Sunspot Scenic Byway Voted New Mexico's Best Drive for Fall Foliage in 2023


Sunspot Scenic Byway Voted New Mexico's Best Drive for Fall Foliage in 2023.

  •  Survey of 3,000 reveals America's top 140 drives for fall foliage this year.
  • Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway voted 2nd, and High Road to Taos Scenic Byway 3rd. 

Every fall, the United States undergoes a vibrant transformation. From the dense forests of New England to the vast expanses of the Rockies, trees shift from their summer greens to a rich display of oranges, yellows, and reds. This change in foliage is one of the country's most anticipated natural events, drawing both locals and tourists alike. For those looking to experience this spectacle firsthand, a road trip is often the best way to do it. Across America, there are numerous routes designed to showcase the beauty of the autumn leaves, passing through charming towns and along peaceful lakes.

Gunther VW Coconut Creek ran a survey of 3,000 respondents, asking them to rate their favorite routes to witness fall foliage, to help fellow travelers discover these picturesque routes.

New Mexico had 3 scenic drives voted among the country's best for witnessing fall foliage this year. 

New Mexico's top pick for fall foliage drives was the Sunspot Scenic Byway, voted in 62nd place nationally. Starting from the town of Cloudcroft and culminating at the Sunspot Solar Observatory, this 16-mile route offers a unique blend of astronomical intrigue and natural splendor. As travelers ascend higher into the mountains, they are greeted by expansive vistas of the Tularosa Basin below, with White Sands National Park shimmering in the distance. The dense pine and fir forests that line the byway come alive in various hues during the fall, creating a striking contrast against the azure New Mexican sky. 

The second most popular in the state, and 87th overall, was the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. Starting and ending in Taos, the byway winds through the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, revealing a mosaic of alpine meadows, crystalline lakes, and dense forests. In the fall, this scenic drive is nothing short of magical. The aspen trees, in particular, steal the show with their golden leaves shimmering against the backdrop of azure skies, creating a vibrant contrast to the deep green pines and firs. 

And third place in the state went to the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway. It was voted in 109th position nationally. The High Road to Taos Scenic Byway in New Mexico is a stunning route connecting Santa Fe to Taos. Winding through diverse landscapes, from high desert plains to dense pine forests, this byway showcases New Mexico's unique beauty. In the fall, golden aspens contrast with the green pines and desert terrain, offering a vibrant display. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, drives near towns in Northeastern states dominated the top 10, with Seneca Trail US Route 219 in West Virginia voted as the nation’s favorite. The results for the top 5 were as follows:

#1 Seneca Trail US Route 219, West Virginia. 

This historic pathway, once tread by Native American tribes, now serves as a scenic route that showcases the unparalleled beauty of the Appalachian Highlands. During the fall, the trail becomes a tapestry of color as the dense forests of oak, maple, and hickory transform into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows. The undulating hills and valleys amplify the beauty, with each turn revealing panoramic vistas of the flaming autumn foliage. Adding to the allure of the drive, the Seneca Trail is dotted with quaint towns and landmarks, each echoing tales of the region's rich history and cultural heritage. 

#2 Falls Road (MD Route 25), Maryland.

Falls Road (MD Route 25) in Maryland offers a picturesque journey through Baltimore County's countryside. In autumn, the route transforms with trees donning vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. Paralleling the Jones Falls stream, the road weaves through historic stone structures and farmlands, blending Maryland's rich history with its seasonal beauty. This drive is a serene escape, showcasing the state's mix of urban and rural landscapes.

#3 Allegheny Scenic Drive in Pennsylvania.

The Allegheny Scenic Drive in Pennsylvania is a notable route for observing fall foliage primarily because it traverses the expansive Allegheny National Forest. This area contains a significant concentration of deciduous trees, which, during the fall season, undergo a transformation, displaying a range of red, orange, and yellow hues. The topography of the region, characterized by its hills, lakes, and dense woodlands, enhances the viewing experience by offering diverse vantage points. Additionally, the drive features multiple overlooks and pull-offs, facilitating easy stops for observation and photography. The combination of natural biodiversity and the region's geographical features make it a prime location for fall foliage enthusiasts.

#4 Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway, South Carolina.

The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway, winding through South Carolina's upcountry, is a magnificent journey that encapsulates the state's rich history and stunning natural beauty. Spanning along SC Highway 11, this byway hugs the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering panoramic vistas of rolling hills, lush forests, and serene lakes. In the fall, the journey becomes particularly breathtaking as the deciduous trees lining the route explode in a vibrant palette of crimsons, oranges, and golds. But the byway's charm is not just limited to its landscapes. Along the route, travelers can explore historic sites, local orchards, and artisanal craft shops, offering an immersive experience into the culture and heritage of the region. 

#5 Rim Rock Drive, Colorado.

This scenic roadway, carved into and along the edges of towering red rock canyons, offers travelers an intimate experience with the dramatic landscapes of the American Southwest. Stretching for 23 miles, the drive provides panoramic vistas of vast plateaus, deep canyons, and sandstone towers. In the fall, the lower elevations showcase a medley of golds and reds from cottonwoods and shrubs, adding a touch of autumnal charm to the already magnificent setting. Along the route, viewpoints and trailheads beckon visitors to stop and immerse themselves in the raw beauty of the surroundings. Rim Rock Drive isn't just a scenic journey; it's an expedition into the heart of Colorado's rugged and breathtaking wilderness.

Infographic showing America's top 140 drives for seeing fall foliage in 2023

With such diverse and stunning drives across the country, there's truly something for everyone. We hope that our findings inspire people to hit the road and immerse themselves in the unparalleled beauty of the American autumn landscape" says Joseph Gunther IV of Gunther VW Coconut Creek.