7 Road Trips to View Stunning Fall Foliage

Take an affordable vacation through one of these East Coast fall wonderlands.

from The Most Scenic Drives in America
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New York Adirondack Adventure
The Adirondack Park, the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi, sprawls far and wide across upstate New York -- a rugged, pristine realm where forests and mountains reign supreme. Encompassing both public and private land, the Adirondack Park is shaped a bit like a giant oval, and it bounds an astounding 6 million acres -- a tapestry of woodlands, meadows, high-shouldered peaks, and thousands of streams and lakes. Tiny villages are nestled across the countryside, and campgrounds and trails abound. It is no wonder, then, that visitors who come here tend to stay a while in order to savor the stunning scenery, protected since 1892 by a state law decreeing that the park shall remain ''forever wild.'' Above, the 16,000-acre Wilmington Flume Preserve on Rte. 86 is part of Adirondack Park.

Length: About 270 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Fine scenery year-round, with drastic and dramatic seasonal changes.

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Maryland Panhandle
Hidden in the time-worn mountains of far western Maryland is a pristine province where rivers run deep, forests grow thick, and tiny mountain towns beckon with cozy inns and tales of frontier lore. Above, the Casselman Bridge of Grantsville, a mountain village populated mostly by Amish and Mennonites since the 1800s.

Length: About 170 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Best between May and October.

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Massachusetts Mohawk Trail
Forested mountains, rich river-bottom farmlands, and riotous explosions of autumn color -- the splendors of this Massachusetts drive have inspired the raves of travelers for generations. Above, a floral cascade blankets the streamside trail at Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls.

Length: About 60 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Popular year-round, but best in fall for the foliage.

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South Carolina Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway
Threading along the slopes of the southern Appalachians, this drive crosses an ancient Indian path as it winds past orchards and a historic battlefield to a land of forests, lakes, and a legendary white-water river. More than 50 waterfalls-among them some of the tallest in the East-splash down from the heights of the Upcountry, as South Carolinians call these western mountains. At Raven Cliff Falls (shown above) visitors look up to see a series of cascades that plunge more than 400 feet through a narrow gorge. In autumn, when the foliage of oaks, hickories, and maples achieves its peak, Raven Cliff affords one of the state's most splendid scenes: a misty tableau of yellows, reds, and oranges enlivened by the dancing silver water of the falls.

Length: About 130 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Fine scenery year-round; icy conditions may close roads in winter.

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West Virginia Midland Trail
In the rugged mountains of lower West Virginia, where wild rivers race between towering cliffs, the twists and turns along this drive offer irresistible temptations to slow down and savor the views. Above is the autumn view of Hawk's Nest State Park. A park gondola carries passengers down into the depths of the gorge. Wildflowers stud the slopes in spring; come fall, the region is a golden blaze of fluttering foliage.

Length: About 120 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Popular year-round.

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Vermont Green Mountain Highway
This classic tour through the heart of Vermont passes green pastures grazed by contented cattle, tidy villages with quaint general stores, and mountains that seem as old as time. Words to the wise: Book reservations early for fall foliage tours and accommodations. Above is Plymoth Notch in the fall, the town encapsulates 30th president Calvin Coolidge's life.

Length: About 220 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Popular year-round; fall foliage is especially beautiful in early to mid-October-newspapers have color reports.

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New Hampshire White Mountain Wonderland
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,” wrote Robert Frost, moved by the icy beauty of the White Mountains. But while these sugarcone peaks live up to their name only in winter, they are worth a visit at any time of year. Best from mid-September to mid-October, when fall foliage is at its most spectacular. Above, a pond at the 6,500-acre Franconia Notch State Park which is built around a spectacular mountain pass.

Lenth: About 125 miles, plus side trips.

When to go: Popular year-round, but best from mid-September to mid-October, when fall foliage is at its most spectacular.

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