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Four Prime Leaf-Viewing Drives Powered by Cheaper Gas

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September 11, 2015
Lower gas prices, fall foliage tours

Cooler, crisper air means fall is on the way and with it, beautiful leaf-viewing drives to soak up Mother Nature’s palette.

Thanks to the still-low price of crude oil and gasoline, a weekend drive still makes for a relatively cheap getaway. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.65 in the middle of August, according to AAA’s Fuel Gage Report. That’s still down 80 cents a gallon from last year’s prices, and about 12 cents a gallon cheaper than just a month ago. Energy industry analysts expect gasoline to stay low.

So fill up the tank and hit the road with these four routes.

East: Vermont

New England has many scenic spots for fall drives, but Vermont is probably the most popular. Check Vermont.com’s foliage report for peak color days before heading out, beginning after Labor Day.

The best time to see the colors change in Vermont is typically around mid-September to late October, according to the website. Color changes generally start at the higher, cooler areas of the Green Mountains down into the Lake Champlain Valley and Connecticut River Valley, which means you move north to south across Vermont for the best foliage views.

Midwest: Southeast Ohio

Drive southeast of Columbus to find two impressive nature areas: Hocking Hills State Park and the much larger Wayne National Forest. The 2,300-plus acres of Hocking Hills are home to waterfalls, cliffs, deep recess caves, and forestland, while Wayne National Forest is set on a quarter-million acres of Appalachian foothills. If you want to get out of the car, Hocking Hills hosts “Grandma Gatewood's Fall Colors Hike” on October 17, a strenuous hike that spans roughly six miles of the Grandma Gatewood trail.

South: Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This southern roadway is particularly noted for its scenic beauty and celebrates its 100th birthday in 2016. The National Park System makes it easy to plan a trip with its parkway directory and travel planner that includes maps, wildlife information, a bloom calendar, lodging and attraction descriptions, and other information. Mid-October is usually fall foliage prime time, when you can expect to see birch, sassafras, and sourwood trees along the 469 miles of parkway.

West: Eastern Sierra, California

Looking for a mountain hideaway and maybe a glimpse of a Hollywood star or two? June Lake may be your answer. The area has been popular with nature lovers and some film stars since the 1920s.The lake itself is 14 miles around and is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada's famous attractions, such as Ansel Adams Wilderness, Yosemite National Park, and Bodie State Historic Park. October is usually peak leaf-viewing time, and this year the June Lake Chamber of Commerce hosts the third annual June Lake autumn beer festival on October 11. 

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