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Hit the road for a scenic fall drive

Fall is the nicest season for rolling down the car windows, taking a drive and enjoying the scenery. Stop along the way to pick pumpkins, visit a winery, or stroll a woodsy trail sparkling with reds and golds. Watch the cranberry harvest in Massachusetts, take a moose tour in Maine or an elk tour in Colorado, or drive the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.
Timmy Liffers, 11, top, his mother Becky Liffers, center, and Mark Gomes work on the cranberry harvest in a bog in East Wareham, Mass., in this file photo. Cranberries have been the signature crop of southeastern Massachusetts for centuries. Michael Dwyer / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Fall is the nicest season for rolling down the car windows, taking a drive and enjoying the scenery. Stop along the way to pick pumpkins, visit a winery, or stroll a woodsy trail sparkling with reds and golds. Watch the cranberry harvest in Massachusetts, take a moose tour in Maine or an elk tour in Colorado, or drive the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.

Here are a few routes around the country to consider as you plan your autumn outings.

Fall color in Southern California? You bet, but it's a little bit later in the season than what you'll find in the North and East. The first week of November is the best time to see the cottonwoods and oaks northeast of San Diego, in Cuyamaca State Park, on Highway 79. Or try the 23-mile drive along Highway 78 from the town of Ramona to , where apple harvest season runs mid-September to mid-November. For more on fall foliage in California, including mountains and forests in the northern part of the state, go .

Here, fall means yellow cottonwood trees and red and gold aspens. Fall is also mating season for elks, which put on a show by making loud distinctive calls known as bugling. They can be seen and heard through the end of October and into early November in Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Mueller Park and many other places around the state.

One hourlong drive runs along Highway 141 from Grand Junction to Gateway, about 50 miles, with elevations from 4,500 to 7,000 feet. The best time to go is early September through mid-October.

In Gateway, is offering a "Canyon Colors" package that includes a photography excursion with an elk guide, foliage tours on horseback and by ATV, a massage, trout fishing and more, starting at $950 for two nights.

Great River Road
This 2,000-mile road runs along the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In addition to fall colors and river views, you'll find rustic red barns, antique stores, and historic sites like Mark Twain's hometown of Hannibal, Mo., and the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. Details .

Summertime crowds are gone in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks but the weather is good and so is the fishing. Oak, ash, maple, redbud, dogwood, hickory, persimmon and sassafras trees usually put on their colorful shows early to mid-October.

Take a leisurely drive along two-lane roads in a 25-mile loop through woods and bluffs with views of the Lake of the Ozarks and stop for lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Start on Business Highway 54 at the Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark for a six-mile view of Bagnell Dam and the lake. Travel south to the Historic Bagnell Dam Strip. At Route HH, cross the Community Bridge to Route MM west, to Route TT south to Route F north to Highway 5 south.

Continue on Highway 5 south and turn west onto Lake Road 5-88 to the Camdenton Fire Tower. Return to Highway 5 south, turn west on Highway 54, then south on Route D to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Explore the castle ruins there and enjoy the view from a 250-foot bluff. Return to Highway 54, turn south onto Lake Road 54-85, and end the trip at the Casa de Loco Winery, in a restored historic 1930s fishing lodge. For more information, go .

Elsewhere in Missouri, Highway 100 or Highway 94, which straddle the Missouri River, offer plenty of scenery to ooh and aah over, but also take you through wine country. October is a big month for festivals in the area. Check the foliage reports .

Glade Top Trail Forest Road 147 is a high ridge road near the Mark Twain National Forest, with 23 miles of scenic panoramas of the Springfield Plateau to the northwest and the St. Francis and Boston Mountains to the south.

Sugar Camp Scenic Byway Forest Road 197, between Highway 112 and Highway 86, traverses a ridgetop in the southwest corner of the state. It's a two-lane gravel road with colorful oak, hickory and sugar maples.

Start in Missoula and head north along Highway 93 around Flathead Lake. Grab lunch in Kalispell at and continue on to Bigfork, then loop back to Missoula. Along the way, stop in at St. Ignatius Mission to see the 58 handpainted murals.

From Kalispell, you could head east to which offers mild fall weather, uncrowded roads, colorful mountainsides and the occasional glimpse of mountain goats or bighorn sheep. Highway 2 along the park's southern border follows the scenic Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Elsewhere in Montana, the 90-mile drive from Seeley Lake to Swan Lake on Highway 83 provides a good look at the western larch tree, whose needles turn gold and red in the fall.

New England
Nothing compares to the explosion of red, yellow, orange, green and gold across New England each autumn.

Yankee Magazine is a great resource for planning trips in the region. Check out event listings and scenic drive suggestions . One attraction recommended by Yankee for a family outing is the eight-acre in Sterling, Mass., north of Worcester, open through Nov. 11 — $14.95 adults, $12.95 children.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, head to Wareham, about an hour from Boston, for the Cranberry Harvest Celebration, Oct. 6-7. For more cranberry tours and events around Massachusetts, go .

