventh-deepest lake in the world. Along the route, a 33-mile drive around the rim of the lake offers spectacular views.

Related: The 7 Most Scenic Drives in the Country to Add to Your Bucket List

The scenic byway also passes numerous mountain communities as it traverses the dramatic volcanic landscapes.

Worth Pondering…

Life is a Highway

Life is like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long
Come on. Give me give me give me give me yeah

—recorded by Tom Cochrane from his second studio album, Mad Mad World (1991)

America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Spring Road Trip

Discover America’s scenic byways on a spring road trip adventure

There’s nothing quite like packing up your car or recreation vehicle and heading out onto the open road. With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?

In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your spring road trip adventure.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Tennessee

Length: 41 miles

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.

Related Article: Introducing New Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2000)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Georgia

Length: 40 miles

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounds this route as it encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Winding through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians, you will find vistas atop Brasstown Bald that are jaw-dropping and the cooling mists of waterfalls are plentiful. Everywhere scenic wonders fill this region. Colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, and dazzling fall colors are some of what you will see. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 180 miles

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you drive the Creole Nature Trail, the prairies and marshes of Louisiana’s Outback may appear peaceful and tranquil, but don’t be fooled. These lands and waters—both salt and fresh—are teeming with life and activity. There are 28 species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds, 35 amphibians and reptiles, 132 species of fish, and thousands of migrating butterflies in the spring and fall.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (1996)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Virginia

Length: 469 miles

Related Article: Scenic Route It Is

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Norris Freeway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Recreation

Location: Tennessee

Length: 21 miles

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Norris Freeway, located in eastern Tennessee, is steeped in American innovation history. The byway crosses over the Norris Dam which was built to control the flooding in the Clinch and Powell River Watershed. Nearby is the Museum of Appalachia. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum portrays an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village and offers cultural and historical exhibits as well as a home-style restaurant.

Related Article: Road Trip: The 15 Most Scenic Drives in America

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock All American Road

Designation: All-American Road (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic, Recreation

Location: Arizona

Length: 8 miles

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, this route is often called a “museum without walls.” The byway winds through the evergreen covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 112 miles

Michael Gaffney Cabin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best ways to see the Upcountry is to hit the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway (SC-11). This will take you from the Georgia/South Carolina border at Lake Hartwell through the rolling hills of Piedmont all the way to historic Gaffney. A replica of the city’s founder homestead, The Michael Gaffney Cabin, is located in the heart of downtown.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 183 miles

Related Article: Life is a Byway: The Roads Less Traveled

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located along the Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail in the heart of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the byway is home to an incredibly beautiful natural landscape and winds through three parishes, St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary, along LA-182 and LA-31. With an authentic, walk-able oil rig; stately historic homes; swamp and paddle tours; and tasty Cajun fare, the scenic self-guided tour has something for everyone from the history buff to the avid outdoorsman.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it far and away the best.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural

Location: Ohio

Length: 160 miles

Related Article: Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 160-mile Amish Country Byway boasts views of natural vistas along winding curves and over rolling hills. In addition, this charming country byway offers visitors a fine selection of Amish country cooking as well as sites featuring the culture and history of Amish and German people. Celebrate the lifestyle of a place and people who defy modern conveniences while enjoying the simple pleasures of farm life and country living.

Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Winter Road Trip

Discover America’s scenic byways on a winter road trip adventure

There’s nothing quite like packing up your car or recreation vehicle and heading out onto the open road. With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?

In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your winter road trip adventure.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 180 miles

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, Cajun culture, and more can be experienced as you travel along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” Download the free personal tour app (search “creole” in your app store.) Once on the trail, open the app and make sure your location is enabled. It’s like having a personal tour guide in the vehicle with you!

Related: Introducing New Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Highway 30A

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Natural

Location: Florida

Length: 18 miles

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Highway 30A has many unique features including 15 rare coastal dune lakes, the historic beach town of Grayton Beach, charming Seaside, and access to three state parks and a state forest. Meandering along an 18-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, the road is naturally scenic by nature. It runs along soft white sand beaches, over coastal dune lakes, through quaint beachside towns with pastel cottages, and through large swaths of natural lands.

