Cool weather, pumpkin spice everything, and tarantulas crossing the roads (yuck). That can only mean one thing: fall is upon us! To kick off the start of fall on September 22, why not explore the best fall foliage drives in America! With over 3,000 miles of national scenic byways in 31 states, there are many destinations for color-seekers to choose from.
Of course a town named after a tree would make the list. The gold, yellow, and bronze hues of aspen leaves are not to be missed. The best scenic driving roads are Maroon Creek Road, Castle Creek Road, and Independence Pass. Don’t feel like driving? Take a hike to Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek, and Crater lake to enjoy nature’s show. While in the area, venture into town and book a room at The Little Nell for an overnight stay!
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
This 83-mile loop both starting and ending in Taos is not to be missed for aspen lovers. Catch the yellow and dark orange hues of the aspen leaves while circling Wheeler Peak and keep an eye open for purple cinquefoil and bright red and yellow cottonwoods. Want to get out of the city for a night? Drive 35 miles north to Red River and rent a rustic little cabin for the night. To catch an even better view of the fall foliage, rent or bring your own Jeep or ATV and hit one of the many off-road trails surrounding Red River!
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina & Tennessee
With over 100 species of trees, it’s no wonder Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States. Scarlet oaks, maples, sweetgums, and hickories will put on a beautiful display of gold, orange, crimson, and purple leaves on the mountainsides. To enjoy all the colors, drive the Clingmans Dome Road, Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway. Want to get really personal with nature? Book a room or entire cabin at the LeConte Lodge. Accessible by foot only, the lodge sits atop Mount Le Conte, the park’s third highest peak at an elevation of 6,593 feet. Be prepared to hike 5 to 8 miles depending on the route taken!
Michigan’s Gold Coast
This 100-mile rout starting in Traverse City will have visitors seeing fiery hues of maples and oak leaves standing out against the green pine, fir, and spruce trees. Don’t miss stopping at the Lakeside villages of Peshawbestown, Omena, and Northport. For views of Lake Michigan and Manitou Islands, stop at Inspiration Point.
Glacier National Park, Montana
In Glacier National Park, yellow larch and evergreens set against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks is a sign to be seen. Also keep an eye out for elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears preparing for winter. Plan a trip at the end of September or early October and feel like the only person in the park. To get up-close with the fall foliage, bring your bike (or rent one at a local bike shop) and cruise the Going-to-the-Sun road, one of the most scenic drives in the nation. Note: the Going-to-the-Sun road is 50 miles.
The Catskills, New York
With over 6,000 square miles, this area of southeast New York know as The Catskills is covered with the most vibrant hues of yellow, orange, and red leaves. Locals and visitors alike flock to historic villages in search of fall festivals, craft fairs and farmers markets. For the most scenic driving routes, take Route 23A to Tannersville, Palenville, Windham, and Hunter. For a fun overnight stay, book a room at The Roxbury Motel in Roxbury!
The Driftless Region, Wisconsin
The 158 mile route know as The Driftless Region in Wisconsin offers some of the most spectacular fall foliage in the Midwest. Starting and ending in Mineral Point, head north on Highway 23 to Baraboo where sumac, maple, twisted oak, and wild hickory trees dominate the hillsides and river valleys. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a “color cruise” and soak in all the color from the river. Lined by limestone bluffs, the Kickapoo River offers breath taking views of the foliage in the autumn.
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