There’s truly not a bad time to take a road trip in the United States, but fall drives are absolutely magical. From the winding mountain roads along the Blue Ridge Parkway engulfed in vibrant reds and oranges to tranquil coastal highways lined with golden foliage, this is the ultimate list of the best fall road trips to take in the US!
This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.
Bright yellow Aspen Trees surrounded by stunning mountains in Colorado. Picturesque coastal views along the North Shore in Minnesota. Classic, vivid foliage on. the best fall road trips in New England. There’s simply so many places to see in the USA for the best fall foliage in September and October!
This list covers coast to coast and a bunch of amazing routes in between. From scenic drives in the country’s most popular national parks to hidden gems with far fewer tourists, these are some of the most amazing fall foliage road trips you’ll ever see.
Must-see video: scenic fall drives in the USA
Best driving routes for fall foliage map
Although the East Coast is known for the best fall drives, there are many epic fall road trips all over the United States to add to your bucket list! Each pin on this map marks a stop on one of the very best driving routes to for fall foliage.
Use this map and the details below to help you decide where to road trip this fall!
Fall road trip essentials: what to pack
Whether you’re hitting the best scenic drives Colorado or the highly popular New England, you’ll want to have a few things to help make the most of your trip!
- Food and snacks. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a longer adventure, you’ll want to be prepared with food. Bring some healthy snacks for road trips or pre-made foods for the road. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle!
- Collapsible cooler. Drinks and pre-made foods will need to be kept cold while on your fall road trip. I like this collapsible cooler because it folds down for storage, and keeps food and drinks cold when you need it.
- Extra layers. Dress for the season, and keep in mind where the weather can change dramatically very quickly in higher elevations. Take a rain jacket and medium coat or heavier depending on which scenic route you choose.
- GoPro for capturing photos and videos. A phone camera can be sufficient, but you could also level up your photos. I got this GoPro and started recording epic road trips, snorkeling with sea turtles and so much more. This is the GoPro I use and it works perfect for road trips!
- Kids road trip activities. If you’re traveling with kids of any age, make sure to bring games, snacks and activities to keep the boredom to a minimum. My family travels with Fire tablets, loaded with games for our kids.
- Mineral sunblock. Wear sunscreen when you’re venturing out of the vehicle to protect your skin – yes, even during the fall. Mineral sunblock is better for the earth’s waterways, too.
- Hiking gear. It always feels good to stretch your legs during a road trip, and many of these scenic fall drives include a hike! Pack comfortable hiking shoes with traction, trekking poles (always helpful) and a hiking backpack to carry water, food and any other items you need while hiking.
Just a quick note that I haven’t been everywhere (yet) so I’ve asked some of my fellow travel writers to help out with this list. Enjoy!
Best fall drives in the United States
Gah! Are you ready to plan a scenic fall foliage road trip, full of beautiful red, orange and yellow vegetation? Timing it right can be a bit tricky, so check out the recommendations on each scenic route below.
Let’s dive in!
1. Eastern Sierra fall road trip, California
- Distance: 300 miles
- Recommended time: 3-5 days
- Best time to see fall colors: October
For a full fall foliage road trip in the Eastern Sierra, take the scenic route from Bakersfield along Highway 178 through Kern Valley then north on US-395 all the way to Yosemite Valley. The peaks of the Sierras make a perfect backdrop for the color-changing cottonwoods and aspens in the area.
From Bakersfield, head east on 178 and make a quick pit stop at Lake Isabella near Kernville for your first view of the foliage.
It’s only going to get better on this road trip, so continue on until you hit US-395 and then head north toward Lone Pine. Here you should set up camp and spend the night in the stunning Alabama Hills with Mount Whitney in the distance.
Continue your search for color about an hour drive north to Bishop. It’s definitely worth taking a slight detour to explore Bishop Creek Canyon, with plenty of foliage along the rushing water and an alpine lake surrounded by gorgeous willows and aspens.
Next make your way to June Lake, just past the town of Mammoth. Take a 16-mile drive around June Lake Loop for truly spectacular views of golden aspens against the clear blue water of several lakes.
Finally, turn toward Yosemite National Park where you’ll want to spend at least a few days. Take on some of the best hikes in Yosemite for a splash of color against the evergreen trees and soaring granite walls.
Recommended by Allison of She Dreams of Alpine
2. Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
- Distance: 280 miles round trip
- Recommended time: 2-4 days
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid-Late October (but keep an eye on color forecasts)
Visiting Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in autumn is one of the most magical places on the east coast to see fall colors. If you catch it right, the trees will be an array of colors spanning from gold to a deep red. Its beauty blew me away.
For this road trip, we’ll be starting from Richmond, VA. Head west for about 90 minutes until you reach Massanuttan or Harrisonburg. There should be ample hotels, lodging, and camping available in the area.
From here, you’ll be 15 minutes from the Skyline Drive, a beautiful scenic drive that cuts through the heart of Shenandoah National Park. This fall drive provides almost unlimited hiking and sightseeing potential.
The Skyline Drive runs predominately north and south through the park. I found the hikes were better on the north half of the park (highway 33 cuts it in half), but the southern portion had some really lovely viewpoints that you will want to take advantage of.
As you are a hiker, I recommended checking out the trails to Hawkbill Summit, Whiteoak Canyon, and Old Man Rag. All differed in length and difficulty, but each one led to unique and beautiful views!
As for viewpoints, you’ll have more than you can possibly know what to do with. Some of my favorites included The Oaks Overlook, Rockytop Overlook, and the Big Run Overlook. But, I can assure you that no matter where you stop, you will be left speechless!
Recommended by Alec of Explore with Alec
3. The Cascade Loop, Washington (one of the top scenic fall drives)
- Distance: 440 miles
- Recommended time: 7 days (or more!)
- Best time to see fall colors: The best time to see the fall colors is mid-September through early October. After that, you risk having part of the route be covered with snow!
The Cascade Loop starts and ends in the city of Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle, Washington. Most folks drive the loop counter-clockwise, as some of the views, especially of the Cascade Mountains, are a bit more spectacular if you head in that direction.
There’s so much to see along this scenic fall drive. From Everett, you’ll drive east to the quirky town of Leavenworth, nestled in the Cascade Mountains.
All of the buildings in its downtown are built in Bavarian-style—it looks like it should be in the Sound of Music! If you’re visiting towards the end of September or early October, you can also partake in the town’s Oktoberfest festivities.
From here, you’ll head north to another unique town, Winthrop. This small town, which originally was an 1800s gold rush town, has lots of Wild Western vibes, with antique wooden boardwalks and buildings with Western facades. Don’t miss the nearby Methow Valley Cidery, for some hard cider out of locally grown apples.
You’ll continue west along the North Cascades Highway, where the scenery and the foliage will get even more stunning. The slopes of the dramatic mountains will be covered with shrubs and wildflowers, aflame in autumnal colors, like gold, scarlet, and burnt orange.
If you’re looking to really take in the best fall foliage of Washington, hit up some of the trails in the seriously underrated North Cascades National Park, like the Cutthroat Pass Trail. Here, you’ll walk through countless groves of larches, a special kind of coniferous tree whose needles turn a brilliant shade of gold before falling off every winter.
Your trip will end by looping down along the coastline of Salish Sea. As you make your way along the coastline, keep your eyes peeled—October is usually the last month of the year that’s great for spotting orcas here!
Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
4. Kebler Pass, Colorado
- Distance: 30 miles (one way)
- Recommended time: 2 hours
- Best time to see fall colors: Late September-Early October
If you’re looking for a quintessential Colorado fall colors road trip, then make your way to Highway 133 outside of Carbondale and head west to Kebler Pass.
The drive over Kebler Pass is 30 miles long and ends in the picturesque mountain town of Crested Butte. While it’s a dirt road, it is well maintained and accessible by all vehicles during the fall, including low-clearance passenger cars.
Kebler Pass is often touted as the best scenic drive to see fall colors in Colorado because it winds its way through the largest aspen grove in the state.
When fall colors are at their peak, typically between late September and early October, you’ll find yourself immersed in a golden wonderland of aspens with scenic views of the West Elk mountains to make the experience even more enchanting.
To experience the fall colors along Kebler Pass up close, park at Horse Ranch Park and hike the Dark Canyon, Irwin, and Dyke Trail loop. The trail is 6 miles long with 1,500 ft. of elevation gain, so come prepared to get your heart pumping.
Your efforts will be well rewarded with sweeping views of the aspens and Marcellina Mountain. Please remember to practice Leave No Trace and pack out all trash on the trail! After your drive stop at the Secret Stash for the best pizza in Crested Butte.
Recommended by Kate of Kate Outdoors
5. New York City to Catskills
- Distance: 125 Miles
- Recommended time: Long Weekend
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid to Late October
Fall is one of the best times to visit New York. As the leaves start to change and the weather cools, there is so much to see and do.
A fall road trip from NYC to the Catskills is a perfect way to see so much of this incredible state in the fall. Experience stunning views of the changing leaves and picturesque small towns along the way.
Starting from New York City, head north on I-87, also known as the Adirondack Northway. The first stop is Sleepy Hollow, known for its spooky reputation and stunning fall foliage.
Explore the village’s historic landmarks and charming streets before continuing on to Tarrytown, where you can hike at Rockwood State Park for views of the Hudson River. If you are up for something festive, check out the Great Pumpkin Blaze.
As you continue to make your way north check out some of the towns along the way. Bear Mountain State Park has tons of great hiking. You will find some incredible views of fall foliage and unique hikes where you can also see the New York City Skyline amongst the breathtaking scenery.
Next head to Woodstock, famous for its art scene and bohemian culture. Enjoy the unique shops and cafes, and take a stroll through Overlook Mountain Trail, which offers panoramic views of the vibrant autumn foliage.
The final destination is the Catskills region, known for its picturesque landscapes, charming towns, and outdoor recreation. Take a scenic drive along Route 28, stopping in the town of Phoenicia for a bite to eat at the Phoenicia diner and a visit to the local art galleries.
While here enjoy plenty of hiking or head to Hunter Mountain where they offer tons of activities to enjoy.
The fall foliage road trip from New York City to the Catskills is a perfect way to soak in the beauty of autumn while exploring charming towns and taking in breathtaking views.
Recommended by Julie of Family Trips and Travels
6. Minneapolis to Chicago (a fun city to city fall road trips)
- Distance: 459 miles
- Recommended time: 2-5 days
- Best time to see fall colors: late September through mid October
One of the best fall drives in the USA to see vivid colors while finding some adventure is a fun road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. You’ll drive through the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, which are all beautiful this time of year.
If you can, spend a day in Minneapolis seeing nature and soaking in the sights and activities in town. Visit Minnehaha Falls and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, two of the best free things to do in the city. If you’re up for some shopping, of course you’ll find the Mall of America to have what you need!
From there, you’ll head northeast to Interstate State Park. Straddling the St. Croix River and the Minneapolis-Wisconsin state line, this park is absolutely stunning the fall. Grab your hiking shoes and hike the River Bluff Trail, one of the best places to see fall foliage!
