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Backroads and Byways
As the old saying goes, it’s better to focus on the journey than the destination, and a trip along America’s scenic backroads and byways offers you the opportunity to do just that. Instead of rushing from point A to point B, you can take your time and make as many stops as you please. Since these roads often travel through remote areas, be sure to top off your gas tank before you leave and pack some extra food and water to enjoy along the way. Here are just a few of the great trips you can take:
COLORADO | West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
As the folks at the Colorado Tourism Office like to say, this 200-mile route is shaped like a lasso that’s been dropped on Colorado’s pristine West Elk Mountains. This route travels through three mining communities and near four diverse wilderness areas and it offers opportunities to visit the galleries and boutiques in Carbondale, the Pioneer Museum in Gunnison and to take in the Victorian charm of Crested Butte which has been designated by the Colorado legislature as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado.” The loop also passes by the Black Canyon gorge which is located between Montrose and Gunnison.
NEW MEXICO | Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
The name of this byway alone makes you want to go out and explore it. This 85-mile loop is located in the northern part of New Mexico and circles around 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state. The route includes Taos Pueblo, the oldest continuously-occupied residence in New Mexico, as well as a shrine to author D. H. Lawrence (he’s buried here) and the United States’ first memorial to Vietnam War veterans, which is located near Angel Fire. You’ll also find scenery you just might recognize from films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Easy Rider. You can also take a 12-mile side trip northwest of Taos to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
MISSISSIPPI/ALABAMA/TENNESSEE | Natchez Trace Parkway
This 444-mile route spans from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee and offers plenty of interesting and scenic stops. Along the way, you’ll find prehistoric mounds, historic sites, hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic overlooks. Civil War buffs may want to visit the Tupelo National Battlefield and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield located near Tupelo. As you navigate the Parkway, you can also gain an appreciation of what it must have been like to travel the Old Natchez Trace by foot back in the day.
INDIANA | Parke County
Located in central Indiana 75 miles west of Indianapolis, Parke County is billed as “the covered bridge capital of the world” because it contains 31 of these historic structures. There are five different suggested driving routes that you can take in this area, and there are other attractions to enjoy along the way, including museums, antique shops, the Covered Bridge Art Gallery and historic sites like Bridgeton Mill, which was established in 1823 and continues to offer stone ground products, snacks and treats. Sweet Potato Pie ice cream, anyone? Parke County is also home to the Covered Bridge Festival which will take place on October 13-22 this year.
MAINE | Acadia All-American Road
Invest three hours to drive this 40-mile route and you’ll be rewarded with all kinds of views, from craggy shorelines to granite-capped mountains and crystal-clear lakes to spruce and fir forests. Other views include the fishing boats and sailboats in Frenchman’s Bay and the summer “cottages” built in Bar Harbor by wealthy families that once summered in the area. The route also offers access to the hiking trails in Acadia National Park.
Interested in finding more backroads and byways? America’s Byways is an umbrella term used by the U.S. Department of Transportation to describe a collection of 150 diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. The program invites travelers to “come closer to America’s heart and soul.”
Once you’ve decided where you’re headed, go to our “Find a Park” search page to find great campgrounds to stay at as you head out to explore America’s backroads and byways. It’s easy to refine your search by the geographic area(s) on your itinerary. Enjoy the journey!
Photos collected from Pixabay.com and Pexels.com