- 1 Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
- 2 San Juan Skyway, Colorado
- 3 Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
- 4 The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
- 5 Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
- 6 The Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
- 7 Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, Maine
- 8 Last Green Valley Scenic Byway, Connecticut
- 9 Palisade Interstate Parkway, New Jersey
- 10 Lake Superior Circle Tour, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario
- 11 Sylamore Scenic Byway, the Ozarks, Arkansas
11 Epic Fall Foliage Road Trips to Drive This Year
When it comes to clichéd fall faves, we'll cop to hating on Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Ugg boots, but at the same time, no earthly force (or dramatic eye roll) could separate us from our choice seasonal indulgence: leaf peeping. Here, 11 foliage-heavy road trips made for marveling at autumn's killer colors.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
The yin to NH's yang, Vermont knows a thing or two about the changing of seasons. Hop on the 11-mile Green Mountain Byway, from centrally-located Waterbury to Stowe, in northern VT (aka ski country), and you'll be treated to a spellbinding show that unfolds over three state parks, white chapel villages, private farmland, and sprawling meadows. Between snapping shots of Smugglers' Notch, Mount Mansfield, and Little River, make a pit stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill for fresh cider donuts or a warm pumpkin roll. The boutique Field Guide, in Stowe, is where you'll lay your head. Cozy but modern rooms mix woodsy decor (think papier-mâché taxidermy and bird print wallpaper) and plush amenities like kimono robes and Lather bath products.
San Juan Skyway, Colorado
Commit five to seven hours to the San Juan Skyway and it'll deliver, zipping you through the Old West locomotive hub of Durango, the narrow and winding "Million Dollar Highway" that connects Silverton to Ouray, the premier ski country of Telluride, and the iconic pueblo cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park. At 236 miles in length, the All-American designated road is chock-full of color-morphing aspens, enveloping millions of acres of high mountain passes. To stay the night, we're partial to Telluride, so our vote is for the intimate 11-room Lumière Telluride, with its romantic blend of dark hardwoods, luxe linens, and sophisticated furnishings all done up in comforting neutrals.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
Cruise along the 469-mile Blue Ride Parkway between Roanoke, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina, and you'll also fit two national parks—the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah—into your itinerary. While all of southern Appalachia is a sight to see, parkway highlights include the rock outcroppings and 19th-century farmhouses at Humpback Rocks, the triple summits of Peaks of Otter, and the forested slopes of Craggy Gardens. Depending on whether you're traveling north to south or vice versa, our choice sleeps are the 14-room Windsor Boutique Hotel in Asheville, NC, and the luxury lodge, cottages, and tree houses of Primland in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.
The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
Bright yellow is New Mexico's signature fall color and the 83-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, from Taos to Questa, lights up accordingly. Looping through the communities of Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire, the road navigates a landscape of aspens, spruces, and pines, dominated by NM's tallest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Once you finish the loop, it's worth spending the night in the adobe-dotted artist colony of Taos. The stucco, pueblo-style El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa offers a true taste of the southwest, with suites full of ochre finishes, wood-beamed ceilings, and tribal art.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Known to locals simply as the 'Kanc,' this scenic stretch winds 34.5 miles along Route 112 in NH's picturesque backcountry. Any New Englander worth their salt will tell you this is the place to be come leaf-peeping season, but whether you heed their admission or not, the crowds of onlookers at each lookout point will be evidence enough. Starting in Lincoln and working your way east to Conway, make sure to fuel up before you hit the trail, as you'll notice a distinct lack of restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and stores—the only things you'll be catching sight of are the White Mountains, Sabbaday Falls, secluded swimming areas, and national forest campgrounds. NH's brilliant colors call for at least a weekend's worth of aimless driving, so hunker down at The White Mountain Hotel and Resort, nestled right in the Mount Washington Valley and just minutes from the charming coffee shops, general stores, and specialty boutiques of downtown North Conway.
The Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
Ringing in at roughly 69 miles—from Athol to Williamstown, MA—the Mohawk is a modern-day leaf peeper's dream, but in its inception, it was a trail that connected Native American tribes along the Atlantic coast. Taking Routes 2 and 2A, foliage fiends follow the trail as it runs parallel to the Deerfield River and over the Connecticut River, with astounding views of the Berkshires and Taconic Mountains all the while. Be cautious as you traverse the road—you just might run into a bobcat or black bear, but what's most dangerous is the trail's infamous hairpin turn, aka Dead Man's Curve. Once your eyes need a rest, retire to The Orchards Hotel, where you'll be greeted with fresh cookies and blazing wood fireplaces.
Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, Maine
Set aside 2.5 hours for a 52-mile drive around Maine's Rangeley Lakes region, and we promise you'll be making plans to do the same thing next year before you're even finished. Coasting along the Appalachian Mountains ridgeline, the route takes you through a sea of burnt oranges, firey reds, and explosive yellows, all poised against a backdrop of the Mooselookmeguntic and Upper Richardson lakes. B&B's are Maine's bread and butter, so tuck your things away at the Highland Heath House where lake-view rooms, gourmet breakfasts, and roaring stone fireplaces complete your quintessential New England getaway.
Last Green Valley Scenic Byway, Connecticut
The Last Green Valley, a National Heritage Corridor that runs from CT to MA, encompasses 35 towns and is made up of more than 75 percent farmland...just a couple of aspects that help it attain primo leaf peeper status, no doubt. The scenic byway, also known as Route 169, is a 32-mile stretch that moseys through the colonial homes and pastoral fields of CT's Quiet Corner. After taking in the swath of ash, oak, and sassafras that blankets the countryside between Norwich and Woodstock, rent a room at the enormous circa-1816 white clapboard Inn at Woodstock Hill, where four-poster beds and a killer Sunday brunch round out your trip.
Palisade Interstate Parkway, New Jersey
One thing that NJ commuters from Orange and Rockland counties have over their NYC-residing colleagues? A daily drive that basks in some of the most vivid foliage this country has to offer. That's right, the Palisade Interstate Parkway, 42 miles of road connecting the GW Bridge to Bear Mountain Bridge, includes three scenic spots: the Rockefeller, Alpine, and State Line lookouts, which offer jaw-dropping views of the Hudson, NJ Palisades, and Manhattan skyline. If you're making your trip an overnighter, head to the Hilton Pearl River, 15 minutes from the parkway. The French chateau-style stay sits on 17 acres of land in the striking Hudson River Valley.
RELATED: 7 Beautiful Fall Day Trips from NYC
Lake Superior Circle Tour, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario
Completing the Lake Superior Circle Tour is no small thing. The 1,300-mile loop takes you through three midwestern states and Ontario, circumnavigating the world's largest lake. Whether you do it in chunks, or set out to complete it start to finish, you'll find the entire tour ablaze in the season's most mesmerizing shades. Some of the top spots for a moment of admiration along the way include the Porcupine Mountains in MI, Amnicon Falls in WI, Moose Mountain in the Lutsen Mountains of MN, and Sleeping Giant in Ontario.
Sylamore Scenic Byway, the Ozarks, Arkansas
Arkansas might not be your first thought when it comes to planning a leaf-peeping trip, but if you've ever laid eyes on the Ozarks in autumn, then you know they're a major contender. All 26.5 miles of the Sylamore Scenic Byway are flanked by the Ozark National Forest, Blanchard Springs Caverns, white-oak hickory forests, shortleaf pines, and endless mountain vistas. The private lodges and cabins at Mulberry Mountain, in the heart of the national forest, provide the perfect home base for foliage field trips.
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