Top 5 Autumn Drives in the U.S.

Last updated:

Pack a thermos of hot cocoa, cookies, and your camera. Autumn is undoubtedly the best time of the year to enjoy a leisurely scenic drive. Check out this list of the top 5 fall drives in the United States and set aside a weekend to take in nature’s last who-rah before the dreary days of winter set in.

Try Any of These Top 5 Autumn Drives in the U.S.

  1. 1

    Northeast

    People from all over the world descend upon New England in September and October to witness the spectacular colors of the area’s maple trees. Vermont’s lush forests are the most popular destination for foliage seekers in the northeast and many drivers plan to spend a weekend touring an eighty-eight mile loop that encircles the center of the state. The best time for autumn road trips in this area of the country is between the last week in September and the second week in October. The state of Vermont sponsors a fall foliage hotline during the fall months that updates visitors on the vividness of autumn color and weather and road conditions. Call 1-800-VERMONT for more information.

  2. 2

    Southeast

    Great Smokey Mountains National Park is a stunning location for motorists any time of the year, but in autumn, this area of northeast Tennessee is breathtaking. The drive into the park from the nearby cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge will provide ample foliage photo opportunities. The Cades Cove area of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park can be enjoyed by driving along an eleven mile loop than takes motorists around the perimeter of a large valley. This one-way road witnesses a sizable increase in traffic during the peak fall foliage season, so expect this short route to take well over an hour to complete. The best time for an autumn road trip to Cades Cove, Tennessee is generally the last week in October.

  3. 3

    Midwest

    If you’re itching to hop in your car and drive though a blur of reds, oranges, and yellows as soon as possible, head to the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwestern United States. Leaf watchers begin to spot the first fading of green in the early weeks of September. By the middle of the month, autumnal colors are taking over and the area usually peeks around the last week in September. One of the best routes to take is the Lake Superior Circle. The route will steer you through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the Canadian province of Ontario. This is quite an ambitious road trip, almost thirteen hundred miles, so plan to be on the road for at least four or five days!

  4. 4

    West

    Aspen, Colorado is aptly named for the stately trees of the same name that kindle to a bright yellow during the fall season. The Maroon Bells are a section of the Rocky Mountains located to the southwest of the city of Aspen and are blanketed in these trees. A road trip to this Colorado city and around the Maroon Bells is guaranteed to impress motorists with the contrast of the aspens’ white bark and golden foliage. The best time for autumn road trips in this area of the country is usually mid-September.

  5. 5

    Pacific

    While most people associate autumn road trips with the eastern part of the United States, the western state of California offers some colorful competition. The famous Napa Valley blazes with fall colors in early November. Motorists will get a double dose of entertainment as the area’s wineries also harvest their grapes during this time. The Silverado Trail will be less busy than some of the other popular routes but will offer fall road-trippers a variety of marvelous vistas.

Take an afternoon, or an entire week, to enjoy a road trip through one of these beautiful areas in the autumn and you’ll quickly decide that there’s no better time of the year than the fall.

Here are a few tips to make your autumn road trip a success:

Your vehicle is the ticket to a trip to remember when you plan to drive any of these autumn foliage routes!