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12 Fall Drives Where You Can See Colorful Foliage This Season

It’s finally that time of year again: the weather is cooling off and the leaves are fading red, orange, and gold.

There’s no better way to take in fall colors than by going for a drive. New England is especially famous for their foliage, but leaf peepers can get a glimpse of autumn color all over the US (and Canada) this September, October, and mid-November.

The best time to plan your trip will vary every year. Leaves change colors at a different time in different places, depending on weather conditions, elevation, and other factors. Some byways and states have their own foliage trackers online that are updated throughout the season.

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No matter where you are, going on a trip this season is a fun way to spend an afternoon. So grab your keys and head up any of these picture perfect fall routes!

1. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

fall foliage
Jeffrey Pott/Flickr

Blue Ridge Parkway runs between Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Grey Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, mostly following the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The road is slow-paced (25-45 mph), but that’s okay, you’ll want to drive steady to appreciate the mountainous views, crisp air, and vibrant red, orange, and gold leaves.

In the fall, the foliage color change usually begins in the higher elevations around the beginning of October, and slowly works its way down to the lower elevations by mid-November.

The trip:

469 miles

Where to stop:

Swing by Craggy Gardens for enchanting mountain views. Gorgeous landscapes can be seen by the Visitor Center or while hiking the nearby trails. The stop also has a huge picnic area, and on clear nights, makes for a dreamy place to go stargazing.

2. Route 100, Vermont

fall foliage
Shiran Pasternak/Flickr

Vermont, like all of New England, is a slice of heaven in the fall, and that proves to be true while cruising down Route 100. The scenic route zig-zags through the middle of the state on the east edge of the Green Mountains. Vibrant red sugar maples, red oaks, and sweet gums line the road, with an abundance of outdoor opportunities, historical attractions, and charming small towns along the way.

The trip:

138 miles

Where to stop:

Despite the name, the views at Mt. Horrid Observation Site are anything but horrid. To reach the outlook, you do need to hike about 0.6 miles uphill, but kids and pets can usually follow along, and the payoff is well worth it. From the top, you’ll get a wide perspective of the Green Mountain National Forest and Champlain Valley below.

3. Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire

fall foliage
Ellen Edersheim/White Mountains Attractions

Drive up this stretch of Route 112 in northern New Hampshire and you’ll fall in love with the bold autumn colors and deep forest pine smells. It’s not a long drive—you could travel the whole length in less than an hour without stopping. But it’s easy to spend at least 3 or 4 hours exploring all of the highway’s scenic outlooks, hiking trails, and waterfalls.

On average, the prime viewing for foliage on this road is from late September through mid-October.

The trip:

34 miles

Where to stop:

Just off the highway, it’s an easy 0.6-mile hike to Sabbaday Falls. This short path is handicap-accessible and interpretative with several informational postings along the trail. A gravel path and wooden steps lead up to the edge of the 45-foot cascade, where you can find some of the best photo ops.

4. Skyline Drive, Virginia

fall foliage
Flickr/Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park from Virginia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Skyline Drive, which also follows along the Blue Ridge Mountains, winds all the way through Shenandoah National Park. By mid-October, the scenery fills with brilliant hues, ranging from bright red Virginia creeper vines to yellow and orange hickories, and deep purple dogwoods.

On your trip, swing by any of the 75 outlooks for breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley. And while you’re driving, keep an eye out for wildlife—like deer, black bears, wild turkeys, or any other woodland animals that are often seen crossing.

The trip:

105 miles

Where to stop:

Venture off Skyline Drive by taking Route 211 to the mind-blowing Luray Caverns. These dramatic caves feature huge, cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings ten stories high, filled with towering stone columns and crystal clear pools.

The caverns are also home to The Great Stalacpipe Organ, which is known as the “World’s Largest Instrument.” It may look like any old organ at first, but instead of pipes, it’s connected to soft rubber mallets that softly strike stalactites of different lengths and thicknesses to produce symphony-like music.

5. Million Dollar Highway (Route 550), Colorado

fall foliage
Alan Stark/Flickr
Fall Colors on Million Dollar Highway by Alan Stark is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

At only 25 miles, Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway isn’t a really long drive, but with its hairpin curves, steep climb, and lack of guardrails, you’ll want to take the road nice and slow. In the fall, the aspen trees lining the way fade to a beautiful golden hue peaking around late September or early October.

The highway, a stretch of Route 550 between the towns of Silverton and Ouray, is part of the San Juan Skyway. It climbs past three mountain passes, including Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain Pass.

The trip:

25 miles

Where to stop:

North of downtown Durango, Trimble Spa and Natural Hot Springs welcomes travelers to stop and experience total relaxation. The springs first opened their doors in the 19th century, but long before that, Ancient Puebloans from 1000 to 1200 would relax in the area’s healing waters.

The place is named after founder Frank Timble, who discovered the water helped cure his rheumatism in 1874. He then built a hotel around it and opened for everyone to take in its healing properties. They have natural hot springs to soak in, as well as an Olympic outdoor swimming pool and other therapeutic spa services on beautifully landscaped grounds.

Next door, Westerly RV Park makes for a cozy place to park for the night. They provide 25 sites, full hook-ups, a dog run, and a discounted entry to the hot springs. For rates, reservations, and more info, take a look at their website here.