Heading further into Wisconsin, visit the charming town of Eau Claire, where you can explore the largest Sculpture Tour in the nation. Next up is Wisconsin Dells, which is ‘The Waterpark Capital of the World’ and a great spot for an overnight stay if you’re traveling with kids.
The end of this scenic fall drive is in the great city of Chicago, which is home to amazing fall foliage in October. Be sure to visit the Bean, Millennium Park and the Navy Pier if it’s your first time to the city. You’ll also find beautiful fall colors along the River Walk in downtown Chicago.
One of the best driving route for fall foliage in the Midwest, this road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago is a fun adventure. You can spend a long weekend doing this fall road trip, or extend it into a week visiting the cities and small towns in between.
Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes
Epic fall drives continued…
There are so many scenic fall drives in the United States that we could never fit them all on one list. But, we will do our best! Here are more of the best driving routes for fall foliage!
7. Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah (a great fall foliage road trip if you’re short on time)
- Distance: ~20 miles
- Recommended time: 2 hours
- Best time to see fall colors: super late September to early October
Craving a scenic drive where you can witness an explosion of color? Check out the famous Alpine Loop Scenic Byway in Northern Utah.
The Alpine Loop is about a 20 mile stretch of highway that connects American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon in Utah County, and is a favorite fall drive destination amongst locals and visitors alike.
This is probably THE most popular scenic fall drive to experience the rainbow blanket of colors that wraps up the Wasatch mountain range, with the best direction to drive starting from the mouth of American Fork Canyon.
The drive is free if you plan to stay in your car and enjoy the views. However, if you want to walk amongst the brilliant shades of golden quaking aspens or get lost in the red and orange hues of the maples and pines, you can pay $6 at the ranger station for a 3-day pass.
There are several hikes you can explore in the area including the Timpanogos Cave and Cascade Springs, or stroll around Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort.
Whatever your plan of attack might be, you are guaranteed to have a splendid view of the mountains decked out in their fall colors. Easy switchbacks, numerous pull-outs, and frequent wildlife sightings will make sure your drive is nothing less than spectacular. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
And if you love Utah, check out the stunning scenic byways along the route of this Utah national parks road trip!
Recommended by Rachelle of Adventure is Never Far Away
8. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park
- Distance: 49.71 miles
- Recommended time: 4-5 hours
- The Best time to see fall colors: Mid-September
Looking for one of the best fall road trips in the USA? If so then you can’t beat the drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park.
See, this incredibly scenic route starts in West Glacier Village, right near the western entrance tp Glacier National Park. This route then climbs along the Continental Divide and finishes in St. Mary, Montana.
Fondly referred to as “Crown of the Continent”, if you visit this road at the right time you’ll be able to see the leaves on local Aspens turn a golden yellow hue.
Just be aware that because this road reaches an elevation of 6,646 feet at Logan Pass, this route is only open from late June through October and a timed entry permit is required between 6:00am and 3:00pm during the summer months. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed during winter in Glacier National Park.
You’ll also want to drive from west to east since many of the most idyliic overlooks sit on the southern end of the road, near the valley.
So, once you start the drive be sure to stop at the Apgar Visitor Center so to take in impressive views of Lake McDonald from Lake McDonald Beach.
Next, pass by Lake McDonald before hitting McDonald Falls and getting out to enjoy the viewing platform here.
You’ll then see Sacred Dancing Cascades and can do both the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail, two of the best easy trails in Glacier National Park before passing Bird Woman Falls and then Haystack Falls.
Continue to Oberlin Bend Overlook so that you can admire Mount Oberlin in the distance before stopping at Jackson Glacier Overlook. Just be sure to bring some binoculars since the glacier is quite far away.
Once you’ve finished your journey, spend the night at iconic local hotels like the Apgar Village Lodge, the Lake McDonald Lodge, or the Apgar Village Inn.
This route is so incredible, it easily fits on the list of the best road trips USA, too!
Recommended by Jamie of Photo Jeepers
9. Blue Ridge Parkway (one of the most popular fall drives in the US)
- Distance: 489 miles
- Recommended Time: 4-7 days
- Best Time to See Fall Colors: Early October
One of the best road trips in October to take if you want to see incredible fall colors in the USA is the Blue Ridge Parkway. This amazing road trip starts in Northern Virginia, near Charlottesville, and extends down to North Carolina, right by Asheville.
So, begin your journey in Northern Virginia and make a stop at milepost 6 so that you can check out the views and trails all around the Humpback Gap. In fact, you can even complete a section of the Appalachian Trail before continuing to Natural Bridge State Park.
Be sure to stop for a hike and check out the natural stone arch before passing through Roanoke and finally spending the night in Floyd, Virginia.
Next, wake up and see the historic Mabry Mill at milepost 176. It’s a historic water mill from the 1900s that is definitely worth a look. However, don’t leave without ordering some delicious blueberry pancakes before continuing to Galax.
Next, visit the Blueridge Music Center and enjoy a cultural performance before exploring the town of West Jefferson.
You’ll want to spend the night in Boone before stopping at Moses Cone Manor. It’s located at Milepost 294.1 and is a historic home with sweeping panoramas of the area.
Drive past Blowing Rock and continue to Linn Cove Viaduct at milepost 304.4. You’ll then visit Grandfather Mountain and take a break at Rough Ridge Overlook before hiking to Linville Falls at Milepost 316.4.
Finally, take some time to walk through the exposed rocks at Craggy Gardens before ending your trip in Asheville, North Carolina and spending the night at the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
Recommended by Victoria of Southern Trippers
10. Seattle to Olympic National Park
- Distance: 400 miles
- Recommended time: Driving time 7.5 hours. (2+ days recommended)
- Best time to see fall colors: Late September through Early November
A drive through Seattle’s western peninsula in the fall is an otherworldly travel experience. While it may not boast the classic charm and crisp colors of a New England fall drive, the Pacific Northwest offers fall travelers a different flavor of road trip experience.
Unique fall weather patterns on the Pacific coast of Washington create a moody grey fog that cloaks evergreen-covered hillsides in the iconic gradient of rolling grey-green hillsides. As fall turns to winter, an unusual variety of trees- called Golden Larches, turn fiery orange- appearing seemingly overnight on green hillsides like columns of fire.
Autumn travelers to the Olympic Rainforest also enjoy frequent elk sightings. There are few travel experiences more memorable to this travel blogger than hearing elk mating calls while on a foggy fall hike and then, emerging from the forest, and encountering an entire herd of elk grazing in a meadow.
Although many will start a road trip to Washington’s Pacific coast by driving around the Puget Sound through the city of Tacoma, I recommended the scenic route.
To avoid interstates and enjoy more country roads, take a ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island, then Union Washington, Quanlault Rainforest, Ruby Beach, and then return with a drive through the tourist-friendly towns of Forks and Port Angeles before returning to Seattle by ferry.
Following the edges of the Olympic National Park, this fall drive offers many opportunities for excursions into remote parts of the park or shorter strolls down accessible trails with interpretive signage.
With a number of incredible spas and lodges tucked into the woods in this region, travelers can enjoy camping or luxury accommodations along the way. Kalaloch Lodge, Quinalt Lodge, and Alderbrook Resort and Spa are all excellent choices that balance comfortable accommodations with PNW wildness.
Recommended by Lynli of Wander Big
11. San Francisco to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley (a wine-lovers dream fall road trip)
- Distance: 184 miles
- Recommended time: 4 days
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid October to early November is usually peak
For a fabulous foliage peeping road trip in California, consider Napa and Sonoma! The two premier wine regions in the state put on a wonderful show of color from early October until late November.
You’ll see not just native and planted trees ablaze with color in the little towns, the vineyards also dress up in hues of autumn, from yellow to orange, red, and burgundy.
Start your road trip in San Francisco and zip north to the town of Sonoma, where you can stroll then plaza and sample a fall menu at one of the restaurants before spending a couple of hours visiting vineyards in the area.
Then drive north to Healdsburg, stopping enroute at the Sonoma Botanical Garden to observe the fall color.
Healdsburg is renowned for its wineries. Tour vineyards along Dry Creek Road, and dine at some of the famous eateries in town. Make reservations well ahead of your visit, especially if you want to dine at one of the top fine dining places in town.
Stay at the Hotel Healdsburg in the heart of downtown Healdsburg.
The next morning cut across to Calistoga, at the north end of Napa Valley, and work your way down along the Silverado Trail. Here, you will see vistas of vineyards draped in color.
There are numerous wineries along the way you can visit. Have lunch in charming Saint Helena or upscale Yountville, where the main street puts on a dazzling fall show.
Spend the night in the city of Napa, where you can enjoy the art installations and stores in downtown Napa, which is also perfect for wine tasting and dinner.
The next morning, take a hot air balloon ride to see the fall color from above before enjoying a leisurely brunch. Ballooning over the vineyards is one of the most thrilling things to do in Napa Valley! Afterwards, make your way back to San Francisco, or catch up on the route with this San Francisco to San Diego road trip.
Recommended by Dhara of Roadtripping California
12. Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon (one of the most underrated fall drives on this list)
- Distance: 280 miles
- Recommended time: One week
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid October-Mid November
A fall road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim is one of the best ways to experience the changing seasons. The bright white bark on the aspens in Kaibab National Forest is a stunning contrast to the red, yellow, and orange leaves on their branches.
The journey offers awe-inspiring scenic roads, amazing geological formations, and historical landmarks. To make the most of this scenic route, plan to drive through Kaibab National Forest in October. This is the best time to capture the breathtaking fall scenery and stop for scenic lookouts.
Other highlights of this road trip include passing through Joshua Tree Forest, admiring Hoover Dam from afar, driving down old Route 66, and visiting Hualapai Native American Tribe. While these aren’t necessarily fall color stops, they are still unique options to round out a fun one-week road trip from Las Vegas!
See also: best day trips from Las Vegas
After all these stops, you’ll arrive at your destination: Grand Canyon South Rim. If you can, stay at one of the hotels inside Grand Canyon National Park for a truly unforgettable experience.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure or want to take in nature’s beauty during autumn, a road trip from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim is an incredible way to view fall colors!
Recommended by Brodi of Our Offbeat Life
13. Door County, Wisconsin (an amazing fall foliage road trip in the Midwest)
- Distance: 44 miles from Sturgeon Bay, WI, to the Curvy Highway
- Recommended time: A two or three-day weekend
- Best time to see fall colors: Second week in October
Looking for a fantastic fall drive in an under-the-radar Midwest location? Consider beautiful Door County, Wisconsin.
And specifically, the northernmost and highly photographed section of its main thoroughfare – Highway 42, known as the Curvy Highway.
If you are unfamiliar with this area, Door County is a beautiful 2,000-square-mile peninsula, surrounded by the waters of Green Bay to its west and Lake Michigan to its north and east.
Find it on Wisconsin’s thumb, a 45-minute drive northeast of the city of Green Bay.
Regionally, upper Midwesterners love Door County as a vacation destination due to its 300 miles of coastline, which includes several impressive beaches, 5 state parks, 19 county parks, and an unending number of activities.
