Byways 101

Part 2: Intrinsic Qualities & The Byway Story

Recreational Intrinsic Quality

FHWA Interim Policy Definition
Recreational quality involves outdoor recreational activities directly associated with and dependent upon the natural and cultural elements of the corridor’s landscape. The recreational activities provide opportunities for active and passive recreational experiences. They include, but are not limited to, downhill skiing, rafting, boating, fishing, and hiking. Driving the road itself may qualify as a pleasurable recreational experience. The recreational activities may be seasonal, but the quality and importance of the recreational activities as seasonal operations must be well recognized. (FHWA Interim Policy, May 18, 1995)

Inventory And Designation Considerations
The National Scenic Byways Program defines recreational quality broadly, encompassing all sorts of outdoor recreation activities that are dependent on natural and cultural elements of the landscape. In addition to active outdoor recreation pursuits, recreation along a byway can include passive activities such as driving for pleasure, wildlife viewing or quiet enjoyment of the corridor’s natural beauty. Because of its breadth of activities and resources, recreational quality may be the most inclusive of the intrinsic qualities defined for the National Scenic Byways Program.

Many byways offer abundant recreational opportunities. However, not all recreational resources will support a byway’s designation for recreational quality. The determination of recreational quality depends on three factors.

1. Significance Of The Resources
The byway’s individual recreational resources should be significant. How well do the individual resources draw visitors from outside the immediate area? National parks or world-class ski resorts might support byway designation; local hiking trails, ski areas, beaches or golf courses probably would not.

2. Visibility From The Byway
The byway should provide visual access to the significant recreational resources. A ski area accessible from the road but not visible from the road would be less important for byway designation than a whitewater river that runs along the road or a major trail that crosses the road.

3. Relationships Of The Resources & The Road
Recreational resources should bear some relation to each other and to the road. Think of this relationship in terms of complexity, continuity and coherence.

  • Complexity means that the roadway provides a variety of recreational opportunities throughout the year for a wide range of ages and abilities. Seasonal activities are eligible; however, the quality and the importance of these activities must be well recognized. Byway designation for recreational quality is not intended for private recreation areas to receive free marketing. Recreation qualities must be unique or special within the corridor’s region and offer the user a distinctive travel experience.
  • Continuity means that the recreational resources exist in many places along the byway, rather than being concentrated in only one or a few locations. More than one recreational area must exist for a byway to earn recreational quality designation.
  • Coherence means that the recreational resources are related to each other and to the byway in such a way that they support an overall theme or story for the byway. For example, a mountainous area with downhill and cross-country ski areas, back-country trails, whitewater kayaking, hot-air ballooning and dude ranches could present a coherent theme based on geology, climate and rural culture. In contrast, recreational facilities that are not based on the special natural and cultural features of the byway corridor would not support the byway’s recreational quality.

Recreational quality frequently overlaps with the other intrinsic qualities. For example, outdoor recreation will typically occur in areas of great natural and scenic beauty. Some recreation areas may have historic stories, others may be expressions of culture. Perhaps more than the other categories, the integration of one or more of the other resource qualities will be important to achieve designation of a byway for recreational quality.

Take A Look!
Examples from America’s Byways® of some of the routes designated for recreational intrinsic qualities include:

  • A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Highway (Florida), National Scenic Byway
  • Acadia Byway (Maine), All-American Road
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia), All-American Road
  • Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway (Maryland), National Scenic Byway
  • Grand Rounds Scenic Byway (Minnesota), National Scenic Byway
  • International Selkirk Loop (Idaho, Washington), All-American Road
  • Jemez Mountain Trail (New Mexico), National Scenic Byway
  • Lakes to Locks Passage, The Great Northeast Journey (New York), All-American Road
  • Midland Trail (West Virginia), National Scenic Byway
  • North Shore Scenic Drive (Minnesota), All-American Road
  • Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway (Minnesota), National Scenic Byway
  • Payette River Scenic Byway (Idaho), National Scenic Byway
  • Pend Oreille Scenic Byway (Idaho), National Scenic Byway
  • Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway (Maine), National Scenic Byway
  • Red Rock Scenic Byway (Arizona), All-American Road
  • River Road Scenic Byway (Michigan), National Scenic Byway
  • Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway (Oregon), National Scenic Byway
  • Seward Highway (Alaska), All-American Road
  • Stevens Pass Greenway (Washington), National Scenic Byway
  • Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (California, Oregon), All-American Road

Visit for details related to these byways.

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