National Scenic Byways: Cascade Loop in Washington
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Meet the USA's Newest National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

What makes a great road trip?

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration has an answer for that. In designating roads that are truly worthwhile for travel and preservation, the agency looks for "intrinsic qualities" defined as "archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, or scenic" features considered "representative, unique, irreplaceable, or distinctly characteristic of an area."

Roads with one of those qualities are named National Scenic Byways. The really, really special roads—those that have two or more important attributes—qualify as All-American Roads. Those routes are considered "destinations in and of themselves"—high praise!

You can see the full list of National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads, collectively known as America's Byways, at the Federal Highway Administration's website.

In 2021, a total of 49 drives in places across the country joined those celebrated ranks, with the government adding 15 new All-American Roads and 34 National Scenic Byways.

"Through their many unique qualities, each of these new additions to the National Scenic Byways program helps America’s roads tell our national story," the agency's executive director, Tom Everett, said in a press release. "These special routes offer travelers exciting new opportunities to explore the nation, from coast to coast or close to home."

We agree. To help you find the most scenic of scenic drives, we've selected 10 of the new designees, covering every region of the United States, to serve as inspiration for your next road trip. 

So change the oil, buckle up, and pass the Funyuns. We're hitting the road!

Pictured above: Cascade Loop in Washington

Best of America's Byways: Newfound Gap Road Byway in North Carolina
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In Appalachia: Newfound Gap Road Byway, North Carolina and Tennessee

A gap is the word in these parts for the lowest section of a mountain ridge, elsewhere known as a pass or notch. The gap this road is named for was newly found in 1872, when geologist Arnold Henry Guyot (nearby Mount Guyot's namesake) did a study of barometric pressure and realized that the easiest pass through what is today Rocky Mountain National Park was available here. 

Consequently, Newfound Gap Road is the lowest driveable byway in the park. But the route is still plenty alpine, reaching 5,046 feet above sea level at its highest point. Those who drive this All-American Road are treated to stunning vistas as far as the eye can see. And because of changes in elevation along the way, the landscape is stunningly diverse. In fact, the National Park Service notes that this road "has often been compared to a drive from Georgia to Maine in terms of the variety of forest ecosystems. . . . [T]ravelers climb approximately 3,000 feet, ascending through cove hardwood, pine-oak, and northern hardwood forest to attain the evergreen spruce-fir forest at Newfound Gap."

Driving directions: Perfect for a day trip, this 31-mile corridor, also known as U.S. 441, runs from Cherokee, North Carolina, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

What to stop for:
• Hiking part of the Appalachian Trail
• Paying respects at historic cemeteries
• Taking in the views of misty mountains from the park's highest summit, Clingmans Dome
• Visiting family attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (home to Dollywood) and exploring Native American history and culture in Cherokee
• Fishing for trout (you'll need a license issued by Tennessee or North Carolina)

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Rock formations at Wisconsin's Apostle Islands
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In the Great Lakes Region: Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway

Many delights await on this mostly lakeside drive in Wisconsin, from historic fishing villages to otherworldly rock formations, orchards, forests, sandy beaches, and lonely lighthouses.

Driving directions: For most of its length, the road hugs the shoreline of the Bayfield Peninsula, starting at the small town of Barksdale and ending 70 miles later at the Brule River Boreal Forest State Natural Area. The road is locally known as Wisconsin State Highway 13. For a good map, click here

What to stop for:
• Island-hopping by kayak or boat tour at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, an archipelago of 22 islets, only one of which, Madeline, is inhabited
• Snapping photos of lighthouses (there are eight), sculptural sandstone formations and, in winter, Instagram-famous ice caves
• Getting artsy in Washburn, Bayfield, and Port Wing, which have museums, art galleries, architecturally significant churches and buildings, and a surplus of charm
• Experiencing the culture of the Anishinaabe people at Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a reservation with a resort, heritage activities, a casino, and natural attractions such as cliffs, beaches, and forest
• Bird-watching at Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge 
• Fishing on the Brule River, nicknamed the "River of Presidents" because five U.S. presidents (Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower) all tried out their angling skills here

Hiking at Stroud Preserve in Pennsylvania
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In the Mid-Atlantic States: Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, Pennsylvania and Delaware

In 2021, the Pennsylvania portion of this scenic byway joined the Delaware section on the Federal Highway Administration's list (Delaware's portion was designated in 2005). If you drive the whole thing, you'll find yourself in an area that is relaxingly rural, engagingly cultured, and dramatically historic—the grueling, 11-hour Battle of Brandywine was, after all, the longest single-day battle of the Revolutionary War.

