Experience the Beauty of Fall Foliage and Scenic Routes on Best Fall Road Trips in the USA – Your Guide to Autumn Exploration
September 22nd is the Autumn Equinox. Hard to believe it, but Fall is here! It’s when the air turns crisp and the leaves transform into a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues across the USA— the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, and South beckon with their unique offerings of autumnal beauty, from the scenic byways of New England’s foliage-painted countryside to the rugged cliffs of the Pacific Coast.
This list of best Fall road trips take you through charming towns of the Midwest to the historical routes of the South, each road trip promises an exhilarating exploration of the changing seasons. Let the rustling leaves and the scent of autumnal woods guide you on a three-day escapade, immersing you in the magic of Fall in every region.
Here are three great Fall road trip options for each region (East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast) with a three-day itinerary for each:
1. Fall Foliage Tour in New England:
Embark on an extraordinary autumn adventure as you traverse the meandering roads of New England, where nature paints a vibrant masterpiece with the brushstrokes of Fall. A tapestry of fiery reds, golden yellows, and burnt oranges awaits, enveloping the landscape in a kaleidoscope of colors. Starting in bustling Boston, the journey leads you into the heart of the White Mountains in New Hampshire and onward to the idyllic charm of Vermont’s Stowe, culminating in Portland, Maine’s coastal allure. Let the rustle of leaves and the crispness of the air accompany you on this three-day expedition through the epitome of Fall.
- Day 1: Boston to White Mountains, New Hampshire
- Drive from Boston, Massachusetts to the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
- Enjoy scenic views of fall foliage and stop at quaint towns.
- Overnight stay in the White Mountains.
- Day 2: White Mountains to Stowe, Vermont
- Drive through the picturesque fall landscapes to Stowe, Vermont.
- Explore Stowe’s charming streets and iconic covered bridges.
- Overnight stay in Stowe.
- Day 3: Stowe to Portland, Maine
- Drive to Portland, Maine, and experience the vibrant fall colors along the way.
- Explore Portland’s historic Old Port area and enjoy a seafood dinner.
- Drive back to Boston or stay overnight in Portland.
2. Coastal Drive from Miami to Key West, Florida:
Buckle up for an unforgettable coastal sojourn, tracing the vibrant hues of autumn through the iconic Overseas Highway from Miami to the southernmost tip of the continental United States, Key West. As summer’s warmth gently relinquishes its hold, the subtropical beauty of Florida gleams in the temperate embrace of Fall. Departing from the vivacity of Miami, the drive unveils an ever-changing panorama of azure waters, swaying palms, and historical landmarks. Each bend in the road reveals a new vista, inviting you to revel in the seasonal transformation.
- Day 1: Miami to Key Largo
- Start your journey from Miami and head towards Key Largo.
- Explore John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and enjoy water activities.
- Overnight stay in Key Largo.
- Day 2: Key Largo to Marathon
- Continue driving through the scenic Overseas Highway to Marathon.
- Visit the Dolphin Research Center and relax at Sombrero Beach.
- Overnight stay in Marathon.
- Day 3: Marathon to Key West
- Drive to Key West, enjoying the stunning views of the turquoise ocean.
- Explore Key West’s vibrant culture, visit Hemingway House, and watch the sunset at Mallory Square.
- Depart for Miami or spend an additional night in Key West.
3. Hudson Valley and Catskills Adventure, New York:
In the heart of the Empire State lies a treasure trove of autumnal wonders, where Fall weaves its magic across the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains. As the cityscape of New York City fades in the rearview mirror, you’ll be greeted by the rich palette of the changing leaves, painting a breathtaking backdrop against the sky. From the historic town of Hudson to the artistic haven of Woodstock and into the rugged beauty of the Catskills, this three-day journey promises an enchanting escape into the crisp embrace of Fall.
- Day 1: New York City to Hudson
- Depart from New York City and drive to Hudson, New York.
- Explore historic Hudson and enjoy its charming cafes and boutiques.
- Overnight stay in Hudson.
- Day 2: Hudson to Woodstock
- Drive to Woodstock, passing through picturesque fall foliage.
- Visit Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and explore the artistic town of Woodstock.
- Overnight stay in Woodstock.
- Day 3: Woodstock to Catskill
- Head to Catskill and hike the beautiful trails at Catskill Mountains.
- Enjoy the fall colors and the stunning views from the mountaintops.
- Return to New York City or extend your stay in the Catskills.
1. Door County and Lake Michigan Fall Tour, Wisconsin:
Welcome to a Fall odyssey through the enchanting landscapes of Door County, Wisconsin, a place where the hues of autumn dance in harmony with the gentle whispers of Lake Michigan. The air is crisp, and the trees are ablaze with a palette that defies description, inviting you on a picturesque journey from the vibrant city of Milwaukee to the serene beauty of Door County. With each mile, you’ll find yourself immersed in a canvas of gold, crimson, and amber leaves that epitomize the magic of the Midwest in Fall.
- Day 1: Milwaukee to Door County
- Depart from Milwaukee and drive to Door County, Wisconsin.
- Explore charming towns like Fish Creek and Sturgeon Bay.
- Overnight stay in Door County.
- Day 2: Door County
- Spend the day exploring Door County’s scenic shoreline and fall colors.
- Visit Peninsula State Park and enjoy a scenic drive along the coast.
- Overnight stay in Door County.
- Day 3: Door County to Milwaukee
- Drive back to Milwaukee, stopping at local orchards or vineyards for fall treats.
- Explore Milwaukee’s attractions and dine at a local restaurant.
- Depart or extend your stay in Milwaukee.
2. Great River Road in Iowa and Minnesota:
Embrace the beauty of the Heartland as the Great River Road beckons you on a scenic voyage through the heart of Iowa and Minnesota. The Mississippi River, an emblem of strength and grace, mirrors the changing seasons, embracing hues of russet and gold. Departing from the historic city of Dubuque, the journey unfolds along winding roads, revealing charming river towns and vistas that sing the ballad of autumn. Venture into the heart of America and discover the timeless beauty of Fall along this iconic river route.
- Day 1: Dubuque, Iowa to La Crosse, Wisconsin
- Begin in Dubuque, Iowa, and drive along the Great River Road.
- Visit historical sites and enjoy the scenic beauty along the Mississippi River.
- Overnight stay in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
- Day 2: La Crosse to Red Wing, Minnesota
- Continue along the Great River Road, passing through charming river towns.
- Explore Red Wing, Minnesota, known for its picturesque bluffs and historic downtown.
- Overnight stay in Red Wing.
- Day 3: Red Wing to Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Drive to Minneapolis, enjoying the fall colors along the way.
- Explore Minneapolis, visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art, or stroll around Lake Calhoun.
- Depart or spend an additional night in Minneapolis.
3. Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway, Arkansas:
In the heart of the Ozarks, where rugged mountains and scenic byways converge, lies an autumnal adventure awaiting those eager to traverse the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway. As the warmth of summer retreats, a tapestry of fall colors adorns the landscape, offering a breathtaking display of nature’s artistry. Begin this three-day expedition in the vibrant city of Fayetteville and journey through the picturesque landscapes of Arkansas, where each turn in the road unveils a new chapter in the story of Fall.
- Day 1: Fayetteville to Eureka Springs
- Depart from Fayetteville and drive to Eureka Springs through the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway.
- Explore the charming, historic town of Eureka Springs.
- Overnight stay in Eureka Springs.
- Day 2: Eureka Springs to Jasper
- Drive through the beautiful Ozark Mountains to Jasper, Arkansas.
- Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and taking in the fall foliage.
- Overnight stay in Jasper.
- Day 3: Jasper to Hot Springs
- Drive to Hot Springs and visit Hot Springs National Park.
- Relax in the thermal baths and explore the vibrant downtown area.
- Depart or extend your stay in Hot Springs.
1. Pacific Coast Highway, California:
Welcome to a road trip along the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, a journey that promises awe-inspiring vistas and a kaleidoscope of colors as autumn unfurls its vibrant cloak. Departing from the iconic city of San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway unfolds like a ribbon of adventure, hugging the rugged cliffs and captivating you with the endless beauty of the Pacific Ocean. From the majesty of Big Sur to the allure of Santa Barbara, this three-day expedition invites you to experience the West Coast in its autumnal glory.
- Day 1: San Francisco to Monterey
- Depart from San Francisco and drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).
- Stop at scenic overlooks and enjoy the rugged coastline.
- Overnight stay in Monterey.
- Day 2: Monterey to Big Sur
- Continue along Highway 1 to Big Sur, marveling at the breathtaking views.
- Hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and visit Bixby Creek Bridge.
- Overnight stay in Big Sur.
- Day 3: Big Sur to Santa Barbara
- Drive to Santa Barbara, passing through more stunning coastal landscapes.
- Explore Santa Barbara, visit the Old Mission, and relax at the beach.
- Depart or extend your stay in Santa Barbara.
2. Crater Lake and Cascade Mountains, Oregon:
Embark on a mesmerizing journey through the heart of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, where the changing leaves and crystalline waters converge to create an autumnal spectacle. Starting in the vibrant city of Medford, the road meanders through the rugged terrain, revealing the iridescent beauty of Crater Lake and the majestic peaks of the Cascades. Each twist and turn in the road unveils a symphony of colors, inviting you to embrace the tranquil serenity of Fall.
- Day 1: Medford to Crater Lake
- Depart from Medford and drive to Crater Lake National Park.
- Explore Crater Lake, known for its deep blue color and stunning views.
- Overnight stay near Crater Lake.
- Day 2: Crater Lake to Bend
- Drive to Bend, Oregon, and enjoy the scenic drive through the Cascade Mountains.
- Explore Bend’s outdoor activities and vibrant downtown.
- Overnight stay in Bend.
