Throughout the U.S. countryside there are thousands of scenic areas where you can escape from your everyday cares to take in the gorgeous fall colors with your family and friends. From the colorful scenery of the Northeast to the high Rocky Mountain peaks to the stunning scenic byways of the Oregon Coast, there are a plethora of scenic fall getaway opportunities all across our great country. Grab your camera, bring a jacket, and embark on one of these three great road trips for a memorable drive through the changing landscape.
The Smoky Mountains: Gatlinburg, TN
Located in eastern Tennessee, the mountain resort city of Gatlinburg is one of the best places to spend a day feasting your eyes on fall foliage. According to the National Park Service, early- to mid-October is usually the best time to travel through the Smoky Mountains to take in the beautiful fall colors of the Gatlinburg area, with a peak in its displays around mid-October to early November. As you drive, take in the rich colors of the dogwoods, sourwoods, and sumacs as their leaves begin to change and develop fall berries. You’ll also discover that spring isn’t the only time that wildflowers bloom; black-eyed Susans, purple asters, great blue lobelia, golden rod, and more carpet the mountains in jeweled shades.
For the best route, travel down Highway 441 into North Carolina through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When you reach Route 74, turn left and through the Nantahala National Forest to Sylva, where you turn left again onto Route 23. Skim past Waynesville to I-40, and take it north to Highway 321 back to Gatlinburg.
The Hudson River: Poughkeepsie, NY
The Hudson River flows through this area of New York that is known for numerous state parks and famous fall foliage. From across the river you’ll see the Catskills in Franny Reese State Park, resplendent with fall colors. For a break from driving, venture on foot onto the Walkway Over the Hudson, a 1.28-mile pedestrian bridge. Breathe in the first hints of Poughkeepsie’s crisp fall air and snap a few photos of the panoramic view.
Start in Poughkeepsie, take Highway 9 south and turn onto Route 113. Stay on it as it turns into Route 376 near Red Oaks Mill, and follow it out to Route 82. Turn left and enjoy the amazing view of the Hudson Highlands all the way out to the Taconic State Parkway. Take the Parkway north to 115, and turn left again. The 115 will bring you right back to Poughkeepsie.
The Big Sur Highway: Santa Cruz, CA
Looking for something a little sunnier? From the stunning coastal cliffs and forest of Highway 1 to the quaint tree-dotted farms of the 101, a half day on the Big Sur Highway is one of the best fall cruises on the entire West Coast. The bright blue sky and sparkling sea serve as the backdrops for mountain ranges that slope into Pacific, beaches that blanket the coast, and redwoods that tower above one of California’s most popular highways. On your trip you’ll pass through the art colony of Carmel along the shore, then wind your way through Monterey and Pebble Beach. After that, travel a stretch of West Coast highway beauty with Los Padres National Forest to the east, where deciduous trees transform from green to gold, and Monarch butterflies are returning home from their migration.
Start in Santa Cruz and go south down Highway 1. Head all the way south for lunch in San Luis Obispo, and then turn onto Highway 101. The 101 heads back north through the Salinas Valley, known as the “salad bowl of the world.” (No, really! The area is a leading growing spot for produce like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries.)
Making the Most of Your Trip
Before you begin your trip, plot your route through the countryside. After all, road trips are more about the route than the destinations. Make sure you know where you’re going, but don’t be afraid to take a little detour here and there (after all, that’s part of the fun of road trips)!
Also, be sure you have the right car insurance coverage. Auto accidents can happen anywhere, and the risk could be higher when you’re driving on unfamiliar roads. The cheapest car insurance policy may not include comprehensive and collision coverage, for example, but they are two coverages that could come in handy if a bird smashes into your window or a boulder falls on the hood of your car. You might also want to check into a roadside assistance plan, which could come in handy if you break down or run out of gas along the way.
Lastly, account for the really fun stuff. Bring along your favorite tunes, make sure your camera battery or your phone’s, (if that’s what you’re using to take photos) is fully charged, pack a jacket if the weather’s chilly, and gather up a picnic lunch so you can get out and enjoy the vista as you eat.
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What are your favorite spots for autumn foliage sighting? Leave a comment below and let us know!