10 Fall Foliage Drives in 10 Vacation Destinations

Colorful leaves, cooler temperatures and photo ops make road trips a must in autumn. During the season, hundreds of areas throughout North America burst in warm tones of reds, oranges and golds, welcoming travelers to enjoy the great outdoors. As an added bonus, many areas also host local activities and fun festivals. Ready for a quick adventure? Here are some fall foliage drives to check out soon.

Fall Foliage Drives: 10 Routes in Popular Vacation Spots

fall foliage drives mountains

Branson, Missouri

This Missouri hot spot sits in the Ozark Mountains. It’s one of the top family-friendly destinations and scenic spots for fall trees in the U.S.

For the best views, take a scenic drive in Branson in mid to late October. The area has several road trip options, ranging from an hour to half-day routes. Table Rock Lake and Kimberling City offer a drive that takes 1.5 hours and includes foliage, lake and mountain views, and historic bridges. Those who prefer more adventure can ride the Branson Scenic Railway, a top attractions for all ages.

Colorado

Among the best U.S. states for fall foliage drives, Colorado starts to change colors in late September with more areas reaching peak by mid October. The state houses over 25 scenic and historic byways, many of which visit top resort towns such as Aspen, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain and Vail.

One of the most popular routes is Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. This trip can extend to 113 miles, with stops in Minturn, Breckenridge, Leadville and Aspen. While riding, admire nature and old mining culture. Visitors should also plan to stop for some signature Colorado fall events.

fall foliage tennessee mountains

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains draw millions of visitors every year. The mountain range rises along Tennessee’s and North Carolina’s borders and is a part of the Appalachian Mountains. No matter from which direction guests come to the area, expect lush trees full of autumn colors in October and November.

Fall ranks among the most popular times to vacation in Gatlinburg, a town located in the Great Smoky Mountains. The city has two scenic roads for fall foliage, including Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Newfound Gap Road. Those who prefer a slow-paced ride should drive Cades Cove loop, an 11-mile one-way loop in the valley. After the road trip, visit Gatlinburg Space Needle and SkyLift, two area icons.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Late October brings vibrant colors to the Lake Winnipesaukee area in east New Hampshire. Cooler temperatures and a large lake attract guests to this New England haven. While driving, expect to see orange and red maples, yellow birches and other trees working to create a pallet of autumn inspiration.

While most roads offers views of the area, the most popular is Kancamagus Scenic Byway. This route has been featured on the Travel Channel and winds through White Mountain National Forest. Experts recommend reserving three hours to enjoy the drive without rushing. For more scenic views, check out Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough.

fall foliage trip new england

North Shore, Massachusetts

Located north of Boston, this area showcases some of the best fall foliage drives in Massachusetts. In addition to bright colors and open spaces, visitors can visit spacious beaches and picturesque New England towns. A few must-sees include Ipswich, Newburyport and Glouster.

Drivers can choose between three routes depending on what they want to see. Route 133 winds through backcountry roads and offers four stops in nearby towns. Route 1A features open spaces and a large collection of 18th-century homes that still stand the test of time. After admiring fall colors, drive Route 127, which takes travelers along the North Shore coast. For the best views, plan a visit in October.

Oregon

Many know Oregon for its Douglas fir trees and dramatic changes in scenery. Parts of the state feature huge mountains, such as Mount Hood, while others showcase rolling greens and vineyards in Willamette Valley. And let’s not forget Bend and Eugene. To see peak season, visit from mid October to early November.

Road-trippers have access to over a dozen scenic routes for fall foliage. The most popular include the 146-mile Mt. Hood Loop and 66-mile Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Mount Hood Loop explores the tallest mountain in the area, and Cascade Lakes ventures into Mount Bachelor and Devils Lake. Need a break? Stop in Portland or Bend for dining and sightseeing.

top fall drives united states

Park City, Utah

This resort town draws thousands every year who enjoy skiing. However, visitors can’t overlook the area’s dramatic landscapes and changing colors. Many roads are located a few miles from Park City, making it easy for travelers to ride and return to the resort. For most areas, peak season occurs from mid-September to early October.

Those looking for a short drive should try Guardman Pass, which travels through forests and valleys. For a half-day journey, take Alpine Scenic Loop. This 27-mile byway offers stops at Cascade Springs, Mount Timpanogos and Provo Canyon. Drivers should note this area has paved and gravel roads, so plan accordingly.

Western Maryland

Many flock to Maryland and Delaware in the summer, but western Maryland offers a must-see destination during the fall season. Peak season typically occurs in mid to late October and ends in November.

For an epic adventure, head to Mountain Maryland, a 193-mile byway that winds through mountains, rivers and changing leaves. Along the way, stop at state parks, historic sites, waterfalls and other attractions. To get the best of both worlds, Savage River State Forest – one of the major attractions – is located less than a six hour drive to nearby beaches in Maryland and Delaware.

fall road trip family vacation

Whistler, B.C., Canada

Located north of Vancouver, this resort town starts to change in October and bursts with color until skiing begins in November. Enjoy hues of greens, browns, reds and yellows before they fall for the season.

Drive Alta Lake Road to Rainbow Park to enjoy fall foliage. During the trip, stop in Whistler to ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for 360-degree views. In addition to colorful scenery, Whistler also hosts family-friendly events and festivals that celebrate local fare. A few events include Whistler Beer Festival and Cornucopia.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Fall brings a more peaceful vibe to Wisconsin Dells. Water parks have closed for the season, and the area blooms in tones of red, yellow, orange and brown. Late September into October is peak leaf-viewing season in the Dells.

Two roads run near the Dells area: Wisconsin Great River Road and Lower Wisconsin River Road. The Great River route offers an expansive drive measuring 250 miles and includes 10 states. For a shorter trip, take Lower Wisconsin. The byway measures 100 miles and explore the lower river valley. For an in-depth look at the Dells, take the Riverside and Great Northern Railway.

Ready to take these fall foliage drives and see nature come alive? Browse vacation rentals in these 10 destinations.