National Scenic Byways and Other Recreational Drives


Angeles Crest

Transverses 64-miles of the gugged and picturesque San Gabriel Mountains, from Foothill Blvd. in La Canada up through the gigh country to Wrightwood, where it continues along Highway 138 until it connects with "Rim of the World" Scenic Byway. Angeles National Forest.

Anza-Borrego Desert

Auto-Free Yosemite

High-tech imaging shows national park of the future.

A scenic driving guide to this immense and diverse southern California preserve.

Carson Pass Scenic Byway

The Carson Pass Highway covers 58 miles on State Highway 88, from Dew Drop to Woodfords, through the Eldorado and Toiyabe National Forests in northern California. Considered to be one of the most beautiful of trans-Sierra highways, it has won national honors for its design and scenic vistas. (Eldorado National Forest, 100 Forni Road. Placerville, CA 95667, 916/644-6084; Toiyabe National Forest, 1200 Franklin Way, Sparks, NV 89431, 702/738-5171)

Death Valley National Park

Desert solitude on backroads of the vast Mojave. Details on 15 bumpy roads, plus the main paved park roads.

Ebbetts Pass Road

Route 4. This State Scenic Highway, located between Arnold and the junction of State Route 89, winds through the High Sierra past alpine meadows, lakes, pine forests and scenic vistas. May be partially closed during winter. Distance: 60 miles (96 km). Driving time: 2 hours.

Echo Summit Scenic Highway

Route 50. This State Scenic Highway runs from the American River Canyon, over the granite peaks of Echo Summit; then descends into the Tahoe Valley Distance: 25 miles (40 km). Driving time: 1 hour.

Highway One

California Highway One clings to the wild coast of California: a thin, pliable line outlining rugged cliffs plunging to power-mad surf. Traveling Highway One is more than a scenic drive, it's a pilgrimage; a reconnection to California's history, environment, mythology—its spirit.

Highway 49

This route will take you through quaint, small towns, historic mining areas, along one of the truly beautiful rivers of Northern California, and show you some of the rich history contained within the hills and mountains of rural California. For more information on this route see the Highway 49 Guide.

Joshua Tree National Park

Where the great Sonoran and Mohave deserts meet—take your pick among rough and tumble backroads are paved main roads.

Kings Canyon Scenic Byway

Route 180. Located at the western boundary of the Sequoia National Forest, this U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway showcases giant sequoia and Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America. Distance: 50 miles (80 km). Driving time: 4 hours.

Lassen Scenic Byway

Loop drive exploring the mystery and wonder of the southern Cascades, a biologic and historic crossroads.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Over the high Southern Cascades, with dramatic views of peaks and incredible leg stretching stops.

Lee Vining Canyon Scenic Byway

Route 120. This U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway climbs through dramatic and rugged Lee Vining Canyon, connecting the Great Basin landscapes with the high alpine meadows of the Sierra Nevada. Closed in winter. Distance: 12 miles (19 km). Driving time: 1/2 hour. Inyo National Forest

Mariposa to Yosemite Highway

Route 140. This State Scenic Highway climbs from oak woodlands through the scenic and historic Merced River Canyon to Yosemite National Park. Distance: 27 miles (43 km). Driving time: 1 hour.

Monitor & Luther Pass Highways and Lake Tahoe Road

Route 89. This State Scenic Highway passes alpine forests and meadows and provides spectacular views of mountain ranges and peaks. The northern portion over-looks Lake Tahoe. May be partially closed in winter. Distance: 61 miles (98 km). Driving time: 2 hours.

Monterey's Old Coastal Road

18.7 miles of old gravel road ending on Highway 1. Stunning Pacific scenery.

Pioneer & Gold Rush Heritage Corridor

Interstate 80 and old Route 40. Follow the major route of early California pioneers and 19th-century gold seekers, from San Francisco through Sacramento, Auburn and Truckee to the Nevada state line. Includes route along the old Lincoln Highway Distance: 193 miles (309 km). Driving Time: 4 hours.

Point Reyes National Seashore

California dreaming -- secluded beaches, exotic wildlife and wilderness vistas north of San Francisco.

Rim of the World

This 107 mile Scenic Byway traverses the entire length of the San Bernardino Mountains. San Bernardino National Forest.

Route One, Pacific Coast Highway

Travel the route that provides access to the austere, windswept cypress trees, fog-shrouded cliffs, and crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean as it traverses 116 km (72 miles) of the California coast.