Although lovely to visit in the summer, Door County truly shines in the fall when the colors turn, and its coastal views, dotted with picturesque lighthouses, are all the more stunning.
Door County’s estimated peak week of color is usually the second week in October, though this changes annually. Fortunately, Travel Wisconsin updates an annual fall color report to help visitors pinpoint the perfect time for a visit.
Once there, if you aim to see fall colors along the famed curvy stretch of road, start your drive in Sturgeon Bay. From here, head north on Highway 42 for nearly 44 miles, taking a break to stop at state parks or pretty coastal towns along your way.
You will come to these impossible-to-miss curves shortly before the road ends a half-mile later at the Washington Island Ferry.
Door County is also a big stop on one of the best Midwest road trips, Milwaukee to Wisconsin Dells.
Recommended by Janice of Gather and Go Travel
14. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, Colorado
- Distance: 55 miles
- Recommended time: 3 days (the drive will take between 2 and 3 hours)
- Best time to see fall colors: 3rd of 4th week of September
Known for being Colorado’s oldest scenic byway since it was established in 1916, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is easily one of the best fall road trips to see fall colors in the USA
After all, this incredible stretch of road extends from Estes Park to Black Hawk and takes you past some of the most awe-inspiring natural areas in the country. It’s one of the best scenic drives Colorado!
This route includes places like Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forest, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, and Rocky Mountain National Park. And if you visit during September, then you’ll see Aspen Trees along the Continental Divide come alive with vibrant colors as you enjoy one of the best fall drives in Colorado.
Now, you’ll start your journey just north of Estes Park. Because fall is elk mating season, you’ll want to spend a night or two in Estes Park to enjoy the Elk Fest, which is one of the best things to do in Estes Park. You’ll then start your drive and take CO-7 past the Twin Sisters and Lily Mountain.
When you get to Allenspark, you can stop to visit both St. Catherine of Siena Chapel and Chapel on the Rock.
Afterward, hop on CO-72 and head to Nederland. Feel free to spend the night since you can grab coffee at New Moon Bakery in the morning before hiking to gorgeous alpine lakes like Lost Lake, King Lake, Woodland Lake and Diamond Lake.
You’ll then continue on CO-119 and end your journey in the town of Black Hawk where you can do a bit of gambling at popular casinos like Ameristar, Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, and more.
Recommended by Meg of Fox in the Forest
Best fall road trips New England
New England is famous for its breathtaking fall colors. Thousands upon thousands of tourists flock to these northeastern states to admire the views. Here are some of the best New England fall road trips! I mean…look at all these colors!
15. Northeast Kingdom, Vermont
- Distance: 110 mile loop
- Recommended time: 2 days
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid-September to early October
Vermont is famous for its autumn colors therefore a road trip through the Northeast Kingdom of the state is a breathtaking experience in the fall.
The Northeast Kingdom is a sparsely populated, heavily forested area of majestic mountains, quaint towns, and picturesque rivers and lakes in the extreme northeast corner of Vermont bordering Canada.
Start the road trip loop in Saint Johnsbury. It’s a charming New England town with cute shops, great restaurants and breweries, and nearby outdoor recreation.
Head toward the ski town of Burke and drive up the auto road to the summit of Burke Mountain for outstanding views of fall colors reaching all the way to Canada.
The next stop is at stunning Lake Willoughby, a glacial lake surrounded by mountains. Take the time to hike up Mt. Pisgah. The amazing views of foliage around the lake from ahigh is worth the 4-mile out and back hike.
Relax at one of the cabins at Pine Crest Motel and Cabins after a full day of exploring.
On the next morning, drive up to Newport located on the southern shore of glacial Lake Memphremagog. The fall colors reflected in the water can be seen from the lakefront restaurants.
Finish the loop back to Saint Johnsbury by exploring the back roads near spectacular Island Pond State Park. It will surely be one of the best driving routes for fall foliage in all of the United States.
Recommended by Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler
16. Boston to Acadia National Park (best driving route for fall foliage in New England!)
- Distance: 260 miles
- Recommended time: 4-7 days roundtrip
- Best time to see fall colors: Early October
One of the best fall trips to witness color-changing leaves along the New England coast is driving from Boston to Acadia National Park on Route 1. This route is filled with beautiful coastlines and vibrantly colored forests.
Starting in Boston, one of the best family vacations with teens, and ending in Acadia, along the way are many fanatics stops to break up the drive and explore the northeast, including lighthouses, state parks, botanical gardens, swinging bridges, piers, and more.
If you’re looking for a place to take a break during your drive, consider Portland, Maine. It’s a fun are to explore the Maine covered bridges, not to mention it’s a paradise for food lovers and boasts some of the top breweries in New England. Don’t miss out on visiting Allagash Brewing, Eventide Oyster Co, The Holy Donut and Duckfat.
Once you’re back on Route 1, stop at Mount Battie for a fantastic view of the fall foliage as well as the cute town of Camden. You can hike 1.1 miles to the top or drive up and walk around.
With Acadia National Park being the final destination, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the rocky coastline and plenty of gorgeous foliage in early October. Hiking through the park’s trails or seeing the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain is a beautiful way to take in all of the colors!
Not only will you be seeing great foliage along the New England coast on this road trip, but you’ll also be eating and drinking very well along the way. This makes it one of the best fall road trips in the USA!
Recommended by Kelsea of Out of Office Mindset
17. Vermont’s Route 100
- Distance: 216 miles
- Recommended time: 4-5 Days
- Best time to see fall colors: Late September to Mid-October
As the crisp fall air arrives, plan an unforgettable autumn adventure along Vermont’s Route 100, one of the most scenic fall drives in New England!
