Fall Road Trip Ideas

From September to early November, from Vermont to California, Mother Nature does her best to wow us with a dazzling display of red, gold, and orange leaves. Don’t let her efforts go unappreciated.

Grab your favorite flannel and a dozen apple cider donuts for the road; here are seven road trips to take to get the best leaf-peeping of the season.

1. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
While Shenandoah National Park  has plenty to offer visitors year round, it really shines in the fall, when its thousands of trees turn. To fully experience the fall colors, simply spend a day driving down Skyline Drive. The road runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, winding through the natural wonders of the park. While you’re admiring the leaves, be sure to keep your eyes on the road for the deer, black bear, wild turkey, and other woodland animals that call Shenandoah National Park home.

2. Lower Peninsula, Michigan
Michigan’s Lower Peninsula explodes into reds and golds in fall, and there’s no better way to see it all then with a drive down the historic M-22. The 116-mile stretch winds from Traverse City to Manistee along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Along the route there are quaint towns, restaurants, and wineries to explore—all made particularly picturesque by the surrounding ash, aspen, maple, and birch trees.

3. Glacier Mountains National Park, Montana
While the evergreen hills of the western United States don't make for amazing leaf peeping, Montana still puts on a memorable fall show. Hop on the park’s famous Going-to-the-Sun as it winds for 50 miles through the parkland, from St. Mary to West Glacier, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. For a slightly longer road, hit Highway 83, which stretches from Seeley Lake to Swan Lake. The road offers plenty of vistas to view the valleys covered in red, gold, and orange, and watching the animals preparing for winter.

4. Acadia National Park, Maine
Maine’s fall color show starts on historic Route 1. Start your drive outside Portland and wind north along the coastal road. For a day trip, stop at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens outside Boothbay for a walk along the wooded paths. To make a fall weekend, head toward Acadia National Park. To soak up the maximum color, head out along the Park Loop Road south of Sand Beach. The scenic 27-mile scenic loop begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and winds around the park with plenty of opportunities to admire the leaves.

5. Lost Maples State Park, Texas
Texas may not be known as a fall foliage hot spot, but there are some incredible places to view the changing of the seasons. For a perfect fall road trip, head to the Lost Maples Natural Area, about two hours from San Antonio. Head out on Route 83 toward Vanderpool for a fall road trip, East Texas style. Check the park’s Fall Foliage Report to find out whether the area’s maple trees, red oaks, cypress, and sycamores have started to flash their colors along the Sabinal River.

6. Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, Ohio
To experience the wonder of fall in Southeastern Ohio, head an hour outside of Columbus to the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway. Officially known as “the Gateway to Ohio's Scenic Wonderland,” the road was built between Rockbridge and South Bloomingville by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back in the 1930s. It threads through the 2,356-acre Hocking Hills State Park, offering views of cliffs, waterfalls, caves, gorges, and ziplines (!).

7. Scenic Route 100 Byway, Vermont
For the quintessential New England fall experience, head to Vermont for changing leaves, apple picking, and idyllic small towns. Route 100 is a 138-mile stretch that runs through much of the Green Mountain State, starting from the Massachusetts border. Drivers will get to see much of the state’s natural beauty: Killington Peak, glittering lakes, and forests aflame with fall colors. The route offers plenty of places for travelers to leave the road and explore some of Vermont’s charming towns and historic sites. Be sure to stop for farm-fresh apple cider, a picnic lunch, or, perhaps most important, a hunk of the state’s famed cheese.

8. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
For a fall adventure in a surprising location, head to the tree-filled town of Torrey, Utah. Head down Utah Highway 24 and through Capitol Reef National Park where the high desert mesas give way to fruit trees. Tucked inside the park is a small town called Fruita, which was settled in 1880 by pioneers looking for a place to call home. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the town’s orchards are open to visitors who come each fall to help bring in the apple harvest. After you pick your fill of apples, head along the 25-mile Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive to see the desert in bloom with fall colors. Source: 1

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