September 22, 2009
We’ve never been so happy to see summer go. Not that we didn’t celebrate its holidays and bask on its beaches--we did, and loved it--it’s just that this year, fall’s foliage is expected to be unusually vibrant across the country. And we have the perfect plan for peeping some of the season’s brightest leaves: follow one of the diverse foliage drives recommended by IgoUgo members. Summer was fun and all, but when was the last time you saw a palm tree change colors?
Here are 10 routes to experience before the leaves finish falling:
Vermont: Rutland to Killington on Route 4
One by one, Vermont makes believers out of leaf peepers doubting the state’s ability to stand up to its hype: “Everyone has seen pictures of how beautiful autumn can be in Vermont,” says htortorich, “but no one has ever said that the colors can be so bright orange, it appears the whole forest is on fire!” The Southerner reports that in and around Rutland, autumn leaves “appear to glow” as they “steal your breath away.” Go slightly off track to catch your breath and raise your blood sugar at the New England Maple Museum in nearby Pittsford; you’ll recommence your journey with a new appreciation for the trees you see.
Virginia: Front Royal to Rockfish Gap on Skyline Drive
“Impressive,” “awe-inspiring,” and “spectacular” are just a few of the superlatives IgoUgo members award Shenandoah National Park’s 105-mile Skyline Drive. First Reviewers jan&ray call this road America’s “ultimate Sunday drive,” and murph the serf says fall paints the park with “phenomenal colors.”
Utah: Highland to Provo Canyon on Route 92
Scratch for one second, if you will, what we said about Vermont charming every leaf peeper; Wasatch throws down the gauntlet with, “I've been quizzing people who have seen fall foliage in both Vermont and northern Utah. Eighty percent say Utah is better.” He backs this claim with plenty of evidence and names his top pick for Utah peeping as Route 92, on which you can “stop at Robert Redford's Sundance Resort for lunch.” His choice is well-researched: “We have driven scenic highways all over North America and Europe, and parts of South America and Africa, and our vote for the most scenic drive goes to Utah Route 92 in the fall.”
Arizona: Sedona to Flagstaff on Highway 89A
Locals know the thrill of crossing Oak Creek Canyon well, but LA guy was pleasantly surprised to see brilliant autumn leaves in driest Arizona. “The unexpected timing led us to drive through one of the most scenic drives we have seen,” he says. “Mile after mile, we were passing through changing leaves, red-rock cliffs, and the sparkling Oak Creek.” Even anti-winding-road driver noplacelikeroam loved it: “Speed limits are low; the roads narrow, winding, and exhilarating; and the mountain and rock views breathtaking.”
Minnesota: Duluth to Grand Portage on Highway 61
Being that it hugs the North Shore of Lake Superior, this road’s foliage peaks at the end of September, so you’ll want to hustle a bit for full benefit--but oh, how you’ll be rewarded. (You’ll actually be rewarded if you wait a while, too, as post-peak weekends bring “big discounts on hotels,” according to RachelKay). The same thrifty leaf peeper says, “With lake views, seven state parks, lighthouses, cliffs, forests, rivers, and waterfalls--and spectacular fall foliage--this drive is often regarded as the most scenic in the Midwest.”
New York: Watkins Glen to Geneva on State Route 14
There’s at least one huge bonus to hitting the Finger Lakes for your foliage fix: these roads are also wine trails, so you’re one designated driver away from a rich fall bounty. Coming from a more “subdued” South Jersey autumn, Brian C. Greenberg says that “upon arrival in the Watkins Glen area and surrounding countryside, the rainbow of fall colors immediately captivated us.” Adopting appropriately vibrant language, he also calls the scene a “visual smorgasbord.” MonnieR and her husband headed to the same area in search of “enough memories to carry [them] through northeastern Ohio's dreary winter.” We hope she bottled up some nice memories--along with a good Riesling, of course.
South Carolina to North Carolina: Kings Mountain National Military Park to Crowders Mountain State Park on State Route 1125
The foliage stops for history buffs, Kings and Crowders mountains were both sites of decisive Revolutionary War battles. “Considered by some to be the turning point of the American Revolution,” says chadk78, Kings Mountain “is the site of a major patriot victory.” He recommends an early October visit to ogle the fall foliage and to observe the anniversary of the Kings Mountain battle.
Colorado: Leadville to Aspen on State Highway 82
Nowhere are the golden aspens of autumn more “mind-blowing” than in the mountains of Colorado, say IgoUgo members, and this route, rising to over 12,000 feet at Independence Pass, delivers many miles of prime viewing spots. MarkR37 calls the drive “spectacular” and says it was a highlight of his trip to Colorado. He also mentions the “tight switchbacks” that afford fabulous vistas but make the highway impassable once snow arrives--so drive it while you can.
New Hampshire: Conway to Lincoln on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway
Covering about 30 stunning miles of White Mountains National Forest along Route 32, the Kancamagus Highway is a popular spot for classic New England leaf peeping--but rest assured that any encounters with traffic are “worth the trouble,” according to toombsey. And kylebarber seconds that sentiment, saying you’ll be too “mesmerized by the visual stimulation” to pay any mind to other cars. Besides leaves of every shade, visual highlights include waterfalls, covered bridges, and gorges--and hiking trails and campgrounds, should you decide to stay a while.
Washington: Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls on Interstate 90
With enough parks, gardens, and forests to earn it the nickname “Emerald City,” Seattle proper doesn’t suffer a shortage of foliage--but a drive east to Snoqualmie Falls ups the ante. Texan elusivone visited in mid-fall, “prime season” to see “bright yellow, orange, and red” trees setting the area “on fire with color,” and reports that the fantastic fall shades were enough to rival the falls themselves.
For more destinations offering fall’s finest scenes, see where IgoUgo members snapped their best photos last autumn. We can’t wait to see what you capture on film this year!