See these great fall destinations for yourself
Travel to the country’s best scenic highways for a fall road trip.
September 22, 2022 4 min read
Crisp air, shorter days and vibrantly colored leaves signal the arrival of fall, but are also a great sign that it’s time to take a road trip. Our country’s roadways have some staggeringly beautiful vistas, and fall is the perfect time to soak them in and enjoy the view while the leaves are changing. Here are the top five best scenic highways for a fall road trip.
Skyline Drive, Virginia
Completed August 29, 1939, thanks to the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s funding of our national parks systems, Skyline Drive in Virginia is a 105-mile highway in Shenandoah National Park in the Shenandoah Mountains.
The road has over 70 overlooks and is a famed destination for mountain foliage, looking out over beautiful valleys and bluffs on the East Coast mountain range. The area around the highway also hosts dozens of fall festivals and events, along with breweries and historic locations. The Park Service recommends planning your trip around peak times for less traffic and they are happy to help with locating prime spots for fall colors during your visit.
California Route 395
The big woods of California come alive in the fall and scenic California State Route 395 is the place to see them. The highway winds through the eastern Sierra Mountains between south Lake Tahoe and the town of Bishop. Spanning 175 miles, it greets visitors with stunning fall colors, canyons and mountain passes lined with trees.
Visitors can expect a vibrant display from aspen, willow and cottonwood trees. There are dozens of pull-offs and several jewel lakes to entice visitors, with peak coloration happening from mid-September to late October. The scenic fall highway rises and falls with the elevation of the mountains, allowing visitors different viewpoints as well. The area hosts several fall festivals as well as options for lodging and food.
Maine Route 1
Autumn in New England is a sight to behold. This scenic stretch of highway spans from Kennebunkport to Acadia National Park and is considered one of the most beautiful fall drives in the country. While the drive can be done in less than a day, there are enough attractions and vistas to keep travelers entertained for several.
Surrounded by golden maple trees, Maine Route 1 is a scenic highway dotted with quaint New England villages, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and more. Street fairs, food festivals and more are common and several scenic byways and detours offer travelers a myriad of opportunities to see vibrant fall colors at every pass. It’s recommended that you book accommodations early, as this scenic fall highway attracts a large number of international tourists in the fall.
Talimena Scenic Drive
Located in Arkansas, the 54-mile Talimena Scenic Drive meanders through the beautiful Ouachita Mountains. Visitors can expect vibrant colors of red, gold and yellow from the forested mountain passes lined with hardwoods and conifers.
Although the scenic fall drive can be easily completed in a day, the rugged Ouachita Mountains offer other attractions including several hikes, fall festivals, Queen Wilhelmina State Park and the Rich Mountain fire tower that offers an elevated, 360-degree view of the mountain range. Bring your hiking boots and stretch your legs midway through the drive to enjoy this area.
Lake Michigan Circle Tour
For a scenic fall drive without the mountain overpasses, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is a perfect option. Rimmed with a mix of hardwoods including maple and oaks, the upper peninsula lights up with color in the fall. This scenic drive navigates Door County in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with ample foliage-viewing opportunities.
The area is rich in Midwest culture, and visitors can expect to try unique foods, enjoy fall festivals and stay at one of the many charming inns or bed-and-breakfasts.