22 Scenic Byways for Nature Lovers and Photographers

Embarking on a journey along scenic byways provides a perfect blend of adventure and tranquility for nature lovers and photographers alike. These routes traverse through some of the most breathtaking landscapes, offering endless opportunities to witness wildlife, soak in panoramic views, and capture stunning photographs. From rugged mountains to serene coastlines, each byway is a gateway to discovering the natural wonders that lie just off the beaten path.

Paradise Valley Scenic Loop, Montana

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Nestled between the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges, Paradise Valley offers breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, lush valleys, and the meandering Yellowstone River. Photographers appreciate the golden hours that accentuate the dramatic landscapes, and nature lovers revel in the abundant wildlife, including elk and eagles.

Needles Highway, South Dakota

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Known for its impressive granite spires and narrow tunnels, Needles Highway provides a dramatic journey through Custer State Park. The changing light creates mesmerizing shadows and highlights on the rocks, offering photographers dynamic scenes, while nature enthusiasts enjoy the pine forests and frequent sightings of bison and deer.

Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Idaho

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This byway offers striking views of the jagged peaks of the Sawtooth Range. The numerous lakes along the route, including Redfish Lake, provide serene settings ideal for nature observation and reflective photography. The area’s wildflowers and autumn colors are especially photogenic.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

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Stretching along the California coastline, this iconic route boasts dramatic ocean vistas, rugged cliffs, and pristine beaches. The ever-changing light and surf provide endless opportunities for captivating photography. Nature lovers are treated to marine life like sea otters and seals, especially in the Big Sur area.

Cascade Loop, Washington

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This extensive loop encircles the North Cascades National Park, offering diverse landscapes from arid river valleys to lush rainforests. Photographers can capture the contrasting environments, while nature lovers explore hiking trails and spot local wildlife, including black bears and mountain goats.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

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Renowned for its scenic beauty, this parkway winds through the Appalachian Highlands. The abundant deciduous forests offer a spectacular display of autumn colors, waterfalls, and mist-covered mountains, perfect for both serene walks and photography.

Great River Road, Minnesota to Louisiana

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Following the course of the Mississippi River, this route is a tapestry of American history, culture, and natural beauty. The river itself, along with the surrounding wetlands and bluffs, provides striking subjects for photography and is a haven for bird watchers.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

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Cutting through Glacier National Park, this road is famous for its sweeping views of glacial lakes, alpine meadows, and rugged peaks. The diverse ecosystems offer spectacular photo ops and are a paradise for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, Ohio

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This byway winds through lush forests and past sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and caves. It’s particularly striking in the fall or after rainfalls when the waterfalls are at their peak flow, and the moist conditions enhance the deep greens of the forest.

San Juan Skyway, Colorado

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The San Juan Skyway loops through the Colorado Rockies with majestic mountain views and historic towns. Photographers find the mountain reflections in crystal-clear lakes mesmerizing, while nature lovers enjoy the wildflower displays in spring and summer.

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

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Part of the San Juan Skyway, this highway offers some of the most rugged and steep terrains in Colorado. The high-altitude vistas are spectacular for photography, particularly in the fall when the aspen trees turn golden.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona and Utah

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The dramatic landscapes of red sandstone buttes and vast, open skies are iconic of the American West. This area is not only a photographer’s dream for its stark beauty and vast horizons but also a place to appreciate Navajo cultural heritage.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee

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This historic route offers rolling hills, ancient burial mounds, and an excellent array of southern plant life and wildlife. It’s particularly picturesque in the spring when wildflowers bloom alongside the pathway.

Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire

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Known locally as “The Kanc,” this route runs through the White Mountains and is renowned for its fall foliage. The swift-moving rivers and rugged scenery provide perfect subjects for nature photography and are a delight for leaf peepers.

Skyline Drive, Virginia

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Running the length of Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive offers stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding mountains. Frequent deer sightings add to the appeal for nature lovers, while the dense foliage provides endless photographic opportunities.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, and Washington

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This scenic area is known for its high concentration of waterfalls, including the famous Multnomah Falls. The gorge’s panoramic vistas are ideal for both wide-angle shots and intimate nature details.

Highway 1, Big Sur, California

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Often considered a part of the Pacific Coast Highway, this specific stretch through Big Sur emphasizes rugged coastlines and the dramatic interface of land and sea, ideal for stunning landscape photography and marine wildlife spotting.

Outer Banks Scenic Byway, North Carolina

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This byway skirts the beautiful barrier islands of North Carolina’s coast. The remote beaches, historic lighthouses, and opportunities to observe migratory birds and sea turtles make it a unique place for both photography and nature exploration.

Tunnel of Trees Road, Michigan

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This narrow road offers a canopy of dense trees that create a tunnel-like effect. It’s especially magical in autumn when the leaves change colors, providing a beautiful backdrop for scenic drives and photography.

Florida Keys Scenic Highway, Florida

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Stretching over the ocean and connecting the tropical islands of the Florida Keys, this highway offers views of crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, and sunsets that are particularly photogenic and relaxing.

Historic Route 66, Various States

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Although not typically noted for natural beauty, this historic route offers unique photographic opportunities through the American Southwest’s deserts and quirky roadside attractions, appealing to those who love both cultural and natural landscapes.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, California and Oregon

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Connecting Lassen Volcanic National Park and Crater Lake National Park, this byway offers views of volcanic landscapes and features, including lava beds, geothermal areas, and pristine mountain lakes.

This article originally appeared on MyCarMakesNoise.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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