A road trip for a leaf peep.
It’s finally autumn and the colors of the season are bursting out in vibrant shades of red, gold, and orange throughout North America. Perhaps the best way to see Mother Nature’s best show isn’t just in one destination–but on a multi-city road trip, exploring a collection of different destinations all at once. Here are 15 fabulous fall foliage routes across the U.S. and Canada to take in the transforming tones first hand–from California to eastern Canada.
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Day Trip: New Mexico Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
WHERE: New Mexico
The New Mexico Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway begins in Taos, where you’ll encounter Taos Pueblo’s storied multi-level skyline. Then, head nine miles north of Taos on NM 522 toward Arroyo Hondo. This settlement grew out of an 1815 Spanish land grant, and was the home of the fabled New Buffalo commune. Next on the journey is Questa, situated among wonderful hiking and camping destinations for peeping at fall foliage, including Cabresto Lake, Mallette Canyon, and Midnight Meadows. Then head east on NM 38 from Questa toward Red River, a historic mining town. When the mining fizzled out, the town became known for its beautiful high alpine scenery and its switchback roads through the old mining country. Next, the route runs through Bobcat Pass and descends into the high alpine Moreno Valley, bounded by some of the most spectacular peaks in New Mexico. Close the circle by heading back toward Taos.
Day Trip: Yonder Escalante Scenic Byway 12
Scenic Byway 12 travels between multiple National Parks and through some of the most scenic areas of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The byway begins at the junction of Hwy 89 and SR-12, seven miles south of Panguitch and eight miles north of Hatch. A first must-visit stop is the Escalante Petrified Forest at the entrance of Escalante. A short hike at the park offers a stellar view of the scenery while hiking around some epic petrified wood pieces. Next, stop in Escalante, a historic western-feeling town with an artsy bohemian vibe. Finally, make sure to stop in Boulder for a bite to eat as it’s known as a food mecca in the region. Heading back northwest, spend the night at the new, luxurious glamping outpost, Yonder Escalante which lies in the center of the action and serves as a fantastic home base for exploring the region.
Day Trip: Ottawa to Montréal
The drive from Ottawa to Montréal is a fantastic autumn road trip adventure. Departing from Ottawa, first stop at Gatineau Park where there are ample hiking routes to enjoy the changing fall colors. Then, get on the 147 and drive through the quaint towns of Thurso, Papineauville, and Plaisance with picturesque scenes of the Ottawa River and farmland. Take this to Hawkesbury where the road goes inland a bit, letting the 344 become the riverside route. For the final leg of the journey, head toward Grenville, Québec, and drive on the 344 all the way to Oka, a beautiful Québec national park with a long sandy beach on the Ottawa River. Your final destination will be Montréal where you can check out the fall events.
1 Night, 2 Days: Los Angeles to Arrowhead to Big Bear
Book a trip with Travellers Autobarn departing from Los Angeles, and drive your easily navigable van from L.A. to Lake Arrowhead to spy some alpine fall colors. Stop at SkyPark at Santa’s Village’s Pumpkins in the Pines event for some weekend fall festival fun. After a day of harvest activities and leaf peeping around Arrowhead, head to Big Bear to spend the night at the Serrano Campground on the north side of the lake which is steps from the water and hosts 109 campsites. Even better, the Alpine Pedal Path runs right through the campground for easy exploration of the shoreline. Those who don’t have their own can rent them from the nearby Paddles & Pedals. After a day of adventure in the mountains, head back down to Los Angeles on the scenic mountain roads of the Angeles National Forest, and relax after a weekend of exploration.
2 Nights, 3 Days: Sheridan to Cody to Jackson
Experience the beauty of Wyoming’s outdoor fall color by driving from Sheridan to Jackson along the Eastern side of the Grand Loop, with a stop in Cody. Start your journey in Sheridan, at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. This beautiful small town blends Western Heritage and history with the “New West.” For day two of the adventure, head to Cody, where visitors can explore the Sleeping Giant for a ziplining experience with breathtaking views of the Absaroka Mountains. Finally, travel to Jackson, which is the gateway to two of the country’s most beautiful national parks–Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Jackson Hole’s famous activities range from rugged to rich, with luxury hotels, a dining and art scene that’s as vibrant as its fall leaves. Spend the night at The Cloudveil, a beautiful new upscale hotel and enjoy the mountain scenery’s shades of color.
2 Nights, 3 Days: Seattle to Cle Elum to Yakima Valley to Walla Walla Wine Country
Start in Seattle, with a brew at one of the city’s dozens of iconic coffee shops to fuel the journey. From here, it’s roughly one hour to Cle Elum, a historic mountain town in the heart of the Cascades. Cle Elum showcases autumn with the rich scenery of the mountains covered in festive colors. Spend the night at Suncadia Resort, with 6,000 acres of open land and activities like hiking and horseback riding. Suncadia offers a whole host of fall-themed activities on-site. Head east toward the Yakima Valley, which offers a host of autumn adventures such as breweries, wine tastings, and a range of U-Pick farm options for classic harvest fun. Finally, drive to Walla Walla for contrasting fall colors amongst the vineyards. Fall Release Weekend takes place from Nov. 5-7, where visitors can acquire newly released wines–many of which can only be found by visiting these destinations themselves.
2 Nights, 3 Days: New England and a Northeast Mountain Adventure
WHERE: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York
Start the journey in Portland, Maine, which hosts a mix of indoor and outdoor adventure from hiking to beaches to shopping. Next, head Northeast to the white mountains of New Hampshire and spend the night at Omni Mount Washington Resort which offers outdoor excursions such as nine high-flying alpine zip lines, horseback riding, and New Hampshire’s largest ski area. On day two, head to the charming town of Manchester, Vermont, which is known for its classic New England architecture, museums, dining, and shopping. Much of the brilliant red, orange, and gold color in Vermont is from native sugar maple trees which are abundant in the state. Finish the day by heading toward the mountain scenery to the Catskills. Outdoor enthusiasts can get their fix at Eastwind Hotel & Bar on Windham Mountain, with its immersive outdoor programming such as hiking and outdoor yoga with a view.
2 Nights, 3 Days: Traverse City to Grand Haven to Kohler
WHERE: Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin
Start in Traverse City, Michigan, and take a chairlift up Crystal Mountain to leaf peep from a truly unique perspective. Then, head down to Grand Haven, Michigan, to explore one of the area’s 60 public parks and numerous quaint B&Bs for a quiet evening of relaxation. On day two, head down along the coast of Lake Michigan over to Chicago and make a stop at Millennium Park which is bursting with fall foliage each autumn–or take a walk along the river. Next, head along the coast to Kohler, Wisconsin, where the town’s vibes feel like those of autumnal New England (but less crowded, and more affordable!). Spend the night at The American Club Resort which feels like something straight out of a fairytale and hosts a front-row natural seat to the leaves’ vibrant hues. The Wisconsin Fall color report offers even a current status update of the fall colors.
2 Nights, 3 Days: Atlanta to Helen to Greenville to Asheville to Blowing Rock to Bristol
WHERE: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia
Begin in Atlanta and drive 90 minutes north to Helen, Georgia, for a taste of hiking trails and the annual Oktoberfest. Next, head to Greenville, South Carolina, surrounded by lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and the Blue Ridge Mountains–an outdoor paradise perfect for leaf peeping. From a 22+ mile novice-friendly bike trail to five nearby State Parks and numerous hiking trails, visitors can even see the foliage from the treetops on zipline tours. After Greenville, head up to Asheville, North Carolina, which is known for having some of the most spectacular foliage in the country. Spend the night at The Foundry Hotel which offers an “Eco-Friendly Leaf Peeping by Land, Air, and Sea” package to see it firsthand. Next, head toward Bristol, Virginia, and set home base as The Bristol Hotel, to enjoy panoramic views of the nearby Smoky Mountains and autumn leaves on the city’s first and only rooftop to see the sights from above.
2 Nights, 3 Days: A Northeast Urban Adventure
WHERE: Massachusetts; Rhode Island; New York; Washington, D.C.
New England is known for iconic fall foliage–and its cities are gorgeous in fall, too. Start your route in Boston, and head down to Providence, Rhode Island. Here, see leaves turning fiery red at Memorial Park–or visit the fiery blaze of a WaterFire show on select nights. Spend the night at The Beatrice, the city’s newest boutique hotel. Next, head down to New York City (there’s a reason Wayne Newton “recalls Central Park in Fall”) and take a self-guided walk through Central Park to admire the show of golds, browns, and reds. Then, drive down to Washington, D.C., which is typically known for cherry blossoms, but autumn at Rock Creek Park boasts over 1,700 acres of mostly wooded parkland with plentiful leaf peeping. Spend the night at the luxurious Kimpton Monaco, which is close to some of the capital’s most famed sights.
