10 New Scenic Byways Perfect for an RV Road Trip

Jun 9, 2021 | Travel & Destinations

10 New Scenic Byways Perfect for an RV Road Trip

If you’re looking for RV trip inspiration, check out these newly designated scenic byways across the U.S.

By Ashley Rossi

If you prefer getting off the freeway and taking a scenic detour, your list of roads to drive just got longer. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently released new designations for the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) for the first time since 2009. The new additions of 15 All-American Roads and 34 National Scenic Byways across 28 states increase the overall number of America’s Byways to 184 in 48 states.

To receive a designation, a roadway must prove significance among six intrinsic qualities: scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, and natural. An All-American Road needs to meet two of the six qualities while a National Scenic Byway must meet one. 

Here are five new byway designations that are perfect for RVers because of their accessibility, drivability, and proximity to national and state parks. We’ve included maps with campground suggestions and suggested stops. As a bonus, you’ll also find five other trip-worthy routes from the new designations below. 

You can view the full list of designations here. As with all RV route planning, make sure to check your RV’s measurements, research any restrictions you might encounter along the way, and use an RV GPS

Zion Scenic Byway, Utah

Route: Highway 9 from Interstate 15 to Mt. Carmel Junction

Total Length: 54 miles

Red paved highway through canyons in Utah
Photo: Matt Morgan

If you’re looking to visit Zion in Utah, take a drive along this byway that goes through the national park. 

Spend some time in and around quirky St. George, Utah, before getting on Highway 9. You’ll find both Sand Hollow and Quail Creek state parks in this area, too. Once you’re on the byway, plan a stop at the Grafton Ghost Town before heading to Springdale, the gateway to Zion National Park. In the park, drive through the mile-long Zion Tunnel (RVs have to pay an escort fee) and stop at designated overlooks; many are large enough for rigs. You’ll exit through the park’s east entrance and continue to the Mt. Carmel Junction where the byway ends. Stop at the Belly of the Dragon for a short but rewarding hike. There are plenty of campgrounds and dispersed camping options on both ends of the roadway. 

Cascade Loop, Washington

Route: Everett to Mukilteo, Washington

Total Length: 440 miles

Wide angle view of the Skykomish River Valley in Washington State, part of the Cascade Loop

For an epic weeklong RV road trip in the Pacific Northwest, travel along the Cascade Loop, which also consists of three independent byways: the Stevens Pass Greenway, the North Cascades Scenic Byway, and the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way. With nine distinct regions, there’s so much to do here, from visiting farms, wineries, and orchards to seeing glacial lakes, national parks, and waterfalls. The loop can be driven both ways.

Start in Everett, Washington, about 40 minutes north of Seattle, and head to the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. This section follows the Skykomish River to Stevens Pass Greenway. Continue to the Wenatchee Valley—also known as the Apple Capital of the World—toward Lake Chelan, a 55-mile-long lake known for its vineyards. Then, head to North Cascades National Park and spend at least 2 days hiking, kayaking, and viewing the wildlife. Camp in the park or at campgrounds in the nearby towns of Newhalem, Marblemount, or Rockport. Drive on to Skagit Valley and Fidalgo Island, ending in the seaside town Anacortes, where you can see orcas on a whale watching tour. Complete the loop along the 55-mile Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, starting at the jaw-dropping Deception Pass Bridge and continuing down the island chain. 

River of Lakes Heritage Corridor, Florida

Route: Seville to Oak Hill, Florida 

Total Length: 156 miles

Florida manatees swimming in a spring with birds on low hanging branch

If you’re considering a trip to central Florida for the amusement parks or Daytona coastline, don’t miss this scenic byway through the state’s historic St. Johns River region. The river was named Welaka (“river of lakes”) by the historic regional tribe, the Timucua. In the area, you’ll find natural wonders like springs, lakes, birding, diverse wildlife, and trails, as well as historical points of interest like museums, mansions, theaters, and more. The Spring-to-Spring Trail system is in development with the goal to link many of the popular springs and lakes—it will eventually stretch 26 miles. Many of the segments are already completed, along with new trailheads at DeBary Hall Historic Site, Gemini Springs Park, Lake Monroe Park, Lake Beresford Park, Blue Spring State Park, and along Grand Avenue in Glenwood.  

The designated byway starts in Seville, near Lake George. There are a handful of other unique springs and parks on the opposite side of the lake—Salt Springs, Silver Glen, Juniper, and Alexandar—if you’re looking to extend your trip. Continue down to DeLand, making stops at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, and DeLeon Springs State Park. Then visit Hontoon Island State Park and Blue Springs State Park, which are homes to the endangered Florida manatee in the winter. Blue Springs has RV sites for camping and a 2-hour narrated river cruise is offered twice daily. Next head to Lake Monroe with stops at Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park and Gemini Springs Park. Spend some time in Sanford along the river walk, then continue up to Lake Helen before heading out to Oak Hill and the Canaveral National Seashore. From here, you’re about 30 miles from Daytona Beach, 75 miles from Walt Disney World, and 215 miles from Fort Lauderdale. 

Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, Ohio

Route: Intersection of State Route 374 and U.S. 33 

Total Length: 26 miles

Waterfall cascading into pool with bridge overhead

Located 175 miles from Cuyahoga Valley National Park and 50 miles from Columbus is one of Ohio’s most well-known natural attractions and state parks, Hocking Hills. The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway connects travelers to the six main sites in the park and is full of stops for caves, waterfalls, and trailheads. 

Before you start the byway road, visit nearby Rockbridge State Nature Preserve to walk across a large natural bridge over a plunge pool. The first designated stop in the state park is Cantwell Cliffs, which offers a strenuous rim hike as well as a 1-mile loop, accessible for all skill levels. Pass the village of Mound Crossing before you reach the next site, Rock House. The third stop is Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve, which features a few different trail options at one of the deepest gorges in the state. In between Conkles Hollow and the next site, Old Man’s Cave, is the park’s Hemlock Bridge Trail that leads to Whispering Cave. The last three stops on this itinerary are the park’s most recognizable: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave.

California Historic Route 66, Needles to Barstow Scenic Byway, California

Route: Needles to Barstow, California along Route 66 (Interstate 40)

Total Length: 144 miles

Route 66 sign painted on lane of highway with desert landscape
Photo: Bureau of Land Management CA Desert District

Driving the iconic Mother Road is a must for any RVer, and this section embodies the nostalgia and iconic landscapes of Route 66. The newly designated byway section covers 144 miles of landmarks throughout the Mojave Desert. Whether you’re driving the entire route or just traveling one segment, you can’t miss this famous part of Route 66.

Needles is the gateway to California’s Route 66 and is located about 40 miles north of Lake Havasu in Arizona. Fill up on supplies as needed before continuing along the route. Visit the restored El Garces Harvey House and admire the murals, old gas stations, motels, and other roadside attractions. As you make your way down the roadway you can stop at a variety of natural spots, including the Bigelow Cholla Garden Wilderness and Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. Before continuing to Barstow, make a detour for Roy’s Motel and Cafe, the Amboy Crater, and the Kelso Dunes. There’s plenty to do around Barstow, like Peggy Sue’s ‘50s Diner, Calico Ghost Town, Barstow Station, and the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and Western America Railroad Museum. For additional hiking and boondocking opportunities, Rainbow Basin Natural Area is less than 10 miles north of Barstow. 

Other Noteworthy Scenic Byways Great for RVers

Bridge over Mississippi River leading to Memphis

Great River Road National Scenic Byway, Tennessee 

This 185.5-mile section of the 3,000-mile Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi River, is of cultural and geological significance. Notable stops include the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios, Graceland Mansion, Stax Records, and Reelfoot Lake. Another part of the Great River Road, in Arkansas, is also a newly designated byway.

View of lighthouse on Lake Superior

Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway, Wisconsin

Travel 70 miles along the southern shoreline of Lake Superior for amazing views, beaches, and recreational activities. The route starts at U.S. Highway 2 and State Highway 13 at the Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Ashland, Wisconsin. The byway is home to the Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation, Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Meyers Beach, Port Wing Boreal Forest, Twin Falls Park, Brule River State Forest, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area. 

Ruins of an ancient pueblo town

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New Mexico

This 662.4-mile-long loop features archaeological and geological sites significant to the Ancestral Puebloans and the Navajo, Ute, and Apache peoples. The route covers Chaco Culture National Historical Park, El Morro National Monument, El Malpais National Monument, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano, as well as trading posts and pueblos. It also passes through the cities of Gallup and Farmington, New Mexico. You can boondock in the badlands scenery at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area and Angel Peak Scenic Areas.

Two parallel bridges crossing a river in rural Louisiana

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway, Louisiana

Once a channel of the Mississippi River, the Bayou Teche Scenic Byway takes you for 183 miles of southern Louisiana’s lush swampland and distinct bayous. The name “teche” likely comes from a Chitimacha Indian word for snake, and the region has strong Native American, European, African, and Caribbean influences. The route starts in historic Morgan City and ends in Arnaudville. Notable stops include the Great Atchafalaya Basin, the Chitimacha Museum, LeJeune’s Bakery, Avery Island factory (where the famous Tabasco hot sauce is made), the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, and Café des Amis. 

Winding roadway with a micro mountain range in the background, Colorado

Scenic Highway of Legends, Colorado 

The Spanish Peaks, a micro mountain range, are the main feature of this less-traveled section of Colorado. Instead of driving south on I-25 to New Mexico, you can take the Scenic Highway of Legends, which covers the stretch between Walsenburg to Trinidad, Colorado. The byway covers 82 miles through the San Isabel National Forest across two passes: Cucharas and Cordova. Before you embark on this journey, make sure you’re comfortable with driving at high elevations, check conditions, and know your RV’s specifications. The region has been home to Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors, pioneers, miners, and ranchers. Travelers can visit coal mining towns, Hispanic settlements, galleries, and museums, in addition to state parks and recreation areas for hiking and fishing. The drive is especially scenic come fall. Dispersed camping opportunities are plentiful. 

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Ashley Rossi

Ashley is the managing editor at Togo RV. She comes from a background in travel writing which has taken her from Australia to Haida Gwaii. Her favorite national park is Zion and she's helping her parents plan an epic cross-country retirement trip in an Airstream.