Driving directions: Take Routes 100 and 52 from Wilmington to Centerville for 12 miles on the Delaware side of the border. Once in Pennsylvania, the road makes a figure eight, winding north from Route 52 at the state line on Pennsylvania Route 162 and returning via Creek Road back to Delaware. Find an excellent interactive driving map here.

What to stop for:
• Making a pilgrimage to Chadds Ford, where you can visit the battlefield from the 1777 Revolutionary clash and pay visits to several notable museums, shops, and restaurants
• Wine tasting at some of the many scenic wineries dotting the valley
• Hobnobbing with the Du Ponts, the extravagantly wealthy local family that originated several high-caliber institutions, including the acclaimed Longwood Gardens, the eye-popping residences known as Winterthur and Nemours Mansion and Gardens, and Hagley Museum and Library, where you can learn all about gunpowder, the source of the family's riches (purchase a combination ticket for entry to all of these sites and others in the valley)
• Hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing in nature preserves (Stroud Preserve is pictured above)

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National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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In the Midwest: Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, Iowa

Route 66 had a catchy tune so it got all the love. But many feel that the Lincoln Highway was more important to American history. Dedicated in 1913, it was one of the country's first transcontinental road systems designed for automobiles. Granted, the notoriously muddy thoroughfare wasn't a highway in the contemporary sense—lots of stretches weren't even paved—but it was a start.  

What remains of the Lincoln Highway, such as the swath that runs the length of Iowa, is a prime showcase for America's small towns, prairies, historic sites, and even a few one-of-a-kind oddities. 

Driving directions: In Iowa, the Lincoln Highway covers 328 miles from Clinton in the east to Council Bluffs in the west. For those who drive the route, the state has created a passport with deals, maps, and other information.

What to stop for:
 Museum hopping at intriguing institutions such as the National Czech and Slovak Museum (pictured), the Grant Wood Studio (where the American Gothic painter worked), the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the Squirrel Cage Jail, and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum
• Bird-watching and critter-spotting at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
• Brewery-hopping at the many local craft beer makers Iowa is known for

Bridge leading to Bristol, Rhode Island
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In New England: Revolutionary Heritage Byway, Rhode Island

Like the state it's in, this byway—currently Rhode Island's only entrant on the list—is pretty little. In fact, it's centered on just one town, Bristol. Nevertheless, the drive is packed with interest. Bristol hosted the USA's first Fourth of July parade way back in 1785. 

Driving directions: Drive just 6 miles on State Route 114 (also known as Hope Street and Ferry Road) and High Street.

What to stop for:
Getting on the water for a sunset cruise, brunch jaunt, or whale-watching excursion
• Learning about Colonial American life at the Coggeshall Farm Museum
• Exploring the state's largest aquarium and wildlife refuge, the Audubon Society Nature Center and Aquarium
 Touring historic homes such as the splendid Linden Place, which dates to 1810

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The Lion's Bridge in St. Augustine, Florida
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In the South: A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway, Florida

For much of its length, this road ribbons along a narrow barrier island, the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the Intracoastal Waterway on the other. The glistening blue views would be enough to make this a killer road trip, but the mostly two-lane highway also touches heavyweight historic sites, splendid nature preserves, and white-sand beach after white-sand beach. It's a doozy of a drive.

Driving directions: Reaching across 72 miles from end to end, the drive starts at Ponte Vedra Beach and ends at Flagler Beach. But many have been known to spend a week slowly noodling their way south. For maps and information, click here.

What to stop for:
• Lazing on the sand at one glorious beach after another
• Diving into history at St. Augustine (pictured), which lays claim to being America's oldest permanent European settlement—and has the grand historic buildings to back it up
• Kayaking tours through the estuaries of Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, where the bird-watching is choice and you might find a fossilized shark tooth 

West Spanish Peak in Colorado
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In the Southwest: Scenic Highway of Legends, Colorado

Ancient Native American myths, tales of troubled gold rushers, adventures of the Spanish conquistadors—legends really do mark the land you'll be driving through on this Southern Colorado byway. The road weaves from steep mountain passes to lush valleys, passing unusual geologic formations, ranches, forests, historic sites, and lakes.

