Stunning fall drives in every state
Stunning fall drives in every state
America’s interstate system makes it relatively quick to dash from coast to coast—at least compared to the Lewis and Clark days. By some estimates, a cross-country road trip can be done in less than a week—if you’re willing to drive around 10 hours a day. But this time of year, you’d be making a big mistake if you didn’t slow down and soak up the scenery. The reds, yellows, and oranges of the foliage blanket parts of the country for just a few short weeks. Plus, there are pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and all kinds of fall fun to make the journey even more memorable.
While people often plan major vacations far from home during leaf-peeping season, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on many travelers’ usual plans. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this seasonal show, though. Every state has at least one fantastic drive through gorgeous autumnal scenery that is sure to make your jaw drop. To help you have a safe and socially distanced adventure close to home, Stacker compiled a list of stunning fall drives in every state. We looked at information from news outlets, travel publications, and local and state tourism boards to come up with 50 road trips to consider taking in the fall.
New England is arguably the quintessential place for fall color in the country. There, join thousands of other drivers on New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway, or watch the sunrise cast a glow on the foliage along Maine’s Acadia Byway. However, it’s certainly not the only place in the United States for a great fall drive. Alabama’s Fall Color Trail is dedicated to showcasing the beautiful scenery this time of year, Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway features 100 miles of tree-lined mountain peaks, and California’s Everitt Memorial Highway will take you up a forested volcano engulfed in color. There’s truly no state without a road trip worth taking this time of year.
Ready to hit the road for an autumnal adventure? Click through to see these stunning fall drives in every state.
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Alabama: Fall Color Trail
If you’re looking for a great seasonal drive in the South, look no further than Alabama’s Fall Color Trail. It highlights nearly every place in the state where visitors can see the trees transform into a quilt of colors, including state parks and gushing waterfalls.
Alaska: Seward Highway
The Seward Highway puts Alaska’s fall color on full display. Running from Anchorage to the seaside town of Seward, this highway offers breathtaking views of 3,000-foot peaks, dramatic shorelines, and the Kenai Peninsula.
Arizona: Red Rock Scenic Byway
Red is among the quintessential fall colors, and when in Arizona, there’s no better place to be surrounded by this autumnal hue than on the Red Rock Scenic Byway. It serves as the gateway to Sedona’s famous rock formations. Plus, visitors can also see well-preserved prehistoric petroglyphs on their road trip.
Arkansas: Pig Trail Scenic Byway
Experience 19 miles of picturesque bliss through the Boston Mountains and Ozark Mountains this fall on the Pig Trail Scenic Byway in Arkansas. The vibrant foliage and lush trees create an autumnal tunnel on all sides of the road this time of year. It’s located near three of the state’s other scenic byways, where you can continue your road trip.
California: Everitt Memorial Highway
Everitt Memorial Highway in northern California packs a ton of seasonal beauty into just two lanes and 14 total miles. It takes you up the southwest side of a 14,179-foot forested volcano brimming with fall color. You’ll also get epic views of Mt. Shasta.
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Colorado: Guanella Pass
Once a burro trail, Colorado’s now-paved Guanella Pass takes road trippers on 22 miles through the Rockies Playground. In the fall, the pine and aspen groves transform into an expanse of golden hues that will make your jaw drop. Along the way, you’ll pass several campgrounds and trails, a silver mine, the Georgetown Energy Museum, and even a ghost town.
Connecticut: Merritt Parkway
Historically branded as the “Gateway to New England,” Merritt Parkway takes drivers on a leisurely ride along Connecticut’s Gold Coast, over remarkable bridges and passing by majestic old trees bursting with fall colors. Along the way, notice traditional green-and-white highway signs with a unique feature: a jagged pattern edge that serves as a nod to the original wooden signs that were installed along the parkway when it was first created.
Delaware: Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway
Just over 12 miles long, Delaware’s Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway offers a relaxing journey through rolling hills and bucolic countryside bathed in autumnal golden sunshine. The preserved country estates along the ride feature landscaped gardens that put the glory of the early 20th century on full display.
Florida: Highway 30A
Fall is the best time of year to experience Florida’s breathtakingly beautiful Highway 30A without the heat and humidity of summer. The scenic drive takes you along the Emerald Coast for 24 miles. See the stunning white sand beaches and the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, along with unique dune lakes. And when you’re feeling peckish, swing by one of the coastal communities for a bite to eat.
