Four Scenic Fall Drives You Should Take

Fall is for football games, comfy sweaters and colorful fall drives. With the hazy dog days of summer over, you should take advantage of the changing season and finally take the family on that scenic fall drive that you’ve been dreaming about.

M-22 Route, Michigan

Fill your lungs with the pristine Michigan air as you traverse this 116- mile route. Prepare to have your breath taken away by views of Lake Michigan’s cool blue-green waters.

This scenic highway also presents a variety of excursion possibilities such as wineries along the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, shops and dining options, and, for those who are history buffs, Point Betsie Lighthouse.

If you are feeling especially antsy to stretch the legs, M-22 also boasts the sand dunes of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore and the 1.5-mile Riverwalk along the Manistee Riverfront, located right in Manistee.

M-22 Route skirts the perimeter of northern Michigan, and is best traveled from mid-September to late October, depending on the year.

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Virginia’s Skyline Drive is one for the bucket list.

Known as the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, this 109-mile route runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park. With its highest elevation at 3,680 feet, Skyline Drive has been rated as one of the best mountain drives in America. Even more, Shenandoah National Park features 500 miles of hiking trails, many of them easily accessible from Skyline Drive.

If you are looking to make a pit stop, pack a lunch and picnic with the family at one of the road’s 75 overlooks and take in the panoramic views.

This road is also an ideal spot for stargazing. Because of minimal light pollution, you have the opportunity to spot nebulas, constellations and distant galaxies. For an informative exhibition and viewing session, book a reservation for one of Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge’s presentations, free to all park visitors.

West Elk Loop, Colorado

Embrace your wild side as you snake through Colorado’s West Elk Mountains on the lasso-shaped West Elk Scenic Loop. The route not only showcases 205 miles of brilliant autumn colors, but also highlights a diverse collection of wildlife and historical stops along the way.

Those eager to whip out the camera should not pass up Kebler Pass, a 10,000-foot ascent to some of West Elk Loop’s most vibrant scenery. This 30-mile section, which consists of gravel roadways at times, offers idyllic views of the area’s thousands of aspen trees and surrounding mountain ranges.

If you are seeking some relaxation along the way, immerse your tired body into the naturally made Penny Hot Springs near Carbondale, or try your feet at one of the route’s many hiking trails, teeming with bighorn sheep, deer and elk.

For a blast from the past, make your way through Dillon Pinnacles Trail, a hiking path along the Blue Mesa Reservoir that showcases the ancient Dillon Pinnacles – geological formations created over 30 million years ago by volcanic rock spewed from the West Elk Mountains.

Adrenaline junkies should consider being launched further back in time with a trek along the rugged cliffs and canyons that define the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, featuring weather-eroded rock from 2 billion years ago.

Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, Oregon

If you are looking to do some leaf peeping in the Pacific Northwest, look no further than the Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway in Oregon, and prepare to be dazzled by this 74-mile stretch, known by many as the “jewel of the northwest.”

Make a pit stop at one of the highway’s various vistas and look out at the fiery remnants of Big Leaf Maples, Cottonwoods and Oregon Ash Trees. Take a glance below and listen to the soothing sounds of the Columbia River or take a hike to one of the byway’s waterfalls.

Add to your sensory experience by driving through the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile loop off the bypass. You can even meet a fuzzy alpaca friend or snack on fresh produce at one of the route’s farm stands along the way.

Those hoping for the perfect picture should consider stopping at the Vista House at Crown Point and Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic viewpoint. Each spot features a panoramic view of the Columbia River gorge, the perfect backdrop for your family road trip picture.

The Bonneville Dam and the Mosier Twin Tunnels offer wondrous man-made additions to nature’s exquisite architecture.

 

So take advantage of these awe-inspiring drives and plan your next fall road trip: buckle up, roll down the windows, put on your favorite driving playlist, and dial up the fall foliage.

With each scenic mile, watch your worries vanish in the rearview mirror as your next fall road trip comes into view.