Photo by Walter Bibikow/JAI/Corbis. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.
As the weather starts to cool and the colors change, it’s time to plan one last trip. Pack up the car and the kids. Or just hit the road with one other special someone. Road trips are a great option to save money and see everything that you’d miss as you fly overhead. The key to a good road trip is to take your time and be prepared for any fun side trips along the way. Don’t know which direction to head? Try these 10 most popular fall road trips on Yahoo.
10. Southwest Four Corners: Four for the Price of One
Visit the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert and more as your drive through four states. (Photo: iStock)
There is only one spot in the country where you can stand in four states at the same time, aptly named The Four Corners. Sure, it costs $5 per person to go into the Four Corners Monument and get your picture taken at the intersection of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. But when are you going to take this road trip again? Depending on how many days you want to explore the Southwest, start in Flagstaff and visit the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest National Park, and Painted Desert. You can also see the pueblan dwellings along the Trail of the Ancients and in Mesa Verde National Park. Then hit up the scenic byway, the San Juan Skyway, and end your trip where Butch Cassidy got started, Telluride, Colo.
9. Lake of the Ozarks, Mo: Miles and Miles of Coast to Explore
The Lake of the Ozarks provides many miles of shore and foliage to explore. (Photo: Missouri Division of Tourism/Flickr)
The Lake of the Ozarks isn’t so much one small lake as a long, winding river-like lake that stretches 92 miles through Missouri, with over 1,100 miles of shoreline, making it perfect for a road trip. Start in Jefferson City and wend your way down to Branson, Mo. Yes, that Branson, known for its 1800s-themed amusement park and Dolly Parton dinner theater. At the center of this trip is the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Fish, camp, hike, and definitely swim your way through your trip.
8. Upper Peninsula, Mich.: The Wild North
Tahquamenon Falls is just one of many incredible spots in the Upper Peninsula. (Photo: Brook Ward/Flickr)
Known by locals as the U.P., the Upper Peninsula sits separate from the rest of Michigan, above Wisconsin and between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. With two national parks—Hiawatha National Forest and Ottawa National Forest—and more wilderness than people, the U.P. is the perfect place for a colorful fall road trip. Drive the Black River Scenic Byway. Take a boat tour from Munising of the Picture Rocks National Seashore and explore the Keweenaw Peninsula by renting a cabin or camping out. Then, after driving the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere across the lake to lower Michigan, finish with a visit to the car-free Mackinac Island.
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7. Great Smoky Mountains: Smoky Fall Colors
The Smoky Mountains are beautiful year round, but they truly shine when they’re all dressed up in autumn colors. (Photo: iStock)
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers over 800 square miles. That’s a lot of land to explore between Tennessee and North Carolina. Get out of the car to hike the Chimney Tops Trail or Rainbow Falls, but with so much to see, driving tours are also popular (and sometimes crowded). While there are plenty of side roads and scenic routes, the main road that bisects the park is US-441 between Cherokee, N.C., and Gatlinburg, Tenn. In October, fall colors appear; you can see them best above 4,000 feet along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Clingmans Dome Road, or the Foothills Parkway. Check the park’s website to see if the foliage has come in yet.
6. Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, N.M.: Magic in New Mexico
A drive along the Enchanted Circle is nothing short of enchanting. (Photo: Shafi `/Flickr)
Starting and ending in Taos, N.M., the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway appropriately makes a sort of circle around Wheeler Peak. The 83-mile loop travels through Angel Fire, Red River, Eagle Nest, and Questa. (It’s longer if you take the side trip to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos.) Stop and take a chairlift ride at one of the ski resorts to get a full view of the valley. Hike down the La Junta Trail or the Big Arsenic Trail in the Rio Grande National Monument to see the waters of the Rio and the Red Rivers. Along your drive, you’ll be able to admire the miles of aspens and spruce. Most people drive the loop clockwise, finishing along the tree-lined Kit Carson Road back into Taos.
5. Green Mountain Byway, Vt.: Ice Cream Among the Trees
Stroll along leaf-covered trails at C.C. Putnam State Forest. (Photo: R. Ian Lloyd/Masterfile/Corbis)
A popular spot for splendid fall foliage, the Green Mountain Byway is lined with colorful maple, birch, and beech trees. Start in Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s, and then take your ice cream to the nearby C.C. Putnam State Forest or the Mount Mansfield State Forest. Climb the mountain the park is named for or swim in the Waterbury Reservoir. The official Green Mountain Byway is just 11 miles long and ends in Stowe, so you’ll have plenty of time for side trips to the Waterbury Railroad Station or the Green Mountain Coffee Visitors Center.
4. Columbia River Gorge, Ore.: A Stunning Valley
The incredible size and power of Multnomah Falls is something that needs to be seen in person to fully appreciate. (Photo: iStock)
The Columbia River Gorge stretches 80 miles along the Columbia River, north of Mt. Hood, forming the border between Washington and Oregon and cutting through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The scenic gorge, which gets 4,000 feet deep in spots, begins east of Portland and winds all the way to The Dalles, which was once the end of the Oregon Trail. Stop the car at the popular Crown Point to see the stunning vistas. Then visit Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Hike the Eagle Creek Trail or up to Angel’s Crest. Drive across the Bridge of the Gods. And, if you need to soak your tired legs, a dip at the Carson Hot Springs will leave you feeling refreshed.
3. The Berkshires, Mass.: Relaxation in the Bucolic Berkshires
Nothing like a scenic mountain drive through the Berkshires in autumn. (Photo: iStock)
Sure, the area around Boston can be a traffic nightmare, but once you get into Western Massachusetts and the Berkshire Mountains, you’re in for a relaxing and beautiful road trip. There are several drives you can take through the Berkshires. Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge or Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. Taste some wine and pick some apples at the farms of the area, like Hilltop Orchards and Furnace Brook Winery. (In fact, you could plan your entire trip around food, with stops at the SoCo Creamery, the Meat Market, and No. 6 Depot Coffee.) If you want to do more than eat and drink, then walk around the Stockbridge Bowl and the Tanglewood campus. If you’re looking for even more adventure, rent a bike or take a short whitewater rafting trip on Deerfield River.
2. Catskills, N.Y.: Float Into Fall
Cooper Lake, surrounded by beautiful foliage. (Photo: Aby Jose/Flickr)
About 100 miles away from the Big Apple, just outside the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills are home to mountains and to hundreds of artists and musicians. In fact, Woodstock—yes, that Woodstock—sits amid the Catskills and makes a perfect place to start your fall road trip. Once you get into the laid-back spirit of the place, head outdoors to take in the crisp fall colors. Kayak the Hudson River or hike to Kaaterskill Falls or fish in the Roscoe Junction Pool. Floating down the river in an inner tube is a popular local pastime and you wouldn’t want to miss out on the local favorites. With so much homegrown food in the area, you’ll want to fuel up too. Try Peekamoose Restaurant and Taproom, or even park your car and stay on a real working farm, at Feather Down Farms.
1. Harpers Ferry, W.V.: Historical Fun
Get your fill of history and gorgeous views at Harpers Ferry. (Photo: smilla4/Flickr)
Start at the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park and take in a living history workshop on blacksmithing, tin-making, or gardening. You can also hike the Civil War battlefields in the park or even parts of the Appalachian Trail. While the town is known for its history, it also sits at the intersection of two sweeping rivers, the Shenandoah and the Potomac. From Jefferson’s Rock, you’ll be able to take it all in. Then travel from there through the small towns of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. The landscape is classic New England, with changing leaves and rolling hills. Get out of the car and check out the Adventure Center for rafting, kayaking, or even zip-lining.
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