Here’s a common question among motorcyclists: Where shall we go riding? As a group, we’re always on the prowl for new roads, and at times it can be tough to come up with new ideas for scenic riding destinations. Well, believe it or not, we riders have some friends from the government and they’re here to help. In fact, over many years they’ve assembled a mighty impressive list of great roads all across the USA that will take even the most devoted of touring riders quite some time to check off the “to do” list. And every road included on this list is guaranteed to be a most worthwhile route.
Called the National Scenic Byways Program, this listing of roads was first established by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration in 1991. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States—the most memorable rides this country has to offer. Since 1992, the National Scenic Byways Program has funded 3,049 projects for state and nationally designated byway routes in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
America's Byways is the umbrella term used when referring to the entire collection of 150 distinct and diverse scenic roads included under the headings of National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. The definition of "scenic" reaches beyond breathtaking vistas; designations are based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.
All of America's Byways are "scenic," representing the depth and breadth of scenery in America—natural and man-made panoramas; electrifying neon landscapes; ancient and modern history coming alive; native arts and culture; and scenes of friends, families and strangers sharing their stories. However, the cream of the crop have earned the designation as All-American Roads, as these 31 roads offer two or more of the above stated “scenic” qualities.
All of these roads have been assembled as part of a voluntary, grassroots program. Joining this unique collection involves much more than simply taking a few photos and filling out the online application. It can take months to prepare a Byway and its organization for this identification process. What that means to us riders is that we can rest assured that officially designated Byways will offer a truly exceptional experience.
In fact, when going over this list it wasn’t much of a surprise to find many favorite roads that we’ve ridden over the years. Stellar examples include: the San Juan Skyway in Colorado; Big Sur Coast Highway/Route 1 in California; the Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming; the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina; Utah’s Highway 12 through Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks; and the 445 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Of course, the six roads mentioned above hardly scratch the surface of the 150 roads in the Byways collection. For more information about the National Scenic Byways Program and America's Byways, go to http://byways.org and shop around for some scenic roads that you might enjoy. Start a checklist, and keep on going until you’ve crossed off all 150. Then do it again!