Driving directions: Also known as State Highway 12, the road travels 82 miles from La Veta to Trinidad. TravelStorys has a free, downloadable audio tour.

What to stop for:
• Roaming the ruins of Cokedale, a National Historic District founded in 1907 and home to ovens once used for smelting coal from nearby mines into hotter-burning coke—though nowadays the structures look like something left over from the Roman Empire
• Hiking to the Cucharas Pass in the Spanish Peaks (pictured above), an otherworldly area where all human life originated, according to the Tarahumara people 
• Relaxing in the resort town of Trinidad, which has fine Victorian architecture, art galleries and museums, one of the state's oldest golf resorts, and access to some of the state's best fishing (and ice fishing in winter)
• Marveling at the surreal red rock abutments of the Dakota Wall and Devil's Stairsteps

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View of the Cascade Range in Washington State
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On the Pacific Coast: Cascade Loop, Washington

This may well be the most diverse road trip on this list, even though it stays entirely within the state of Washington. But the Evergreen State has more than, well, evergreens. You'll also find alpine peaks, rocky beaches, sage-filled deserts, bustling urban centers, vineyards, orchards, and more—and you'll experience all of that on this drive.

Driving directions: The entire loop is 440 miles long. Find a map and all sorts of good information here

What to stop for: 
• Learning about one of the state's major industries on the way-more-scintillating-than-it-sounds Boeing Tour at Everett's Future of Flight Aviation Center
• Keeping the doctor away for good with an informative walk-through of the Washington Apple Commission Visitor Center in Wenatchee
• Chasing waterfalls, particularly on Highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Gold Bar—a stretch with four beauts either visible from the road or accessible via a pleasant hike
• Skiing, biking, rafting, and hiking in the Cascade Range
• Cruising on the startlingly aqua-hued Diablo Lake

Zion National Park in Utah
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Out West: Zion Scenic Byway, Utah

Winding into Zion National Park, this road hits many of the region's top draws, including hoodoos, towering mesas, majestic sandstone cliffs, and the mighty Virgin River. In the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel, cars actually burrow into the landscape for more than a mile. Fortunately, large windows in the tunnel's sides make sure you don't miss any spectacular views.

Driving directions: Starting at La Verkin, the route reaches the south entrance of the national park via Utah State Route 9. The drive then continues on the Zion–Mount Carmel Highway to the park's east entrance.

What to stop for:
• Goggling at the uniquely marked Checkerboard Mesa, a sacred site for Native Americans
 Imagining a lost past at Grafton ghost town, an abandoned yet evocative spot that made an appearance in the 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
• Hiking through spectacular scenery inhabited by golden eagles, bighorn sheep, bank beavers, and other wildlife

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Mississippi River in Minnesota
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Right Down the Middle: Great River Road National Scenic Byway

We end with this epic patchwork of named and numbered highways and roads that follow the curves of the Mississippi River roughly 3,000 miles, through 10 states from Minnesota to Louisiana. In 2021, eight of those segments were designated National Scenic Byways.

Since the route encompasses such a massive chunk of America, the full drive is wonderfully eclectic, passing forests and industrial parks, cities and villages, historic sites, shopping malls, and farmland. The one constant: the legendary waterway itself. If you don't break into at least one chorus of "Old Man River" during this road trip, you're not doing it right.

Driving directions: Signs in the shape of a riverboat pilot's wheel mark the route, which is constantly changing names as you go from state to state (and sometimes within states). The Mississippi River Parkway Commission and Mississippi River Country organizations maintain a website with free maps and other helpful information.

What to stop for: 
• Getting to know the all-American cities of New Orleans, Memphis, and St. Louis
• Checking out the historic battlefields, country music shrines, and childhood homes of Helen Keller and Elvis Presley along the Natchez Trace Parkway
• Viewing the prehistoric burial mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marquette, Iowa
• Nodding hello to the massive statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota, also home to a great state park with hiking, water sports, and chances to spot eagles and ospreys 

And that only scratches the surface. This is the longest route on the list by far, so there's a whole lot more to see and do. 

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