Route 168

This U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway and State Scenic Highway climbs through pinyon-juniper woodlands to the world's oldest living trees, the Bristlecone Pine. Be sure to schedule time to take a stroll along these amazing specimens. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is part of Inyo National Forest. Distance: 52 miles (83 km). Driving time: 2 hours.

Route 395

Located between Ft. Independence and Fish Springs Road, this State Scenic Highway offers views of high desert meadows and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west. The scenic route includes Owens River Valley with the high mountain ranges of the Eastern Sierra as a backdrop. Distance: 27 miles (43 km). Driving time: 1/2 hour.

San Bernardino National Forest

History, scenery and a little bit of fresh air right outside of the LA sprawl.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park

Roads in and around the big trees and big mountains of this prime Sierra national park.

Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway

Route 168. This U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway runs through the Sierra Nevada landscape of granite walls and domes, providing spectacular views of majestic peaks in wilderness areas. Distance: 70 miles (44 km) Driving Time: 4 hours.

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

This U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway loops through the Sierra Nevada, beginning at 3,000 ft elevation and climbing to more than 7,000 ft. The route provides views of the Ansel Adams, John Muir and Kaiser Wilderness Areas. 75 miles paved. Closed during winter. Distance: 100 miles (160km). Driving time: 5 - 6 hours. A longer description of this route can be found in the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway Guide.

Smith River Scenic Byway

The Smith River Scenic Byway travels 33 miles along the river for which it is named, providing many spectacular views of deep green pools, white water rapids, and an abundance of waterfalls. Large coastal redwood forests laced with rhododendron, azaleas. and beds of ferns provide breath-taking views which compete with a variety of riverfront wildlife for travelers' attention. From November through April, visitors can watch or fish for Chinook salmon and steelhead along the river.

Smith River National Recreation Area.

The Smith River National Recreation Area is located in the Six Rivers National Forest. Many of the backroads in the Recreation Area offer a chance to get off the beaten path and explore the history and scenic beauty of the area. Many of the roads are gravel -- but will accommodate passenger vehicles. For more information see the Smith River National Recreation Backroads Guide.

Sunrise Scenic Byway

Located only 50 miles east of the San Diego metropolitan area, the 24-mile route highlights some of San Diego's scenic treasures, including a breathtaking wiew of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park form 600 feet above. Cleveland National Forest

Tahoe-Pacific Heritage Corridor

Route 20, 101, 80 and 89. Beginning with the coast of Mendocino and ending at the western shores of Lake Tahoe, this corridor represents California's climatic and cultural diversity Drive includes portions of old Highway 40, the Donner Summit crossing prior to construction of I-80. it provides views of the transcontinental railroad, Donner Lake and Truckee; and access to the Pacific Crest Trail. Distance: 292 miles (467 km). Driving time: 6 hours.

Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road

Observe a great diversity of flora and fauna as well as craggy mountains and ruffling meadows crossing the Yosemite National Park valley and ridges for 103 km (64 miles) from east to west.

Trinity Heritage

112 miles of this 120 mile byway lie within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The route climbs from 2000 feet to 6500 feet, then descends to 4000 feet. A complete description of the route is contained in the Trinity Scenic Byway Guide.

Yosemite National Park

Profiles of scenic drives in and around this queen of national parks, including Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Wawona, and Tioga Road. Driving Yosemite National Park - Two loops through the jewel of the Sierra: Yosemite Valley and Tioga Pass

Yuba Donner Scenic Byway

Route 80, 89,49, 20 and old 40. The Yuba Donner Scenic Drive offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities for anyone and everyone that has a hankering to see and enjoy the beautiful Sierra Mountains. The 160 mile loop of highways showcases some of the best scenery America has to offer. Among things to do and see along the Byway are hiking, skiing, swimming, fishing, camping, picnicking, gold panning, picture taking, site seeing (there are many museums that tall of the rich gold mining and Emigrant Trail history of the area), rock climbing, boating, golfing, river rafting, dining, shopping and lust plain ole relaxing. he route includes the historic towns of Nevada City, Truckee, Sierraville and Downieville. The area is rich with gold-mining and transportation history on the west side and transportation history on the east side. Attractions along the way include historic sites and geological diversity. Distance: 175 miles (280 km). Driving time: 4 hours. Tahoe National Forest.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 2 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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