You’ll start in southern Vermont in Wilmington and end near the border of Canada, in Newport. Along the way, you can stay at cozy inns, savor local cuisine, and take side trips to see covered bridges, art galleries, and craft breweries that are scattered along the length of Route 100!
In Plymouth, Vermont, visit the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site to explore the preserved village, Coolidge’s childhood home, and Plymouth Cheese. Plan a stay afterward at the Trailside Inn, in Killington, nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains.
Further north, stop by the Original General Store in Pittsfield for lunch and gift shopping. Also, catch a breath of fresh air in Granville at the gorgeous Moss Glen Falls! In Warren, spend the night at the Pitcher Inn before you drive through the Mad River Valley where numerous eateries and shops await you.
In Waterbury, don’t forget to visit Ben and Jerry’s for the factory tour and a visit to the scoop shop! It’s also a good idea to grab a hot cider and cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
Then, head down the Mountain Rd. in the morning for the Stowe Gondola Skyride. It provides stunning aerial views of the fall landscape, and likely some of the best of your trip!
To avoid crowds, consider planning this road trip on weekdays. Pack warm layers and rain gear for unpredictable weather as well as a hat and a pair of gloves.
Recommended by Heather of This Noshtaglic Life
18. Franconia Notch Parkway, New Hampshire (one of the best places to see fall foliage)
- Distance: 17 miles
- Recommended time: 2 – 4 hours depending on what you choose to stop and do.
- Best time to see fall colors: First 2 weeks of October
The Franconia Notch Parkway in northern New Hampshire is a favorite for locals and tourists alike! This route offers stunning mountains, rivers, and more.
As you embark on this road trip, be ready to stop and walk around at the many stops along the way. The parkway is well known for its vibrant fall foliage making it the perfect autumn road trip.
Be sure to stop at the Flume Gorge at the beginning of the route. This is a natural narrow gorge that is about a 2 mile hike to get to. You’ll be blown away by the towering granite walls, cascading waterfalls, and dense forest surroundings.
Another must-see leaf peeping spot is Artists Bluff. This is a fairly short hike that rewards you with panoramic views of Echo Lake and the surrounding mountains.
If hiking in the woods isn’t really your thing, you could take the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. The tram ride takes you to the summit of Cannon Mountain, offering jaw dropping views of the White Mountains. It is always a beautiful sight, but even more so in the fall.
The best time to take this road trip is during the fall season, typically from late September to mid-October. This period offers the most vibrant and colorful foliage, transforming the landscapes into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows.
A drive through the Franconia Notch Parkway in the fall will be an unforgettable experience.
Recommended by Amanda of Life Has its Perks
More scenic fall road trips
We aren’t finished yet! Keep reading for more of the best fall road trips in the United States! So many options for beautiful fall foliage in this country.
19. Denver to Million Dollar Highway (one of the best road trips in October)
- Distance: about 560 Miles
- Recommended time: 3-5 days
- Best time to see fall colors: late September to early October
If you’re looking for one of the best fall road trips in the USA to see fall colors, Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway will surprise you.
The journey begins in Denver where you can pick up US Route 550 which then takes you southwest toward Grand Junction—a distance of nearly 560 miles. Along your route, you’ll pass through Rocky Mountain National Park with stops at Kebler Pass and San Juan Skyway—both offering amazing panoramic vistas during fall. The perfect place for a picnic lunch!
Note: be sure to grab a timed entry permit from the National Park Service when planning this epic fall road trip!
As you continue your drive down US 550 make sure to stop off at Golden Gate Canyon State Park where even more incredible landscape awaits including sweeping meadows blanketed by colorful foliage.
Take a break from the road and hop aboard the Georgetown Loop Railroad for an unforgettable journey back in time. This historic railway is one of Colorado’s most popular attractions with its steep climbs and twists offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountainscape.
Be sure to make stops at Ohio Creek Road and Guanella Pass. These two areas are home to some of Colorado’s most beautiful fall colors, with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows as far as the eyes can see!
Here’s how you can make the most out of this beautiful Colorado fall colors road trip:
- Time your trip right. Colorado fall colors typically peak in late September to early October, but it can vary from year to year. Be sure to plan accordingly and check the forecast before you embark on this colorful adventure!
- Don’t forget your camera. The vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn will make for some amazing photo ops, so be sure to bring your camera so you can capture all the beauty of Colorado’s fall colors.
- Pack a picnic lunch. There are plenty of great spots along the way to stop for a picnic lunch and enjoy the view!
- Keep an eye out for wildlife. As you make your way through this scenic route, you might be lucky enough to spot some elk, deer, bighorn sheep, or even a black bear!
- Be prepared for all weather. Make sure to bring all the necessary items like warm clothes and rain gear just in case of any unpredictable weather.
Recommended by Sara of Mindful Travel
20. Minnesota North Shore (amongst the best fall foliage in US)
- Distance: about 150 Miles
- Recommended time: 3-5 days (depending on number of stops, hiking, exploring)
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid-September to early October (varies due to weather conditions)
One of the best fall drives to take this year is the scenic North Shore in Minnesota. For nearly 150 miles, Highway 61 guides you from Duluth, Minn. to the Canadian border.
And much of that is right alongside Lake Superior – the largest freshwater lake in the world. Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But it’s also home to 17.6 million acres of forest. That makes for a very scenic fall foliage drive.
Start your North Shore road trip this fall in Duluth, MN. The Gateway to the North Shore is located about 2.5 hours north of the Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport.
Some of the best fall foliage photo-op stops include Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, Palisade Head and Lutsen Mountains. Take the Summit Express Gondola up Moose Mountain 1,000 feet for a sea of orange, green pines, and panoramic views of Lake Superior.
