Should we get there as soon as possible, by the shortest, most direct route, or should take it easy and take a more leisurely, more scenic route? This is often an issue when taking a road trip. Ultimately, I suppose, the answer to the dilemma depends on the amount of time available for the trip. I think that the ideal solution incorporates a little of both strategies.
Lee and I have always been a fan of scenic drives. I own a series of books, published by National Geographic, entitled "Driving Guides to America" which contain a number of scenic drives for each region of the US and Canada. We have taken many of the drives over the years. I have also consulted the website "byways.org" which includes a list of national scenic highways and byways promoted by the Federal Highway Administration of the USA. In addition, AAA maps always include scenic routes, marked with green dots, and I frequently alter my route to incorporate these roads. Lately, I have begun to design my own scenic routes which combine much of this information.
To get back to the central issue, I feel that the decision depends more on where you are rather than how much time you have. Many scenic routes are simply alternatives to highways, which do not require considerably more time. Rte 89A and Rte 179 through Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area of Arizona are roughly parallel to Interstate 17 but incredibly more scenic and fun. Old US 40 (now US 40A) runs parallel with Interstate 68/US 40) but is more interesting to drive. My feeling is, if there is a scenic route which traverses the same basic ground and gets to the place you are going, take it!
Lee and I love to include highways (for their speed and safety) as well as scenic drives in all road trips. Many of the scenic drives, especially those which are off the beaten track or which strike off in a different direction, can be done as excursions from nearby destinations. All we have to do is to build in an extra day or so into the itinerary to accomplish this.
And what would a scenic drive be if we did not make some stops along the way? Often these drives are created or exist because of the attractions which are accessible along the route. Thus, the General’s Highway is a scenic route through King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, providing access to many of the attractions within the parks.
In conclusion, always consider adding scenic drives to an itinerary to spice it up a bit and give everyone in the car a relief from the highways, which, although efficient, are often crowded with large trucks and considerable road noise.