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Though the temperatures aren’t showing it, fall is nearly officially here and with it, comes the best time of year for leaf-peeping in East Tennessee and beyond.

Every year, the Smoky Mountains put on an explosion of color as September and October prepare for the coming of winter. Rusty Wallace Ford Dealer Greg Voncannon loves to pile the grandkids into his Ford Expedition, with more hip room in the first and second rows than the Tahoe or Yukon, as well as best-in-class second- and third-row leg room, surround themselves with all the tech their modern life desires, and go on a grand adventure.

Some of the best drives to see fall colors are:

· The Cherohola Skyway – this scenic byway connects Tellico Plains and Robbinsville, North Carolina. It passes through the Cherokee and Nantahala national forests and offers sweeping, majestic views as well as plenty of places to get off the road and explore. Allowing for stops, it takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to travel the 40+ miles of the Skyway. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

· Cades Cove – The famous Smoky Mountain loop located not far from Townsend Tennessee offers some of the best leaf-peeping in the region. The loop offers sweeping views of the valley and the likelihood of seeing wildlife like deer, elk and bear in their natural environment.

· Newfound Gap - Highway 441 connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Cherokee, North Carolina and offers spectacular views along the way. At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A trip over the Newfound Gap Road has often been compared to a drive from Georgia to Maine in terms of the variety of forest ecosystems one experiences. Starting from either Cherokee, North Carolina or Gatlinburg, Tennessee, travelers climb approximately 3,000 feet, ascending through cove hardwood, pine-oak, and northern hardwood forest to attain the evergreen spruce-fir forest at Newfound Gap (5,046’). This fragrant evergreen woodland is similar to the boreal forests of New England and eastern Canada.

· The Snake – connecting Mountain City to Bristol “The Snake” has 489 curves, climbs high over mountains and offers steep drops along with views of Holstein Lake. Highway 421 passes through Cherokee National Forest

· The Dragon – The Tail of the Dragon is a fairly curvy, and infamous, stretch of Highway 129 that connects Blount County to North Carolina. Popular with motorcycle drivers who occasionally exceed the limits of good judgment, the Dragon still offers spectacular views and a scenic lookout.

Need a great car before you hit the trail in search of fall color? Be sure to visit Greg and his team at Rusty Wallace Ford in Dandridge and take a test drive to be sure you comfortable behind the wheel. They’ll make sure you get the very best deal with no hassle and no haggle so you Drive Home Happy!

-Sponsored by Rusty Wallace Ford.