Georgia: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway
Make sure you pack a lunch if you’re embarking on Georgia’s Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway—it brims with picnic-worthy spots. The byway looks out onto the Chattahoochee National Forest, where you’re sure to see lovely foliage. The best views, though, can be found at the top of Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest point and a spectacular place to see the fall colors.
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Hawaii: Honoapiilani Highway
The Honoapiilani Highway takes you on a cruise along Maui’s western coast, where you can catch cotton candy-colored sunsets in the evening. The real reason to visit in the fall, though, is the chance to spot whales off the coast—the whale-watching season kicks off in October and runs through May, according to USA Today 10 Best.
Idaho: City of Rocks Backcountry Byway
Described by Visit Idaho as a necklace around the Albion Mountain Range, the City of Rocks Backcountry Byway is a 49-mile drive filled with blazing yellow aspens and cottonwood trees and fire-hued shrubs in the fall. The drive also takes you through the city of Oakley, where you’ll find old buildings made of wood and stone.
Illinois: Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway
The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway offers the views Illinois rarely gets credit for, per Midwest Living. Just a short drive from Chicago and St. Louis, this scenic byway takes you past vibrant fall foliage, water features, and even a wildlife refuge, where you may catch a glimpse of a bald eagle.
Indiana: Ohio River Scenic Byway
Take in the beauty of Southern Indiana on the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which runs for hundreds of miles along the river. Pass by stately mansions and wine-tasting rooms, along with a casino. Be charmed by the many small towns on the route, which look even more quaint wrapped in the fall foliage.
Iowa: Loess Hills National Scenic Byway
The incredible fall foliage along the easy-to-navigate Loess Hills National Scenic Byway is just one of the many reasons to road trip in western Iowa. The route also has tons of attractions that make for an unforgettable experience, according to Travel Iowa. Drink up the flavors of the season at Mincer Orchard—it offers free cider to guests, spend a few hours hiking in Waubonsie State Park, and go to Sugar Clay Winery for a tasting.
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Kansas: Flint Hills National Scenic Byway
In mid-autumn, the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway in Kansas glows with fiery colors. The relaxing two-lane road spans nearly 50 miles adjacent to the Flint Hills of Kansas. See plenty of the state’s iconic tallgrass prairie as well.
Kentucky: Wilderness Road Heritage Highway
The 93 miles of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Heritage Highway serve up a generous dose of mountain views bursting with fall foliage this time of year. While the full route can be driven in a couple of hours, it’s worth spending a couple of days shopping for crafts, listening to local music, and learning about Civil War history on this heritage trail.
Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail All-American Road
Bring a cooler if you’re hitting the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road in Louisiana—the route is chock-full of places to stock up on fresh seafood. The road provides an up-close view of nature’s bounty, including Gulf of Mexico beaches, wildlife refuges, wetlands, and small fishing communities during one of the most beautiful times of year.
Maine: Acadia Byway
Get an early start on your trip along Maine’s Acadia Byway—a 27-mile portion of the route known as Park Loop Road circles Cadillac Mountain, which is the first place in the United States to see the sunrise from late fall to early spring, according to the Travel Channel. Once you’ve caught your sunrise views, take in kaleidoscopic fall colors and the rugged coastline on this wonderful drive.
Maryland: Green Ridge State Forest’s Scenic Driving Tour
Explore Maryland’s largest contiguous forest from behind the wheel on the Green Ridge State Forest Scenic Driving Tour. The 45-mile road in Allegany County has spectacular overlooks where visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the fall foliage blanketing the earth.
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Massachusetts: Mohawk Trail
Stretching 60 miles from the New York border to Millers Falls, Massachusetts, Mohawk Trail gives you the chance to see not only fall foliage in the Berkshires, but also fall flowers. In Shelburne Falls, you’ll come across the Bridge of Flowers, a historic trolly bridge covered in 500 different types of flowers, shrubs, and vines.
Michigan’s M-22 was once named by USA Today as the country’s best scenic autumn drive, and for good reason: The 116-mile highway runs along the shores of Lake Michigan and through the picturesque landscapes of Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau counties, offering seemingly endless stretches of postcard-worthy views. If you have a designated driver, consider swinging by one of the dozens of wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula.
