skagit valley tulip field

Take a National Scenic Byway route with endless views. (Photo: Getty Images)

Road Trips

Clear Your Mind Road Tripping 6 U.S. Scenic Byways We Bet You Didn’t Know Existed

When your busy daily routine begins to overwhelm, there’s one prescription sure to set things right: a road trip into an area filled with natural beauty. National Scenic Byways are the perfect routes to follow when the journey is the point of your travels. Here are six stunning byways to explore.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Cascade Loop National Scenic Byway, Washington

This 440-mile loop displays many of Washington’s diverse charms: gorgeous hiking spots, pristine lakes, charming towns and coastal views.

Every April, Skagit Valley celebrates its tulip festival with fields of vibrant blooms. Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed town east of the Cascades, keeps the party going year-round, from the Ice Fest in January to the Chamber Music Festival in July and Oktoberfest in autumn.

Glacier-fed Lake Chelan fills with kayakers, water-skiers and swimmers every summer, who then can unwind at a variety of local wineries.

Complete the loop by catching a ferry to Whidbey Island to stretch your legs and clear your mind with a walk along the stunning beaches, some of which afford a clear-day view of the Olympic Mountains.

California Historic Route 66 — Needles to Barstow Scenic Byway

route 66
Get your kicks, like so many before you. (Photo: Getty Images)

This route leads you on a serene trip through the desert, past the Mojave Preserve, with its spring-blooming wildflowers, sweeping Kelso sand dunes that drone a mystical tune as the wind whips over them, and a forest of Joshua trees that you don’t have to fight crowds to visit.

If you love photography, along this route you can spot all kinds of memorabilia from the heyday of Route 66, including vintage Googie-style signs that evoke the gee-whiz wonder of the era when the first rockets launched to the moon, such as the one for Roy’s Motel in Amboy.

And speaking of stargazing, this stretch of land offers some of the clearest night sky viewing in all of California.

Revolutionary Heritage Byway, Rhode Island

The first federal scenic byway ever designated in Rhode Island is a history-packed six-mile stretch running through the heart of Bristol, the site of the oldest annual Fourth of July parade in America, which began in 1785.

The Fourth of July celebration kicks off on Flag Day (June 14) and continues with a series of concerts, parades with marchers in Revolutionary War costumes and fireworks displays all the way through Independence Day.

This byway is beautiful year-round, with tree-lined streets, historic homes, the gorgeous Blithewold Mansion Gardens & Arboretum, and Colt State Park overlooking picturesque Narragansett Bay.

The adjacent Coggeshall Farm Museum reenacts the lifestyle of this preserved 18th-century salt marsh farm, and the park’s seaside bike paths and hiking trails invite contemplative strolls.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New Mexico

chaco culture national park
Discover indigenous culture along your route. (Photo: Getty Images)

Travel south from Farmington on this 480-plus-mile loop trail and begin a journey through history to see evidence of the Ancestral Puebloans, prehistoric people who lived on this land 10,000 years ago and whose cliff dwellings fascinate. You’ll also learn about the cultures of the Navajo, Ute, Zuni, and Apache tribes who live in New Mexico today.

Along the drive, enjoy stunning rock formations and bluebird skies throughout much of the year, as well as a sense of reverence engendered by witnessing ancient artifacts.

Chaco Culture National Park, an essential stop, preserves the remains of a civilization that flourished for more than 300 years with multistory buildings, irrigation systems and astrological knowhow. Descendants say it was a spiritually significant regional meeting place that may have been the center of the local turquoise trade.

Continue on the trail to admire dozens of petroglyphs carved in the sandstone at El Morro National Monument. Then visit the Zuni Pueblo to learn about this culture and purchase silver jewelry, pottery and paintings.

River of Lakes Heritage Corridor, Florida

This scenic byway owes its name to the indigenous Timucua, who called the St. Johns River Welaka (River of Lakes) because of the many lakes it connects as it meanders for 310 miles through central Florida.

The Heritage Corridor leads travelers through the Lake George Conservation area, with miles of hiking trails and fishing spots through groves of Spanish-moss-laden trees and bald eagle nesting areas, and past Ocala National Forest with its crystalline springs and preserved wilderness areas, perfect for canoeing.

The Heritage Corridor also offers cultural and historic highlights, such DeLand’s Stetson Mansion, an immaculately restored Gilded Age mansion once occupied by the famed hat maker, and the Athens Theatre, a 1920s jewel that hosts plays, concerts and other events.

Great River Road Scenic Byway, Wisconsin

The Great River Road Scenic Byway stretches 3,000 miles along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, and the 250-mile stretch that runs through Wisconsin is particularly lovely, connecting 33 river towns.

Each of these towns is a unique charmer. The town of Pepin hosts the Flyway Film Festival every October and is home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum (honoring Wilder’s birthplace) and the Mediterranean-style Villa Bellezza Winery. And the Village of Stockholm delights with its abundant antique, jewelry and art stores.

Driving this byway in the fall is a treat, with optimum spots for colorful foliage viewing in Perrot State Park in Trempealeau and on Grandad Bluff in La Crosse.