There’s no better place for a road trip than Northern California, and these 11 scenic byways prove that there is nowhere quite like this area when it comes to amazing drives. Whether you are trying to get away from it all and go on a long drive or if you just need a quick trip to appreciate the beauty in your neck of the woods, you will love these incredible byways here in Northern California.
1. Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
This route will take you through the area surrounding Lassen Volcanic National Park and beyond into Oregon. It features plenty of mountain lakes to stop at as well as charming towns, abundant wildlife, world-class birding, and extraordinary recreational, historical, and cultural opportunities. Allow at least 2-5 days to explore this drive and enjoy all that it has to offer.
2. The Bigfoot Scenic Byway
Located among the world famous giant forests of northwestern California, the Bigfoot Scenic Byway winds through the region with the most sightings of Bigfoot of anywhere in the country. Whether you catch a glimpse of the elusive creature or not, a trip down the route rewards you with impressive mountain ranges, wild rivers, and recreation opportunities around every bend. You’ll want to carve out about 2 hours to experience all 89 miles of this byway.
3. Yuba Donner Scenic Byway
Make your way through fields of granite boulders and windswept pine trees on the Yuba Donner Scenic Byway. You’ll get to know the dry mountain forests up close and personal as you wind your way through the Tahoe National Forest. This route showcases the Sierra Nevada at its finest. It’s a 175 mile route that takes about 5-6 hours.
4. The Trinity Scenic Byway
This stunning coastal and mountainous route will leave you breathless. It traverses coastal plains, steep granite cliffs, arid manzanita and digger pine hillsides. It parallels the beautiful "wild and scenic" Trinity River.It takes about 4 hours to travel the 140 miles.
5. Emigrant Trail
The Emigrant Trail is a byway of connections that connects several Oregon and California scenic routes with secluded forest roads. Diverse landscapes unfold around every corner, acting as a segue between beautiful landscapes and fun-filled recreation areas. This culturally significant route offers connections to recreation and wilderness areas in beautiful northern California. Impressive mountain peaks, deep canyons, lava flows from volcanic eruptions, and wide-open meadows will challenge what you once knew about California. Give yourself about 2 hours to cover the 63 miles of this byway.
6. Route 101 Redwood Highway
Located within the boundaries of Del Norte Redwoods State Park and traverses the spectacular redwood forests. The giant trees and dramatic coastlines will wow you. Be sure to leave at least a half hour to traverse this 12 mile drive.
7. Route 50: El Dorado County
Travel parallel to the winding silver waters of the American River along this specularly scenic route. It starts in the suburban foothills of the Sierra Nevada and goes through Placerville and the El Dorado County wine region before entering a National Forest. When you reach Echo Summit, you will cross over the granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada and descend into the Tahoe Basin with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. The 58 miles takes about 2 hours to cover.
8. Carson Pass
This stunning drive stretches from the Sacramento Valley to Carson Valley just over the California border into Nevada. It’s known as one of the most visually dramatic of the trans-Sierra highways in California that offers views of ragged mountain peaks, cool green meadows, mountain lakes framed by timber-covered slopes, adventure-filled rock valleys.
9. Route 89: Monitor Pass & Luther Pass Highways & Lake Tahoe Road
Travel along this State Scenic Highway as it journeys through the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, passing through high passes and open mountain valleys on its way to Lake Tahoe. As you ascend into higher elevations, vistas will open up before you and leave your jaw hanging wide open. The clear blue lake and spectacularly high mountains are some of the highlights you will see on this route. Budget about 2 hours to cover the 56 miles.
10. Feather River Scenic Byway
This route traverses the Sierra crest and goes through Beckwourth Pass to the east. The Feather River Scenic Byway offers memorable sights such as waterfalls, gigantic rock outcroppings, forested slopes, and delicate meadows. It traverses steep canyon walls and high mountain valleys, past grasslands, oak woodlands, mixed conifer, and high desert plants and wildlife. Save about three hours to travel these 130 miles.
11. The State of Jefferson Scenic Byway
On this scenic road, start at the 1941 state capitol of Yreka, California. From there, you will take Hwy. 263 North over five Pioneer bridges to Hwy. 96 and meander along the Klamath River West to the remote, friendly town of Happy Camp. Seek the headwaters of Indian Creek northwards over the 5000-foot Grayback summit, through old Brewers Spruce forests, and then down to Hwy 199 in O'Brien, Oregon. The 140 mile drive will take about 4 hours at least.
Where are the most amazing byways in Northern California that you have seen? Be sure to share those with us on Facebook!