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11 Epic Fall Foliage Road Trips To Drive This Year

Combine two of America’s favorite pastimes: road trips and leaf peeping (aka looking for the best fall foliage around).

11 Epic Fall Foliage Road Trips To Drive This Year
Hi, I'm Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Kehoe is a freelance writer and photographer with work seen in National Geographic, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, and more. Find her out on the trails or at jacquelinekehoe.com.

While the nation packs in fall foliage across the latitudes, we’ve narrowed down the best fall road trips, spanning the winding-est roads, and the most laid-back towns to deliver the best places for leaf-peeping views across America. Pack your sweaters, fill up the tank, double check a fall foliage prediction map, and grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte for the best road trip with fall foliage near you.

1. Door County, Wisconsin

Some of the best fall foliage can be found during a road trip through Door County in Wisconsin.
Sister Bay's main street, coupled with Door County's epic fall foliage season, is absolutely charming.Photo Credit: Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

Mid-September through mid-October offer the best leaf-peeping views here.

With the vast majority of Door County’s 3 million visitors arriving in summer, a fall-foliage road trip down this 80-mile (129-kilometer) peninsula will be a communion with the open, leaf-lined road. Start with a tour in Sturgeon Bay—by far the peninsula’s largest town at 9,000 people—and head northward. Five state parks pop up among the villages with the chance to trade those bucolic views of fall leaves for ones riddled with sand dunes, sea cliffs, rocky ridges, and ocean-like vistas over Lake Michigan.

Want to break up the drive? Wander down Sister Bay’s bustling main drag, go apple-picking at a family orchard, venture to Washington Island, and order ice cream at Wilson’s in Ephraim. Thanks to the peninsula’s compact size, it’s all possible.

2. Route 1 to Acadia National Park, Maine

Some of the best fall foliage in the country can be found at Acadia National Park in Maine.
Acadia National Park is a road-trip worthy spot for leaf peeping.Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

Peak leaf-peeping season generally comes to this part of Maine in mid-October.

Start your leaf-peeping trip at some of Portland's best attractions, then travel up the rocky coast past lighthouses and mansions—where you'll experience one of the best fall foliage road trips in America, uniquely set against New England's architectural gems attempting to steal the show. Then, make your way to one of Maine’s top attractions, Acadia National Park and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, hopping on Park Loop Road. It’s a 27-mile (43-kilometer) scenic drive that covers the east side of Mount Desert Island, or MDI to locals. You’ll see Sand Beach, Otter Point, Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and—if you time it right—the park’s vibrant autumn scenery in oranges and golds.

Insider tip: Check out the Acadia National Park audio tours that guide you along your route and will enhance your journey along the drive.

3. The Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

The Million Dollar Highways is one of America's best road trips.
The Million Dollar Highway offers many a wonderful opportunity for pictures.Photo Credit: SNEHIT PHOTO / Shutterstock

Fall foliage in the San Juan Mountains typically peaks between mid-September to mid-October.

The Rockies north of Denver may get all the glory, but one of southwestern Colorado’s best thing to do includes driving the Million Dollar Highway. This 25-mile (40-kilometer) stretch through the San Juan Mountains between Ouray and Silverton—is one of the state's best spots for fall foliage. Expect to stop lots of times for photos along this scenic fall foliage drive that includes Switzerland-like mountain views, and hairpin turns which delicately usher you along the edges of sheer cliffs.

Insider tip: Don’t skip Ouray, the “Outdoor Recreation Capitol of Colorado,” that sits deep in the narrow Uncompahgre Gorge. Here you'll catch peekaboo waterfall views as you wander Main Street and when the leafy landscapes turn gold? It’s—somehow—even more magical.

4. Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway, Oregon

View of Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway, America’s first scenic highway, in Oregon, is another bucket-list worthy road trip.
Head out on a seasonal drive down Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway.Photo Credit: Bob Pool / Shutterstock

To chase waterfalls and fall foliage in Oregon, plan your road trip for late September to mid-October.

Running for 70+ miles (112+ kilometers) east of Portland’s top attractions, the Historic Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway is America’s first scenic highway. Following along the walls of the mighty Columbia River, some 90 waterfalls pour over the gorge’s basalt cliffs, but five prominent cascades warrant their own stops, including the 620-foot (189-meter) Multnomah Falls.

On this fall road trip, park the car, and go on a fall-foliage hike to every waterfall you can, noting the spectacular fall views of the maples and ash contrasting with the firs and pines. The Twin Tunnels Trail—a 5-mile (8-kilometer) section of the Historic Columbia Highway State Trail only open to cyclists and pedestrians—comes chock-full of easy-access scenic overlooks, too.

5. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

One of fall's best road trips is through the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs from Virginia to North Carolina.
Blue Ridge Parkway is synonymous with wildly impressive fall foliage.Photo Credit: Anton Ermachkov / Shutterstock

Peak fall foliage here is typically mid-to-late October, but the colors change earlier at higher elevations.

One of the American South’s most unbeatable road trips—known as “America’s favorite drive”—the 469-mile (754-kilometer) Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Roanoke, Virginia, to Asheville, North Carolina, through some of the wildest and best fall foliage in the country. Start up north, and you’ll get the vistas of Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests; start south, and you’ll get Asheville’s brew scene up to Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s best hikes, sights, and attractions. There’s no wrong way to slice it, but the winding scene around the Linn Cove Viaduct—at milemarker 304.4—is a particularly impressive autumn delight.

6. Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a hidden gem and worthwhile fall road trip.
Catch some lake views along Michigan's Upper Peninsula.Photo Credit: melissamn / Shutterstock

Michigan's leaf-peeping season starts at the end of September.

Drive just about anywhere throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula's in early October, and you’ll be leaf peeping in all directions. But to narrow it down, plan a trip that's roughly a 2-hour drive from Palm Brooks State Park to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. At the former, you’ll see a 40-foot-deep (12-meter-deep) natural spring, aka “Big Spring,” surrounded in crimson and orange; at the latter, you’ll get the obvious waterfall views, plus access to 50,000 undeveloped acres (20,235 hectares) of emerald pine and golden tamarack. Another hour east, and you’ll wind up in Sault Ste. Marie, the third-oldest city in the country.

7. Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, Ohio

A waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio shows off its leaves during the fall leap peeping season.
Hocking Hills State Park has noteworthy caves and waterfalls.Photo Credit: Tom Robertson / Shutterstock

Fall foliage predictions for Hocking Hills have their money on mid-to-late October.

Drive Ohio’s Hocking Hills Scenic Byway for some searing autumn colors, and you’ll never look at the Buckeye State the same way again. The nearly 27-mile (43-kilometer) scenic drive travels along rolling hills, above caves, near sparkling waterfalls, and deep through the forests in and around Hocking Hills State Park. The fall foliage season here is sublime—and you’re only an hour from Ohio’s effortlessly cool capital, making it easy to explore Columbus’ top attractions along with its food-heavy High Street.

8. The Adirondacks, New York

The Adirondacks are considered one of the best fall leaf peeping spots in America.
Take in vast autumn views at the Adirondacks with this classic fall road trip.Photo Credit: Patricia Thomas / Shutterstock

Peak fall foliage in the Adirondack Mountains happens anywhere from mid-September to mid-October.

Just a few hours north of NYC lies the largest contiguous wilderness in the US—Adirondack Park, located in the Adirondack Mountains, and one of the best fall road trips in America. At some 18,000 square miles (46,620 square kilometers), it’s three times the size of Yellowstone National Park, and its fall foliage is just as superlative. Drive the 170-mile (274-kilometer) Olympic Trail, between Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain, to commune with the oaks, maples, and birches climbing the High Peaks region of these ancient mountains.

9. Green Mountain Byway, Vermont

The Green Mountain Byway is a fall road trip must if you're in New England.
Vermont is entirely captivating during fall.Photo Credit: Townsend James / Shutterstock

Come in the first two weeks of October to catch peak fall foliage in the Green Mountains.

Though the entire Northeast lights up in fall color, Vermont’s main attraction holds a special place in the leaf-peeping zeitgeist. (Perhaps it’s the cider donuts and warm pumpkin rolls that level up any drive?) For a nearly effortless moment of autumn revelry, hit the Green Mountain Byway, an 11-mile (18-kilometer) ribbon between sleepy hamlets, three state parks, rolling meadows, and picturesque farms. It runs from Waterbury to Stowe, sitting in the shadow of the state’s highest mountain, which lights this fall leaf-peeping travel destination ablaze in Vermont Technicolor.

Related: Local Brewer Dan Tomaino's Guide to Vermont

10. Sylamore Scenic Byway, Arkansas

Waterfalls at the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas are a nice complement to the surrounding color of fall leaves.
The Ozarks retain plenty of colors during autumn months.Photo Credit: Glenn W. Wheeler / Shutterstock

The Ozark's peak leaf-peeping season is expected to occur from mid-October to early November.

If Arkansas isn’t already on your outdoor radar, it’s about to be. Just 90 minutes north of Little Rock—an autumnal oasis in itself—lies the Ozark National Forest and the Sylamore Scenic Byway. Running for 26.5 miles (42.5 kilometers), you’ll start in the ghost town of Calico Rock, trading some eerie leaf-peeping views for those along limestone cliffs, up pine-clad mountain vistas, and deep into the white-oak hickory forest. Your terminus is Blanchard Springs Caverns, and while there’s no fall foliage down there, you should definitely stop to explore this living, growing, 300 million-year-old cave. The main “room” is three football fields long.

11. The Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

Fall foliage seekers know the The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts is an all but guaranteed spot to delight those taking a road trip.
Take a captivating fall road trip down the Mohawk Trail.Photo Credit: haveseen / Shutterstock

Experts predict the Berkshire's fall foliage will begin the first week of October and peak in mid-October.

Centuries ago, Indigenous groups took the 69-mile (111-kilometer) Mohawk Trail from modern-day Athol, Massachusetts—90 minutes from Boston's top attractions—to the Atlantic coast. Safe to say, they probably leaf peeped a bit here, too. Road trippers will tackle this journey on pavement, though, winding down routes 2 and 2A, soaking in the foliage along the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers and up the slopes of the Berkshires and Taconic Mountains. This is the first scenic road in New England and the most famous of the routes through the Berkshires, plus it offers some of the best fall foliage in the country.

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