Trees drenched in shades of red, orange and yellow are a sure sign, and favorite annual occurrence, of autumn in Missouri. And with so much foliage, the Show-Me State is an ideal place for fall leaf-peeping.
Of course, there's a lot of ground to cover in Missouri, so picking a route might be the most difficult part of your excursion. One of the first things to do when planning your fall outing is consult the Missouri Department of Conservation's Fall Color Forecast (you can put the app on your phone) to get the latest updates.
Consider Missouri's Highway 79, a north-south road that touches Hannibal to the north and the St. Louis metro area to the south. Paralleling the Mississippi River, Highway 79 passes through several small towns in northeast Missouri and connects with other west-leading roadways to give you more options.
Starting in Hannibal (author Mark Twain's home town) take in the sweeping vista of the city from a spot called Lover's Leap, a huge bluff just outside the downtown area. You'll have a beautiful view of the city and the river valley during the fall.
Outside of Hannibal, follow 79 south toward the St. Louis suburbs. Along the way, rolling hills and the tree-lined roadway are highlights as you pass through small towns such as Louisiana and Clarksville, both of which offer excellent river views, along with shopping and dining spots.
Farther south, don't miss the opportunity to stroll the brick-lined streets of St. Charles and see another river, the Missouri, in the downtown area. Dozens of retail shops, restaurants and points of interest are found in this historic city, which once was the state's capital.
Add to the fun by traveling into St. Louis to explore Forest Park, a magnificent destination for fall photography. The park includes free attractions such as the Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum and Missouri History Museum, which offer extra incentives for visiting leaf peepers and shutterbugs.
Another beautiful fall drive is Highway 19 in southern Missouri. If you have a Missouri map handy, locate Interstate 44 where it meets Highway 19, near Cuba, Mo.
Trace your finger along 19 south and you'll see the route passes through several cities and has a sprinkling of off-shoot roads as it meanders toward the Arkansas border. Highways 106, 32 and 72 likely will please leaf lovers.
Also, this area of southern Missouri is noted for its beautiful natural springs, rivers, streams, parks and natural areas. The hilly, winding roads are popular with motorcyclists and people who enjoy a leisurely drive.