Your fall road trip in Minnesota ends at Grand Portage State Park. This unique stop features Minnesota’s tallest waterfall and fall foliage views of three nations. They include the U.S., Canada and the Grand Portage Nation.
When is peak fall foliage in Minnesota? Depends on weather conditions, but typically mid-September to early October.
How long does the North Shore fall foliage road trip take? Depends on the number of photo-op stops you take along the way.
You could technically drive the North Shore in Minnesota in one day. But for the best fall road trip experience, allow at least three to five days to see the best stops on Minnesota’s North Shore this fall – or any season!
Recommended by Karen of kmfiswriting
21. Richard B Russell Scenic Highway, Georgia
- Distance: 23 miles
- Recommended time: 2+ hours
- Best time to see fall colors: end of October
The Richard B Russell Highway through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia is a short but gorgeous drive through rolling mountains.
Here, you’ll wind higher up through the mountain pass, with numerous pullouts for scenic viewpoints, where you can see ridge after ridge after ridge going far out in the distance.
The best viewpoint is the Hog Pen Gap Overlook, and is also an excellent place to watch the sunset.
Besides the overlooks, there are many hikes that start off the Richard B Russell Scenic Highway. A few great options are Dukes Creek Falls and Raven Creek Falls, and the Tesnatee Gap Trail to Cowrock Mountain. This trail is actually one section of the Appalachian Trail, which crosses the scenic highway.
The starting point for the highway is just west of Helen, a tiny, cute town that’s designed to look like a German village. Be sure to take an afternoon to explore Helen before hitting the road!
The highway is technically a point-to-point drive, ending at Highway 180, but you can turn east on Highway 180, and then turn south on Highway 75/Unicoi Turnpike to turn this into a scenic loop drive.
Driving the Richard B Russell Scenic Highway can be as short as a couple of hours if you just stop at a few of the viewpoints. Alternatively, it could take most of the day if you decide to do some of the hikes. Either way, this drive is one of the best things to do in north Georgia in the fall.
Recommended by Stephanie of the Unknown Enthusiast
22. Twin Falls to Grand Teton National Park (an underrated route on this list of best fall road trips)
- Distance: 255 miles
- Recommended time: 1-3 days
- Best time to see fall colors: mid September to early October
This is one of the most underrated fall drives in the USA, and definitely one worth planning! The route from Twin Falls, Idaho to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming is beautiful!
Starting in the town of Twin Falls, you’ll want to visit Shoshone Falls Park. This beautiful waterfall dumps into the Snake River and creates such a scenic spot to explore. Furthermore, there are quite a bit of activities to do on the river like going into the Snake River Canyon, one of the top things to do in Twin Falls.
Heading east, you’ll get to Idaho Falls. Stretch your legs from your road trip and walk the Idaho Falls River Walk & Snake River Greenbelt, where you’ll see beautiful fall colors along the river. Grab lunch on your way out of town, or if you’re exploring Twin Falls and Idaho Falls, stay in downtown Idaho Falls before continuing east the next day.
Perhaps the most scenic part of this adventure, and the best driving route for fall foliage is between Idaho Falls, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming. You’ll drive through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest then the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and it’s stunning!
The fall is one of the best times to visit Grand Teton National Park. The weather is cooler and crowds have dwindled. Yet the wildlife is abundant, especially during dusk and dawn.
This road rip is best done the 3rd week in September through the first week in October to see peak fall foliage, although it will vary a bit based on the weather each year. Driving straight through is just over 4 hours, but you’ll at least want to spend some time in Twin Falls, Grand Teton, Jackson Hole and more!
Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes
23. Red River Gorge Scenic Byway, Kentucky (an underrated fall foliage road trip)
- Distance: 46 miles
- Recommended time: 4 hours
- Best time to see fall colors: Late October
The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway is a breathtaking fall road trip that winds through the heart of the bluegrass states. Weaving through the Daniel Boone National Forest, this picturesque route is filled with incredible autumn colors and awe-inspiring landscapes perfect for nature lovers and leaf peepers.
Beginning in Slade, the gateway to the Red River Gorge Geological Area, the scenic byway covers approximately 46 miles. It showcases the area’s stunning natural beauty alongside plenty of exploration opportunities.
As you drive down the scenic byway, you’ll be greeted by bursts of vibrant reds, oranges, and golds. The best time to embark on this adventure is typically mid to late October when the fall foliage is at its peak. It’s one of the best possible road trips in October!
The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway has a number of areas you’ll want to explore. First is the Natural Bridge State Park, which features an iconic Natural Bridge. The bridge is an impressive sandstone arch that stands majestically in the midst of the forest.
Take a hike along the forest’s vibrant autumn trails to appreciate the stunning views and natural wonders.
For more outdoor adventure, the Red River Gorge Geological Area is filled with rock climbing and hiking along with camping and zip-lining.
Make the most of your road trip with an overnight stay in one of the charming towns nearby like Stanton or Beattyville. These quaint communities offer a range of quaint accommodations from cozy bed and breakfasts to lovely rustic cabins.
While you’re in the area, head to one of the best wineries in Kentucky like Lover’s Leap or Equus Run to enjoy the fall harvest and beautiful vineyard views. Or nearby, check out the beautiful lookouts, museums and walking trails for the top things to do in Wytheville VA.
When planning your trip, remember to pack essentials like comfortable hiking shoes and check weather conditions and road closures before starting your journey.
