Fall foliage road trips aren’t just for grandparents. Kids love them too and if you know where to go they can be unforgettable experiences and much more than just leaf peeping. Here’s where we think you should be hitting the road this fall.
The East Coast’s best fall foliage road trips
The most iconic fall foliage can be see in the Northeast. Start your journey in Portland, Maine and from there, drive along Highway 195 and 95 to New Hampshire. The Maine Turnpike is lined with colorful trees, and travelers can stop at scenic destinations along the way. The drive offers a unique experience of viewing the foliage along the coast, with intense shades of yellow, orange, red and purple against the ocean backdrop.
Or head to Vermont, the most sought-after fall foliage destination. The destination will not disappoint with plenty of idyllic drives, biking and hiking trails featuring colorful trees and landscapes.
Explore colorful Mackinac Island in the Midwest
Fall foliage is everywhere, including the middle of our country. Start in Chicago and explore the Windy City and its colorful leaves, then head over to Madison, WI, where midwest charm mixes with European soul or make for Greenbay and maybe see a Packers game if the NFL team is playing at home.
Mackinaw City, MI lets you take the ferry to Mackinac Island. Thanks to the insulating effects of the Great Lakes, the color show near Mackinac Island often starts in late September and stretches into late October, plus more than 80% of the small island is protected as a state park, making Mackinac Island and Mission Point the perfect place for leaf peeping. However, the ban on motor vehicles means no fall foliage road trips here. Instead, take advantage of hiking and biking trails or even ride round the island on horseback admiring the changing leaves the old fashioned way.
Find iconic fall foliage road trips in South Dakota
Alternatively, South Dakota offers spectacular fall scenery. Located in the heart of the American frontier, the Black Hills region is home to majestic mountains, rolling prairies, sky-piercing granite needles and glittering lakes. With stunning forest peppered throughout, enjoy one of several fall foliage road trips.
Iron Mountain Road, also known as 16A, is a 17-mile stretch of road through the Black Hills with a 35-mile per hour speed limit that allows travelers to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings. The road features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, three pigtails and three tunnels, one of which frames Mount Rushmore for an unforgettable and unexpected view of the memorial.
Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway leads you over pigtail bridges, through six rock tunnels and alongside magnificent granite pinnacles. Although Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, which stretches through the middle of 244,000 acres of impressive parkland, gives you the splendor of the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States.
Alternatively choose Wildlife Loop Scenic Byway through Custer State Park and kids can see the world’s largest publicly owned buffalo herds among other wildlife from the car. Then end your trip on Spearfish Canyon State & National Forest Service Scenic Byway, which travels along incredible limestone cliffs and the breathtaking Spearfish Canyon.
Start north in Seattle for a fall tour of the West Coast
For ultimate fall foliage road trips along the West Coast, start up north in Seattle, Washington and enjoy the colors of the Pacific Northwest. From vibrant reds and oranges to brilliant golds and yellows, Seattle is home to Discovery park and Union Bay Natural Area. However, fall is also the ideal time to visit Mount Rainier and enjoy the alpine landscape and fall foliage.
Then Head down to Portland, Oregon to enjoy the red alder and vine maple trees in Silver Fall State Park or drive the Mt. Hoop Scenic Loop for fall colors along the Columbia River Gorge. Next, travel along the coast to California. Stop in Lake Tahoe for stunning foliage before making for San Francisco and some unexpected leaf peeping at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
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