The fall foliage season is approaching, and vastly changing palettes of deciduous trees are soon to be in blazing bloom. The best way to maximize your intake of color is to hit the road. Whether it is country drives, mountain ranges or lake backdrops that awaken your senses, there is something for you in these top 10 autumn viewing routes.
Skyline Drive, Luray, Va.: The best way to ride the sky — on wheels — is by taking the historic and twisty 105-mile Skyline Drive along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Roadside flowers bloom all season long, even in the fall, further complimenting the vast colors that illuminate the tree lines. The captivating route takes travelers through forests, tunnels, along rivers and along mountains. It runs the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park, home to wildlife large and small.
Cades Cove in The Great Smoky Mountains, Tenn.: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one is the most visited national parks, and it is an obvious choice for some quality scenic fall driving. More than 100 species of trees offer jaw-dropping colors during early October through early November, and with 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails it is easy to spend several days engulfed in the park’s beauty.
Harbor Springs to Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Mich.: There are many sensational cruise routes in Northern Michigan, but this one takes the cake. Otherwise known as the “tunnel of trees,” this 20-mile drive is one of Michigan’s most spectacular fall destinations. As Highway 119 leaves Harbor Springs, you are led through an area once inhabited by the Ottawa Indians, and you will soon be whisked away into the majestic canopy — or tunnel — of color along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway, Bailey, Colo.: This 55-mile cruise from Black Hawk to Estes Park winds through valleys and grazes the tops of ridges. Along Colorado 7, beauty of the 14,255-foot Longs Peak will tower over you, leaving a powerful stage-set for an abundance of colorful foliage provided by hundreds of golden Aspen trees.
Natchez Trace Parkway, Tupelo, Miss.: Natchez Trace Parkway begins at the Mississippi Highway 371 and takes you south to Highway 41, milepost 248. This relaxing tour offers many stopping points, one of which is the Twentymile Bottom Overlook where you can see striking colors radiating from assorted foliage for miles and miles. And if you are up for a 15-minute walk, Dogwood Valley provides peace and is rich in history with 200-years of use by foot, horse and wagon travel, earning its name “Old Trace.”
The Catskills, N.Y.: The Catskills area of New York is a year-round destination home to six major river systems that weave around brilliant mountains. From mid-September to late-October the scenery comes to life with luminous yellows, oranges and reds along the thickly wooded hillsides. Charming Bed and Breakfast suites are readily available for weekenders who want to take some time to attend the historic village’s fall festivals and farmer’s markets.
Green Mountain Byway, Vt.: Maple, birch and beech trees electrify this 11-mile route, making it one of the most radiant displays of color in New England. The drive begins in the quaint town of Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and leads to Stowe, a famous ski resort. Along the way you will pass two state forests and three state parks ablaze in the fall hues. In Stowe there are grand opportunities to get a birds-eye view of the wooded slopes, and if you want to stay the night in tranquil bliss, the Topnotch Resort sits on 120 acres of hiking and trail riding opportunities and overlooks Vermont’s highest mountain, Mt. Mansfield.
Glacier National Park, Mont.: Going-to-the-Sun Road is a dream fall foliage drive, and Glacier National Park is one of the best places to witness larch trees displaying their bright golden hues interlaced with evergreens against the immense snow-covered peaks of the Continental Divide. Mix in some maple, aspen, birch, cottonwood and huckleberry then add in the local wildlife — elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and bears — and you have yourself an exceptionally dramatic autumn scene.
Olympic Peninsula drive to Port Angeles, Wash.: A long drive beginning in Seattle, Wash. and weaving North around the shorelines to the Olympic National Park is a journey worth much more than the cost of gas. The Olympic National Park provides an amazing variety of natural sights: forests, mountains, lakes and coastal areas. This 350-mile route is still very wild and mostly untouched by man. Unique inhibitors include elk, cranes and sea otters, and Hurricane Ridge gives you breathtaking views of the Glacier Mountains without even exiting your car.
Moosehead Lake Region, Maine: Spectacular foliage surrounds Moosehead Lake, Maine’s largest lake. The route is approximately 75 miles and begins at The Forks, Maine’s whitewater rafting hub, and leads into Jackman, immersed in the mysterious and vivid North Woods. The Attean Overlook presents a phenomenal view of the Moose River Valley, which runs all the way to the Canadian border. For the spontaneous driver, drive beneath the incredible tree canopies on unpaved logging roads.