Embark on a Scenic Adventure: Planning Your Summer Road Trip Along America's Scenic Byways
May 8, 2024
Scenic byway to Zion National Park | Image credit: Michael Hills

As summer approaches, the call of the open road beckons adventure-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. If you’re looking to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes firsthand, there’s no better way than by planning a road trip along the country’s scenic byways. These roads, designated for their outstanding natural, cultural, or historic qualities, promise unforgettable journeys filled with stunning vistas and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Choosing Your Route

The first step in planning your scenic road trip is selecting your route. With over 1,200 designated scenic byways crisscrossing the nation, you have a plethora of options to choose from. Whether you’re drawn to coastal drives, mountain passes, or rolling plains, there’s a byway that will cater to your preferences.

Consider iconic routes like the Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1) for breathtaking ocean views, the Blue Ridge Parkway winding through the Appalachian Mountains, or the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park for a mountainous adventure. Research each route to understand its unique highlights and plan your itinerary accordingly. Consult our list of national scenic byways to find your next adventure along our country’s most scenic roads!

Planning Your Itinerary

Once you’ve chosen your route or routes, it’s time to plan your itinerary. Factor in the length of the byway, notable stopping points, and attractions along the way. Remember that the journey is just as important as the destination, so allow plenty of time for spontaneous detours and photo stops.

Make a list of must-visit landmarks, national parks, and scenic overlooks along your chosen route. Consider the best times to visit each location to avoid crowds and capture the most stunning views, especially during sunrise or sunset.

Packing Essentials

A successful road trip requires proper preparation, especially when traveling along scenic byways where amenities may be limited. Pack essentials such as a detailed map or GPS device, plenty of water and snacks, a first aid kit, and emergency supplies.

Bring along a camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of your surroundings. Don’t forget comfortable clothing, sturdy footwear for impromptu hikes, and layers to prepare for changing weather conditions.

Embracing the Journey

The essence of a road trip lies in embracing the unexpected and immersing yourself in the experience. Take time to savor local cuisine at roadside diners, interact with friendly locals, and explore charming towns off the beaten path.

Engage with nature by embarking on short hikes or scenic walks to fully appreciate the byway’s natural wonders. Keep an eye out for wildlife and unique flora that add to the richness of the landscape.

Respecting Nature and Culture

While reveling in the beauty of America’s scenic byways, it’s crucial to be a responsible traveler. Respect wildlife by observing from a distance, dispose of waste properly, and follow designated trails to minimize your impact on the environment.

Be mindful of local customs and traditions, especially when visiting indigenous lands or culturally significant sites. Treat these areas with reverence and gratitude for the opportunity to experience their heritage. See our guide to tribal byways for more information on byways to and through tribal lands.

Embarking on a summer road trip along America’s scenic byways promises an unforgettable adventure filled with natural wonders, cultural heritage, and cherished memories. Whether you traverse the rugged coastlines of the West, the majestic peaks of the Rockies, or the verdant forests of the East, each byway offers a unique perspective on the country’s diverse landscapes.

So, gather your maps, pack your bags, and set forth on a journey of discovery. Let the winding roads and panoramic views inspire you as you explore the best that America’s scenic byways have to offer.