Nothing beats the first morning of fall. The cool chill in the air that clouds your breath, the audible crunch of dried leaves underfoot, the comforting crackle of a bonfire and the smell of wood smoke all signal that this emotive season has arrived. These, however, literally pale in comparison to the colorful explosion of reds, ambers and goldenrods speckling the countryside this time of year, which provide the perfect excuse for a leisurely scenic drive. Whether you’re the one behind the wheel or just along for the ride, nature’s autumnal display will give you plenty of photo opportunities and breathtaking views.
Fewer places are more iconic in autumn than picturesque New England. With its rolling hill forests and old-fashioned little towns, it’s like stepping into a quintessential Thanksgiving postcard. From the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains of New York to Connecticut’s Natchaug State Forest and Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, New England presents fall visitors with prime viewing of this vibrant stage of photosynthesis. Further north in Maine, you will discover scenic Route 17 stretching from Rockland to Augusta and onward beyond Portland. Located along the Palisades Parkway in New York State, Point Lookout can have leaf-peepers viewing the foliage in as many as five states at once if the weather is clear.
Mid-Atlantic Mountain Ranges
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile long road that snakes its way through the mountain range from North Carolina to Virginia, and has celebrated over 75 years of awing tourists with its seasonal splendor. Heading up toward Mount Mitchell State Park will take you to the highest peak in the Eastern U.S. at 6,684 feet above sea level. On your way out of the park, drive south on Route 276 for some stunning waterfalls just outside of Ashville or head north toward Interstate 68 to envelop yourself in fall colors at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. Remember, drivers, not to allow the beautiful scenery to distract them from driving and to pay particular attention to posted speed limits. It is not uncommon for drivers on these heavily travelled roads to get pulled over for speeding because they did not see a sign to reduce their speed or failed to notice that their speed had accelerated down a steep mountain.
The Great Lakes region of the Midwest known for more than just being large bodies of water, and autumn is when it really shines. A scenic route encompassing Lake Superior will take you through the beautiful landscapes of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota along with parts of Ontario, Canada. On the western side of the Appalachian Mountains lies Ohio’s Hocking Hills, an ideal place to watch the deciduous trees unfurl their fall hues. If traveling in early autumn, take a hike on the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest where prehistoric glaciers have sculpted the pathway.
While snowstorms can impede road travel at any time after early September, the Rockies remain chock full of gorgeous fall shades for viewing. The White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado, boasts over two million acres of tranquil setting for fall photographs, including the famous twin peaks of the Maroon Bells. Traffic tends to be restricted on the weekends in order to preserve the natural atmosphere, but regular shuttle buses are usually available for entrance into the forest.
No matter where you travel on your road trip, it’s important to observe the rules of the road. State and National parks in Colorado and Maine will post and enforce rules the same as the ones in Wisconsin and North Carolina. Keep an eye out for other drivers that may be distracted, pull over to take photos, and always obey the posted speed restrictions. By choosing to drive safely, you’ll be able to have a top-notch autumn break without shelling out money for speeding tickets or attorney fees. Simply dress warmly, remember your road safety, charge your camera batteries and be sure to pack plenty of memory cards. With so many spectacular sites to capture this fall, you’ll need them.