Ohio Fall Foliage Drive
When to Go: Peak season for leaf peeping in Ohio is from late September through October, with trees turning color first in the north and later in the south.
Driving Tip: Watch your speed when driving through Ohio, where police in small towns are notorious for dishing out tickets. Besides, what's the hurry? If you go too fast, you won't be able to enjoy the brilliant colors.
Distance: Approximately 200 miles
Length of Trip: 2 days
Stop 1: Cleveland Metroparks
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is cradled by a section of the Cleveland Metroparks, an extensive set of nature preserves that encircle the city. The trees here are painted in remarkable colors, and falling acorns make for frequent sightings of squirrels and white-tailed deer. A two-lane street weaves through the fall foliage, but the park system is much more than a pretty, winding drive: there are also plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, ride horses, fish and picnic.
From the airport, make your way to Valley Parkway and head southeast through two of the park's reservations: Mill Stream Run and Brecksville. Within the first 20 minutes, you'll cross one of Ohio's historic wooden covered bridges. At the end of the Brecksville Reservation is Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio's only national park and the next stop on the trip.
Stop 2: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Once inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park's thick forest, it's hard to tell you're just minutes from the Cleveland metropolitan area. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the main trail in the park, was once the artery for natural resources traveling between the U.S. interior and the eastern seaboard. Today, it's a hiking and biking trail ripe for catching the colors of fall.
There's so much to explore in the park you may want to spend the night. Plenty of accommodation options are in and on the outskirts the park, from backcountry camping to cozy inns.
From Cuyahoga Valley National Park, travel south on I-77 and then follow state routes OH-21 S and OH-93 S for about an hour. The unspoiled landscape is an excellent place to catch the colors of fall, and you may well catch sight of a horse and buggy.
Stop 3: Yoder's Amish Home
You'd hardly know it as you approach, but this drive takes you through the largest Amish settlement in the world, where approximately 40,000 people live and work. Get out of the car and stretch your legs at this 116-acre farm, where you can see how apple butter is made, tour two homes furnished in traditional Amish decor and even take a buggy for a spin.
It's a 3-hour drive to get to Hocking Hills State Park, a hiker's paradise set in the dense Appalachian forest. You'll know you're almost there when the landscape changes from rolling hills to sugarlumps. Be careful when driving here: the roads are curvy and mix together like strands of spaghetti, making it easy to get disoriented.
Stop 4: Hocking Hills State Park
Once you're in the park, several natural attractions are easy, short hikes from the road. Check out Old Man's Cave, a narrow, deep gorge, and Cedar Falls, a waterfall just south of the cave. If you need a meal to keep you going -- or a place to hang your hat for the night -- the Inn at Cedar Falls is a log cabin turned bed and breakfast with an excellent, locally sourced menu. For a different leaf-peeping adventure, try Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours, which offers propeller-powered tours of spectacular fall colors from the sky.
From Hocking Hills State Park, it's an hour drive north through more glorious fall foliage to Port Columbus International Airport, or you can take the 3-hour drive back to Cleveland.
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