At the end of September, when the temperature begins to drop from the sweltering heat of summer in the United States, the trees go through a beautiful metamorphosis. The endless seas of green begin to turn into a wonderful mix of reds, oranges, yellows and browns. This has lead travellers to take to the roads for some of the most scenic drives of the season. Fall foliage fans are likely to find beautiful drives anywhere in the United States, but here are our five favourites.
Creativecommons.org/ Jeff Foster
While this world famous ski town doesn't get packed with tourists until the snows fall, Aspen is a beautiful city all year-round. As Aspen is named after a tree, it is only fitting that come autumn, the trees surrounding it put on a spectacular show. The trees in the foothills of the mountains take on a beautiful golden hue that complements the green alpine evergreen and gray snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance. However, the downside is that the fall foliage in autumn doesn't last for long. The prime viewing season is from mid-September until the end of the month. Those lucky enough may be able to get some good showings in the first week of October as well, but any longer the trees will be near barren.
While most roads are fairly scenic, Route 21 heading east and eventually looping back to the city runs through the golden forest and is especially beautiful on the sunny autumn day. Highway 82 that runs straight through Aspen is a good scenic trip. Highway 82 north of Aspen runs through the forest then through the mountains, so divers can see it from above.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina
Creativecommons.org/ Soil Science
The Blue Ridge Parkway is infamous for its beauty as it winds its way through the Appalachian Mountains and forests. Once autumn comes, the Appalachian hardwood forests turn from foggy seas of green to foggy seas of fiery red. Visitors can drive through this winding two lane highway that spans 800 kilometres through North Carolina's vast wilderness and Virginia's small farmsteads. The bulk of the fall foliage scenery is in North Carolina, but the entire highway is a beautiful affair that can give autumn leaf country up north in New England a real run for their money. Those who want to go the whole distance on their road trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway will want to start in Roanoke, Virginia, and end just outside the quaint and artsy town of Ashville, North Carolina.
The Coast of Maine
Creativecommons.org/ Mark Boutilier
Coastal Maine is a bracing region in the fall. It's cold, wet and a bit grey. However, the area receives a stunning splash of colour from the trees. Visitors can drive the upper reaches of Route 1 that runs through the state along the seaside from Maine's south border to its northern one. Visitors can have the salty ocean on one side of their car and vibrant orange trees on the other, creating the moist inspiring road trip through Maine. Route 1 also dips inland through the forest at certain points for further foliage enjoyment. Those driving the coast of Maine for the leaves will not want for extra activity either. Aside from stopping to sample the lobster, there are a number of parks and trails to hike through the beautiful autumn forest. While Route 1 runs around 800 kilometres in Maine, it has the potential to be the best road for a foliage road trip. It zig-zags its way across the United States from California to Maine, assuring that visitors can hit the best of autumn leaf country.
Columbia River Gorge in Oregon
Creativecommons.org/ Jeff Gunn
The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is perhaps the most coveted outdoors region in the Pacific Northwest. Outdoorsy men and women flock to the river to raft, hike and camp all year-round. However, once autumn hits, this lush green paradise converts to the oranges, reds and yellows of fall, making it all the more scenic. While the hiking and river rafting in this area are great ways to appreciate and enjoy this change, visitors can also drive through the thick of it. Just outside of Pendleton, Oregon, Highway 84 takes a turn north and begins to trace the Columbia River right through the gorge area. This continues all the way until Portland, in which visitors still looking to trace the river will need to change to Highway 5 and eventually to Interstate 30, which leads straight to the Pacific. This drive provides both excellent views of the fall foliage and the white water of the rough Columbia River over its 300 kilometre route.
Green Mountain Byway in Vermont
Creativecommons.org/ Aaron Harmon
Vermont is iconic fall foliage viewing country and the state didn't get that reputation by having mediocre leaves. The Green Mountain Byway is one of the most famous leaf viewing routes in the United States and from late September through November, it is packed with likeminded visitors driving the expanse. The Green Mountain Byway is only a sparse 17 kilometres as it cuts across Vermont into the equally beautiful New Hampshire. Along the way, visitors can stop at the quaint town of Waterbury, although it is better known as the home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, and then onwards to the scenic ski town of Stowe.