By Bob Difley
If you haven’t made it a priority to check out the Scenic Byways in the areas you travel or are headed to, you are missing some of the most exciting parts of what makes up America, and you have the best way to see them–your RV.
The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, in collaboration with other public and private agencies, and since 1992 the National Scenic Byways Program has funded 2,926 projects for state and nationally designated byway routes in all 50 states.
Many of America’s most scenic drives wind across and through remote public lands managed by the National Forest Service (NF) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Though not receiving the same publicity as our National Parks and Monuments, the National Scenic Byways (NSB) and the especially notable All-American Roads are mostly low-traveled, two-lane roads that showcase the historic, scenic, and cultural treasures that define America.
But since they are often remote, it can sometimes be difficult finding private campgrounds with typical amenities and hook-ups. Along the way you may have to cover the whole route in one shot–from an RV resort at one end to one at the other. Unless, of course, you have honed your boondocking skills and are comfortable dry-camping either in primitive (no hook-up) government campgrounds or boondocking in the open forest or desert.
Your boondocking skills enable you to take your time, stopping often, even for a couple of days at a nice forested campsite, and exploring the area more fully. And boondocking, like the byways themselves, are free. Some, with hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and hot springs you would have to skip if you weren’t able to boondock along their routes. Or you would spend a lot more time and fuel driving in and out of the forest from a developed campground at its extremities.
Scenic drives, like Idaho’s Payette River NSB, follow wild and scenic rivers where you can spend from a few hours to a few days rafting the exciting adrenaline-inducing rapids with a river rafting outfitter, or stay a couple days in a forest service campground along the Salmon River within walking distance to hot springs that flow through bathing pools and into the river.
At the National Scenic Byways Program’s Web site you can request a free map and guide to the more than 150 scenic byways to help you plan your summer adventures through some of America’s most exciting landscapes.
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (now available in a Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.
By Bob Difley
National Scenic Byways, a program administered in part by the National Forest Service (FS), describes routes through some of the most scenic lands in the country, many through national forests where you can find FS campgrounds and scattered boondocking campsites along your route. You can find the nation’s byways on the America’s Byways website and order a free brochure listing all the byways.
Some states also have scenic roads or byways that are not yet listed as “national” scenic byways. You can find these, and often more complete information on the state’s national scenic byways, at the individual state’s byways web page. Type the state name followed by scenic byways in the search box for your state.
What fun it is to dawdle along these scenic roadways with no need to travel the entire route between RV resortss on either end, or even further away. When you’ve perfected your boondocking skills, you can find multiple dry-camping/boondocking camping possibilities along the byway enabling you to slow down to fully appreciate the area and to spend a few extra days enjoying the beauty of the byway and the nesty campsites or campgrounds you find along the way. Watch for marked FS roads or obtain a list of dispersed camping possibilities and primitive campgrounds from the byway, FS office, or online at sites like Forest Service Camping.
National forests also surround many of our National Parks, where you can find FS campgrounds and boondocking sites outside the crowded national parks. You can often find a campsite in FS campgrounds on weekends when the NP campgrounds are full. As a base camp, they also make perfect sense. From here you can explore into the park during the day and return to a nice, quiet, un-crowded campsite after a day of exploration. And many of the scenic byways loop through or around national parks, adding to your enjoyment.
Once you become comfortable with finding FS campgrounds and with boondocking, you can make your RV travel schedule more open ended, taking advantage of opportunities as they unfold, staying longer in newly discovered campgrounds and campsites, and exploring scenic areas and hiking trails that you hadn’t known about before, confident that you can always find a campsite wherever you happen to be at the end of the day.
Check out my website for more RVing tips, destinations, and for my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.