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My Favorite Autumn Rides

There are few things more enjoyable to do on a motorcycle then to ride through the crisp fall air over a freshly fallen carpet of bright autumn leaves.   There is something about the changing of the leaves that brings out the best in motorcycling...perhaps it is the knowledge that soon it will be too cold to take an afternoon off for a ride through the mountains, perhaps it is the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of the autumn leaves, and perhaps it is the hot cider sold at any of the multitude of roadside stands. For whatever reason, late September, October and early November are prime riding times in the Washington DC area.


1. Rt. 734 Snickersville Turnpike
Without a doubt, the quintessential Virginia countryside road. Snickersville Turnpike is over 200 years old and saw heavy use during the Civil War. Towards the northern end there is a wonderful country store with sandwiches and hot drinks. Snickersville Turnpike starts on Rt. 50 at the south and ends at Rt. 7 to the north and runs for 14 miles of twists and turns. The roads surface is good, though in need of repair in some places due to rough or broken surface (the Snickersville Turnpike Association has been battling with the Virginia DOT over plans to alter the road and in doing so destroy much of the historical character.) [Show Me -- BIG Map :)]

2. Rt. 601 Mt. Weather Road
Only about 8 miles long, the Mount Weather road runs roughly parallel to the Snickersville Turnpike, also beginning on the southern end on Rt. 50 and ending on the northern end at Rt. 7. Known as Mt. Weather because it has served for over 100 years as a US Government weather station (now an "Emergency Assistance Center"), the road follows the ridgeline and has several slow sweepers, one honest-to-goodness 10mph turn, and several scenic views. The southern end is just above Paris, Virginia, home to the famous Ashby Inn - stop and warm up with some hot cider! [Show Me -- BIG Map :)]

3. Rt. 678, Powell's Fort Road
Powell's Fort road is also a historically significant road, fought over during the Civil War and as the site of one of the first 1930's Civilian Conservation Corps camps. This road winds along the base of the steep Massanutten Mountain ridges through several small scenic towns and is a superb leaf-watching road. The north end starts at Rt. 55 just west of Front Royal in the hamlet of Waterlick, and the southern end at Rt. 211 in Luray (after turning into Rt. 675.) [Show Me -- BIG Map :)]

4. Harper's Ferry Road
While not a challenging motorcycle road, Harper's Ferry Road offers some of the finest "rolling farmland" riding in the area. This is an old road and was used repeatedly during the Civil War to move troops to and from Harper's Ferry. The northern end is in Sharpsburg, Maryland, a beautiful old town home to many small antique shops, and the southern end next to Harper's Ferry, a left-hand turn off of Rt. 340 just after crossing the bridge into Maryland (where it is known as "Sandy Hook Rd.) [Show Me -- BIG Map :)]

5. Rt. 55
Rt. 55 starts in Alexandria, Virginia and runs west all the way to Athens, Ohio. While the whole run would be great, the 90 or so miles from Winchester, Virginia to the intersection of Rt. 219 near Redhouse, West Virginia, are spectacular. Rt. 50 passes through some of the most scenic parts of West Virginia, including high mountain peaks and rolling farmlands. [Show Me -- BIG Map :)]

6. Rt. 33
Rt. 33 across Virginia is a somewhat boring road until it dives into the mountains west of Harrisonburg, Virginia (at the I-81/I-33 Intersection.) For the next 95 or so miles to the intersection of 219 in Elkins, West Virginia, this well-paved road weaves in and out of (and over!) the West Virginia Mountains. From one peak to the next, this is a road is made up of one twist after another. [Show Me -- BIG Map :)]

7. Skyline Drive and the Blueridge Parkway
For non-stop panoramic views and countless scenic turnoffs there is no better road than Skyline Drive & the BRP. While you lose some of the local flavor such as roadside cider and pumpkin stands, the views and foliage are not to be missed.

8. Ride to Wellsboro, PA, site of the historic (and QUITE reasonable) Penn-Wells Hotel and delicious Wellsboro Diner. Wellsboro is a beautiful historic town with a broad town green, stately buildings and an old-time main avenue with restaurants and a very nice opera house turned theatre. This is a 2-day ride, about 260 miles each way.
Take I-270/70 to Rt. 15 North through Gettysburg. At Beavertown turn left onto Rt. 74 through Carlisle for 42 miles to a right on Rt. 75. Rt. 74 is a magnificant road rolling through small towns and farm fields with a delightful twisty portion towards the end. After 2.5 miles on Rt. 75 turn left onto Rt. 333, another delightful road that follows the Juniata river from Port Royal to Lewistown. In Lewistown hop on Rt. 103 for a short 2.5 miles to US 322, an unfortunate but necessary 16-mile run on a 4-lane, divided highway. In Potters Mills hop onto one of my very favorite roads of all time, Pa Rt. 144. Get ready for amazing scenery, broad crestline sweepers punctuated by occasional twisties and several scenic old towns including the Coal-era, Victorian-house-rich Bellefonte. The section of 144 from Renovo to Galetin bisects Pennsylvania's "great wilderness" and is renowned for lush forests and amazing views. From Galetin to Wellsboro is a short 12 miles on the historic US 6, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, and about 7 miles on Rt. 362 & Rt. 660. This is one of my very favorite rides of all time and I hope you make a weekend of it!

Know of a few roads that make for great Autumn riding? Please let me know!


West Virginia's Tourism Board's Fall Extravaganza
A great central resource for fall colors and scenic roads. WV also has a great page for rides in general.
Pennsylvania's Fall Foliage Information Central.
Virginia doesn't appear to have a foliage-specific area on its website, but they do have a great page of things to see and do.

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