Travel Themes Part 9: Scenic Road Trips

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.  My introduction to this concept was on the motorcycles.  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…….

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. It does not however cover every state.  This list at has a suggestion for each of the 50 states. As I browsed through it I approved of many of their suggestions and will cover a couple here. 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, but I am biased. Please share in the comments sugg

estions for your state.


Popular Scenic Road Trips

I noted a couple of these routes in the previous post Travel Themes Part 3: Historic Destinations. Travelers plan scenic road trips every year. These long routes enjoyed as a whole or as shorter segments.

scenic road trips
Get your kicks 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.
  • Pacific Coast Highway displays the majestic and diverse California Coast. It runs from its southern terminus near Orange County and its northern terminus in Mendocino County. This scenic road trip shows off pristine beaches, teeming tide pools, crashing cliffs, sprawling cities and vast ranches.
  • Great River Road follows the Mighty Mississippi which bisects the heart of the country.  This scenic road trip will take 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.  Great River Road Sign









  • 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 Landmarks

As you can see by the routes discussed thus far, they showcase the natural landmarks of America. Planning this kind of an itinerary 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



Great Lakes

  • Lake Superior Circle Tour through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario
  • Lake Michigan Circle Tour through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.  The only Great Lake circle tour that stays completely in the U.S.
  • Lake Huron Circle Tour
  • Lake Erie Circle Tour
  • Great Lakes Seaway Trail


Iconic Niagara Falls.
  • Niagara Parkway runs on the Canadian side of the river from Niagara-on-Lake through Niagara Falls to Fort Erie. The seasoned travel bloggers of Planet D share their Niagara Parkway Itinerary. This route has so much in addition to the Falls.
  • Multnomah Falls in Oregon
  • Road to Hana on the island of Maui has beaches, mountains, waterfalls and jungle hikes along this famous scenic road trip.


Undoubtedly, I could go on forever. This is my favorite style of travel. Please leave some of your favorite scenic road trips in the comments.

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 : Oddities

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