The official start of fall is still a few weeks away, but already the leaves are going to turn before you know it. Soon the air will be brisk and scented with the unmistakable fragrance of wood smoke… Some of the most brilliant displays of Mother Nature’s fall colors are in the Midwest, the Appalachian Mountains, the Southeast and the Northeast corridor, but that’s not to say there aren’t fabulous fall foliage drives in other unexpected places.
Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona You might have to wait until the third week of October for the most brilliant display of color down the Oak Creek Canyon, especially along the West Fork hiking trail. The route from Sedona to Flagstaff along 89A is one of the most scenic drives in Arizona, showing off the reds, oranges and golds of oak, sycamore and aspen, as well as pink color sugar maples.
This scenic route is gorgeous but narrow and has several hairpin turns on the way up to Flagstaff; just take your time and keep your eye on the road. There are several turn offs and restaurants where you can park to admire the scenery and take pictures.
Uinta National Forest, Utah Utah’s Nebo Loop Scenic Byway is south of Salt Lake City and Provo. It offers breathtaking views of the Wasatch Range and 11,929-foot Mt. Nebo, plus a fiery fall display courtesy of the resident aspens, oaks and maples. Hunting and horseback riding are allowed here, and it’s a popular area for watching wildlife. The one-hour drive along the loop takes you through the town of Payson. Hairpin curves are plentiful and there may be snow present as early as October, so come early.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan Colors peak in the interior portions of the Western Upper Peninsula during the last week of September. You can still catch good color through the first week of October and some areas keep their brilliance through mid-October. Ninety percent of the area is covered in maple and ash forest, so you will find yourself surrounded by a sea of gold, orange, red and green—with beautiful deep blues and frothy whites courtesy of the lakes and waterfalls.
Northern New Mexico This area comes with its very own train: the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, so you can view the spectacular aspens and leave the driving to someone else. The train will take you through the San Juan-Rocky Mountains through a 10,000-foot elevation. The national forests along the wilderness areas near Santa Fe and Taos also offer short jaunts for foliage watching. Fall colors typically begin mid to late September in the higher elevations of northern New Mexico, with most of the peak viewing in early to mid October. The lower elevations usually peak in mid to late October and can continue into early November.
Stowe, Vermont Stowe bills itself “Fall’s Color Capitol,” so we couldn’t very well leave it off the list. This classic New England village offers the best viewing from the last week of September through the first two weeks of October. The scenic drive starts on Route 7 headed south. The area also offers river and lake tours, cycling and mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, winery tours and even zip line tours.
Hitting the road? Don’t forget your SkyMed TAKES YOU HOME membership – in case of emergency, we’ll even make sure your vehicle gets back, too!