America's Most Scenic Fall Drives [Slideshow]

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M-119 Drive, Michigan
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Michigan Highway 119

Sidestep Michigan's ever-popular Highway 22 and drive almost four hours from Harbor Springs, Michigan—one of the northern-most cities on Michigan's gold coast—to Hart, Michigan to enjoy what locals call the "tunnel of trees." The route takes leaf peepers on nearly all 20 miles of the M-119 in its gold, orange and red splendor. Travelers rave about the quaint Good Hart General Store at the end of the day's drive.

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Skyline Drive, Virginia
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Skyline Drive

At 3,000 feet elevation at some points, this 105-mile road offers twists and turns through the gorgeous Shenandoah National Park. For a day trip, start at Front Royal on the northern end of the drive and head to Big Meadow for a picnic lunch at mile 51. There are 75 overlooks along the course of the drive for admiring nature longer than the flow of traffic allows.

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Adirondacks, New York
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New York State Route 9N

With more than 50 scenic lakes, the Adirondacks host some of the best fall foliage views in the country. Skip the crowds and follow State Route 9N down the length of Lake George, starting in Ticonderoga, New York, tracing the lake all the way to the township of Lake George about 60 miles away at the base of the lake. Black cherry, red maple and American beech line the shore, promising an array of color nearly unparalleled.

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Trail Ridge Road, Colorado
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Trail Ridge Road, Colorado

From Estes Park west to Grand Lake, Colorado, Trail Ridge Road is Colorado's iconic, winding path perfect for catching autumn in full force. This 48-mile stretch of Highway 34 climbs through Rocky Mountain National Park to elevations on the north end of 12,000 feet. Quaking aspen, with tall and slender trunks, are famous for their fall color in stark contrast to their snowy white trunks.

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Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
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Kancamagus Highway

Along Route 112 in New Hampshire, the Kancamagus Highway—just "The Kanc," as the locals call it—is 34.5 miles of White National Forest foliage views. There are no hotels or restaurants cluttering the stretch, leaving you to enjoy the uninterrupted natural views. 

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Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
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Blue Ridge Parkway

This sprawling queen of scenic drives on the East Coast stretches from Virginia through North Carolina. Opt for the northern end of the parkway for a day trip from Rockfish Gap to Peaks of Otter. Short hop-off trails like Thunder Ridge offer sweeping panoramic views of the local area.

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Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
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Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a loop that links the artist haven of Taos, New Mexico, with its neighboring towns. Hop on Highway 522 to Questa, New Mexico and catch a glimpse of the 12,000-foot Mount Wheeler. Continue on Highway 38 to Red Rock, a prime skiing destination. The whole loop is less than 90 miles, easily done in one trip or split into several days to enjoy each city's ample offerings of things to do, eat and see.

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Door County, Wisconsin
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Wisconsin Highway 57 to Wisconsin Highway 42

Door County, Wisconsin, is hailed as some of the best leaf peeping in the nation and—possibly—in the world. Door County is a peninsula between the Green Bay and Lake Michigan so you can be sure to expect miles of gorgeous shoreline and picturesque parks. Start in Bailey's Harbor and drive the winding 30 miles to Northport, the tip of the peninsula. Opt for a ferry ride to Sand Dunes Park for uninterrupted views of the area's fall color.

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Woodstock, Vermont covered bridge
(©DevonshireMedia/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Vermont Highway 44 to Vermont Highway 106

Leave Ascutney, Vermont, and pick up Route 44A—Black Mountain Road—then Highway 106 into Woodstock. You'll travel through the woods of Ascutney State Park and take a close look at Mount Ascutney. The long-abandoned ski trails going down the mountain beg for a quick hike through the forest before lunch at a quaint tavern in Woodstock.

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Newfound Gap, Tennessee
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U.S. Route 441

Ride Route 441 from Knoxville, Tennessee, all the way to Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is prime leaf peeping territory so plan for long delays while passing Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Expect payoff views of North Carolina and well into Tennessee on a clear day.

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State Route 97, New York
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Upper Delaware Scenic Byway

Start at the headwaters of the Delaware River in Hancock, New York and trace nearly the entire 70 miles to Hawk's Nest, an undulating lookout in Deerpark, New York, that serves as one of the area's most photogenic areas.

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Lake Tahoe, United States
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California Highway 89

Hug the west shore of Lake Tahoe on this 40-mile, two-lane highway that meanders from Truckee to South Lake Tahoe. Take a detour turning off of Highway 89 for Fallen Leaf Lake: The area is a gem for hiking and fishing. 

By Jamie Jackson on 08/30/2016

The U.S. has nine climate zones, and each welcomes fall with a grand fanfare all its own. 

While the Northeast is known for the most grand of nature's celebrations, there are drives all over the country that pack in the great fall views ranging the spectrum of autumn color. Leaf peepers take full advantage of America's roadways during this time—typically September to mid-October each year—and for good reason. 

So don't wait: cruise down beloved or off-the-beaten-path highways and byways to get the most out of these dazzling fall drives.