There are times when driving your dream vehicle becomes truly exhilarating. Pairing beautiful scenery with your drive goes hand in hand like a warm fire and hot chocolate. But instead of a warm hearth and delectable beverage, the best drives are paired with fail foliage and autumn colors splashed around as the leaves whip up in the wake of your path. This is like a gift to many car enthusiasts since a few months later, many people are confined indoors due to inclement winter weather that does not lend itself to the full potential of speed or thrills on the road, at least safely. There are some truly beautiful areas out there that are prime spots to drive and make a great day out of seeing the fall colors. Here are some of those spots.
The Ortega Highway-California
Live in a big city? In an area where there doesn’t seem like fall colors are much an option? For those living in the Southern California area particularly near Los Angeles, you are in luck and won’t have to travel very far to still enjoy an autumn drive. The Ortega Highway is one that winds itself through the mountains going from the San Juan Capistrano area to the Lake Elsinore Valley. Also known as Historic Route 74, this route has plenty of hairpin twists and turns that are sure to please any car enthusiast looking for that thrill on the road. Fall colors await you and you will forget you are even in a big city once you are graced with the mosaic of autumn beauty. This route is particularly special this time of year as the rumor is that it is haunted. This is a great treat if you have little ones in the car with you. To get there from the west, take the I-5 freeway south or north towards San Juan Capistrano, exit Ortega Highway East and take it all the way towards Lake Elsinore. From the east, take I-15 to Lake Elsinore, exit Central Ave and go west, follow to a T then turn right, drive a ½ mile to the light and turn left on Riverside Drive, road curves to the left onto Grand Ave, follow Grand Ave to a 3-way stop and turn right on to 74 Ortega Highway.
Colorado is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Everything from forests, mountains, plains and overall stunning views, this state is nothing short of a gold mine when it comes to opportunities for seeing fall colors. One such drive that is well worth it especially before winter weather hits is Mt. Evans. The highest paved road in America leads you to the summit of this majestic mountain and gives the gift of spectacular views and colorful backdrops of varying colors from the trees. Known as Colorado Highway 5, this route is a great drive to check off your bucket list as well as add to beautiful autumn adventure. Plenty of wildlife also inhabits the surrounding areas so photo opportunities are plentiful as well as sightings of goats, big horned sheep, birds, and several marmots. To access the area from I-70, take exit 240 in Idaho Springs, follow Highway 103 south until it meets Echo Lake, then take Highway 5 to the top of Mt. Evans. From Bergen Park, take Squaw Pass Road/Highway 103 westbound and travel to Echo Lake, from there take Highway 5 to the top of Mt. Evans. (Mt Evans Pictured in main image)
No doubt that Maine is well known for colder weather and beautiful fall colors so it’s only natural we include a drive in this far corner of the country. The golden road as it is called, goes from Millinocket all the way to Quebec but only about the first 40 miles of this route will yield the fall colors you seek. Make sure you gas up before heading along this route which hugs along the edges of Baxter State Park giving spectacular views of dense forests and lakes. The end of the route brings you to a view of Ripogenus Gorge which is a mile-long canyon made up of 240-foot rock walls. Be sure to bundle up and grab your hot chocolate for this ride as it will be chilly this time of year. Start your route in Millinocket taking Golden Rd eastbound and end in Piscataquis.
Lexington to Concord-Massachusetts
While this drive may only be about 15 minutes from end to end, it is still a drive that people living in the city can take and one for any history buffs as well. Lots of stops pepper the route along the way so you can make a day out of this adventure. Main Streets Market & Café for lunch is a great stop along the way. If you start on Massachusetts Ave in Lexington and pull over at Old Belfry, this is where you can find the very bell that sounded the alarm that began the Revolutionary War on April 19th, 1775. Just a little further up you’ll find a small lot where Paul Revere was captured and arrested by British Officers during his famed midnight ride. This lot can be found on Route 2A towards Concord. History and fall colors are a treat with this route so be sure to travel along it before winter hits!
Tail of the Dragon-Tennessee
Nestled among the sea of the Appalachia area is a route known by locals as the Tail of the Dragon which snakes itself from eastern Tennessee into the western areas of North Carolina. This 11-mile route is one that is sure to inspire excitement, adventure and awe. With a whopping total of 318 curves and fall colors galore, this is one adventure that definitely is where bragging rights are well earned. The closest major towns to this well-known road are Asheville, NC and Knoxville, TN. This is one route to be taken with some care as the twists and turns can be treacherous. Needless to say, while this road is “as fierce as a dragon”, as long as you are careful and mindful, this road is one that will be as exciting as it is visually thrilling
Sonoma to Napa-California
California is known for having near perfect weather in many areas all year round. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state are near the wineries and more central based between the mammoth cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. The further into the central basin you get, the more some fall colors strike out and are more apparent in areas such as Napa Valley. Cruising up along Oakville Grade Road and taking Highway 12 leads you between Sonoma and Napa for some spectacular views and is ideal for a drive with the top down since it cools slightly around this time of year in the area. Let’s also not forget he better known Silverado Trail which takes you along the valley’s eastern hills. Wineries in the Napa Valley area and along these routes lend themselves to quiet days of relaxation, spectacular picture opportunities, and plenty of options of places to stop and eat along the way in these areas. So many wineries are in the area it’s virtually impossible to visit every one of them even if you had a week. While this may be a little longer of a drive away from the big city, it is well more than worth it once you gaze upon the beauty of the area. (Pictured below)