Your AAA Network

Tips for Traveling America’s Historic and Scenic Roads

Route 66 road paint

Museums and quirky roadside attractions dot Route 66 in Illinois.

(Photo: Courtesy of Enjoy Illinois)

There are thousands of miles of historic and scenic roads across America that are part of our national heritage. Each one of them gives you a glimpse of our county in its own special style.

Here are some things to keep in mind on your travels.

  • Many of America’s historic roads have been rerouted not just once but several times over their long history. Some sections have been obliterated and lost completely. Route numbers change, or the roads may merge with other routes periodically.
  • Byways are usually two-lane roads, something to remember when plotting out time. Your progress may be impeded not only by traffic backups from vehicle collisions and construction, but also by farm tractors at work, plus, stopping often along the way for all the photo ops.
  • Check in advance for roadwork and other delays. The Federal Highway Administration is a source for national traffic and road closure information as is the AAA Mobile App.
  • Some byways, such as the Great River Road, are uniformly well-marked throughout their length. Others, not so much. Funding is dependent on the ardor of the fans and preservationists who advocate for the roads.
  • Fill up on fuel when it’s available. Especially on commerce-free byways such as the Natchez Trace, oases of civilization are scarce. (A roll of toilet paper or tissues is a good idea, too.)
  • Small museums, restaurants and other establishments may have limited or surprising hours. Investigate and plan accordingly.
  • Byways offer an opportunity to indulge in life before homogenization. There are lots of slow-travel and go-local opportunities. You can patronize the local businesses that have managed to hold their own against the chains.

Online Resources

The good news is there’s lots of information online about America’s scenic byways. The bad news is it’s not in any one place. But here are some key sources for planning a trip. The Federal Highway Administration‘s site dedicated to America’s Byways should be your first stop. Here you’ll find a general map with dots indicating the locations of byways, and search capability for locating byways near you. There’s a list of the program’s 150 Scenic Byways and All-American Roads (the latter being the uber-scenic category) with overview maps and links (lots and lots of links) to the many other local and regional organizations that provide road and travel information.

The AAA Mobile App allows you to get directions and maps that come complete with a “scenic routes” layer that you can turn on and off. Select “Drive Trips” in the TripTik Travel Planner to find out about dozens of AAA recommended scenic routes everywhere in the U.S. You can book your whole vacation through the app, including hotels and rental cars. While you’re on the road, you can find the lowest gas prices and any AAA discounts near you. And, you can request roadside assistance for a breakdown if that unfortunate situation arises.

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