By Brittany Anas
Great American road trips may be associated with summer. But in the fall, they get even better—that is if you know which routes to take to see the most dramatic display of leaves. On these three gorgeous drives, leaf peepers will be treated to a spectrum of autumnal hues that range from bright golds to crimson reds. Ready to hit the open road, canopied by beautiful trees? While the Northeast and the Great Smoky Mountains draw a lot of attention this time for their spectacular fall foliage, there are some lesser-known (read: less crowded, too) drives bidding for your attention.
Spanning 444 miles, the Natchez Trace Parkway runs from Nashville, Tenn. to Natchez, Miss. The scenic route has few cars and is a nature-centric drive, uninterrupted by street lights. Each October, the leaves turned vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange. An ideal stopping point on your trip? Tupelo, Miss., where downtown murals of Elvis remind you that this charming southern town is the birthplace of the “King of Rock ‘n Roll.” A tip? Tupelo has a top-notch culinary scene, so there are plenty of restaurants to choose from to get your fried chicken and biscuit fix. For delicious barbecue, check out Clay’s House of Pig, which—surprise—is in a bait shop!
For a quintessential Colorado autumn drive, take the high road: Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in North America, with more than eight miles of it above 11,000 feet. It twists through Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park in the east, where you’ll enjoy a multi-sensory experience as you’ll also hear the sound of elk bugling. Estes Park has “Elk Fest” on Sept. 28-29, but the entire month of October is “Elktober” because of the frequent cameos that elk make in town. For a fun addition to your fall itinerary, book a ghost tour at The Stanley Hotel. Trail Ridge Road winds through Grand Lake in the west, which is a postcard-perfect mountain town with a beautiful lake and quaint downtown.
You may know Minnesota for its lakes in the summertime. But it also puts on a remarkable fall foliage show. Snaking along Lake Superior, this 154-mile route travels from Duluth to Two Harbors on Co. Road 61 and from Two Harbors to Grand Portage on Highway 61. Along the way, you’ll see vistas ablaze with oranges and reds, and a backdrop of craggy cliffs rounding out the views. Plus, you get a two-for-one: the inland maples of the Sawtooth Mountains put on a fall foliage show as do the aspens and birch trees along Lake Superior. Get out and stretch your legs with a hike in Jay Cooke State Park. You’ll also want to stop to snap a photo of the scenic 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse that’s along the route.
So, are you ready to fill up your tank (and coffee mug) and plan a road trip around one of these three destinations?
Brittany Anas is a freelance writer for Julie Loffredi — Lifestyle.