Summer is the season of road trips. Whether that entails running up and down a coastline or driving across the country, something about those warmer months makes people get in the car and go. But summer is over and fall is upon us. That means the leaves are beginning to change, the air is getting a bit cooler, and the desire to get in the car and go is stronger than ever.
With that in mind, we searched far and wide for the 30 most spectacular places to enjoy fall’s best and brightest colors. We chose places that have scenic drives, are close to national parks, have some sort of fall festival, or celebrate autumn in some other way. Dive in and hit the road.
Whether you’re driving east or west along Interstate 70 towards Vail, you’ll be flanked on both sides by stunning scenery. The Rocky Mountains stretch to the heavens and their slopes are covered with trees whose leaves are every color of a sunburst during the fall months. Immerse yourself in all its beauty with a stroll through the Betty Ford Alpine Garden, then park the car, hit the village, and enjoy a whiskey at 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company.
Hop in that comfortable rental car of yours and go for a cruise along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll be treated to some of the best natural scenery in the Shenandoah Valley—the fall colors will make you feel like you’re driving through a Thanksgiving painting. Park the car somewhere in that beautiful scene and enjoy a cider from Old Hill Hard Cidery.
Nestled in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers is the town of Harpers Ferry. Enjoy the fall colors around town on the back of a muscular steed courtesy of Elk Mountain Trails. You’ll clip-clop along miles upon miles of mountain trails under red, yellow, and orange tree canopies. Be sure to have your camera at the ready, because this might be the perfect opportunity to capture this year’s Christmas card.
What’s going on in Oakland, Maryland, in the middle of fall? The Autumn Glory Festival in mid-October is one thing to check out—it had 50,000 visitors last year, so this year you could make it 50,001. Some of the events that take place during this 5-day extravaganza include the 50th annual Maryland State Banjo & Mandolin Championships, a classic car show, and the Grand Feature Parade. Let’s be honest, everybody likes a good old-fashioned parade. There’s really no bad time to visit this town during fall.
When you arrive in the great town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, take a stroll through the Main Street Historic District. Shop around the cool stores and grab a bite to eat in one of the restaurants. Speaking of a bite to eat, you’ll love the Taste of Lake Geneva Festival, which is held in early September. But anytime during fall is perfect. And if you want to take in the fall colors in all their glory, take a boat tour with Cruise Lake Geneva or hike the historic Shore Path around the entire lake.
New England is hardly short of amazing places to visit during fall and Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is one of the more splendid. Go for a stroll through the Berkshire Botanical Garden or take in the beauty of Mother Nature in October Mountain State Forest. If you don’t feel like walking around, hop in your car and go on one of the many Berkshire driving tours.
Make your way to northern Vermont in early October so you can enjoy the Stowe Foliage Arts Festival. Sample locally crafted beer and great food while gazing at wonderful pieces of art. If you’d like to surround yourself in the brightest of fall colors, take a walk through the Wiessner Woods. #fallfoliageishere
Resting on the outskirts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the lovely town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Fire up the engine of your rental car and take a drive through said mountains. There are all sorts of scenic overlooks where you can stop and snap some Instagram photos. If you want to see the fall foliage from above, a ride on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway will do the trick. Call it a day at Doc Collier’s, home of great moonshine.
Extending out into the waters of Lake Superior is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and littered along that peninsula are some fantastic towns. Join the thousands of people that visit Marquette during autumn. Like in early September, you can go and enjoy the 9th annual Upper Peninsula Fall Beer Festival. When you get hungry, shop through the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market and support the local growers. There’s also plenty of harvest-themed activities taking place with live music with good food and drink. Looking to go on a hike? Check out the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
What’s one of the best cities during fall? Hint: it sits along the Penobscot River. It’s Bangor, Maine, of course! See some of the best of New England’s fall foliage with a hike through Acadia National Park. If you haven’t gotten enough of the great outdoors, head back to town and check out the footpaths in the Bangor City Forest. Autumn in the northeast? Yeah, it’s that good.
Napa Valley receives 4.5 million visitors each year, with the majority of visits occurring during harvest season in the fall. Calistoga is the crown jewel located at the top of the Napa Valley, and whoever said California doesn’t get fall colors has obviously never been to Calistoga. Stop by Sterling Vineyards and enjoy a cheese plate paired with a glass of Napa cabernet. Gaze out over the endless rows of vines and trees tinted with red, yellow, and orange. If you’d like to walk amongst fall-colored vines, head down the picturesque Silverado Trail. But wait, there’s more. Calistoga Harvest Table takes place on the second Sunday of September and is loaded with dozens of local restaurants and over 40 wineries.
It’s true that the hills around Galena, Illinois, have some of the brightest fall colors in the entire state and thousands of people visit because of that, but that’s not the only reason you’re going. You’re going because they also have an unbelievable Oktoberfest celebration. Be sure to book your hotel in advance, because they fill up quickly. After you’ve recovered from the festivities, take a tour of President Ulysses S. Grant’s home, which offers sweeping views of the historic district and is one of the best places to see fall foliage in Galena. In fact, 75% of the buildings in town are on the National Register of Historic Places.
First things first: get a ticket for a Notre Dame football game. It’s one of the best experiences in college sports. Add that to exploring the Rum Village Nature Center and seeing the beautiful fall colors on campus and that’s one heck of a day.
Spending time in the Rockies during the autumn months is hard to beat, which is why you’re speeding your way to Crested Butte, Colorado, in the near future. Some of the scenic drives in the area like Kebler Pass, Slate River Road, Gothic Road, and Schofield Pass are absurdly beautiful. Fancy yourself a film buff? Make your way to town at the in early October and check out the Crested Butte Film Festival. Who knows, you may catch the acting bug.
