From historic battlefields to campgrounds, Mississippi has a unique combination of things to explore. There are amazing beaches and birding sites along the Gulf Coast on the southern end of the state, and in the north, you’ll find beautiful forested areas like the Holly Springs National Forest with camping and hiking.
In between, there are Civil War sites, interesting museums, and the homeland of some of the most iconic music in the country.
Whether your final destination is Mississippi or you’re passing through on a longer road trip, these scenic drives in Mississippi are a great way to explore the variety this state has to offer.
Passing through cities like Biloxi and Jackson or traversing some of the more remote wilderness areas, these Mississippi scenic byways have something in store for every traveler.
1. Mississippi Scenic Drives: Great River Road
- Distance: 250 miles
- Time Needed: 5 hours to 2 days, depending on stops
The Great River Road is one of the longest scenic byways in the United States and follows the Mississippi River its entire length from the headwaters in Minnesota all the way to the river delta in Louisiana. In Mississippi, the drive connects Memphis on the north end and Vicksburg on the south.
Whether you’re headed north on a road trip or venturing south, this is one of the best scenic drives in Mississippi to experience both the stunning landscape along the river as well as some interesting history.
US-61 is the official name of the Great River Road, and it’s also famous for being the travel route of the Great Migration when over five million black sharecroppers headed north. You can still see Civil War remnants along the drive, such as battlefields in Vicksburg, where sometimes reenactments are hosted.
Music fans will definitely want to check out the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, which is the heart of the region known as “Blues Alley.”
There are also plenty of outdoor activities like river cruises, hiking, biking, bird watching, and fishing.
When to go: Any time of year
2. Mississippi Scenic Drives: Grand-Gulf Raymond Scenic Byway
- Distance: 50 miles
- Time Needed: 2 hours
Connecting the towns of Grand Gulf in Southern Mississippi to Raymond, which is just outside of Jackson, this scenic byway is great to travel both for the natural beauty and the history.
It’s a relatively undeveloped area of Mississippi, giving travelers the opportunity to feel like they’ve left city life far behind. The route crosses through two significant wilderness areas of Mississippi: Delta National Forest and Homochitto National Forest. Both are great places to stop to go hiking and explore if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. The Delta National Forest is also popular among birders since it’s one of the most important stopping places for many species of migratory birds.
The city of Raymond is worth a visit, due to its historic significance. It was the site of devastating battles during the Civil War and had to be rebuilt afterward. Today, it’s the home of Civil War reenactments, where you can view life-like representations done by professional actors of some of the battles that took place here.
When to go: Any time of year is good, although fall or spring is best if you’re interested in visiting during bird migration seasons.
3. Mississippi Scenic Drives: Natchez Trace Parkway
- Distance: 310 miles
- Time Needed: 6 hours to 2 days, depending on stops.
The entire Natchez Trace Parkway stretches from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. The portion of the drive in Mississippi starts in Natchez in the far southwest corner, then crosses the state diagonally to the northeast corner before going into Alabama.
It’s a great drive to appreciate Mississippi scenery as well as some of the history of the state and is perfect for road trips heading north or if you’re coming back south after visiting northern states.
This scenic drive is full of opportunities to get out and explore nature, and since it’s one of the most popular scenic drives in Mississippi, it’s easy to find Bed and breakfasts, cottages, or other unique accommodations along the way.
Near the southern end of the drive, make sure you stop to visit Emerald Mound, one of the most important archaeological sites in Mississippi. The site was left by a culture around 1200 CE, and today, there is a visitor center and trails to see the area.
Farther north in Tupelo, visit the birthplace of American music legend Elvis Presley. The house has been converted into a museum with memorabilia from the King of Rock & Roll. A little outside of Tupelo, stop at one of the most beautiful parks in Mississippi, Tishomingo State Park. The park covers the area around Bear Creek Canyon which is characterized by stunning sandstone formations and forested areas.
When to go: Any time of year is good for this drive.
4. Mississippi Scenic Drives: Beach Boulevard
- Distance: 30 miles
- Time Needed: 1 hour or more, depending on stops
One of the shorter but nonetheless spectacular scenic byways in Mississippi, Beach Boulevard runs along the coast in Hancock County, connecting Biloxi with Waveland.
This is a great drive if you’re interested in visiting some of the birding sites in Mississippi, like the Davis Bayou Area Gulf Island National Seashore, and Deer Island. Some of the marshland found in these areas provides a unique habitat for many migratory species.
Along the drive, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico, and there are numerous piers along the way, which make great places to stop and get some photographs. If you’re hoping to spend some time on the beaches of Mississippi, then this is the drive for you since you’ll pass by great spots for swimming and sunbathing, like Biloxi Beach or the Jeff Davis Pier.
At the Gulfport Marina, you can go on cruises into the gulf or fishing on the pier. Families will also want to check out the Mississippi Aquarium, where kids can enjoy activities like feeding stingrays and seeing sharks and dolphins.
All along the way, there are great options for restaurants with fresh-caught seafood from the gulf, as well as fun tourist shops to pick up souvenirs.
When to go: Summer is best for beach activities, but any time of year is good.
5. Mississippi Scenic Drives: Grenada Lake Loop
- Distance: 50 miles
- Time Needed: 1.5 hours or more, depending on stops
Starting and ending in Grenada, this loop takes travelers around Grenada Lake and through a variety of terrain. The drive is just off I-55, so it makes for a nice addition to a Mississippi road trip if you’re in search of some nature and outdoor adventure.
The bluffs surrounding the lake offer some stunning vistas and perfect points for photographs or places to stop for a picnic lunch.
If you want to stretch your legs, there are plenty of trails accessible along this drive, like Hugh White State Park and Carver Point State Park. Both the parks also have options for camping if you want to spend longer outside in nature.
Around the lake, there are also opportunities for water activities like canoeing, kayaking, and swimming. There are various boat ramps as well as places to rent equipment if you don’t have your own boat.
When to go: Summer is best for water activities, but spring and fall have better weather for hiking.
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