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10 Best Fall Drives

Beautiful Autumn Drives

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When it comes to leaf-peeping, the longtime champion New England tends to sweep the awards by default. Of course, tree leaves make their seasonal color changes in other parts of the country, too. (Though you likely won’t see as many maple products, cider, cider doughnuts, centuries-old stone walls, or endearing New Englandahs along the way!)Fortunately, beauty-seekers all over the country can still on head out for a fall drive. The local tree line might be mostly evergreens, but even a few conif
Kyu Oh | Photodisc | Getty Images

When it comes to leaf-peeping, the longtime champion New England tends to sweep the awards by default. Of course, tree leaves make their seasonal color changes in other parts of the country, too. (Though you likely won’t see as many maple products, cider, cider doughnuts, centuries-old stone walls, or endearing New Englandahs along the way!)


Fortunately, beauty-seekers all over the country can still on head out for a fall drive. The local tree line might be mostly evergreens, but even a few conifers, such as the Tamarack, turn a vivid yellow in the fall—and they’re showcased on one of the following suggested scenic drives.

This list of the best fall drives was provided by Terence Baker of AAA New York, based in Garden City. Click ahead to see the routes, along with the sights, attractions, and activities to be found with these 10 scenic byways.

By Colleen KanePosted 2 September 2011

Arkansas

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Route: Hwy. 23 from Ozark north to BrashearsPoints of interest: This northwestern Arkansas drive is also known as the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. The trip will take drivers by small waterfalls, scenic views of the Ozarks, rural vistas, and the Mulberry River. Activities include hiking the Ozark Highlands Trail (a national park trail), and fishing or canoeing on the Mulberry River.Stop off here: You can take this road all the way north to the Eureka Springs, Ark., where you’ll find Buffalo Ridge Nati
Danita Delimont | Gallo Images | Getty Images

Route: Hwy. 23 from Ozark north to Brashears

Points of interest: This northwestern Arkansas drive is also known as the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. The trip will take drivers by small waterfalls, scenic views of the Ozarks, rural vistas, and the Mulberry River. Activities include hiking the Ozark Highlands Trail (a national park trail), and fishing or canoeing on the Mulberry River.

Stop off here: You can take this road all the way north to the Eureka Springs, Ark., where you’ll find Buffalo Ridge National Park, a Victorian downtown district, food, spas, and lodging.

California

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Route: Feather River National Scenic Byway Points of interest: This rural route in northeastern California takes sightseers past bridges, waterfalls, and meadows. The route goes from the Sacramento Valley to the mountains, and on to the Great Basin. It’s also where the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges meet. With abundant conifers, it might be greener than some fall drives, but a palette of fall hues is visible in mid-October. More ambitious travelers can go hiking on nearly 300 miles of
Purestock | Getty Images

Route: Feather River National Scenic Byway

Points of interest: This rural route in northeastern California takes sightseers past bridges, waterfalls, and meadows. The route goes from the Sacramento Valley to the mountains, and on to the Great Basin. It’s also where the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges meet. With abundant conifers, it might be greener than some fall drives, but a palette of fall hues is visible in mid-October. More ambitious travelers can go hiking on nearly 300 miles of trails, camping, fishing, or whitewater rafting.

Stop off here: For an unusual camping experience in Plumas National Forest, with its views of Honey Lake and Last Chance Creek, up to eight people can rent the former fire outpost, Black Mountain Lookout. (Other lookouts are also available for rental.)

Missouri

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Route: Branson areaPoints of interest: When you think of Branson, natural beauty isn’t the first thing to come to mind, but there’s a reason this Ozarks tourist magnet attracted travelers in the first place. For nature lovers in the Branson area, there is the Blue Buck Knob Scenic Byway, the Glade Top Trail, and the Sugar Camp Scenic Byway. Do some aerial leaf-peeping in the Branson Balloon, or from street level via the Branson Scenic Railway, and there are even foliage cruises on Lake Taneycomo
explorebranson.com

Route: Branson area

Points of interest: When you think of Branson, natural beauty isn’t the first thing to come to mind, but there’s a reason this Ozarks tourist magnet attracted travelers in the first place. For nature lovers in the Branson area, there is the Blue Buck Knob Scenic Byway, the Glade Top Trail, and the Sugar Camp Scenic Byway. Do some aerial leaf-peeping in the Branson Balloon, or from street level via the Branson Scenic Railway, and there are even foliage cruises on Lake Taneycomo.

Stop off here: It’s Branson—what are you in the mood for? Whether it’s an Andy Williams and Ann-Margret performance or the Dolly Parton dinner show, there is no shortage of entertainment here.

Montana

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Route: Seeley Lake valley between the Mission and Swan mountain rangesPoints of interest: A distinguishing factor of the region in the fall is the yellow Tamaracks, or Western Larches—one of just three types of conifers that shed their needles. Before the needles drop, they turn vibrant yellow for a most satisfying autumn view. Other landscape features to enjoy include densely wooded slopes, sun-kissed streams, bald eagles, moose, and otters.Stop off here: A highlight of mid-October is the Seele
Andrew Geiger | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Route: Seeley Lake valley between the Mission and Swan mountain ranges

Points of interest: A distinguishing factor of the region in the fall is the yellow Tamaracks, or Western Larches—one of just three types of conifers that shed their needles. Before the needles drop, they turn vibrant yellow for a most satisfying autumn view. Other landscape features to enjoy include densely wooded slopes, sun-kissed streams, bald eagles, moose, and otters.

Stop off here: A highlight of mid-October is the Seeley Lake Tamarack Festival and Brewfest, which includes a Larch interpretive center, a bike race, and an arts-and-crafts fair.

New Hampshire

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Route: State Rte. 10 in Littleton to Rte. 117 and the city of Sugar Hill in the White MountainsPoints of interest: This 15-mile route between two little towns holds plenty to see, do, and taste. The old-time downtown of Littleton has a historic walk and a farmer’s market (open until October). Sugar Hill has the restored Clock Tower, which rises above the fall foliage, a museum, and Polly’s Pancake Parlor, which is 100-plus years old. Stop off here: The Bailiwicks restaurant, wine and martini bar
Denis Jr. Tangney | Vetta | Getty Images

Route: State Rte. 10 in Littleton to Rte. 117 and the city of Sugar Hill in the White Mountains

Points of interest: This 15-mile route between two little towns holds plenty to see, do, and taste. The old-time downtown of Littleton has a historic walk and a farmer’s market (open until October). Sugar Hill has the restored Clock Tower, which rises above the fall foliage, a museum, and Polly’s Pancake Parlor, which is 100-plus years old.

Stop off here: The Bailiwicks restaurant, wine and martini bar in Littleton’s historic Thayer Inn comes highly recommended.

New York

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Route: The Hudson ValleyPoints of interest: New York City residents need not venture far to take in the stunning fall foliage. The color on this 120-mile drive begins after crossing the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey’s tree-lined Palisades Parkway (at Exit 1, be sure to wave to CNBC.com headquarters!). Continue on to Bear Mountain Bridge and cross over it to Rte. 9D via Garrison and Cold Spring to Beacon. Then cross over the Hudson again at Newburgh, driving south along Rte. 9W through t
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Route: The Hudson Valley

Points of interest: New York City residents need not venture far to take in the stunning fall foliage. The color on this 120-mile drive begins after crossing the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey’s tree-lined Palisades Parkway (at Exit 1, be sure to wave to CNBC.com headquarters!). Continue on to Bear Mountain Bridge and cross over it to Rte. 9D via Garrison and Cold Spring to Beacon. Then cross over the Hudson again at Newburgh, driving south along Rte. 9W through to Seven Lakes Drive in Bear Mountain State Park, finishing in Sloatsburg.

Stop off here: Witness the large-scale sculpture at the Storm King Art Center, set against the backdrop of nature, or learn about modern industrial design at the Russel Wright Design Center in Manitoga.

North Carolina and Virginia

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Route: The Blue Ridge ParkwayPoints of interest: The Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 miles are best seen in October. The beauty of more than 100 tree species is showcased as the seasonal color change starts high and progresses down the slopes to the valleys. The route takes drivers between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, and past geological features such as Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain, and Chimney Rock.Stop off here: Stop long enough and you might see bob
Yves Marcoux |Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

Route: The Blue Ridge Parkway

Points of interest: The Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 miles are best seen in October. The beauty of more than 100 tree species is showcased as the seasonal color change starts high and progresses down the slopes to the valleys. The route takes drivers between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, and past geological features such as Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain, and Chimney Rock.

Stop off here: Stop long enough and you might see bobcats, foxes, white-tailed deer, or woodchucks, and visit the North Carolina Arts & Crafts Museum.

Oregon

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Route: Rte. 30 from Hood River west to TroutdalePoints of interest: The Historic Columbia River Highway’s 47 miles take drivers through the Cascade Mountains, high along the rim for the rim of the Columbia River Gorge, not and through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. Hike the trails or practice your photography at the waterfalls and breath-taking viewpoints.Stop off here: Visit Multnomah Falls, then take a short hike to the lower falls and grab an ice cream cone at the Multnomah Falls Lodge
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Route: Rte. 30 from Hood River west to Troutdale

Points of interest: The Historic Columbia River Highway’s 47 miles take drivers through the Cascade Mountains, high along the rim for the rim of the Columbia River Gorge, not and through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. Hike the trails or practice your photography at the waterfalls and breath-taking viewpoints.

Stop off here: Visit Multnomah Falls, then take a short hike to the lower falls and grab an ice cream cone at the Multnomah Falls Lodge.

Pennsylvania

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Route: U.S. Rte. 40 from Washington southeast to the National Pike Road at FarmingtonPoints of interest: This is a great 54-mile fall day trip, featuring numerous antique shops and Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington.Stop off here: Be sure to stop at the circa-1794 Century Inn in Scenery Hill for lunch. While in town, stop in to some of the many antique shops and meet some locals.
Ed Freeman | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Route: U.S. Rte. 40 from Washington southeast to the National Pike Road at Farmington

Points of interest: This is a great 54-mile fall day trip, featuring numerous antique shops and Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington.

Stop off here: Be sure to stop at the circa-1794 Century Inn in Scenery Hill for lunch. While in town, stop in to some of the many antique shops and meet some locals.

Washington

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Route: Chuckanut Drive (Rte. 11) from Burlington to Fairhaven, near BellinghamPoints of interest: This popular 15-mile drive is an ideal day trip for fall foliage viewing. Rte. 30 travels right alongside Samish, Chuckanut, and Bellingham bays, and through Larrabee State Park.Stop off here: Spend time in Bow/Edison for shopping and visit the bakery, or grab some oysters fresh from the bay in Fairhaven.
Aaron Mccoy | Robert Harding World Imagery | Getty Images

Route: Chuckanut Drive (Rte. 11) from Burlington to Fairhaven, near Bellingham

Points of interest: This popular 15-mile drive is an ideal day trip for fall foliage viewing. Rte. 30 travels right alongside Samish, Chuckanut, and Bellingham bays, and through Larrabee State Park.

Stop off here: Spend time in Bow/Edison for shopping and visit the bakery, or grab some oysters fresh from the bay in Fairhaven.