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23 Oct 2011

Great American road trips for fall foliage

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October 23, 2011 Category: Travel Posted by:



Pull that fleece jacket out of the back of the closet, order up a pumpkin-spice latte, and breathe in the crisp morning air. Yes, fall is here. And that means the trees are beginning their yearly transformation into blazing glory. And what better way to enjoy the show than to hop in the car, roll down the windows, and let the beautiful sights coast by. Here are the top scenic drives to see those vibrant leaves:


Route 7 (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont)

Prime Time: mid-September through early October

“Vermont gets all the fall foliage glory, but southern New England has its fair share of blazing hillsides and quaint roadside towns,” says Pieter van Noordennen, editor of travel advice site and a Connecticut native. U.S. Route 7 runs 308 miles from Norwalk, Conn., to Highgate, Vt., passing through the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, and continuing to the Green Mountains in Vermont. Fifty percent of the trees in this area are red and sugar maples, creating the scarlet red and warm orange glow that is legendary in these parts. These spots are no doubt a mecca for serious leaf-peepers. Make a weekend of it with a bed and breakfast in Middlebury or a camping spot at Kent Falls State Park. And if you need a break from snapping leaf pictures, head to Waterbury, Vt., for a yummy tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. Route 7 was not unscathed by Hurricane Irene. But the damage is isolated to a few sections in Vermont, and detours are in place. Besides, doesn’t taking a detour every now and then make for a good adventure? Call (800) VERMONT if you have questions about Route 7.


Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee)

Prime Time: mid- to late-October

The Blue Ridge Parkway starts in Shenandoah National Park and winds 469 miles through western North Carolina to the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee. The ups and downs along this parkway range from 650 feet to over 6,000 feet, with leaf color peaking at the higher elevations first. You will find a brilliant canvas created by the deep red dogwoods, the bright yellow hickories, and the vivid orange sassafras. Orbitz recently launched an iPad app that makes booking hotels on the go easy, so you don’t have to plan too far ahead. So make pit-stops along the way in the “Blue Ridge Capital” of Roanoke, Va., hippy-chic Asheville, N.C., and the spectacle that is Gatlinburg, Tenn.


Natchez Trace Parkway (Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi)

Prime Time: mid- to late-October

The Deep South breathes a collective sigh of relief as the blistering summer heat gives way to pleasant fall temperatures, and lovely foliage to go along with it. The Natchez Trace Parkway begins in Natchez, Miss., and stretches a little over 440 miles to Nashville, Tenn. In late October you will see the maples, oaks, and other hardwood trees showing off their vibrant red, yellows, oranges, and purples. And leaves aren’t the only attraction. Hiking and biking trails dot the way, as do historic sites and charming craft centers, inviting you to park the car and stretch your legs. Camping is a budget-friendly option for a multi-day trip, or you can detour off the track for a comfortable hotel room.


Yosemite (California)

Prime Time: mid- to late-October

Yosemite is a beautiful park year-round, but visit in October and you’ll see the maples, oaks, and dogwoods boasting their color among the evergreens. Yellow is the favorite fall color of these deciduous trees, with some red and orange splashed in. Near the Yosemite Chapel, check out the non-native sugar maple that turns a bright red; there are several short walks and stops along the way where you can get great leaf photos. To make the drive more than just a day trip, roll into little towns like Mariposa and get a restful night’s sleep at the adorable bed and breakfasts.


If you need a dose of closer-to-home fall foliage,’s interactive fall color map shows peak seasons around the country.

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