What is a scenic byway?
A Scenic Byway can be defined as a road corridor that has regionally outstanding scenic, natural, recreational, cultural, historic or archaeological significance. These corridors offer an alternative travel route to our major highways and daily travel patterns, while telling a story about Minnesota’s heritage, recreational activities or beauty.
It’s a public road and its corridor recognized through legislation, or other official declaration, as a unique resource worth preserving.
In addition, a Scenic Byway corridor is managed to protect this outstanding character and to encourage economic development through tourism and recreation.
The Minnesota Scenic Byways Commission was established by the 1992 Memorandum of Understanding between the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Office of Tourism, now known as Explore Minnesota Tourism to oversee Minnesota’s Scenic Byway Program.
The Scenic Byway designation is recognized for its potential to positively impact the cities, towns located along the routes.
Many benefits increase to communities where Scenic Byways pass, including increased economic benefits through promotion of tourism, improved traveler and community services and broadened appreciation of Minnesota’s historic and natural resources. Support for managing and maintaining these resources and improved management of resources to accommodate visitors as well as more careful stewardship of the Byway corridors, appropriate signage incorporation of design features are all important in keeping with the attributes of a Scenic Byway.
On average, byways have been functioning for over 20 years, long enough to have established a significant presence in the communities they pass through. Minnesota’s 22 byways total 2,948 miles throughout the state. The byways wind through a variety of topographies — from waterfalls and woods in northern Minnesota to prairies and plains in the southwestern part of the state to panoramic views in southeastern Minnesota. These byways offer a variety of opportunities to see the best that Minnesota has to offer — by bike, car or foot.
Grassroots Byway organizations have worked to enhance and preserve these qualities while helping residents and visitors learn about, and enjoy, the individual qualities of their byways.