Middleton Place along Ashley Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ashley River Road

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2000)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 11 miles

Magnolia Plantation along Ashley River Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Discover the history of European and African settlement, commerce, and industry from colonial times to the present by traveling along the Ashley River Road, the oldest road still in use in South Carolina. This corridor is particularly significant to the area because it demonstrates the first colonial efforts to develop and maintain roads and waterways for public benefit. Along the way, visitors will have the opportunity to explore historic sites such as St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Middleton Place.

Related: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Sky Island Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sky Island Parkway National Scenic Byway (Catalina Highway)

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Natural

Location: Arizona

Length: 27.2 miles

Sky Island Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The journey starts among giant saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert and climbs to shady conifer forests at nearly 9,000 feet passing biological diversity equivalent to a drive from Mexico to Canada in just 27 miles. Spectacular views and recreational opportunities abound -from hiking and camping to picnicking and skiing.

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2009)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 17 miles

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto Island National Scenic Byway is known for its views of natural beauty. One of the hallmarks of the byway experience here is traveling under the Spanish-moss-draped live oak canopy and past multiple pristine waterways that meander throughout the island offering expansive views of marsh and seabirds feeding on their shores. And when the Byway terminates at the Atlantic Ocean/Edisto Beach, it’s clear to the traveler that Edisto Island is a very special protected place—it’s like visiting the South Carolina Lowcountry of half a century ago.

Alabama’s Coastal Connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Coastal Connection

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2009)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Alabama

Length: 130 miles

Alabama’s Coastal Connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beautiful beaches, authentic downtowns, wildlife preserves, historic sites, and the freshest seafood you’ll ever put in your mouth are all yours to enjoy on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Visit the Coastal Connection to take in the natural beauty and experience all there is to see and do. Historic Forts Gaines and Morgan stand united around the mouth of Mobile Bay. The Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and Gulf State Park provide more than 12,000 acres of protected lands along the coast. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge boasts habitats including beaches and sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, scrub forests, freshwater swamps, and uplands.

Related: Life is a Byway: The Roads Less Traveled

Zion Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 54 miles

Zion Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Virgin River runs alongside the Byway and offers opportunities for recreation as well as important riparian habitat for wildlife. Hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and river tubing provide recreation options for every ability and interest. Highway 9 is the major road providing access to Zion National Park. It winds past the park visitor center and museum, and past many famous Zion landmarks. It provides access to Zion Canyon (accessible by shuttle only during the tourist season) and then goes through the park’s mile-long tunnel. It cuts through the park’s Checkerboard Mesa area and then ends at Highway 89 at Mt Carmel Junction.

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 183 miles

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located along the Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail in the heart of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the byway is home to an incredibly beautiful natural landscape and winds through three parishes, St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary, along LA-182 and LA-31. With an authentic, walk-able oil rig; stately historic homes; swamp and paddle tours; and tasty Cajun fare, the scenic self-guided tour has something for everyone from the history buff to the avid outdoorsman.

Related: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Fall Road Trip

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock All American Road

Designation: All-American Road (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic, Recreation

Location: Arizona

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Length: 8 miles

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, this route is often called a “museum without walls.” The byway winds through the evergreen covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

The high desert power, diversity, and sense of intimacy with nature is amazing. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway

Designation: All-American Road (2002/2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Recreation, Historic

Location: Florida

Length: 72 miles

Related: Moab’s Scenic Byways

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the northern boundary of St. Johns County, the Byway bisects the seaside luxury and golf mecca known as Ponte Vedra Beach, and weaves through America’s oldest city, St. Augustine; finally ending at the terminus of Flagler County at a seaside park named for a true folk hero, the Gamble Rogers Memorial Park on Flagler Beach, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway connects State Parks, National Monuments, stunning beaches, nature trails, boating, fishing, preserves, estuaries and all of America’s diverse people.

Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads