Travel Themes Part 9: Scenic Road Trips

Last Updated on December 27, 2020 by Janet Frost

As a kid, road trips were a painfully boring means to an end.  These trips were endured because of the promised final destination. Today we are going to look at scenic road trips, trips that embrace the journey itself.  The key to this style of travel is avoid the fast route (aka interstates and tollways) and discover the slow route. The whole idea is to stop; for pictures, for a park, for a diner, for a cute ice cream shop, for whatever grabs your heart.

So Let’s Go Learn Things on a scenic road trip…

Scenic Byways and Rustic Roads

Most states have a system of roadways designated as scenic, historic, or rustic. The Federal Highway Administration has an interactive map of America’s Byways. This listing consists of 150 of the more well known byways around the U.S. The important thing is to look for the small windy back roads.

scenic road trips
My favorite scenic road trip route in Wisconsin

Notice on the map above I have circled the little county roads of TZ and Z (white) instead of the more obvious route of State Hwy 23(yellow). Hwy 23 is nice and the faster route from Spring Green down to the Governor Dodge State Park, but TZ and Z are curvy slow roads past valleys filled with little farms. This route is not designated as state scenic byway but it is a favorite of motorcyclists in the know.  This is a link to the official Wisconsin Rustic Roads Map. Wisconsin is really a beautiful state to explore on a scenic road trip.

Popular Scenic Road Trips

Travelers plan scenic road trips every year. These long routes can be enjoyed as a whole or as shorter segments.

scenic road trips
Get your kicks on Route 66

Scenic Road Trip on Route 66

Route 66 symbolizes the freedom of the road for most Americans.  It is an old defunct highway that takes you through much of forgotten Americana.

Great River Road

The Great River Road follows the Mighty Mississippi which bisects the heart of the country.  This scenic road trip will take a traveler through 10 states and hundreds of river towns. Covering 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The route is comprised of several state and county roads designated with the pilot sign.  

Natchez Trace Parkway

The historic Natchez Trace Parkway originally provided a natural travel corridor through the homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. During the 19th century, western pushing pioneers followed the rough trail from the Appalachian foothills to the bluffs of the Mississippi. Today it is a protected greenway linking Nashville, TN with Natchez, MS.

Natural Landmark Scenic Road Trips

Planning a scenic road trip can be close to home or far afield. This vast country is covered with unique natural landmarks. Savvy travelers plan scenic road trips to these natural beauties.

scenic road trips
Central Coast of California


Go! Learn Things along the California Coast…
Central Coast California, San Luis Obispo


Go! Learn Things on a Colorado Scenic Road Trip…
Durango to Ouray

Great Lakes

Go! Learn Things on Lake Michigan…
Lake Michigan Lighthouses

Be sure to check out all the posts in The 12 Days of Travel Themes;
Part 1: Culinary Tourism
Part 2: Fairs and Festivals
Part 3: Historic Destinations
Part 4: Museums
Part 5: Boozy Trips
Part 6: Get Outdoors
Part 7: Agritourism
Part 8: Urban Adventures
Part 9: Scenic Road Trips
Part 10: Literary Travels
Part 11: The Arts
Part 12 : National Parks

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