Winter is coming and while most lament the end of warmer weather, one definite pro of the in-between season of fall (that’s autumn in the US) is the breathtaking scenery, thanks to the changing colors of the leaves and kaleidoscope of yellow, red, orange and brown hues. So, it really is the perfect time to get in your car, even better if fitted with the right Pirelli tires, and enjoy the best that Nature has to provide with family and friends… plus, plenty of apple cider and donuts along the way! The US and Canada in particular has some stunning drive routes we’d like to share for inspiration.
Vermont is a time old honored locale for those who live in the North East of the US, thanks to its natural landscape and abundance of forests. It is popular year round for its lush greenery in summer and skiing in winter. In fall however, Vermont really comes into its own and turns all of those forests into a magical, multi-colored vista of ruby, amber, gold and rusty brown, thanks in part to its native sugar maple trees. The most popular route includes driving through one or all of these towns: Woodstock (a quintessential village with Billings Farm museum and an Insta-worthy bridge), Stowe (the alpine-esque town that in fact attracted the real Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music when they visited from Austria) and Montpelier (for a taste of Vermont’s famous maple syrup). Vermont is a 5 hour drive from New York City and easily accessible from Boston and Portland, Maine as well.
Credit: Vermont Department of Tourism
Credit: Vermont Department of Tourism
2) Finger Lakes
Another North-Eastern favorite for fall road trips, particularly for gourmands, is located about two and half hours north of the Big Apple: the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes region has many renowned wineries, as well as craft breweries and local cheesemakers in the region, so you can sample the local delicacies against the backdrop of rolling hills, lakes and vineyards in full fall glow mode. Why not match the burgundy, rouge and crimson leaf colors to your wines while you’re at it?
The best driving routes include Route 14S between Geneva and Watkins Glen, which runs alongside Seneca Lake, providing easy access to the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and the picturesque Watkins Glen State Park. Or you could take Route 54A following Keuka Lake between Penn Yan and Hammondsport. Keuka Lake State Park is just East of Branchport off 54A, and Herron Hill Winery is a slight, yet necessary detour nearby as well, seeing as it was voted as one of the 10 most spectacular wine tasting rooms in the world by Travel + Leisure.
Arbor Hill Winery Fall Vineyard, Naples. Credit: Photos Courtesy of VisitFingerLakes.com
Colorado is well known for its Aspen and Telluride ski resorts in winter, yet fall is also a beautiful time to visit this American state to view ‘The Rockies’ in all its changing-color splendor. One of the best drives in Colorado to see the fall leaf-stravaganza in fact revolves around an area that became famous for the notorious animated series with the same name: South Park. Trey Park and Matt Stone, the series’ creators, grew up in the nearby town of Conifer, which is where this drive begins and then later connects to South Park via the Kenosha Pass.
Starting in Conifer, admire the area’s Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs on your drive along Route 285, which traverses the Kenosha Pass – a high-altitude vantage point so you can see the surrounding aspen woodlands in blazing fall colors. The drive ends in Fairplay, the largest town in the South Park valley, which offers a scenic view of the Mosquito Range peaks in the west.
Placer Valley in Park County, Colorado. Credit: Miles Partnership
4) Banff & Lake Louise
Further north, there is also the ‘Canadian Rockies’, which offers an incredible drive from Banff to Lake Louise, two of Canada’s crown jewels when it comes to natural beauty. Banff is a resort town that sits within Banff National Park – Canada’s first National Park in fact and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lake Louise is a hamlet within Banff National Park that’s revered for its vivid turquoise waters – the perfect mirror to reflect the soaring mountain backdrop and stately Fairmont Chateau on the perimeter. In fall, the Larch trees here turn yellow, adding another color into one of the world’s most awe-inspiring mountain destinations.
With so much beauty we’d suggest the lesser traveled, narrow and winding Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1-A). This alternative route (compared to the quicker Trans-Canada Highway option) is a 50km scenic drive that connects these two iconic destinations and is considered one of the best scenic drives in Canada. Great stopping points include Castle Mountain and Mourant’s Curve, plus any time you are able to catch some of Canada’s wildlife – bears and deers – along the way!
Lake Louise. Credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography
Larches at Lake Louise. Credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography
5) The Laurentians
Rounding out our list with another Canadian specialty, The Laurentian Mountains are a worthy day trip destination from Montreal city. Located in southern Quebec, it’s a popular itinerary for locals in fall to appreciate the seasonal changing of the guard. Starting in Montreal, simply head north on Highway 15. Be sure to stop in at the quaint Mont Tremblant resort village, where you can take a gondola up to the summit to experience a sweeping view of some of the scarlet and russet-colored foliage from the highest peak in the Laurentians. Other highlights include the Charlevoix region with the striking Mont-Ste-Anne and St. Lawrence River; and finally Cap Tourmente, where thousands of Canadian geese can be seen flying south for winter.
No matter where you go this fall, it’s a good idea to check your car and tires to make sure they are best equipped to handle any leaf crunching, driving adventures that await!