Welcome to the Scenic and Cultural Byways Web site!
New Hampshire has over 1,000 miles of designated scenic and cultural byways. Each of our byway tours offers something different for everyone.
From the ocean views and sandy beaches of the coastal byway to the impressive scenic vistas and recreational opportunities found along the white mountains trail national scenic byway, you are sure to enjoy the trip. Visit our Tours page.
Bill Watson, Administrator
Bureau of Planning and Community Assistance
Scenic Byway or Scenic Road?
What is the difference between a Scenic Byway and a Scenic Road? Are Scenic Roads a type of Scenic Byway? These questions have come up quite often in the past couple of years. With this in mind, the following is a summary of the main points of each designation. Also, check out the State of New Hampshire’s Web site for links to the legislation for each program. Visit our Tours page.
The New Hampshire Scenic and Cultural Byways Program was established in 1992 under RSA 238:19, "… to provide the opportunity for residents and visitors to travel a system of byways which feature the scenic and cultural qualities of the state within the existing highway system, promote retention of rural and urban scenic byways, support the cultural, recreational and historic attributes along these byways, and expose the unique elements of the state’s beauty, culture and history." The legislation established the program and the Scenic and Cultural Byways Council to serve as an advisory body for the Scenic and Cultural Byway System. The administration of the program is through the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Bureau of Planning and Community Assistance. The New Hampshire Scenic Byway interim state coordinator is William Rose and he can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Hampshire’s Scenic and Cultural Byways program is one of many now in place nationwide. These statewide programs are tied directly to the National Scenic Byways Program. There are three categories of byways under the National Scenic Byways Program; two are nationally designated categories, the third is a state designation. All categories are eligible for Federal Highway Administration Scenic Byway funds.
All-American Roads are the cream of the crop, representing a handful of the Nation’s top roadways. National Scenic Byways, the second group of nationally designated byways, represent roadways that are destinations in themselves and deserve national recognition for the intrinsic values they feature. There are about 53 National Scenic Byways in all, three located in New Hampshire (White Mountains Trail, Kancamagus Highway, and Connecticut River Byway). The third group consists of state designated byways (i.e. Coastal Byway, Moose Path Trail, Lakes Tour). These byways fit requirements set by the Scenic and Cultural Byway Council for inclusion in the statewide network. Some state designated byways go on to become National Scenic Byways as efforts progress along the byway. The White Mountains Trail was originally listed as a State Scenic and Cultural Byway, and after a great deal of effort, was nominated and accepted as a National Scenic Byway in 1998.
Being tied to the National Scenic Byways Program also means that any roads designated as a National Scenic Byway or State Scenic and Cultural Byway are eligible to seek federal funds (TEA-21) through the National Scenic Byways Program. Currently there is about $43 Million available each year to fund Scenic Byway related projects nationwide. Examples include interpretive centers, scenic overlooks, safety improvements, and marketing material. Contact our office if you would like more information on either the State or National Scenic Byways Program at 603-271-3344.
New Hampshire also has RSA 231:157 on the books, which allows the establishment of Scenic Roads. Scenic Roads are substantially different from Scenic and Cultural Byways. Scenic Roads are local, town designations. These roadways are only recognized locally, cannot be on Class I or II roads, and are not specifically part of a statewide system.
The RSA says that any road in a town, other than a Class I or Class II highway, may be designated as a Scenic Road upon petition of 10 persons who are either voters of the town or who own land that abuts a road mentioned in the petition. All abutters of the road must be notified within 10 days of the filing that a Scenic Road petition has been filed. Upon approval of this petition, the voters of the town may designate the road as a Scenic Road at any annual or special meeting. Similarly, a Scenic Road may also be un-designated at any annual or special meeting.
Designation as a Scenic Road means that repair, maintenance, and reconstruction work to the roadway should not involve the cutting or removal of trees (defined as 15 inches in diameter or more) or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls without prior written consent of the planning board or board responsible for the local Scenic Roads program. The RSA also goes on to say that designation of a roadway does not affect the rights of any abutting landowners on their property, and does not affect the eligibility of the town to receive construction, maintenance, or reconstruction aid.
Check with your local town office for more information on Scenic Roads in your community.
Links of Interest …
Competitive grants are available through the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Scenic Byways Program on a yearly basis. Check with NH’s Scenic and Cultural Byways Program for more information or check out FHWA’s Web site.
Regulations. The regulations attached to Scenic and Cultural Byways are found in RSA 238:18-24.