Minnesota: North Shore All-American Scenic Drive
Leaf peepers flock to Minnesota’s North Shore All-American Scenic Drive, along the northern edge of Lake Superior, in the fall. The scenic root oozes autumnal beauty, and gives road trippers the chance to hike to the state’s biggest waterfalls.
Mississippi: Highway 90
Highway 90 spans from West Texas to East Florida, but one of the most gorgeous sections of the road can be found in Coastal Mississippi. From Waveland to Moss Point, you’ll cross two magnificent bay bridges and travel through tiny towns with tons of Southern charm. Plan to make time for outdoor attractions along the way, like marsh tours, sunset music cruises, and fishing charters, to enjoy the temperate fall weather.
Missouri: Highway 19
For gorgeous fall scenery in Missouri, take Highway 19. The route goes through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, where you’ll see crystal-blue springs sparkling in a forest. When you get to Eminence, make a beeline for Highway 106 to check out Alley Mill, a historic red mill that’s “surrounded by gold- and copper-colored oaks,” writes the Missouri Division of Tourism.
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Montana: Loop around Flathead Lake
Nebraska: Heritage Highway
One of Nebraska’s most popular drives, the Heritage Highway, offers up some of the best chances to see fall foliage in the state. Also known as U.S. 136, the 238-mile road between Edison and Brownville goes through quaint historic towns, sprawling prairies, state parks, and many other attractions.
Nevada: Mt. Rose Scenic Drive
Windshield views don’t get much better than what you’ll experience this time of year on Mt. Rose Scenic Drive in Nevada. The 25-mile route runs from Reno to Lake Tahoe, offering road trippers mesmerizing views of Washoe Valley and the Sierras. Exploring Nevada recommends taking a two-mile detour to the Winters Creek Base Lodge to stand 4,000 vertical feet above Washoe Lake.
New Hampshire: Kancamagus Highway
The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire is considered one of the prime scenic routes in all of New England during the fall foliage season. Affectionately nicknamed “the Kanc,” the route sees thousands of visitors nearly every day during the fall months, all eager to see the breathtaking red, yellow, and orange trees that flank the highway
New Jersey: Pinelands Tour
For breathtaking fall foliage in New Jersey, head out on the Pinelands Tour. Starting at Red Lion Circle, the route takes you east to Wharton State Forest, where you can spend the morning enjoying nature walks and horseback riding. Get back behind the wheel in the afternoon to check out the historic iron-making community of Batsto Village and end the tour in Chatsworth, which is known for its cranberries.
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New Mexico: Sunspot Scenic Byway
Travelers to New Mexico will see exactly why the state is nicknamed the “Land of Enchantment” on a fall drive on the Sunspot Scenic Byway. Colorful aspens surround this short 16-mile road, which ribbons along the Sacramento Mountains. Also, take a detour up Ruidoso to see Ponderosa pines.
New York: Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
Ranked as one of the best fall drives in the country, New York’s Upper Delaware Scenic Byway stretches for 70 miles from the village of Hancock to Port Jervis. It offers up epic views of both the Catskills and the Poconos, which transform into a quilt of colors in the fall. You may also recognize the Hawk’s Nest, located in Deerpark, from numerous national TV commercials.
North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
Nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway draws tons of leaf peepers from all over the country in the fall, when the Blue Ridge Mountains are engulfed in color. The 469-mile road runs through North Carolina and Virginia. Drivers will be taken into the forests and even see the deepest canyon east of the Grand Canyon, according to Trips to Discover.
North Dakota: Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway
American charm is on full display on North Dakota’s Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway. Think: farmsteads and tiny towns, rolling hills, and plenty of autumnal trees. Along the 63-mile drive, 41 award-winning interpretive signs will teach you all about the landscape.
Ohio: Amish Country Byway
The crown jewel of Ohio’s Amish Country Byway is “The Bridge of Dreams,” a 370-foot covered bridge that’s enveloped in fall colors this time of year. The 30-mile route winds through the rolling hills and valleys of Knox County, where you’ll also see two of the state’s most picturesque rivers: the Kokosing and Mohican.
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Oklahoma: Talimena National Scenic Byway
Leaf peepers looking for epic fall foliage in Oklahoma can find gorgeous color in the southeast part of the state on the Talimena National Scenic Byway. The twisting 54-mile road takes road trippers through the Ouachita National Forest’s sky-high hardwoods and evergreen pines.
