Explore Geology

Scenic Byways

America's Scenic Byways offer a wonderful opportunity to travel to the parks and see a variety of geologic landforms. Several of the byways listed here connect parks with a geologic theme.

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Natchez Trace Parkway - Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi
Native Americans, Kaintuck boatmen, post riders, government officials, soldiers and fortune seekers all moved across this trail, charting new territory and creating a vital link between the Mississippi Territory and the fledgling United States. The Trace passes through forests, cypress swamps, and farmland. You can meander through the rock studded hills of Tennessee, past cotton fields in Alabama, to Mississippi's marsh and bottomland. more »

Death Valley Scenic Byway - California
A gateway to over 3.3 million acres of spectacular scenery, expansive vistas, interesting and rare desert wildlife, and sites of historical and cultural interest, this byway travels through sculpted hills and shifting dunes and even dips below sea level. Death Valley features the lowest point and hottest place in the western hemisphere. A visitor center and full facilities are available. more »

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Acadia Byway - Maine
The Acadia Byway accesses Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. Captivating vistas will surround you, from craggy shorelings and granite-capped mountains to crystal lakes and old-growth forests. The island is perfect for exploring with extensive carriage roads and hiking trails giving access to all areas of the National Park. The island also shelters several small harbor towns, the largest being Bar Harbor, the island's artistic, culinary, and social center. See sailboats of Northeast Harbor or take in the rustic flavor of Bass and Southwest Harbors. more »

Skyline Drive - Virginia
Skyline Drive is an integral element of Shenandoah National Park. Today, almost 1.4 million visitors a year come from around the world to Shenandoah to enjoy its natural beauty. The creation of the park has allowed natural forces combined with the early efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the continuing efforts of the National Park Service to regenerate an area of scenic mountain terrain. The best way to introduce the Byway would be by the seasons, as each turn into the next season offers something new and enjoyable along the Skyline Drive. more »


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One of the original maps of the National Park Highway
The National Park Highway connected a number of parks in the western part of the country

Alaska Marine Highway - Alaska
If you want to see Alaska, take the ferry! The only Byway of its kind, Alaska's Marine Highway lets you leave the driving to someone else as you travel along scenic coastal routes totaling over 8,000 miles. See whales, active volcanoes, glaciers, fjords, and sea lions from the deck! And the adventure doesn't end when the sun goes down. Just book your own cabin on the ferry, pitch a tent, or roll out a sleeping bag on the upper decks, lay back, and watch the dancing northern lights. The Alaska Marine Byway passes through Katmai National Park and Preserve, Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Kenai Fjords National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Admiralty 1 National Monument, and Misty Fjords National Monument. more »

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway - Colorado and Utah
The Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway delivers discovery and exploration at several sites filled with science and history. The two-state Byway combines opportunities to see dinosaur bones being excavated and prepared by paleontologists for museum display. Admire fine examples of rock art, found near the Colorado National Monument in some of the highest concentrations in North America. Survey the natural stone arches and bridges in Arches National Park, internationally famous and truly magnificent. Enjoy the natural scenery along the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway. Red, gray, and green rock formations await you at many turns. Forested mountain passes, canyons, cliffs, rivers, and plateaus adorn the nearby region. Take advantage of wide-open spaces and unobstructed views that reward Byway travelers. This byway also passes through Dinosaur National Monument and Canyonlands National Park. more »

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Crater Lake 6 cent stamp
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway - California and Oregon
Explore the wonder and beauty of a dramatic volcanic landscape, which stretches from Crater Lake in Oregon to Mount Lassen in California, making this Byway America's Volcano to Volcano highway. The volcanic activity of the past has created unique geological formations such as wavy lava flows and lava tube caves. Surrounding this volcanic landscape is a wide diversity of scenery. On this Byway you can travel through or near dense forests, broad wetlands and habitat areas, pastoral grasslands, farms and ranches, and well-managed timber resource lands. This byway also passes through Lava Beds National Monument. more »

