Under the National Scenic Byways Program, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic intrinsic qualities.

The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States.

To receive an All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and contain one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road or highway must also be considered a destination unto itself. That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip.

The Maryland Department of Transportation designated the Historic National Road a Maryland Scenic Byway in 1996. The Road was designated an All-American Road National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration in 2002.

The National Scenic Byway Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization serving as The National Voice of Scenic Byways and Roads, dedicated to strengthening Byways and actively involved in the quest for renewed Byway Federal funding.  NSBF is governed by a Board of Directors made up of Byway leaders and other Byway affiliated individuals, some of whom have dedicated their entire careers of over 25 years to Byways.  It is the only organization currently where extensive Byway expertise and experience resides.