Oregon: Mt. Hood Scenic Loop
The Mt. Hood Scenic Loop in Oregon offers up 146 miles of vivid fall foliage in the Columbia River Gorge, per Oregon Live. The route combines the Historic Columbia River Highway with the Mount Hood Scenic Byway for a relaxing road trip.
Pennsylvania: Route 6
History, heritage, and the magic of fall come to life on Pennsylvania’s Route 6. The 427-mile road traverses through 19 state parks, numerous state forests, and the famous Allegheny National Forest, where you’re sure to see awe-inspiring foliage. Check out the tops of the trees from the Kinzua Viaduct’s 600-foot glass pedestrian bridge.
Rhode Island: Scituate Loop
Take in views of the Scituate Reservoir and the lush fall scenery on a drive around Rhode Island’s Scituate Loop. For more fall fun, plan a pit stop at Salisbury Farm, a multigenerational farm that has pumpkins, hay rides, a corn maze, and seasonal produce.
South Carolina: Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway
The foliage of South Carolina’s famous Upstate region is unbeatable, and you can take it all in on a drive on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. Follow along an old Cherokee footpath for more than 100 miles to check out state parks, a water tower that looks like a floating peach, Revolutionary war sites, and gushing waterfalls.
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South Dakota: Vanocker Canyon
While South Dakota’s best-known fall foliage route might be Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, Vanocker Canyon offers an equally pristine view of the colorful trees without the crowds. The 17-mile drive passes through “striking escarpments covered in pines and color-shifting birch and aspen trees,” says the Travel Channel.
Tennessee: Cades Cove Loop Road
Experience the verdant valley of Cades Cove in the Great Smokies of Tennessee during peak fall foliage season on this drive. The 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road not only showcases the region’s autumnal beauty, it’s also known for ample viewing of wildlife such as white-tailed deer, coyotes, turkey, and black bears.
Texas: Pineywoods Autumn Trail
The Pineywoods Autumn Trail in Texas lives up to its name this time of year with magnificent fall colors along the 145-mile route. The trail kicks off in Palestine, Texas, and goes through the Texas Forest Trail Region, with its historic shops and “one of Texas’ favorite pie stops,” according to Visit Palestine.
Utah: Highway 12 Scenic Byway
From Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest, you’ll pass one epic site after another on a trip on Utah’s Highway 12. Fall brings about some of the best weather to make the journey, plus plenty of stunning scenery.
Vermont: Stone Valley Scenic Byway
For a fall drive that truly feels like an escape, head out on Vermont’s Stone Valley Scenic Byway. The 30-mile route follows the Green Mountain range up through the center of the state, where you’ll see rustic farmlands bedecked in fall colors, valley pasturelands, and lake shores.
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Virginia: Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive is a 105-mile journey along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. The landscape is spectacular in the fall, with trees transforming into every shade of yellow and red imaginable, and piles of crunchy leaves lining the drive like confetti. Skyline Drive’s nearly 70 overlooks give you practically endless opportunities to soak up the scenery.
Washington: Cascade Loop Scenic Highway
Dubbed “the granddaddy of all Washington leaf tours” by the Washington Tourism Alliance, the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway offers 440 miles of leaf-peeping opportunities. You’ll see Ross Lake’s vibrant yellow larches, Leavenworth’s striking red maples, and Winthrop’s grassy farmlands. If you’re up for it, consider stretching your legs on a hike to Wallace Falls.
West Virginia: The Highland Scenic Highway
Scenic vistas abound on West Virginia’s Route 150, also known as The Highland Scenic Highway. The twisting and turning 43-mile route goes through the Monongahela National Forest, where you’ll be surrounded by fall foliage. You’ll also get awesome views at the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.
Wisconsin: Scenic Highway 60
Follow the Lower Wisconsin River for 100 miles on Scenic Highway 60, which runs from Lodi to Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin. The route is jam-packed with autumnal beauty on its hills and bluffs, plus estate wineries and plenty of recreational activities.
Wyoming: Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway
See autumn work its colorful magic on Wyoming’s varied landscapes by driving the Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway. The 100-mile route features mountain peaks studded with trees and open-shrub vegetation. Keep your eyes peeled for wild horses and pronghorn along the way.
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