America is a country where driving isn’t just a way to get from point A to B – it’s a pastime. Highways and byways are the vital blood vessels of this nation, transporting people and resources from coast to coast. They’re also some of the best ways to see the natural and man-made splendor in each state. Here are a few of the most scenic byways around the U.S.
1. New Mexico: Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
With a name like Enchanted Circle, you know this road is going to take you to some magical places. The byway is a loop that traverses 85 miles of northern New Mexico territory, winding through the picturesque towns of Taos, Eagle Nest, Red River and Questa. There's even a ghost town included in this route: Elizabethtown, where serial killer Charles Kennedy was reported to have hidden for a time. While you drive, you'll be treated to amazing views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The route takes you along US 64, Highway 38, and Highway 522.
2. Arkansas: Talimena Scenic Drive
The Talimena Scenic Drive starts on Oklahoma State Highway 1, in the town of Talihina. Most of the drive, however, is on Arkansas Highway 88. This winding route will take you through the Ouachita Mountains and Ouachita National Forest. You'll also drive by the beautiful town of Mena, which is the perfect place to stop for a stretch and some photos.
3. Colorado: Mount Evans Scenic Byway
This scenic route is actually the highest paved road in the country. Winding along the majestic Mount Evans, the road will take you past some of the most beautiful vistas in Colorado. The byway runs along for 28 miles, and you'll gain over 7,000 feet of elevation. Hop on this route at the Idaho Springs Visitor Center, which can be reached by taking Exit 241 off Interstate 70 for 1 mile.
4. Arizona: Gila-Pinal Scenic Road
If you're in Arizona, you won't want to miss this drive. Your drive will take you through traditional Apache territory filled with blooming desert plants (in the spring) and beautiful rock formations. It runs from Globe to the intersection of routes 60 and 79.
5. Washington: Palouse Scenic Byway
The beauty of this route stands in stark contrast to the rugged mountain landscapes and rocky valleys of much of northern Washington. The rolling green hills of Palouse are so soothing to the eye, and with nothing but blue skies overhead and the wide open road ahead, you'll feel freer than ever before. The byway extends over 208 miles, including State Routes 26, 27, 194, 271, 272, 278, and US Route 195, from the Idaho line to Spokane.
6. Wyoming: Beartooth Scenic Highway
This byway is about 68 miles of high-elevation road that twists through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming. This gorgeous route feeds straight into the Northwest Entrance of Yellowstone National park, and it's a great preview of the park's pristine, wild beauty. Passengers will get eyefuls of Beartooth Mountains, Absaroka Mountains, and high alpine plateaus carpeted with brightly colored blooms. You'll also drive by glacial lakes and several waterfalls.
7. Colorado: Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway
With looks like those, this scenic byway doesn't need much else to recommend it. In 1999, this route was designated as a National Scenic Byway, one of only 53 roads in the country to hold the honor. It winds for 155 miles and takes about three hours to drive. The road connects to a large array of hiking areas, scenic overlooks and wildlife areas.
8. Idaho: Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway
The Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway curves through stunning rhyolite canyons (pictured), lazy rivers, and fragrant juniper forests. This route is perfect for finding a bit of peace and quiet, as it's actually one of the less traveled scenic byways in Idaho. After meandering through gargantuan cliffs and across desert creeks for the two hours it takes to complete the journey, your stress will be left in the dust. This byway begins just across the border in Jordan, Oregon.
9. Alabama: The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway
Snaking through the beautiful landscape of the Appalachian Mountains, this byway will take you through lush forests, along peaceful brooks, and to some of the most picturesque communities in the region. This byway also connects with the Talladega Scenic Drive, so you can kill two beautiful drives with one stone.
10. South Carolina: Savannah River National Scenic Byway
The Savannah River National Scenic Byway is a collection of five different highways that extend for about 100 miles parallel to the Savannah River. Beginning in Oconee County, you'll pass countless lovely river towns and plenty of historic sites. Your journey will end on Highway 28 just past Clarks Hill, but the beautiful views will stick with you long after the engine shuts off.
11. Florida: Florida Keys Scenic Highway
What's better than a day at the beach? How about 110 miles of beach in a day? The Florida Keys Scenic Highway will take you from the Jewfish Creek Bridge area all the way to Old Town Key West. For five miles of your journey, you'll be surrounded by crystal clear waters on each side of the road.
12. Nebraska: Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway
Beginning in Ogallala, the Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway will take you right up to the Wyoming border. You'll follow in the footsteps of the pioneers as you wind through tunnels carved into rock formations and marvel at the spectacular roadside views along this 119-mile journey. Don't forget to plan time for a stop at Ash Hollow, where prehistoric artifacts can be found.
13. Kansas: Flint Hills National Scenic Byway
The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway has been featured in countless films and books. It's one of the most iconic scenic routes in the country. Cutting a path straight through seemingly endless rolling hill covered in native tallgrass prairie, driving along this road is as relaxing as meditation.
14. North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway
Located in North Dakota's most stunning wilderness preserves, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway is an excellent way to experience the beauty of the park without having to trek all over the place (though we recommend that as well!). You're very likely to spot wildlife right from the road, such as wild horses or bighorn sheep.
15. Nevada: Valley of Fire Road
This is honestly one of the most surreal drives you'll ever take. Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park is an otherworldly landscape of red rock, bristly flora, and wide open skies. This road runs between the park's east and west entrances.
Have you traveled along any of these roads? What other great scenic byways around the U.S. do you love? Let us know!