About Scenic Byways

Alaska established a State Scenic Byways program in 1993 to recognize and celebrate some of the most beautiful and significant landscapes in the state. Administered by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, this program recognizes routes that provide access to the state’s most valuable landscapes and communities that have Alaskan significance for natural features, recreation, and scenic, historic, cultural, and archaeological resources.

As of 2009, Alaska has twelve State Scenic Byways, including the Alaska Marine Highway. The Marine Highway stretches 3,100 miles from Bellingham, Washington to the Aleutian Chain and includes thirty-three port communities. The Marine Highway was designated for its scenic, natural, cultural, and historic intrinsic qualities.

Alaska’s Scenic Byways start at the local level with a grass-roots byway organization. Once the byway organization applies for and receives scenic byway designation by the state, the route becomes eligible for grant funding to enhance and promote the byway’s special qualities. They also become eligible to apply for national designations and insertion into the America’s Byway program by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

The National Scenic Byways program was created by Congress in 1991. Designation as a National Scenic Byway indicates that the route possesses distinctive cultural, historic, natural or other qualities that are unique among neighboring states. Designation as an All-American Road, the higher designation of the two, indicates that the route has not only regional but national significance and is a destination unto itself.

In 2002, the Alaska Marine Highway was designated as a National Scenic Byway and in 2005 it was given the program’s highest designation, an All-American Road. There are only 31 All-American Roads out of the 151 National Scenic Byways in the program as of 2009. The Alaska Marine Highway is the longest and first marine-based highway in the National Scenic Byways Program.

The state and national programs are voluntary and are about recognition, not regulation. Both were developed to promote tourism and economic development in the communities along the byways and to educate the traveling public about our environment, history and culture. The programs are designed to work within existing state and local regulations. The byway programs do not require significant local financial investment nor do they infringe upon individual private property rights.

Since 2001, SEAtrails, the Alaska Marine Highway, and the Alaska Scenic Byway Program have become partners to promote each other. SEAtrails’ emphasis is on community-led, grassroots partnership focused on community trails and economic development for the Inside Passage (Southeast) portion of the Alaska Marine Highway. All fifteen Inside Passage port communities served by the Marine Highway are also SEAtrails communities.

More information on Alaska’s Scenic Byways is available at the Alaska Scenic Byways Program. Additional information on America’s Byways can be found at the National Scenic Byways Program.