Planning your summer road trip? Think about these 12 Midwest drives recently named as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads.

By Kaili Miller
May 22, 2021
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For the first time since 2009, the federal America's Byway collection gained new roads this year — including a dozen in the Midwest.

The U.S. Department of Transportation approved a total of 49 new All-American Roads and Scenic Byways. These roadways are recognized for "notable scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities," according to Scenic America, which worked with Congress on the new designations. National Scenic Byways must embody one of those qualities, while All-American Roads embody two or more.

Among the new additions, 12 came from these Midwestern states: Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.

So if you're planning Midwest travel this summer, set your sites on some of these great road trip journeys:

All-American Roads

San Vadalabene Great River Road Bike Trail, Grafton
San Vadalabene Great River Road Bike Trail, Grafton.
| Credit: Ryan Donnell

Take a road trip along Illinois' Great River Road. Excursions include ziplining at Aerie's Resort, visiting the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Memorial, and shopping along Makanda's historic boardwalk. See Midwest Living's story about the Great River Road stretch called Great Rivers Scenic Byway.

Pikes Peak State Park
Pikes Peak State Park

Stretching the length of the Mississippi River, the 328-mile Iowa portion of Great River Road passes through or near Pikes Peak State Park, grassy fields, quaint towns and river vistas. See Midwest Living's story on a weekend getaway along Iowa's Great River Road.

People have traveled Minnesota's share of Great River Road by foot, train, and river for centuries. The 564-mile road offers metro views of Minneapolis and scenic views of Mississippi Northwoods.

Drive across the Missouri stretch of Route 66, one of the most famous roads in the US. Visit Meramec Caverns, Missouri's largest cave, and taste locally famous ribs at Missouri Hick BBQ.

Great River Road
Credit: The Great River Road near Stockholm, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Great River Road has beautiful vistas and miles of history. During the year, community members host family-fun tours and one-of-a-kind festivals to attend. See Midwest Living's trip guide to the Wisconsin stretch of the Great River Road.

National Scenic Byways

After its completion in 1913, this highway changed cross-country traveling as it became the first transcontinental highway, spanning 14 states from New York to San Francisco.

Pass through several scenic counties while driving on this Indiana byway. Find canals, working grist mills and historic home museums.

Renamed to US Highway 30, this byway is the only one in the nation to traverse from one side of the state to the other. Experience the culture of Nebraska through lodging, touring and dining opportunities.

Running 272 miles between Grand Island and Alliance, Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway delivers  dunes, native grass, and serene lakes  to travelers.

Visitors can view Ohio's most scenic views along this byway which travels through and around Hocking Hills and Hocking State Forest. The Wyandot, Delaware, and Shawnee Indian tribes also used the route in the mid-1700s.

Explore the historic Door County Coastal Byway, stretching 66 miles around Wisconsin's Door peninsula. Lakes, cliffsides, forests, and lake views are scenic features, to name a few.

Drive along the southern shoreline of Lake Superior and Bayfield peninsula and make stops to experience harbor towns, orchards, peaceful walks along clear water beaches.