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8 Fall Foliage Tours to Amaze You

Looking for leaves? Take a day trip down these scenic roads for the best of what autumn has to offer.


By Kristen Sturt

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1. Route 17 – New York

Credit: Flickr | dougtone

Find a free weekend this fall, head to New York and make your way down glorious Route 17, a.k.a. the Quickway, for some of the state’s finest foliage. Vista after vista of yellow, orange and red leaves appear around bends and turns in the road as it winds in and out of rivers, hills and picturesque small towns.

The thoroughfare begins in Orange County right around the massive Woodbury Common Premium Outlets — where you can get all your shopping done for fall — and trails through “upstate” burgs like Liberty, where you can grab a bite to eat at local gems like Yiasou Café or Floyd & Bobos Bakery. Stop once you hit Binghamton, or keep on trucking through villages like Corning — home of the world-renowned glass cookware. (For seven other foliage trips in the U.S. and Canada, see the rest of this slideshow.)

 

(This article appeared previously on Grandparents.com)
Fall Foliage

2. Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive – Virginia and North Carolina

Credit: Flickr | ucumari

It would be tough to cover all 574 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway in one day, but we highly suggest taking a long weekend and cruising chunks at a time, beginning at the tip of Skyline Drive in Front Royal, Va. The 105-mile stretch coils through all of gorgeous Shenandoah National Park and ends at Rockfish Gap, where you hook up with the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there, it’s a mere 469 miles to Bryson City, N.C., where the Parkway ends. Highlights along the way include the Natural Bridge and Cedar Creek Nature Trail and Grandfather Mountain, among many, many others.

3. Cabot Trail – Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Credit: Flickr | archer10

If you love music, wildlife (moose, especially), hiking, seafood and plain ol’ sightseeing, the 185-mile Cabot Trail on the northern perimeter of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is the place to be. Experts advise scheduling at least a full day for the picturesque jaunt, though you could easily spend a weekend exploring Atlantic Maritime gems like Cape Smokey and Skyline Trail. Foodies will appreciate local haunts like Frog Pond Café and Captain Capers Fish & Chips, which serve casual, delicious meals in striking settings.

Going in October? Good. Bookworms and traditional music enthusiasts should check out the Cabot Trail Writers Festival and Celtic Colours International Festival, respectively. Everyone else can just marvel at the wild proliferation of autumn colors.

4. The Ozark Mountains – Missouri

Credit: Flickr | oakleyoriginals

While almost any late-October drive around the Ozarks will yield vivid color and stunning scenery, we propose making the entertainment capital of the Midwest — Branson, Mo. — your home base due to its sheer abundance of nightlife, dining and lodging options. Then once you settle in, take one of several self-guided driving tours — which range from 70 minutes to four hours — to nearby natural wonders like peaceful Mark Twain National Forest and Bull Shoals Lake (some of which is actually in Arkansas.)

If you have time, don't pass up Dogwood Canyon, where you can rent a bike, hop a tram or simply stroll around the most gorgeous flora and fauna Missouri has to offer.

5. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway – Colorado

Credit: Flickr | miguelvieira

Though it’s one of the shorter drives on this list, the 55-mile Peak to Peak Scenic Byway from Estes Park to Central City takes drivers through world-class state parks and forests, offering Rocky Mountain views almost unrivaled in the continental U.S. While the breathtaking alpine scenery is undoubtedly the best part of the trip, don’t skip these famed stops along the way:

  • St. Malo Retreat Center (a.k.a. "The Chapel on the Rock"), a peaceful stone church famous for its setting
  • Allenspark Lodge, a log cabin-style B&B famous for its breakfasts
  • Black Hawk, a town famous for its casinos, offering many entertainment and restaurant options

6. Historic Columbia River Highway – Oregon

Credit: Flickr | [email protected]

Whenever you read about the striking 70-mile Columbia River Highway through the Columbia River Gorge between Troutdale (by Portland) and the Dalles, the first thing that inevitably pops up is Multnomah Falls, the 620-foot cascade frequently cited as one of Oregon’s prettiest natural wonders. While the waterfall lives up to its reputation, the highway it borders offers much, much more, including:

Of course, there’s also Portland. But that’s a whole slideshow unto itself, isn't it?

7. Route 169 – Connecticut

Credit: Flickr | laferriere

For fall foliage, there’s no better place than New England. Connecticut’s Route 169, a north-south highway in the “Quiet Corner” of the state, shows off the very best of the region’s colors, plus the charming small towns you’ve come to associate with the Northeast, like Lisbon and Pomfret.

Along the 32-mile route, stop at the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury for a fascinating lesson in civil rights history, and then pull over for dinner at The Golden Lamb Buttery, where the only thing nicer than the meals is the view off the deck.

8. The Entire State of Vermont

Credit: Flickr | heipei

Speaking of New England…

Sorry to be so vague here, but it’s impossible to choose a single path of exploration in Vermont, which is as rife with picturesque foliage as it is with maple syrup and ski trails. But if we must, Route 108 through Smugglers' Notch and Stowe in the state’s northwest corner is a popular itinerary, while Manchester — located in the middle of Green Mountain National Forest, also promises breathtaking views.

Foliage Maps

Credit: Flickr | archer10

Need to know when to go? These foliage maps provide peak times for leaves in full technicolor:

Looking for a map more local? A quick Google search should do the trick.

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