While the calendar tells us when fall officially arrives, around here, we know that it doesn’t truly feel like fall until we experience the wisps of chilly autumn air, the smell of tobacco barns off in the distance, and the painted canvas of reds and yellows as leaves turn on trees.
On Sunday afternoons, one of my favorite activities in the entire world is hopping on a two-lane road, turning up the radio, and seeking a new adventure.
There’s nothing quite like rolling down the windows and going for a drive with autumn laid out in front of you. Next time you’re looking to leave the hustle and bustle behind, check out these five scenic fall drives.
The Natchez Trace Parkway
Two-lanes into Leiper’s Fork
There are several two-lane roads that lead toward the charming village of Leiper’s Fork, and all of them involve winding curves under a canopy of colorful trees.
When you arrive at your autumn paradise, you’ll want to spend the day. Leiper’s Fork was made for the fall; it’s a town full of front porches made for sitting, fire pits made for marshmallow roasting, rocking chairs made for storytelling, and whiskey made for sipping.
It’s truly idyllic.
Pull off and park so you can browse through boutique art galleries and chat up locals who are always willing to share their fall with visitors. Don’t fill up on s’mores—there are plates of everything good and southern waiting for you at Fox & Locke (formerly Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork) and The Country Boy.
You can jump right on and off the Natchez Trace Parkway near Leiper’s Fork to keep your scenic drive going.
Downtown Franklin to Bowie Nature Park
The most memorable fall trips are the ones with hidden gems along the way that you can tell your friends about for years. This Tennessee drive is best started in the park at one of the free parking garages in Downtown Franklin.
Get out for a stroll down historic Main Street, where local shopkeepers and restaurateurs are always decorating for the season. Even if you don’t have time to sit and stay awhile, a drive around the square, through Downtown, past the historic Franklin Theatre, and by the homes in Hincheyville Historic District showcases a snapshot of Franklin’s charisma.
Once you’ve had your fill of Great American Main Street, take Highway 96 and Highway 100 into Fairview toward Bowie Nature Park. The countryside views themselves are worth the 20-mile trip, but you’ll be rewarded at the end with 17 miles of trails, abundant wildlife, and up-close-and-personal nature experiences at this 772-acre park. In the fall, with the leaves changing and the temperature dropping, it’s a magical adventure.
Masters & Makers Trail
If taking stunning fall drives and supporting local makers are both at the top of your to-do list, then the Masters & Makers Trail has your name on it.
The trail is more than 70 miles around the Tennessee countryside that celebrates the history and traditions of our county’s masters and makers: wine, craft beer, whiskey, gin, and bourbon.
Out of a hope to preserve and celebrate these cherished and storied arts, the Masters & Makers Trail gives visitors a taste of local culture with stops at Arrington Vineyards, Company Distilling, Leiper’s Fork Distillery, Curio Brewing Company, and Mill Creek Brewing Co.
Take a peaceful drive through rolling hills dotted with fall color from Arrington to Thompson’s Station to Leiper’s Fork to Franklin to Nolensville. You can even pick up a Masters & Makers Trail “passport” that gets stamped at each spot.
If you visit four out of the five stops on the trail, you can turn in your stamped passport for a gift at the Visitor’s Center in Downtown Franklin.
Back Roads From Thompson’s Station to College Grove
Taking a fall drive with a destination is fun, but there are also times when you just want to explore.
For a breath of fresh country air, take a ride on some back roads. I like to start in Thompson’s Station and wind my way east over to Bethesda, where farmhouses and fields are kings.
Turn whichever way you’d like, but make sure to add a stop on Pulltight Hill Road, where you’ll find a pretty overlook onto the autumn-kissed countryside below. From Bethesda, mosey north through Arno, or northeast to College Grove.
You’ll see hay bales, old barns, stately mansions, cornfields, horses, corner markets, and more wildflowers than you can count. If you go a little farther north, you may even spot some alpacas.