The temperatures are dropping across the USA and that can only mean one thing. Autumn is on it’s way! Autumn is the perfect time for a road trip because the vibrant colors along the way make the journey even better than the destination! We’re highlighting the 14 most beautiful fall foliage road trips in the US to help you plan an epic autumn road trip adventure!
Fall Foliage Road Trips on the EAST COAST
The Kancamagus Highway – New Hampshire
This picturesque fall foliage road trip route follows 34 miles of Route 112 through the back country of New Hampshire between Lincoln, NH and Conway NH. This route is full of some of the brightest, most vibrant colors during peak season- plus there are beautiful waterfalls and a handful of covered bridges to round out your trip. Both Conway and Lincoln are great places to stay, but you’ll want to book early because this fall foliage route is incredibly popular and most places in both towns book up early. Be sure to look for the Hancock Overlook, the Pemigewasset Overlook, and the Sugar Hill Overlook for spectacular views. Sabbaday Falls is a short little walk just off the highway or if you’re up for a bit more of a hike, Champney Falls is a 3 mile round-trip hike. In addition to driving the Kancamagus Highway, plan on some extra time to wander aimlessly through the back roads of New Hampshire. You will be surrounded by color no matter where you go!
The Last Green Valley Scenic Byway, Connecticut
The Last Green Valley Scenic Byway is also known as the National Heritage Corridor, or Route 169, and winds it way through over 30 quaint New England town in Connecticut. You’ll experience all of the quintessential New England sights including stone walls, steepled churches, historic homesteads and of course a rainbow of autumn colors. The Last Green Scenic Byway will wind you through the Pachaug State Forest and the Natchaug State Forest, both with unparalleled autumn scenery and color.
The Mohawk Trail- Massachusetts
Stretching from Athol, Massachusetts to Williamstown, Massachusetts, the Mohawk Trail is nearly 70 miles of beautiful color that winds through the Berkshires and the Connecticut Valley. You’ll weave though mountains, valleys, picturesque farms and quaint villages. Major viewpoints and stops along this historic trail include the Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, Mount Sugarloaf, Western Gateway Heritage State Park and Natural Bridge State Park. Make sure you also take a drive up to the top of Mt. Greylock for sweeping views of the Berkshires!
The Green Mountain Byway- Vermont
The Green Mountain Byway is only 11 miles long, but it’s one of the most epic fall foliage road trips in the entire United States. Starting in Stowe, Vermont, you’ll drive through three state parks- all worth a stop. You’ll drive through quaint Vermont villages with quintessential New England chapels, picturesque farm houses and white picket fences. You’ll want to make stops at Smugglers’ Notch and Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s highest peak) for pictures, as well as at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for fresh cider and donuts. The byway technically ends in Waterbury but you can continue in literally any direction for more fall foliage because all of Vermont glows brightly with the brilliant colors of autumn!
Route 1- Maine
Starting in Portland, Maine- Route 1 will combine stunning fall foliage with coastal views as you wind your way up to Acadia National Park! Along this route you’ll drive through some of Maine’s most vibrant autumn colors- along with many of Maine’s quaint coastal towns. You’ll find numerous lighthouses and plenty of places to grab amazing seafood. Once you get to Acadia National Park, take the drive up Cadillac Mountain (or hike it if you’re super adventurous) for sweeping views of both fall color and coastline.
The Blue Ridge Parkway- North Carolina/Virginia
This is a great road trip for national park lovers because this nearly 500 mile stretch of road will place you within striking distance of two beautiful parks- Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park. Running from Roanoke, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway lights up with color in the autumn. It’s best to plan to drive a decent stretch of the parkway because not all spots will reach peak color at the same time due to the changes in elevation. The higher elevations will reach peak color first, with the lower elevations to follow. Many people choose to start in Asheville, North Carolina where Mt. Pisgah reaches nearly 6,000 feet and will be one of the first spots to reach peak color in the fall.
Fall Foliage Road Trips In the Midwest and West
The Lake Superior Circle Loop- Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario Canada
While most people think of heading to New England for a fall foliage road trip, one of the longest and most beautiful autumn road trips is actually in the Midwest (and part of Canada). It’s also the longest road trip in our list- clocking in at 1,300 miles. Obviously you can do just a small part of this trip, but if you ever have time to do the entire loop- it’s a trip you’ll never forget. You’ll circumnavigate Lake Superior, driving through the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, the Litsen Mountains in Minnesota, Amnicon Falls in Wisconson and Sleeping Giant in Ontario, Canada. Because these locations are so far north, the colors tend to turn a bit earlier than other locations- generally in late September. In addition to the dazzling autumn colors, you’ll also have incredible views of the largest freshwater lake in the world!
