7 scenic drives across the US for fall 2022

(CNN) — The United States is a car-obsessed nation, and a road trip feels like a natural right to many.

With gas prices slipping from their dizzying early summer heights and other folks wary of taking their chances with the air travel system, the fall road trip possibilities look pretty darn good this year.

In no particular order, here are seven fantastic scenic drives scattered around the continental United States where you can enjoy autumn color and more. Some are well-known; others are a bit under the radar.

Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia and North Carolina

This sumptuous, curving road threads its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It starts in Virginia and continues southwest into North Carolina, and the total length is 469 miles (755 kilometers).

• It’s free to use and open 24 hours a day unless portions are closed by things such as weather or landslides.

• It’s free of all commercial clutter — no billboards and businesses in sight. Just cars, the road and nature.

• You don’t have to tackle the whole thing unless you want a really big trip; just carve out a portion and drive that.

A Blue Ridge Parkway overlook offers picture-perfect autumn views near Asheville, North Carolina.

A Blue Ridge Parkway overlook offers picture-perfect autumn views near Asheville, North Carolina.

Craig Zerbe/Adobe Stock

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway: Colorado

For eye-poppin’ and ear-poppin’ scenery, it’s hard to go wrong in the high altitudes of the Centennial State. It has 26 scenic byways, and half of those have national designation.
Still, you can only take one at a time. Why not start with Peak to Peak Scenic Byway? Its 55 miles (89 kilometers) of roadway showcases memorable views of the Continental Divide, and it’s all less than an hour from urban hubs Denver or Boulder.

And you might end up spending more time out of your vehicle than in it at a string of natural sites along the way:

Rocky Mountain National Park: Take in meadows, lakes and more on 300 miles of hiking trails — and maybe spot a moose or bear at a distance.

Covered Bridges Scenic Byway: Iowa

America’s heartland is sometimes overlooked, but it has its fair share of lovely drives, too.

Made famous by the 1992 novel “The Bridges of Madison County” and subsequent 1995 movie, its roughly 82 miles (132 kilometers) focuses not only on covered bridges but scenic natural areas and historical and cultural sites, too, O’Riley said.

Want to get out of the car and stretch your legs? In Winterset, there’s a birthplace and museum dedicated to Marion Robert Morrison — that’s actor John Wayne to you and me, pilgrim.

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: Oregon

In central Oregon, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway “offers a one-of-a-kind view with dazzling red vine maple juxtaposed against black lava,” according to Allison Keeney, manager of global communications at Travel Oregon.

Its 66 miles (106 kilometers) run past several lakes in the central Cascade Mountains.

“This route is known not only for the scenery it provides, but also by the sheer number of adventures found along the way,” Kenney said.

“Those who want to get up close and personal with the trees as their leaves turn from green to yellow and orange should get out of the car and enjoy views at Sparks Lake or hiking opportunities in the Three Sisters Wilderness.”

She said colors are most vivid there around mid-October, but they might peak earlier this year because of the hot, dry summer.

Natchez Trace Parkway: Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee

Tennessee Highway 96 as seen from the Double Arch Bridge at Natchez Trace Parkway near the town of Franklin.

Tennessee Highway 96 as seen from the Double Arch Bridge at Natchez Trace Parkway near the town of Franklin.

marekuliasz/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Covering 444 miles (715 kilometers) and three states, the Natchez Trace Parkway roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” an historic travel corridor used by Native Americans and later European settlers.

Take the entire parkway and enjoy two very different cities at the start and end points. Little Natchez, Mississippi, is known for its historical homes overlooking the Mississippi River. Big-city Nashville has exploded from a country music haven to all-around entertainment destination.

In between: A perfectly lovely drive that transitions from Deep South coastal plain to much hillier terrain. Peak color comes earliest up in Tennessee (usually late October to early November). But the southernmost parts of the Trace in Mississippi can peak late into November.
Love to ride bicycles? The parkway is popular with bicyclists in autumn. Click here for advice before you pedal.

Hocking Hills Scenic Byway: Ohio

Hey, oh, way to go Ohio for your 25 miles (40 kilometers) of lovely roadway southeast of Columbus.

The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway is another AAA-endorsed route for people who want to see fall foliage and take a nice relaxing afternoon drive.
There are seven major hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. Whispering Cave Trail features the “swinging” Hemlock Bridge and the second-largest cave in the region with a 105-foot seasonal waterfall.
About 30 miles (48 kilometers) away is the small city of Athens, which holds a farmers market and arts market every Saturday and plenty of special events this fall.

Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway: Maine

Rangeley Lake Scenic Byway is a superb autumn drive in Maine with plenty of pretty spots.

Rangeley Lake Scenic Byway is a superb autumn drive in Maine with plenty of pretty spots.

Dilip Patel/Adobe Stock

AAA gives this roughly 50-mile (80-kilometer) route in interior western Maine — close to the borders of New Hampshire and Canada — a hearty endorsement.

The Height of Land on Route 17 “is the route’s showstopper,” according to Explore Maine, “with stunning views” of lakes and mountains. The site also touts the excellent fall foliage viewing on the byway. Generally, peak color comes around October 6 to 13 in this part of Maine.
AAA also likes the nearby Saddleback ski resort, where you can enjoy activities such as mountain biking before ski season kicks in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.