6. Highway 158 (June Lake Loop), California

fall foliage
Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Highway 158, aka the June Lake Loop, is a short and sweet side road that branches off Route 395 in California’s Eastern Sierra. It winds around four lakes through a horseshoe-shaped canyon, with a rugged mountain backdrop and aspen trees that fade yellow, gold, and lime green in the fall, peaking by mid-October.

The trip:

16 miles

Where to stop:

Just south of the highway junction, June Lake is the real highlight of this trip. You can rent a fishing boat from either of its two marinas or just launch your own.  On the other end of the lake sits a small, quaint town with restaurants, shops, taverns, and lodging options.

RVers can find a comfy place to park for the night at the full-service June Lake RV Park, which is within walking distance of both June and Gull Lakes. They provide full hook-ups, free WiFi, and other lodging accommodations including a lake house and cottage that can be rented out for the night. You can read more about them on RV LIFE Campgrounds.

7. Highway 60, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

fall foliage
Ron Reiring/Flickr
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada by Ron Reiring is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re planning on heading north this season, drive up Highway 60—which passes through Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park—to take in the color-drenched scenery. The maple leaves turn bright red, yellow, and orange, usually by the end of September or beginning of October.

Before you take off, check out their Fall Color Report to get an idea of how much foliage has already changed.

The trip:

About 158 miles (254 km)

Where to stop:

For delicious baked goods, stop by Erika’s Bakery in Dwight, near the beginning of Algonquin Provincial Park. The small, friendly bakery serves pastries like shortbread chocolate chip cookies, ginger cookies, apple fritters, butter tarts, breakfast bagels, and excellent warm cups of coffee.

8. Tunnel of Trees, Michigan

fall foliage
Flickr/The Great Bearded One

Driving through this canopy of trees on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is like something out of a dream. Beginning in Harbor Springs, the narrow stretch of M-119 winds along a bluff high above Lake Michigan as it extends north to Cross Village. It travels through lush forest that becomes aflame with bright shades of red and gold by late September, with occasional breaks through the trees where you can get glimpses of the gleaming water.

The trip:

About 16 miles

Where to stop:

Good Hart, the only town along the Tunnel of Trees, has a charming general store worth visiting. In fact, they’re not just a general store, but also a community bakery, deli, post office, and gift shop with local goods. And if you’re hungry, pick up one of their famous chicken or beef pot pies. Each one is made with a heart cut in the middle!

9. Talimena Drive, Oklahoma, Arkansas

fall foliage
Wikipedia
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Forest Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A winding drive through the Ouachita National Forest, Talimena Scenic Byway becomes peppered with gold, red, and orange colors by late October and early November. It twists and turns along the crest of Winding Stair and Rich Mountains, ­between southeastern Oklahoma’s Highway 1 and western Arkansas’s Highway 88.

Without stopping, it only takes a little over an hour to drive. But if you’re looking for an adventure, the route passes by plenty of hiking trails, historic towns, and family fun attractions.

The trip:

54 miles

Where to stop:

At the Oklahoma entrance to the byway, Talimena State Park has dozens of opportunities for hiking, backpacking, and ATV adventures through the woods. The park also features spots for picnics and camping, including RV hook-ups with electric/water and a shower station.

10. Highland Scenic Byway, West Virginia

fall foliage
Ron Eskins/Flickr

No traffic lights, billboards, or line of cars clog up Highland Scenic Byway. Instead, the paved country drive runs through the Monongahela National Forest in southeast West Virginia, which becomes painted with red and orange colors by the end of September and mid-October.

The two-lane byway runs along both Routes 39 and 150. It leads from Richwood to Route 219, about seven miles north of Marlinton. Four scenic outlooks can be found along the way with mesmerizing views of the Allegheny Highlands.

The trip:

43 miles

Where to stop:

Several trailheads along the road provide plenty of opportunities to stop and stretch your legs. If you’re looking an easy but memorable route, try the Honeycomb Rocks Trail, a little over a mile east of Williams River Bridge.

Among the trees, you’ll come across fascinating rocks with lattice patterns that look just like honeycombs (hence the name). The rocks get their unusual formations from weather and other factors, and take millions of years to completely form.

11. Olympic Byway, New York

fall foliage
Flickr/ANCA

In northern New York, The Olympic Byway greets fall by late September with warm shades of crimson, gold, and orange. The road stretches from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario, through the High Peaks of Adirondack Park. Along the way, it passes through a ton of charming little towns where there are shops and dining options galore.

The trip:

170 miles

Where to stop:

Watertown has lots to offer during the fall.  Head over to Burrville Cider Mill for warm donuts and apple cider, go on a white-water rafting trip, or see bears and other animals at New York State Zoo in Thompson Park.

12. Acadia All-American Road, Maine

fall foliage
David Seibold/Flickr

Take this loop through Acadia National Park along Maine’s rugged coastline for more beautiful views of New England’s autumn hues. The red and gold maple and oak leaves pop out against the dark green forest, peaking by mid-October.

Check out Maine’s foliage tracker for the latest color updates.

The trip:

40 miles

Where to stop:

Thunder Hole is a small natural inlet on Maine’s rocky coastline.  A small cavern is at the very end of this inlet, and when the ocean waves come crashing in, air and water is then forced out, producing a water spout up to 40 feet high and a loud thunderous roar.

See also: The Best New England Towns To Visit This Fall



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