A road trip is perhaps the epitome of an American vacation, no matter which route you take. But a road trip through the country’s most colorful foliage displays and stunning landscapes? This is an example of The autumn American smuggler.
The following drives – located in the Northeast, Southwest, and mountain ranges in between – will immerse you in some of the best sights and experiences that the country’s great outdoors has to offer at this time of year.
Most of them earned a spot on the Federal Highway Administration’s National Highway Program. Others are state-specified scenic byways.
If you have a short time this fall, don’t let that deter you. The following adventures can be undertaken in a short afternoon or enjoyed for days. The shortest journey is 37 miles, and the longest is 469 miles.
1. Cherohala Skyway – North Carolina and Tennessee
The Federal Highway Administration highlights “mile-high vistas and gorgeous foliage” in this nationally stunning landscape.
The Cherohala Skyway stretches for about 40 miles, winding through national forests named after them, the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.
Leaves begin to turn color as early as September in higher elevations and persist through mid-November at lower elevations.
for more information: Cherohala.org
2. Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina and Virginia
The National Scenic Byway Program recognizes 150 distinct drives, with a particular minority of those designated as “All American Roads.” Blue Ridge Parkway is one such route.
Travel 469 miles in the fall, and you’ll be treated to more than just colored papers, as the Federal Highway Administration says:
“The Parkway offers stunning mountain and valley views, serene pastoral vistas, sparkling waterfalls, and displays of colorful blossoms and foliage as it stretches through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.”
for more information: Blue Ridge Parkway Association
3. Woodlands Trace – Kentucky and Tennessee
This scenic 43-mile National Bypass stretches through the land between the Lakes National Recreation Area, which encompasses approximately 170,000 acres of peninsula on the Kentucky/Tennessee state line.
for more information: TennesseeRiverValleyGeotourism.org
4. Merritt Parkway – Connecticut
This scenic National Highway winds through a natural setting with gorgeous foliage in the fall as well as in the spring, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Merritt Parkway is a 37-mile stretch of Connecticut Route 15 from the New York State Line to the road’s junction with the Husatonic River, near the Merritt Parkway Museum.
According to Connecticut’s current fall foliage report, the state estimates that the peak fall foliage season will be from October 5 to November 8.
for more information: Merritt Parkway Preserve
5. Olympic Trail – New York
This scenic state stretches in northern New York, including the Adirondacks, stretching from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario. Along the way, it passes through the village of Lake Placid, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.
for more information: New York State Scenic Byways
6. Mt. Maryland
This scenic state runs through western Maryland. The 193-mile route punctuates mountainous terrain, forests, and rivers, as well as the state’s largest freshwater lake. Points of interest include many state parks and small towns such as Auckland.
for more information: Maryland Office of Tourism
7. Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway – New Mexico
The Northeast may be known for its autumn foliage, but you can also find color displays worthy of a road trip in the far west of the Adirondacks and Blue Ridge Mountains.
Check out the enchanted circle in north central New Mexico, for example. This sub-ring covers about 80 miles about 13,159 feet and is Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state.
for more information: EnchantedCircle.org
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