Road Trips For Prime Autumn Foliage

Guest post by Lola Méndez


We're well into leaf-peeping season in the United States. Autumn is underway, and the leaves have transformed to brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and auburn across many states. Most destinations will witness trees and vines changing colors from now through November.

You can safely enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage at a social distance by hiking or cycling on lesser-visited trails or heading out for a scenic drive along tree-lined routes. Here are eight of the best offbeat places to peep some leaves in the United States.



Stowe, Vermont

Stowe has earned the title of “Fall’s Color Capital” due to the town’s vibrant autumn colors thanks to trees bursting in an array of warm shades. Stowe Mountain is one of the best places to enjoy Vermont’s vibrant fall foliage, as well as Waterbury Reservoir, where you can see the rich color spectrum of leaves while enjoying several outdoor activities. Rent a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard for a  stunning reflection of the colorful trees on the water.

Another great option to observe the changing leaves is via Vermont’s many picturesque countryside drives including the Green Mountain Byway which holds stunning views of mountains, meadows, and forests. The Auto Toll Road scales Vermont's tallest peak, Mt. Mansfield, and is an excellent leisurely drive for leaf spotting.





Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs boasts an explosion of autumnal colors. The region’s aspen-lined mountains are a spectacular sight to see when the colors begin to change to glowing shades of yellow. Leaf-peepers will love the kaleidoscope of autumn foliage that can be seen when taking a leisurely drive down Pikes Peak Highway. The alpine scenery features mountain reservoirs and dense forests on your way to the 14,115-foot peak. Aspen trees can also be spotted at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in the Rocky Mountains. The 2,701-acre park offers 28-miles of trails for hiking and biking. 




Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville is located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where there are plenty of ways to get your fall foliage fix– there are over 100 nearby parks. Enjoy the outdoors on a low-impact 22-mile bike trail or go for a walk on numerous hiking trails. The best views can be seen while hiking through to Caesar's Head State Park where you can see multi colored landscapes from three states—South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. You can also checkout the foliage from high above on a zipline tour through the chromatic treetops.  




Fort Wayne, Indiana 

The midwest is home to many beautiful locales for foliage hot spots. Fort Wayne’s Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve is a great place to take in the beauty of changing leaves. Leaf peepers will enjoy the glowing views at Metea County Park which features many trees with changing colors such as maples, oaks, sumacs, tulip trees, cottonwoods, sycamore, Virginia creepers, sweetgums, and ashes.


Virginia Beach, Virginia 

Virginia Beach is an ideal autumn destination for those who want to peep leaves while soaking up the last bits of the sun on the coast. The natural landscape at the seaside resort town puts on a stunning show for foliage seekers. The oceanside preserve False Cape State Park has 15 miles of trails along the edge of the Virginia-North Carolina border. The park is inaccessible to cars making it a quiet and calm area to observe the fall colors. Another great spot for a walk is Lake Lawson where there are gradient shades of leaves from numerous trees surrounding the two lakes. Virginia Beach also has 200 miles of trails for cyclists.


Chattanooga, Tennessee

In Chattanooga, the leaves start to get crisp and transform into warm hues in mid-October and can be enjoyed through November. One of the most spectacular places to enjoy the fall scenery and the changing colors of the landscape in Tennessee is Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain. On a clear day you can see landscapes from seven states with panoramic views of the autumn foliage from the mountain top.


Louisville, Kentucky

To witness massive trees in a rainbow of hues pay a visit to the forest giants at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest where you’re sure to spot some russet foliage. Louisville is nicknamed the city of parks and has nearly 50 miles of trails where you can hike or bike along the Ohio River, Floyds Fork, and in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. After getting your fill of fall foliage experience the Louisville's Jack O'lantern Spectacular and drive along the 1/3-mile zone featuring over 5,000 carved pumpkins that are illuminated at night.



New Hampshire

The tiny state of New Hampshire will give you cooler temperatures and plenty of fall foliage to check out. The eastern state is ranked as a top destination for fall foliage and operates an official “Foliage Tracker”, so you can plan your visit during the peak of the leaf-changing season.

Across the state, you’ll find deciduous trees, over 90 different state parks, and the famous White Mountain National Forest. For a picture-perfect fall hike through the New England landscape head out to South Moat Mountain, and take the 2.7-mile path to the top of the rocky summit for phenomenal views of Mt. Chocorua, the Presidentials, the Pemi Wilderness, and the village of Conway. It’s the perfect location to view the changing autumn leaves from above. 

If you prefer to stay in the comfort of your car, hit up The Kancamagus Highway which spans nearly 35 miles long through the White Mountains. The American Scenic Byway provides views of the state’s incredible foliage with vantage points that overlook the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls, and Rocky Gorge. Another great drive is Mt. Washington Auto Road. On this nearly eight-mile route, you’ll have the chance to see the changing leaves atop of Mt. Washington. If you don’t have a car, it’s also possible to hike as Mt. Washington offers many trails


Lola Méndez is an Uruguayan-American freelance journalist. She's a full-time globetrotter who travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 60 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel, she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow along on her responsible travel blog, and on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn