14 Fall Road Trips for Stunning Scenery Around the U.S.
This autumn, take advantage of cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage by planning a fall drive through some of the country's most scenic regions.
In the Northeast, take in the colorful changing leaves among mountain landscapes, or head south to the Gulf Coast, where you'll find warm weather and ocean views. With 14 routes through the most picturesque states around the country, you're bound to find a perfect autumn getaway.
From coast to coast, these fall road trips offer amazing views and unique things to do.
Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia
When you think of places to see fall foliage, New England destinations probably come to mind, but southern parts of the country have colors that are just as beautiful. A road trip through Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains offers stunning foliage without the cold weather you'd find up north.
Start at The Russell Brasstown Scenic Byway in the northern part of the state, which takes you through the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Chattahoochee River. Stop in Helen, a mountain town modeled after a quaint Bavarian village, and at Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in Georgia and the ultimate foliage viewing vantage point. Make a pit stop in Clayton, an old mountain town with antique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Take a hike in the nearby Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, or visit wineries and vineyards in Georgia Wine Country. Then head east to the Tallulah Gorge State Park, where you can explore a 1,000-foot chasm carved over millions of years by the Tallulah River.
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Take a drive through the country's smallest state, which is packed with fall activities without too much drive time between each. Start at the Rail Explorers excursion in Newport, where pedal-powered vehicles trace historic railroad tracks on 90-minute tours. Then head to Bristol to take in some historic mansions. Finally, stop along Rhode Island's Brewery Trail, which includes Foolproof Brewing Company in Pawtucket.
Finger Lakes Region, New York
Get outside the city and explore the Finger Lakes region for fall foliage and quiet country scenery.
Start in NYC and head through Pennsylvania, stopping at Gouldsboro or Tobyhanna State Park along the way. Make a detour to visit Jim Thorpe, a borough in Pennsylvania that is called the "Switzerland of America" because of its mountain scenery and architecture. While in town, go on a hike in Lehigh Valley or visit the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Then head to the Finger Lakes, sampling some of the region's best wine at the wineries along Cayuga Lake. Stay nearby at the historic Inns of Aurora, hike at Taughannock Falls State Park, and pop in to Ithaca for dinner or an afternoon at Ithaca Beer Co.
Route 6, Pennsylvania
Take a trip along the historic Route 6 in northern Pennsylvania for views of foliage-trimmed forests, mountains, and other peaceful scenery.
Take a detour to visit Straub Brewery in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, which has been serving beer for decades. You can also take a trip through the Elk Country Loop, a 76-mile route that crosses through the Pennsylvania Wilds and past large elk herds. Finally, stop at the Worlds End State Park for camping, cabins, and hiking on the Loyalsock Trail for beautiful views of the changing leaves.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
This winding road covers almost 470 miles to connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. While you drive, you'll pass split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows, and scenic overlooks. Stop along the way at the numerous hiking trails in either national park, or visit a local farm to grab some autumnal produce.
Covered Bridges Loop, Connecticut
Take your time exploring the roughly 100-mile loop through the northwest corner of the state.
Pass through the Town of Falls Village in Canaan, where the churches, streets, houses, and the railroad depot still look as they did in the 1800s. The Appalachian Trail runs right through town, so you can follow the white trail markers for a day hike. Then pass through the West Cornwall Covered Bridge, which covers 172 feet of the Housatonic River. Visit Lake Waramaug State Park for hiking and fall foliage, and then head to Litchfield to visit White Flower Farm.
New England's Historic Trails, Massachusetts
Start in Boston and walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, red-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites. Then head west through Massachusetts' Berkshires, where you can take in plenty of fall colors. Make a detour to Northampton or stop in the living museum of Old Sturbridge Village. Eager for more history? Travel south through Connecticut, leaving New England as you cross through New York to Philadelphia, where you can visit the Museum of the American Revolution.
Southern Pacific Coast, California
You might think a drive up the California coast is best done in the summer, but it's also beautiful, and still pretty warm, in the fall.
Start outside Los Angeles with an oceanside hike in Point Mugu State Park. Then trace the coast on Highway 101 to Santa Barbara, where you can spend a night and stroll down State Street, which is filled with shops and restaurants. Make a side trip to nearby Solvang, which is modeled after an old Danish town, with wineries and beautiful scenery outside. If you have the time, continue north for more ocean scenery.
The Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Make your way through the rugged coast of Washington, including Olympic National Park, for beautiful views of mountains and lush forests.
Start in Seattle and loop around the Puget Sound, stopping for ferry boat detours to Vashon Island or Whidbey Island. On Vashon, you can walk the beaches or visit Point Robinson Lighthouse for a taste of Washington island life. Stop to hike in Olympic National Park, and then carry on to historic Port Townsend, where you can wander among the old waterfront neighborhoods and Victorian houses.
Gulf Coast, Florida
Take in warmer temperatures than you'll get in New England, but avoid the unbearable heat and humidity of Florida's summers by doing this drive in the fall.
Do the short 19-mile drive along Florida's Highway 30A, which runs along the Gulf of Mexico, or extend it further. Stop along the way in one of South Walton's 16 beach neighborhoods, where the sands are sugar-white thanks to their pure quartz crystal makeup. You can also check out coastal dune lakes that only exist in a handful of places in the world, including New Zealand, Madagascar, and Australia. For food, stop in Seaside, Florida at Airstream Row, a street lined with aluminum trailers serving up tasty dishes.
Northern Pacific Coast, Oregon
The Oregon coast has stunning coastal scenery trimmed in foliage. Start in Astoria, then head south. Along the way, you can stop for hikes at Lewis And Clark National Historical Park or Ecola State Park. Stay in Cannon Beach to wander among the large boulders, including Haystack Rock. Be sure to detour for a visit to the Tillamook Creamery.
The Great Lakes, Michigan
Skirt the northern border of the country by driving along the Great Lakes. Start at the southern edge of Lake Huron and watch tall ship schooners or shop in the downtown antiques market in Bay City. Then head north along the lake, stopping to hike at Thunder Bay River State Forest. Stop in Mackinaw City and take the ferry to Mackinac Island, where you can bike or take a horse and buggy around the historic 3.8-square-mile island that is preserved as a National Historic Landmark.
Route 66, Illinois to California
This historic highway has been marked in songs and movies, and it is definitely worth exploring, even if you don't make it the whole way.
You can start in Chicago and follow the turn-by-turn directions to trace the historic route. Stop along the way for memorable sights, including the Polk-a-Dot Drive In, Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, 80-foot Blue Whale, and Cadillac Ranch.
Great River Road, Minnesota to Louisiana
Trace the Mississippi River by following the Great River Road, which runs 3,000 miles if you want to go the full distance, from Minnesota all the way down to Louisiana.
Stop along the way to explore Saint Paul, Minnesota, Chicago, and Madison, Wisconsin, and consider detours to Nashville and Jackson, Mississippi. There is a long list of attractions you can visit and plenty of opportunities for hiking, including the Mississippi Palisades State Park.