Kaibab Plateau North Rim Parkway - Arizona
Travel across the mountain lying down, or "Kaibab" as the Paiute Indians called it. The Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Parkway, a scenic route beginning at Jacob Lake, will take you through the pine, fir, and aspen trees of the Kaibab National Forest and leave you gazing in wonder on the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This parkway also passes through Pipe Spring National Monument. more »

Seward Highway - Alaska
Welcome to beautiful Seward Highway. Few roads in the United States can offer the diversity of scenic landscapes and unique natural features so concentrated in one area. This 127-mile road, linking Anchorage with Seward, passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. The landscape varies from the muddy waters of Turnagain Arm to the icy blue glaciers that hang almost to the sea at Kenai Fjords National Park. Wildflowers and waterfalls brighten every corner of the road as it glides below rough mountains that pierce thick, heavy clouds. Only Alaska's Seward Highway can offer this particular mix created by climate, geography, and geology. more »

Copper County Trail - Michigan
On a rugged and rocky peninsula cradled by the frigid waters of Lake Superior lie the pieces of a story told, not in words, but in the landscape itself, in artifacts and buildings left from a mining past, in the remnants of a great transportation system, and the lives of the people here. The Copper Country Trail tells the story of a society that rose up out of the rock and forest as people of different cultures came together for a shared purpose. Make a trip to Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula and experience the story for yourself. more »

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A visitor in a car gets up close and personal with an elk at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Beartooth Ridge Parkway - Montana
The Beartooth Highway is one of the most spectacular National Forest routes on this continent. To many, it's known as "the most beautiful highway in America." From its beginning at the border of the Custer National Forest to its terminus near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the entire Beartooth Highway (US 212) offers travelers the ultimate high country experience as it travels through the Custer, Shoshone and Gallatin National Forests. Since its completion in 1936, the Highway has provided millions of visitors a rare opportunity to see the transition from a lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in the space of a few miles. The Beartooths are one of the highest elevation and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. Glaciers are found on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet in these mountains. more »

Jemez Mountain Trail - New Mexico
The Jemez Mountain Trail will take you from Albuquerque to Santa Fe via Bernalillo, a variety of Spanish and Indian ruins, the Coronado and Jemez State Monuments, Los Alamos, and the Bandelier National Monument. From this monument, it is just a short jaunt to either Chimayo and El Santuario de Chimayo, or to "The City Different," Santa Fe.
A leisurely day trip takes you past fantastic geologic formations, ancient Indian ruins and Indian pueblos, and reminders of the area's logging, mining, and ranching heritage. Approximately 65 miles of the Byway winds through the Santa Fe National Forest and 40 miles of this are now the Jemez National Recreation Area. The Jemez Mountains are also famous for their natural hot springs. more »

Blue Ridge Parkway - North Carolina and Virginia
Built during the Depression, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the nation's longest rural parkway. Drive its entire 469 miles and your journey will connect Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in southern North Carolina. Along the way, stop and visit towns whose beginnings date back to the settling of America. Owing its name to the famous explorer, Daniel Boone, Boone, NC, is now known as the 'Firefly Capital of the World'. Asheville, NC, is home to cultural and historic Byway attractions such as the Biltmore Estate. And to experience a 'wild west' in the east, check out the storefronts and saloons at North Carolina's 'Ghost Town in the Sky.' This town, with its unusual location, provides an appropriate backdrop for thrilling gunfights staged in the streets. more »

Chinook Scenic Byway - Washington
Gorgeous snow-capped Mount Rainier towers over the Byway and surrounding valley along the Chinook Scenic Byway. Glacier-fed rivers flow through wildflower-covered plains. Traveling through the beautiful Wenatchee National Forest will be full of chances to take in the outdoor air and experience nature. The views are awe-inspiring in the spring and summer when the Cascade Mountains come alive with lush vegetation. Working its way through scenic Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Byway provides some of the most gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier and other destinations along the way. more »


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For more information about the scenic byways listed above, please visit the America's Byways homepage

updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/tour/byways.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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