5 Great Fall Leaf Road Trips

Here are our recommendations for where to peep the leaves and enjoy the drive.

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During that magical time of year when the chlorophyll drains from leaves on trees and shrubs, many of us find ourselves outside enjoying the scenery. Or at least we’d like to be, but if you don’t set aside the time and plan a route, you might blink and miss it. That’s where this list comes in: we’ve gathered a selection of scenic drives that will delight anyone interested in that kind of thing.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

This Pacific Northwest destination is easily accessed from the Portland area. Head west along the river to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, following Washingtonian roads to the north of the river or Oregonian ones to the south. Washington 14 is the more interesting (read: twistier) route, with plenty of leaf-peeping opportunities and a few scenic turnouts to enjoy. On the Oregon side of the river, travel along the Historic Columbia River Highway and hook up with I-84. Be sure to check out some of the waterfalls along the route, many of which provide the opportunity for a hike. Once it’s time to turn around, cross to the other state at the Bridge of the Gods and take a new way back.

Taos, New Mexico

A couple of hours northeast of Albuquerque lies Taos, an art colony that supplies its own natural beauty. It’s one stop on the Enchanted Circle driving tour; this 84-mile loop also wends its way through Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire. If that scenic drive is not enough to sate your leaf lust, make a detour on state Route 150 to Taos Ski Valley and enjoy both the great views of the area and another fun stop, the village of Arroyo Seco, along the way.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Locals call it “the Kanc” for short. This leaf-peeping destination winds through the White Mountains for about 35 miles via New Hampshire 112, from Lincoln east to Conway. You’ll likely run into some traffic as you climb, but that’s just an incentive to park the car and hike into the wilderness for a spell. Getting there is relatively easy; Lincoln is about two hours north of Boston.

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Follow the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles through this national park. Along the way you’ll take in the changing birches, maples, and oaks. Stop in Skyland for a meal or a place to stay the night. The park is about an hour and a half to the west of Washington, D.C., and an easy drive from that area’s major airports.

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, Massachusetts

This 90-mile roadway meanders along the Atlantic coast through 14 seaside communities, providing plenty of places to stop and relax between hard-core leaf-hunting sessions. From Lynn at the south to Salisbury at its north end, the Massachusetts byway offers views of fall foliage and the ocean, and its outset is a mere half-hour’s drive from Boston.

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David Gluckman
David Gluckman has over a decade of experience as a writer and editor for print and digital automotive publications. He can parallel park a school bus, has a spreadsheet listing every vehicle he’s ever tested, and once drove a Lincoln Town Car 63 mph in reverse. When David’s not searching for the perfect used car, you can find him sampling the latest gimmicky foodstuffs that America has to offer.