Six Fantastic Fall Travel Destinations
This year, branch out and discover something new for your fall travel plans. Separated by region, these scenic routes should be within driving distance of most places in the United States -- and if not, we've offered our "runners up" for additional inspiration. Not only do these treasure trails give you glorious glimpses of the change in season, but there is a little history and culture intertwined as well. From coast to coast, here are our top picks for fall travel.
New England: Mad River Valley, Vermont
Most people immediately think of New England as the best place to go see the leaves change for fall. Travel to Vermont and take the Mad River Valley tour to see one of nature's most spectacular shows, all while making your way through five covered bridges. The 2-3 hour drive starts at the State Capitol in Montpelier, passes through the Green Mountains and by several red barns, and then concludes back in Montpelier. For more details and other auto tours of Vermont, visit Central Vermont.
Peak Season: Late September to mid-October. Leaves in the north turn first and then the color change moves southward.
Autumn Hues: Orange, red, deep purple and maroon.
Runners Up: Connecticut River Valley and Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Mid-Atlantic: Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has 17-million acres of forested land, all of which turns to brilliant red and gold hues during the fall travel season. There are many scenic drives through the Pocono Mountains, including highways with dramatic views and country roads where you can stop at a roadside stand to pick out the perfect pumpkin. If traveling on Interstate 80, don't miss the Delaware Water Gap on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Peak Season: Leaves at higher altitudes change first, check the Visit PA website for weekly foliage reports and additional trails.
Autumn Hues: Red, orange and yellow.
Runners Up: Adirondack Mountains and the Hudson Valley in New York.
Midwest: Amish Country Byway, Ohio
The color changes in the Midwest are just as striking as in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, making this area of the country ripe for fall travel. Travel down any highway or byway and see brilliant hues of red, gold and auburn. If you're looking to get back to basics, try a drive through the Amish Country Byway that stretches 76 miles across Ohio from Loudonville to Wilmot. The four- to six-hour drive has you sharing country roads with horses and buggies -- or you could book a night at a bed and breakfast and make a weekend trip out of it. Although you will be unable to keep yourself from snapping pictures of the landscape, remember to be respectful of the privacy and religious beliefs of the Amish. For more information on the route and other fall foliage suggestions, visit www.byways.org.
Peak Season: Mid-September to mid-October.
Autumn Hues: Yellow and orange, with pops of red.
Runner Up: The Ozarks in Missouri
South: Antebellum Trail, Georgia
Those looking for a fall travel experience in the southern states should trek through the Antebellum Trail in Georgia, which turns magnificent orange and gold hues in the fall. This 100-mile stretch weaves through seven communities, each with well-preserved, stately southern mansions and other pieces of antebellum architecture. The trip starts in Athens, Georgia just south of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then takes you through covered bridges, into aristocratic town centers, past former cotton plantations, and finally ends in Macon -- home of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Visit www.antebellumtrail.org for all the trail details.
Peak Season: Last week of October and early November.
Autumn Hues: Burnt orange and gold.
Runners Up: Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky National Park in Tennessee.
West: Grand Junction to Grand Mesa National Forest, Colorado
Southwest of Aspen are the purple-and-white Maroon Bells, some of the most photographed mountains in the country. The spot is so popular during September that only shuttle buses are allowed to take passengers near the peaks. One famous fall travel pilgrimage is along the Colorado River across Interstate 70 and then southeast through the canyons that line Colorado 65. Here the aspens and cottonwoods glow striking shades of yellow and orange. To track the changing fall colors in Colorado, call the US Forest Service hotline at 1-800-354-4595.
Peak Season: The color change lasts only for an unpredictable week in September.
Autumn Hues: Golden yellow and maroon.
Runner Up: Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Pacific: Columbia River Highway, Oregon
The West Coast also has glorious displays of color in the fall. Travel along the historic Columbia River Highway to see ash, maple and cottonwood trees turn the countryside into vibrant shades of red and yellow. The sightseeing-only highway begins just east of Portland on Interstate 84, winds 75 miles through the Columbia River Gorge, and then ends in The Dalles, once the end of the Oregon Trail. The route was the first planned scenic route in the United States, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. To learn more about the Columbia River Highway, visit www.columbiariverhighway.com.
Peak Season: The last two weeks in October.
Autumn Hues: Red and yellow.
Runner Up: Yosemite National Park, California
Have a favorite fall travel destination or local scenic trail that you'd like to share? Offer suggestions for fellow travelers in the comments below.