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Sounds of Summer

These four scenic drives will put leaf peepers in the mood to plan autumn sojourns.
By Editorial Staff

Fall foliage aficionados, your favorite time of year may be a few months away, but now is the time to plan for autumn travel. September, October and November are prime time for scenic drives and cruises that pop with yellow, gold and red.

Talimena

Above: Outstanding autumn foliage can be viewed in Arkansas along the Talimena Scenic Drive. Arkansas Parks & Tourism photo

Below: The Blue Ridge Parkway is resplendent in the fall. North Carolina Division of Tourism photo

Blue Ridge

Most of us learned in elementary school why the leaves change color–the ins and outs of chlorophyll production and how temperature, light and water supply may affect the intensity and duration of that color–but many of us forgot the lesson just as quickly or simply don’t care. All we’re interested in is finding the best place at the best time to have the best view.

Within these four Southern scenic drives, you’re sure to find plenty to fall for in whichever location you choose.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When the weather cools here, Mother Nature breaks out her brightest crayon box and colors in the countryside. She’s helped all the while by almost 100 species of trees that share their hues on cue. Different trees at different altitudes turn at different times, painting and repainting the Tennessee and North Carolina park’s canvas all season. The most popular viewing area is Cades Cove, while Cataloochee, on the east side of the park and away from the main roads, is more secluded. For details, visit www.nps.gov/grsm.

Blue Ridge Parkway

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the parkway. The landscape here rises and falls as much as 4,000 feet within 50 miles of Asheville, N.C. That means a setting perfect for autumnal splendor as the leaves lose their green in a colorful cascade. Stay awhile because this stunning fall foliage show scattered across North Carolina and Virginia is billed as one of the longest-lasting in the country. The highway is busy during this time of year, but it offers pullouts and nearby trailheads that get leaf peepers closer to the seasonal shades and tints. More information can be found at www.blueridgeparkway.org.

Sheltowee Trace

Daniel Boone first explored and then led pioneers through the area now known as Daniel Boone National Forest. Today’s explorers can hike in Boone’s footsteps along the 269-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, which cuts a swath through the entire length of the forest. The trace begins at Pickett State Park in Tennessee and ends near Rowan County. To get the most out of fall foliage viewing, horses, off-road vehicles and mountain bikes are allowed on some portions of the trace. Visit www.americantrails.org for more information.

Talimena Scenic Drive

This scenic drive widely known for its fall foliage traverses two states, from Talihina, Okla., to Mena, Ark. The 54-mile national scenic byway winds its way through Ouachita National Forest and the Ouachita Mountains, with access to ample campgrounds, hiking, all-terrain vehicle and equestrian trails. The area is rich with history from the days of the Old West. The Oklahoma portion of the drive was once part of the Choctaw Nation and includes Horse Thief Spring Historic Site, a famous outlaw hideaway waiting to be explored. Details are at www.byways.org.

Colorful Cruising

Take in all the autumnal beauty of Canada and New England on a seven-day cruise in September or October. Departures from New York City are available from several cruise lines, including Carnival and Princess. Royal Caribbean will have six departures from Boston for Jewel of the Seas fall foliage voyages.

Shorter or longer cruises also are available. Take in the scenery on a five-night luxury cruise onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, departing New York City on Oct. 7.

Compiled by editors at AAA’s Home & Away and Southern Traveler magazines.

Jul/Aug 2010 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

Catching fall foliage at its peak is tricky, but finding it at the best time can be aided through Web sites such as The Foliage Network, www.foliagenetwork.com, which has almost 600 spotters checking in twice a week.

To plan your own fall foliage getaway, contact a AAA Travel agent or AAA.com/travel.


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