In central and northern Maine, the farther north you go on Route 201, the fewer towns you'll see. But watch out for moose and logging trucks! Start the trip in Skowhegan (exit 133 off of I-95), and in 75 miles, you'll be in Jackman. The National Scenic Byways Program refers to the winding road as the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway. Just past Jackman is the border with Quebec. Loop back south of Jackman by taking Route 15 east to Rockwood and Greenville on Moosehead Lake. While you're at the lake, take a . Head back to Skowhegan by taking Route 15 to Dover-Foxcroft, then Route 150.

For Connecticut, you'll find fall drive ideas . The Litchfield Hills Driving Loop, a scenic 100-mile route through small towns, begins in Torrington at the intersection of Routes 202 and 63. Head north on Route 8 to Winsted, then Route 44 to Canaan. Take Route 7 past the historic West Cornwall Covered Bridge across the Housatonic River. From there, Route 45 heads to Warren and becomes a scenic road around Lake Waramaug. In New Preston take Route 202, then south on Route 47 to Washington Depot and north on Route 109 to East Morris. Route 63 heading north takes you back to Litchfield, then east on Route 118 to Route 8 to close the loop.

Enter Vermont via Interstate 89 and start a scenic 100-mile loop at Exit 9. Head south on Route 100B to Route 100 along the Mad River. You'll see rolling hills, family farms, and the Green Mountains. Route 100 is also home to interesting shops like Mad River Glass Gallery and restaurants like the 1824 Inn. Take a right on Route 17 west toward the Appalachian Gap (known locally as the "App Gap") mountain pass through the Green Mountains. Stop at the top to sightsee or hike on The Long Trail. Continuing west on Route 17, look for signs to Lincoln, and loop back to Route 100. Go through Lincoln to Granville and stop by . At the junction of Route 125, stop at the Old Hancock Hotel for a meal. Follow Route 125 west from Hancock to Middlebury.

In Rhode Island, a classic autumn drive begins on Route 3 from Exit 1 off I-95 toward downtown Westerly. Follow Route 1A to the seaside village of Watch Hill, and take a spin on the nation's oldest carousel. Stroll along Bay Street before following Route 1A and Route 1 north through Charlestown, Wakefield and Narragansett Pier. From Wickford, follow Route 102 north through the Pawcatuck Borderlands. Look for signs for farmstands and pick-your-own orchards. In Chepachet Village, you'll find antique shops, including the Brown & Hopkins Country Store. Continue north on 102 to Nasonville and Wright's Chicken Farm, a family-style restaurant. Head north on 102 to 146 South and back to I-295. For more information on fall in Rhode Island, go .

In New Hampshire, the Connecticut River Scenic Byway parallels New England's longest river. Meander through the towns of Charlestown and Claremont, across Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge to Windsor, Vt., and cross back to New Hampshire, where you can also stop in at the Dartmouth College and Hood Museum of Art. In Cornish, stroll through 150 acres at the former home of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Details .

New York
The is a 90-mile loop around the longest of New York's Finger Lakes. The route includes 19 wineries and 215-foot-tall Taughannock Falls. Routes 5 and 20 take you across the northern part of the loop, Route 89 runs on the western side and Route 90 is on the eastern side. North of the loop you'll find the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, and south of the loop you'll find Ithaca, home to Cornell University.

Virginia-North Carolina-Tennessee
Virginia was named one of five "up-and-coming wine regions" in the world in the July issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, which mentioned Barboursville Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, and Linden Vineyards among the places worth visiting. The , located in the Charlottesville area near Thomas Jefferson's historic home (about 120 miles from Washington D.C.), showcases 21 wineries. October is also "Virginia Wine Month," with festivals, special events and package deals; details .

Elsewhere in Virginia, just 75 miles from Washington, D.C. in the town of Front Royal, you'll find the entrance to . The drive runs 105 miles to Rockfish Gap, where it meets the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can drive Skyline in a day with stops along the way at scenic overlooks and loop trails through the woods. The 1.3-mile Limberlost Trail (at milepost 43) is a magical walk through a dense forest of towering trees, perfect for a family outing.

The runs 469 miles from Virginia through the Blue Ridge Mountains to North Carolina, ending at in Tennessee. Take a week to explore the entire parkway, or pick a section for a day trip or an overnight. Highlights include Mount Mitchell State Park, home to the highest peak in the East; scenic Linville Gorge; Roan Mountain; Mount Pisgah; Shining Rock Wilderness Area, and the town of Cherokee, where you'll find the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Oconaluftee Village.

The in North Carolina is offering a new multi-attraction pass this season called The Go Blue Ridge Card, which provides discounts and special offers at 35 merchants, attractions and restaurants from the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville to Chimney Rock Park, Rockhouse Vineyards and the Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain. The online card price for adults is $79 for two days.