Fall is the perfect time of year to travel. The weather is nice, there are fewer crowds, and you get to experience unmatched scenery. We think one of the best ways to take advantage of the great things the fall season brings is to hop in the car and take a road trip.
This guide will give you the inside scoop on the most scenic fall road trips in America – places to go and things to see.
If you’re looking to take an international trip, check out this incredible 6-day Vancouver Island road trip.
Best Fall Road Trips in America
It’s no secret that the US is huge and has so much to offer. Road trips in America don’t disappoint, especially during Autumn.
No matter what part of the country you’re in or want to explore, there are noteworthy fall road trips across the country. From national parks to lakeside driving, there are perfect foliage views and road trip activities for everyone.
West Coast Road Trips
If you’re looking for beautiful fall colors and nature, these are the best fall road trips. Either option can take as little or long as you’d like it to.
Santa Ynez Valley, California
This scenic valley is located in Santa Barbara County. You can take two different routes from Santa Barbara – highway 154 or highway 101. Both offer incredible views and each takes approximately 45 minutes. Either road you go, Santa Ynez Valley has so much to see and do once you arrive.
- Go winery hopping (there’s over 100 to choose from!)
- Drive through rolling hills and valleys
- Visit Nojoqui Falls Park
- Explore a pumpkin patch
- Hang out at Cachuma Lake
Yellowstone and Grand Teton, Wyoming
For years, Wyoming has been the face of road trips in America and especially during the fall. Views and foliage are top-notch. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are just a few minutes from each other, but both parks are massive. Take as little or long as you can to explore – the longer, the better!
Things to do:
- Yellowstone: 2-day guided tour
- Yellowstone: view fall colors at Mammoth Hot Springs, the Lamar Valley, and Lew River
- Grand Teton: look for wildlife on a scenic float with Teton views
- Grand Teton: see fall views at Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats, and Two Oceans Lake Road
Midwest Road Trips
Have a few days or longer to explore beauty? These spots are both perfect for foliage, activities, and more.
Badlands and Black Hills, South Dakota
For unmatched foliage, Badlands National Park and Black Hills National Forest are well worth a visit. The best time for this autumn road trip is in late September or early October to make sure you’re avoiding chances for snow. These two destinations are about a two-hour drive from each other. Enjoying the views and activities these areas have to offer can be done in a few days up to a week depending on the amount of time you have.
Things to do:
- Badlands National Park Bike Tour
- Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Flight above Black Hills
- Check out Mount Rushmore
- Visit Custer State Park
Lake Michigan, Michigan (and surrounding states)
The Lake Michigan Circle Tour is a scenic road around the second largest of the Great Lakes. It covers parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Without any stops, this trip takes about 15 hours.
Things to do:
- Michigan: Spend time at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Indiana: Go to Indiana Dunes National Park
- Chicago: Sunset Cruise (perfect date idea!)
- Wisconsin: Check out Green Bay and watch professional sport
While the entire drive is beautiful, be sure to leave US 31 north of Manistee, Michigan, then join M-22 for the most stunning foliage views.
East Coast Road Trips
Looking for an east coast road trip this fall? We’ve got the best scenic drive in New England (Route 100) and a very close second.
Route 100, Vermont
This 216-mile scenic route runs along the edge of the Green Mountains through south-central Vermont. Without stopping, it would take about 5 hours. With that said, you can easily spend days exploring the fall beauty and activities.
Things to do:
- Explore spontaneous wildflower fields
- Check out some lakes: Lake Rescue, Echo Lake, and Amherst Lake
- Visit a pumpkin patch
- Stop at Boyden Valley Winery
Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes region consists of 11 lakes in New York. You can spend anywhere from a weekend to a month exploring this area. It’s an incredible place to get outside the city and explore nature and other activities.
Things to do:
- Check out some wineries and/or breweries (there are lots!)
- Visit the Women’s Right National Historical Park
- Go to Taughannock Falls State Park
- Walk around downtown Corning
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic drive through 29 countries. The popular portion from Charlottesville, Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina is 469 miles. It would take 5 days without stopping. Of course, you don’t have to drive the whole thing. However, the more you drive, the more the foliage.
Things to do:
- Visit a national park: there are several including the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah
- Chase waterfalls
- Take a hike or several
- Go mountain biking
Activities for Road Trips During Fall
As we said, fall road trips offer so many benefits. This includes unique activities. Here are some experiences to seek out during your next autumn road trip.
- Take a hike. With nice weather and beautiful wall colors, fall hikes are the best! Not to mention, you’ll probably catch some wildlife as they prepare for winter migration.
- Attend a fall festival. Most places in the US know fall as festival season. Check out All Events to find local festivals.
- Do a photo shoot. Fall road trips are the best time to take unique photos. Whether you’re looking to take pictures for a special event or just for fun, what better time than when foliage is at its finest?
- Go camping. Building a fire and pitching a tent is the perfect thing to do during a road trip. Not only does it allow you to save money on accommodations and spend time in nature, but autumn brings the perfect camping weather.
- Go on a scenic bike ride. Even if you aren’t traveling with bikes, most places offer bikes for rent. This is a great way to catch all the views.
- Stop at a local farm. One of the most unique fall experiences is hanging out at a farm whether it’s apple picking or exploring a pumpkin patch.
Road trips are an ideal way to fully explore and enjoy what’s around you. With so much to see in the United States including incredible foliage, early September to mid-October is an excellent time to hit the open road!
Do you have other ideas to add to our list of fall road trips? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in multicultural travel, check out the 13 most diverse cities.
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