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AAA World Article

Three Fall Foliage Drives in the US

Get your fill of fall foliage along a few of our favorite leaf-peeping routes.

By Stacy Tillilie

AAA World Article

Deerfield, Massachusetts, is located in the eastern part of the Mohawk Trail.
Photo Courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Tourism


Mohawk Trail

You can’t think about the quintessential showcase of fall foliage without New England’s kaleidoscopic colors popping to mind. And you can’t talk about the best of that region’s fall foliage drives without the Mohawk Trail in northern Massachusetts entering the conversation.

Tour in Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts
Strolling through Massachusetts' Historic Deerfield
Photo Courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Tourism

Designated an American scenic byway in 1914, the 63-mile trail through the northern Berkshire Mountains from the Massachusetts–New York border to Massachusetts’ Millers Falls on the Connecticut River unfolds in ribbons of roadway fringed by some 50,000 acres of state parks and forests. Five popular driving tours (outlined by The Mohawk Trail Association) range from 33 to 55 miles, mostly following Route 2. Depending on your path, you’ll pass up to 100 or so attractions, including observation points revealing majestic views; sprawling state parks with outdoor recreation galore; and a trove of historic homes, art centers, museums and more.


Split Rock Lighthouse
Split Rock Lighthouse sits on the shore of Lake Superior near Silver Lake, Minnesota.
Photo by Joe Michl, Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society


Lake Superior Circle Tour
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario

With about 1,300 miles of postcard-perfect roadways skirting Lake Superior and passing multihued forests, cascading waterfalls, sandy beaches and towering cliffs in three states and one Canadian province, this leaf-draped loop proves that New England doesn’t have a monopoly on superlative fall foliage.

Lake Superior
Fall colors along Lake Superior, Michigan
Photo by John McCormick, Courtesy of PureMichigan

Budget one to two weeks to circumnavigate the route on a leisurely drive through the North Shore of Minnesota, the Wisconsin shoreline, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the coast of northern Ontario. (Remember, you’ll need a passport to enter Canada.) While you could cover just a portion of the route, those who complete the entire loop in either one or a series of trips are rewarded with a changing landscape of scenic tapestries woven in vibrant yellow, orange and red foliage as well as hundreds of points of interest, from lighthouses and maritime museums to historical parks and charming small towns.


Cataloohcee Creek
Cataloochee Creek in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Photo Courtesy of National Park Service


Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina and Tennessee

The Blue Ridge Parkway may be known as America’s Favorite Drive—and rightfully so for its 469 miles of breathtaking scenery connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. But if your auto tour stops short of exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll miss experiencing one of the country’s top destinations for viewing fall foliage in all its glory.

Clingmans Dome
The view from Tennessee's Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Home to more than a half-million acres of unspoiled nature straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, America’s most-visited national park boasts 384 miles of winding, mountainous roads (both paved and unpaved), punctuated by more than 100 species of trees, glimmering streams, historic buildings and scenic pullouts. A riot of autumnal color brings the mountains alive throughout fall, particularly in October.

While you can expect some traffic congestion during this prime visitation time, you can also expect jaw-dropping scenery saturated in vivid foliage. A handful of the most-traveled routes are featured in self-guided tour booklets available (for a small fee) at the park’s visitor centers.



This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of AAA World.

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