North Shore Scenic Drive- Minnesota
Located in Minnesota’s Cook County, the North Shore Scenic Drive- also known as Highway 61- is a magical autumn road trip route. Starting in Duluth, this scenic drive winds along the rugged shores of beautiful Lake Superior, going all the way up to the Canadian border. This route hugs the shore of Lake Superior so you’ll get to see light houses and water falls in addition to the incredible fall colors. There are also eight different state parks along the way that make for perfect picnic spots! Like the Lake Superior Circle Loop above, the colors here usually turn a bit earlier than other locations- so a late September road trip is a great bet.
Hocking Hills Scenic Byway- Ohio
The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway is a 26 mile drive that follows State Route 374 through the Hocking State Forest in southeast Ohio. It will take you through the gorgeous Hocking Hills State Park which is full of recess caves, waterfalls, incredible rock formations and, in the fall, beautiful autumn colors. Hit some of the hiking trails to access the park’s many waterfalls that are made even more captivating when surrounded by the reds, yellows and oranges of October!
Sylamore Scenic Byway- Arkansas
Arkansas is another off the beaten path location for leef-peeping, but the Ozark Mountains should absolutely be at the top of everyone’s list of beautiful fall foliage road trips! This 26 mile drive winds you through the white oaks, hickories, and stands of short leaf pines in the Ozark National Forest and these trees put on a dazzling display of colors in the fall. Be sure to check out the Blanchard Springs Caverns as well the Ozark Folk Center State Park!
The Million Dollar Highway- Colorado
This 25 mile stretch of US 550 set between Silverton, Colorado an Ouray, Colorado is arguably one of the most beautiful drives in the United States. It’s beauty is impressive all year long- but autumn is when the Million Dollar Highway really shines. But beware- this road is not for the faint of heart! It’s twists and turns are set on the edges of jagged cliff faces, with Colorado’s San Juan Mountains towering up above you. If you’re brave enough to handle the 25 miles of the Million Dollar Highway, you can extend this trip to include the entire San Juan National Scenic Byway where you can catch even more dazzling fall colors set among the Colorado mountains.
The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway – New Mexico
Most people don’t think of heading to New Mexico for a fall foliage road trip, but the higher elevations in New Mexico light up in bright yellows during the fall. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a circular route that most people start in Taos. You’ll wind through Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and back to Taos. Not only will you see captivating colors, there are also a couple of great festivals along this route during October. Plan a stop in Red River for the Aspencande Steampunk Arts & Craft Fair at the end of September or Oktoberbest in the middle of October! Taos is another great town to stop and explore along this fall foliage road trip route.
The North Cascades Highway- Washington
The North Cascades Highway, or Highway 20, closes for the winter season starting in early to mid November. But if you can catch this scenic drive before then- you’re in for a special treat. Starting in Sedro Woolley and cutting through the North Cascade Mountains in Washington, it will wind you along the banks of the Skagit River where you’ll find local u-pick apple and pumpkin farms that are great for picnicking. You’ll travel through an old growth forest in Rockport State Park, the aquamarine glacial lakes of North Cascades National Park and up to Washington Pass, the highest elevation you’ll reach on this drive at 5,477 feet. The combination of autumn colors, glacial lakes and waterfalls will make for a fall foliage road trip you’ll never forget!
Columbia Gorge- Oregon
The Columbia Gorge forms the natural border between southern Washington state and northern Oregon. At 8o miles long, it slices through the gorgeous Cascade mountains that are home to a wide variety of trees such as maples, Oregon ash, and cottonwoods that turn into a fiery display of color in the fall. In addition to beautiful autumn colors- the Columbia Gorge area is known for a plethora of amazing waterfalls. So pack your hiking shoes and plan to get out into the woods! Many short to moderate length trails will lead you to breathtaking waterfalls surrounded by fall colors and I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better way to enjoy autumn. There are also lots of local wineries in the area- a great way to spend your evenings after hiking!
If you’re planning a fall foliage road trip with your kids- don’t forget to check out a couple of our other posts on family road trip tips including the Best Family-Friendly Podcasts for Road Trips and 11 Great Road Trip and Travel Movies for Kids and Families.