This time, the Natchez Trace Parkway at peak fall foliage color change. Wayne Gerdes – CleanMPG – Nov. 1, 2023 Toyota Prius Prime on the Natchez Trace Parkway When called for a job in Tupelo, MS, why not take the most serene drive in the entire south. Over the past two decades, many long timers have seen me document in one form or another road trips across some of the most scenic roadways in America. Some of these include the following: Highway 20, America’s longest “almost” contiguous road in America and in particular, the section between Bend and Newport, OR which provides 4 completely different micro-climates and amazing topography over less than 175-miles of travel. The Beartooth Highway along WY/MT border is a stretch of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge and Cooke City, Montana. I can vouch for it being called the “the most beautiful roadway in America” due in part to the astonishing views from high altitudes while passing by one of the most rugged and wild areas in the lower 48 states. 2010 Yamaha WR250X Yeah, this was one of those rides. Highway 50 in NV, “America's Loneliest Road” where an overnight drive can find you literally driving for hours before seeing another vehicle! Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway in CA is truly astounding with towering mountains and cliffs on the inland side and the vast Pacific across most of the view west. 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime The beauty and vastness of the Pacific is a common site along the Coast Highway. Badlands, the Black Hills Loop, is a 39-mile drive across South Dakota Highway 240 between the towns of Cactus Flat and Wall, SD. It includes breathtaking rock formations with multi-colored spires and pinnacles in the surrounding buttes and cliffs. Route 66, all 2,448-miles of it. From downtown Chicago to the Santa Monica pier on the Pacific Coast in California, Route 66 is the mother of all road trips just as it is called the “Mother Road.” It provided millions of American’s a path from the dustbowl of the Great Depression to the promise of jobs and opportunity in California. 2023 Toyota Prius Taking a short break from the Mother Road just across from the Gateway to the West. Besides the iconic roads listed above in which you will discover America from a vastly different perspective than flying over it at 600 mph and 35,000 ft., there is another that was just as satisfying due to not only its history but the time of year. Natchez Trace Parkway The Natchez Trace Parkway is a historic and picturesque roadway that stretches 444 miles between Natchez, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee while crossing a short section of far northwestern Alabama. The Parkway is known for its slower pace, with a maximum speed limit of 50 mph, and no commercial vehicles allowed. This leisurely drive allows you to soak in the beauty of the fall scenery at a relaxed and peaceful pace. It is a popular destination for travelers, particularly during the fall foliage color change, when the landscape and the many tree canopies traveled through undergo a stunning transformation. The Natchez Trace Parkway has a fascinating albeit sometimes dark history dating back to prehistoric times. The Native Americans tribes including the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw, used the Natchez Trace as a footpath that connected the lower Mississippi River to central Tennessee and beyond long before the arrival of European settlers. In the late 18th century, European explorers utilized the Natchez Trace route between the Ohio River Valley and markets in Natchez, MS and New Orleans. The "Old Natchez Trace’s" well-worn path became known as the "Old Natchez Trace," and by the early 19th century, it was a route complete with inns and stands for travelers. During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson and his forces used the Natchez Trace for military purposes. After the war, Jackson championed the construction of a broader and more secure road to facilitate movement across the region. This project, known as the "Jackson Military Road," helped improve travel along the Trace. With the advent of steamboats and the expansion of railroads in the mid-19th century, the Natchez Trace's importance waned and by the early 20th century, it had largely fallen into disrepair. Its historical significance however was its saving grace and being recognized as such, and efforts were made to preserve it. In the 1930s, the U.S. government initiated the Natchez Trace Parkway project as part of the New Deal program. The goal was to create a scenic parkway that preserved the historical and natural aspects of the Natchez Trace. Construction began in the 1930s and continued over several decades, with the parkway officially completed in 2005. It is now managed by the National Park Service. Today, the Natchez Trace Parkway serves as a living historical monument and a scenic byway, offering drivers a chance to experience a leisurely drive through a beautiful natural landscape while learning about the cultural and historical heritage of the region along the way. The Natchez Trace Parkway is renowned for its natural beauty throughout the year but comes alive during a short two-week period in the fall when drivers are witness to an awesome spectacle featuring a change of seasons. As autumn approaches, the foliage along the Natchez Trace Parkway takes on brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The hardwood forests that line the parkway, including various species of oaks, maples, and hickories, put on a captivating display of colors that are a feast for the eyes. Along the parkway, I found numerous scenic overlooks, pull-offs, and hiking trails that provided excellent vantage points for capturing the fall foliage. In addition to the natural beauty, the parkway is dotted with historical sites, including Native American mounds and Civil War battlefields. On the Nashville entry side of the Parkway, there is a famous café of some notoriety called the Loveless Café and Motel. Instead of typing up its history, I will leave this historic landmark as a testament to its origin and what it is today. The restaurant is known for its biscuits (10 of 10) – truly amazing by the way, and its country ham. I had the dry rub baby back ribs topped with a watermelon slaw (6 of 10 – a bit dry imho) and Marian had the smoked pork loin with peach preserves glaze (8 of 10). Sides included mashed potatoes with gravy (10 of 10), southern creamed corn (9 of 10), and macaroni and cheese (8 of 10). Does the above pic make me a foodie? All told, the peak of fall foliage along the Natchez Trace Parkway typically occurs from late October to early November, though the exact timing can vary from year to year. In my case, it was Oct. 27th and the fall peak had already passed at the northernmost entry near Nashville and peaked somewhere between the TN/AL border and Tupelo, MS where some of the above pics were taken. In conclusion, a visit to the Natchez Trace Parkway during the fall color change offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of the season, connect with history, and enjoy the tranquility of this scenic drive. Whether you're a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful escape, the Natchez Trace Parkway in the fall is a must-see, must drive destination.