This Picturesque Southern Road Trip Route Is A Must-Visit In The Fall

The quintessential fall season is never complete without a scenic road trip through country backroads with a myriad of stunning fall foliage. Grab an oversized flannel and your favorite fall treats from Trader Joe's before setting out on Natchez Trace Parkway, a favorite drive in the South. This off-the-grid byway stretches 444 miles through some of the most remote regions in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, with a flurry of maple leaves out the window.

This crooked highway was once a historic trade route, tread on by Native Americans in centuries past. Today, it's a scenic byway through the Appalachian plateaus, pioneering mountains of Mississippi, and wooded foothills covered in vermillion maple and hickory trees. Mid-October through late November provide the best views when fall has reached the peak of its essence. While nearly every twist and turn features stunning foliage, there are a few sights that are worth spending a little extra time indulging in.

Explore the backroads of Tennessee

If you're interested in a short hike, right around mile marker 404.7, you will descend down a short yet steep trail until you reach the swift, crystal clear waters of Jackson Falls. Located an hour from Nashville, this cascading waterfall rushes over the rocks in an alcove before gently streaming into the Duck River. Amid the shaded wilderness, the falls are surrounded by crisp mahogany and vermillion leaves if you come in late November before winter settles in.

Metal Ford is the perfect quick pitstop on the Tennessee portion of this byway. With a gorgeous hiking trail along Buffalo River and a quaint picnic area, enjoy lunch-on-the-go with a view of the flowing river channel. You can also discover the tangible version of the "road less traveled" on Old Trace Drive, near milepost 376. A 1.5-mile backroad through Tennessee's countryside, this one-way frontier road still appears much like it did in the late 1800s, and in the fall months, it's set ablaze with the vibrant hues of autumn.

Fall foliage in northwest Alabama and Mississippi

As you cross state lines into northwestern Alabama, mark your map for Rock Spring Nature Trail in Lauderdale county. Located at milepost 330.2, the preserve is home to bubbling springs, dense woodlands, and wild beavers. Pumpkin spice latte in hand, turn back onto the highway and head for Freedom Hills Overlook. As the highest point on Natchez Trace Parkway on the stretch through Alabama, gaze out at the hardwood forest at this pinnacle. The overlook boasts panoramic views of the treetop canopy tinged with red, orange and bronze-coated leaves.

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Tishomingo State Park is one of Mississippi's most captivating wonders. During the fall seasons, the grounds are a scenic canvas of rolling hillsides blanketed in copper-toned hickory trees. 13 miles of hiking trails wind through the backwoods past rocky outcroppings and crevices tucked into the towering bluffs. For some of the best picturesque views and a cute photo op, wander across the Swinging Bridge at the end of the CCC camp trail. 

Perhaps one of the prettiest and most popular spots along Natchez Trace Parkway, Sunken Trace is an eroded corridor tucked in the backwoods of Mississippi. The shadowed path was gradually molded into a finely marked trail after being traversed by pioneers during America's westward expansion in the 1800s. Sunken Trace is an autumn wonderland during harvesting months, with a carpet of freshly fallen crimson leaves strewn across the forest floor.