- Day 3: Bend to Portland
- Drive to Portland, stopping at beautiful spots along the way.
- Explore Portland, visit Powell’s City of Books, and stroll along the Willamette River.
- Depart or spend an additional night in Portland.
3. Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington:
An autumnal adventure awaits your discovery in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, where the towering trees and pristine waters converge. The Olympic Peninsula Loop offers a magical journey through Washington State’s lush forests and rugged coastline. Departing from the vibrant city of Seattle, you’ll traverse the scenic byways, winding your way through the diverse landscapes of the peninsula. As Fall graces the Pacific Northwest with its vibrant hues, let this three-day road trip immerse you in the tranquil beauty of the season.
- Day 1: Seattle to Port Angeles
- Depart from Seattle and drive to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula.
- Explore Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and enjoy the views.
- Overnight stay in Port Angeles.
- Day 2: Port Angeles to Forks
- Drive to Forks, Washington, and explore the Hoh Rain Forest.
- Visit Rialto Beach and enjoy the rugged coastline.
- Overnight stay in Forks.
- Day 3: Forks to Seattle
- Drive back to Seattle, stopping at Lake Quinault and other scenic spots.
- Explore Seattle and visit the Space Needle or Pike Place Market.
- Depart or extend your stay in Seattle.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia:
Prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing beauty of autumn as you embark on a journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This highway winds through the Appalachian Highlands, adorned with the rich hues of Fall. Departing from the cultural hub of Asheville, the road unfolds like a tapestry of reds, yellows, and oranges, inviting you to witness the gradual transition of the seasons. From the quaint charm of Boone to the historic allure of Roanoke, this three-day expedition promises an immersion into the heart of Fall’s splendor.
- Day 1: Asheville, North Carolina to Boone, North Carolina
- Start in Asheville and drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying the stunning fall foliage.
- Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center and hike at Craggy Gardens.
- Overnight stay in Boone.
- Day 2: Boone to Roanoke, Virginia
- Continue driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at Linville Falls and Linn Cove Viaduct.
- Visit the Blue Ridge Music Center and Mabry Mill.
- Overnight stay in Roanoke.
- Day 3: Roanoke to Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- Drive to Shenandoah National Park and hike to see the vibrant fall colors.
- Enjoy Skyline Drive and visit the park’s visitor centers.
- Depart or extend your stay in the park.
2. Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi to Tennessee:
As the southern heat mellows into a gentle warmth, the Natchez Trace Parkway beckons you to traverse a historic route that winds through the heart of the South. Departing from Tupelo, Mississippi, the road unravels a story of history, culture, and the seasonal beauty of Fall. With each mile, the landscape transforms, presenting a breathtaking display of autumn leaves. From the music-filled streets of Jackson to the soulful notes of Nashville, this three-day expedition invites you to experience the charm of the South in the embrace of Fall.
- Day 1: Tupelo, Mississippi to Oxford, Mississippi
- Begin in Tupelo and drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
- Visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace and enjoy the scenic beauty along the way.
- Overnight stay in Oxford.
- Day 2: Oxford to Jackson, Mississippi
- Continue on the Natchez Trace Parkway, stopping at the historic sites and overlooks.
- Explore the history and culture of Jackson, Mississippi.
- Overnight stay in Jackson.
- Day 3: Jackson to Nashville, Tennessee
- Drive to Nashville, enjoying the fall scenery on the way.
- Explore Nashville’s music scene and iconic attractions.
- Depart or spend an additional night in Nashville.
3. Hill Country and River Road, Texas:
Saddle up and set forth on a journey through the heart of the Texas Hill Country, where the autumn air carries a distinct crispness, signaling the arrival of Fall. Departing from the vibrant city of Austin, the road unwinds amidst the picturesque scenery, where golden hues of leaves complement the rugged terrain. From the Germanic charm of Fredericksburg to the cultural blend of San Antonio, this three-day expedition invites you to discover the unique flavors and landscapes of Texas in the season of change.
- Day 1: Austin to Fredericksburg
- Depart from Austin and drive to Fredericksburg, Texas.
- Visit wineries and enjoy the scenic Hill Country views.
- Overnight stay in Fredericksburg.
- Day 2: Fredericksburg to San Antonio
- Drive to San Antonio, stopping at Luckenbach and other charming towns.
- Explore the historic sites of San Antonio, including The Alamo and River Walk.
- Overnight stay in San Antonio.
- Day 3: San Antonio to Austin
- Drive back to Austin, stopping at natural springs or parks.
- Explore Austin, visiting its unique neighborhoods and trying local cuisine.
- Depart or extend your stay in Austin.
Did you know? The Blue Ridge Parkway, often hailed as one of the best Fall road trip destinations, spans a remarkable 469 miles and is often referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive”? This iconic parkway stretches through the Appalachian Highlands, offering breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is also home to the Blue Ridge Music Center, which celebrates the region’s musical heritage. It is a visual treat and an auditory delight for those seeking a holistic experience during their Fall road trip.