The town that lent its name to the most iconic music festival in history—eat it, Coachella!—should definitely make the list of your fall travels. You can go on an easy 1-mile hike to Kaaterskill Falls through some of Upstate New York’s best woodlands. You’ll for sure be hungry after this hike, so head back to town and get a meal at Garden Café on the Green. Don’t worry, it’s vegan.
Is there something that represents fall more than pumpkins? Probably not, so plan your trip to Laconia, New Hampshire, towards the end of October and make a stop at the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival. Some of the carved pumpkins look they could be housed in an art museum. And since you got here in a rental car put it to use by going on a scenic drive down Route 3 around Squam Lake. When night comes and your stomach starts growling, take a seat at T-BONES Great American Eatery, overlooks Lake Winnipesaukee. You won’t regret ordering a 12-ounce New York sirloin.
How popular is Taos in the fall? 40-something thousand people visit during this time of year annually. So, when you’re planning your fall road trip, a stop at the Taos Fall Arts Festival in September and October is a must. If you’d prefer to do something a bit livelier, spend a day climbing Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point at 13,161 ft. or ditch the hiking boots altogether and go for a cruise around the 85-mile loop of Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. This route takes you through small, historic towns and winds in and out of mountains. When dinner time rolls around, head to the Taos Inn and have a meal at Doc Martin’s. Don’t mess around; get the chili relleno and be done with it.
Not only are the Blue Ridge Mountains stunningly beautiful during autumn, but they are also home to the Boone Heritage Festival in mid-October. There’s all sorts of cool things to check out, like historical demonstrations of hand-sewing and flintlock rifle firing. But you came to immerse yourself in red, yellow, and orange trees, so go for a drive with High Country Back Road Guides. The landscape along these roads are incredible.
There’s three things you must do in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: Take selfies at Pine Creek Gorge. Go on an Ole Covered Wagon Tour. And take a ride on the Tioga Central Railroad. And since you’re such a big apple and cheese fanatic, check out the PA Apple & Cheese Festival on October 8th. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.
It is possible to find unbelievable fall foliage that’s a hop, skip, and jump away from New York City. Just head to Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, and hike the trails of Tourne County Park. Looking for a meal with a view? Check out the Reservoir Tavern, where you can find one of the best plates of spaghetti and meatballs in New Jersey.
You don’t have to fly across the Atlantic to enjoy Paris in the fall. All you need to do is head north of the border to Montreal, Quebec, and voila! Spread out on a blanket in Mount Royal Park and spend the afternoon people-watching. But if you really want to take a walk through an autumn postcard, explore the Morgan Arboretum. The colorful trees are phenomenal.
Where do you go in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the best views of the city? You go to the fortified summit of Citadel Hill. Explore this National Historic Site of Canada while taking in sweeping views of town. If you’re looking for a specific time to visit, go at the beginning of October and experience Nocturne: Art at Night. Each year has a new theme and this year’s theme is VANISH. We’re not sure what that means, but it sounds cool.
Goderich, Ontario’s, motto is “Canada’s Prettiest Town.” A bold prediction, but one that may be true—especially when you go for a drive along Lake Huron via Ontario Highway 21. The blue water of the lake and the fiery colors of the forest contrast each other perfectly. When you get back to town, go explore the Huron Historic Gaol. It’s an old jail with a museum in it. Oh, and it may be haunted.
24. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
No matter where you drive on this island, you’ll be treated to stunning scenery. Park the car and trek your way through Cape Breton Highlands National Park and snap a few photos from the top of the wooden stairs of the Skyline Trail. For a real treat, get there at sunrise.
Fall foliage starts a tad later here than most other places in Canada—it starts around early October and sometimes even early November. So, once you’ve planned accordingly be on your way. Welcome to St. John’s. Hop in that beautiful rental car of yours and take it to the top of Signal Hill. There’s an old castle up there that will serve as a perfect backdrop for Instagram selfies. From up here, you might even be able to see your hotel. After you get back to town, take a walk around Pippy Park.
Before you come to Canmore in the winter to practice Nordic skiing, make the drive here in the fall and check out the pretty colors from the back of a horse, courtesy of Cross Zee Ranch. Once you’re back in the car, explore Canmore Kananaskis for the best scenic drives in the area.
If you’re afraid of bridges, too bad, because one of the coolest things to do in Pinawa, Manitoba, is to walk across the Pinawa Suspension Bridge. Located just off the Alice Chambers Trail, this 177-foot-long bridge is suspended over a raging river. Overcome your fear—if you have any—and go for it.
You come to the Yukon for the great outdoors, but before you take a canoe down the Yukon River, try your luck at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall. They’ve got blackjack, roulette, slot machines, and a Canadian game called money wheel. After you’ve won a fortune, go for a drive down the Klondike Highway along the Yukon River. The scenery is stunning.
What do you do when you take a road trip to a beautiful town like Fort McMurray? You hop in a canoe or kayak and take in the fall colors along the shoreline of the Athabasca River. Paddle back to shore and stroll through the Birchwood Trails that are flanked by sky-high birch trees that look like they’ve been painted in yellow and orange candy stripes. Hey, it’s fall, baby.
The drive into Nelson, British Columbia, along the Nelson-Nelway Highway is one of the most gorgeous in Canada. But wait until you get to town and take a drive. Start from one end of Baker Street and make your way to the other end, stopping in one of the coffee shops for a chai latte. If that doesn’t do the trick, Torchlight Brewing on Hall Street makes a mean white IPA and pulled pork sandwich. Cheers!
Just because summer is over doesn’t mean road trip season ends. Take our list of 30 cities, pack the car, and hit the road this fall. We can hear your engine revving already.
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