It’s October, which means it’s time for my favorite part of autumn – fall foliage time, when the forests and hills blaze with color. If you enjoy seeing the leaves change, but don’t live somewhere with forests and/or hills nearby (or you’re just looking for an excuse for a road trip), Travel and Leisure recently released its list of America’s top road trips for fall foliage. The complete list:
- Michigan’s Gold Coast
- Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
- Coastal Maine
- Olympic Peninsula
- Arkansas Ozarks
- Moosehead Lake Region, Maine
- Green Mountain and Mad River Byways, Vermont
- Lake Placid, New York
- The Driftless Region, Wisconsin
- Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
- West Elk Loop Scenic & Historic Byway, Colorado
- The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
- Eastern Sierras, California
DISCLAIMER: some of these drives, especially those in the far north and in the highest elevations of the West, are already past peak in terms of fall color. I really should have noticed this article earlier. That being said, the Appalachians and Midwest are just set to hit their color peaks over the next few weeks, and the Ozarks and Ouachitas of Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma won’t hit peak color until early November, so you still have time to plan a trip if you’re so inclined.
I’ve only done two of these drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Smoky Mountain National Park, most recently the Blue Ridge around Asheville, North Carolina. We were there about a week after the color peak, but it was still incredibly beautiful. There had been ice in the highest elevations the night before we went driving, and the second photo is probably my favorite, showing the contrast of frosty pine trees with the last vestiges of fall color.
If you live in the Dallas area, and would like to see some fall foliage but don’t have time to make a trip somewhere else, you do have a couple of close-by options. One is the Talimena National Scenic Byway, running through teh Ouachita Mountains from Talimena State Park near Talihina, Oklahoma to Mena, Arkansas; Talihina is approximately 3 1/2 hours northeast of Dallas. I wrote up a travelogue of a drive down the Talimena Scenic Byway last year, though I drove the road in late December, long after the last of the leaves were gone. There are also several excellent scenic loops through East Texas, which can be completed in a single day. My personal recommendation is to take IH-20 east to US 69 in Lindale, then head south on US 69 to my hometown of Rusk, then west on US 84 to Palestine, then north on State Highway 19 to Athens. From Athens, you can either go west on US 175 straight back to Dallas, or stay on SH 19 north to Canton, where you can re-join IH-20 and head back to Dallas. Color in that part of the state typically peaks around the 2nd or 3rd week of November. The sections from Canton to Lindale, north of Jacksonville to Rusk, Rusk to Palestine, and Palestine to Athens are probably the best. Stop in at Stacy’s BBQ in Jacksonville for lunch if you like good BBQ.