Recommended by Sydney of Sydney to Anywhere
24. Flagstaff to Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona
- Distance: Flagstaff to Oak Creek Canyon – 30 miles
- Recommended time: 2 hours
- Best time to see fall colors: Mid-to-late November
Flagstaff is a popular place to visit in Northern Arizona and a getaway to the Grand Canyon National Park. It’s also one of the best fall foliage road trips in the southwest!
Flagstaff typically begins seeing its first yellow leaves in the middle of September. However, the exact timing could differ depending on location and altitude.
Since Arizona has limited opportunities for leaf-peeping, you will have to be strategic about the timing of your trip. People from all over the state come to the area to see the changing foliage.
Some of the most popular spots for seeing the fall foliage in Arizona are Locket Meadow which boasts a nice Aspen grove at the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks and Aspen Corner which can be accessed via Arizona Trail Passage 34.
If you have a vehicle, check out Highway 89A on the way from Flagstaff to Sedona. It’s one of the most beautiful drives in the Southwest for fall foliage. The drive will take you through Oak Creek Canyon where you can see spectacular fall colors on full display.
Finally, don’t miss the Arizona Snowball, a popular ski resort in Northern Arizona where you can enjoy the panoramic views of the foliage around the San Francisco peaks from the gondola.
To see the fall colors in Flagstaff, plan your outings for early morning or late afternoon, to avoid mid-day crowds and choose weekdays instead of weekends.
Depending on the season and the weather, you might still be able to see some fall colors in Oak Creek Canyon located on the way to Sedona.
Recommended by Daria of The Discovery Nut
25. Sacramento to Los Angeles (one of the best scenic fall drives)
- Distance: 385 miles
- Recommended time: 4 hours
- Best time to see fall colors: November
There plenty of places to see and discover when driving from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Although not the most popular place to see the fall foliage, it surprisingly makes for an excellent fall drive!
Sacramento alone is one of the most beautiful places in California. It’s spread with trees and green meadows as far as the eye can see. Therefore, you will be surrounded by lush greenery where you can witness the fall colors along the way.
Once you leave Sacramento, you will pass through Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Santa Monica and many major cities in California. This entire fall drive is about is 385 miles, but I recommend spending a least a 3 days along the route!
After hitting the road, stop in San Francisco to take a picture at the famous Golden Bridge. Then, make a stop in Malibu to visit the famous Malibu Lagoon State Beach and dip your feet at the sandy tranquilizing water.
The next stop is Santa Clarita where you would visit Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park. It’s a thrill-seekers paradise as it’s jam-packed with roller coasters and other amazing rides.
The best place to see fall colors in California is Santa Barbara. Therefore, you should stop by at one of its national or state parks. I highly recommend stopping at Channel Islands National Park for some of the most amazing views.
Finally, end your California fall road trip with a stop at the Santa Monica Pier, and if you have the time, you should pay the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium a visit. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you will be met with so many amazing adventures!
Recommended by Ossama of Awesome Traveler
26. East Texas road trip (an underrated route on this list of best fall drives in the US)
- Distance: 250 miles
- Recommended time: 1 – 5 days
- Best time to see fall colors: November
For adventurous souls who like a bang for their driving buck, it’s time to take an East Texas road trip. A couple of hours outside of Houston lies Big Thicket National Preserve which offers plenty of quiet moments with lovely sights.
Head east from Houston towards Beaumont (great birding opportunities) and then veer north towards Big Thicket National Preserve. Out here, it’s empty, so bring what you want to eat, or you’ll have to rely on a couple of small shops along the way.
After spending a couple of days hiking, paddling, or kayaking in Big Thicket National Preserve and Village Creek State Park, head west to Huntsville State Park. Here, you can keep hiking, fishing, camping, or mountain biking. Only 75 minutes north of Houston, it’s a local favorite outdoor destination!
I recommend visiting fall through spring when the humidity is low, and the summer heat won’t suck your life out! November is the best time to see the fall colors in Eastern Texas. Keep in mind it can still get sweaty on the trails, so wear the appropriate hiking clothes to ensure your fall road trip goes off without a hitch!
Recommended by Alec of Explore with Alec
Best fall drives in the US
Yay for planning your fall foliage road trip! Where to first?! We’ve covered all corners of the USA and many spots in between. One thing is for sure: there’s no shortage of options when it comes to beautiful fall drives!
I hate to wish away the summer heat, but I can hardly contain my excitement for the brisk fall months to arrive. For now, I’ll be wishful dreaming while reading this list of the best fall drives in the United States.
Here’s a quick recap of the best fall road trips in the United States….
Best fall road trips
- Eastern Sierra fall road trip, California
- Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
- The Cascade Loop, Washington
- Kebler Pass, Colorado
- New York City to Catskills
- Minneapolis to Chicago
- Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah
- Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Seattle to Olympic National Park
- San Francisco to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley
- Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
- Door County, Wisconsin
- Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, Colorado
- Northeast Kingdom, Vermont
- Boston to Acadia National Park
- Vermont’s Route 100
- Franconia Notch Parkway, New Hampshire
- Denver to Million Dollar Highway
- Minnesota North Shore
- Richard B Russell Scenic Highway, Georgia
- Twin Falls to Grand Teton National Park
- Red River Gorge Scenic Byway, Kentucky
- Flagstaff to Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona
- Sacramento to Los Angeles
- East Texas road trip
Related content you might like:
29 Amazing Road Trips USA: Scenic (& Underrated) Routes You’ll Love
30 Gorgeous West Coast Road Trip Routes You Gotta See to Believe
26 Best National Parks to Visit in October (Amazing Spots You Need to See)
32 Best Places to Visit in September in USA (Unique and Cool Ideas You’ll Love)
Find this post helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!