2 Nights, 3 Days: Bowling Green to Louisville to Lexington
Start in Bowling Green for a walk around a charming southern town with a strong spirit of Autumn. Bowling Green’s Lost River Cave hosts an annual “scarecrow trail” walk for a creative art display of scarecrows. There’s also bourbon tasting, haunted mansions, and scary movie tours (Bowling Green is the hometown of John Carpenter, the mind behind cult-classic horror film, Halloween). Next, head to Louisville, with the Jack-O-Lan-Tern Spectacular, a walkable art show in Iroquois Park, featuring 5,000 carved pumpkins that light up the night as much as the bright leaves light up the trees. Spend the night at Hermitage Farm‘s vast open space. In the morning, head to Lexington, to encounter outdoor adventures for experiencing the foliage firsthand. There’s hiking, kayaking tours, and of course, horseback riding. Spend the night at Queen’s Gambit-inspired “Harmon Room” at 21c Museum Hotel, a boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, and cultural center in one.
3 Nights, 4 Days: Winding Roads of Wine Country
Northern California’s wine country region is beautiful year-round–but fall’s harvest season is truly special. Start in Downtown Napa for a stroll along the river’s changing leaves. Move onto Sonoma Valley to dine at Glen Ellen Star on the charming outdoor patio space, and spend the night at Gaige House, a Japanese-inspired boutique hotel offering a spiritual experience (the soaking tubs are a must). Next, drive north to Santa Rosa for a hot air balloon ride over the changing colors of the trees below. Spend the evening at the newly renovated Flamingo Resort, a mid-century marvel with a retro-chic aesthetic. Head on to Healdsburg to explore the Alexander, Russian River, and Dry Creek valleys which offer the same fiery explosion of oranges, yellows, reds, and maroons that East Coasters brag about (with deep red Cab Savs to match). Spend the night at the Montage Healdsburg which encompasses 258-acres settled among transforming oak trees and vine-covered hills.
3 Nights, 4 Days: Colorado Mountain Road Trip Loop
Start in Denver and head to Colorado Springs to visit the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad for an aerial view of the fall foliage from 14,000 feet above. Stay at Kinship Landing–a boutique hotel with a laid-back adventurous vibe. Next, make the drive to Breckenridge, where Brecktoberfest takes over the town from September 24-26 alongside a plethora of fun and festive fall events. Spend the night at Mountain Thunder Lodge, perched in a wooded area in the heart of historic Breckenridge. Next, head to Boulder, winding through the mountains while gazing at bright yellow, vibrant red, and gold leaves. Stop in town to embark on a whole host of harvest adventures including a stop at a local farm stand. Spend the night at St. Julien Hotel & Spa which is home to two bee colonies, and is a four-minute drive from Boulder’s famous flatirons–perfect for hiking in the autumn colors.
3 Nights, 4 Days: Colors of Coeur d’Alene, Kellogg, and Montana
WHERE: Idaho and Montana
Start your journey in Idaho’s scenic Coeur d’Alene, which hosts a whole lineup of fall events before heading to Kellogg, Idaho, to ride the World’s Longest Gondola and take in the fall foliage from above at Silver Mountain Resort. Explore the village before spending the evening at Morning Star Lodge. On day two, drive to Missoula, Montana, to explore its eclectic food and drink scene and take a hike on one of the trails easily accessible right from town. Spend the night 30 minutes east down the road at The Resort at Paws Up, which hosts its own incredible range of adventure activities on-site such as horseback riding, ATV tours, and more amongst the forest’s changing leaves. This property encompasses 37,000 acres of resort land, 100 miles of trails, and offers access to the 1.5 million acres of the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness Area for an unforgettable outdoor experience.
3 Nights, 4 Days: Mount Hood’s Hues
Starting from Portland, travel along the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway which parallels the Columbia River. Stop for a brew at Gorges Beer Co., and take in the views before heading onto the town of Hood River. Spend the night at Hood River Hotel which is on the National Register of Historic Places. On day two, head to Mt. Hood’s base for a hike, or drive the Hood River Fruit Loop which is gorgeous when the autumn leaves pop against the snowy mountain peak. Spend night number two at Mt. Hood Resort, tucked away among the lush forest and majestic mountain scenery. Depart in the morning and head back toward Portland along US-26 to Sandy which boasts a historic pioneer heritage. To extend the trip one more night, stay at Sandy Salmon Bed & Breakfast Lodge to enjoy a luxurious log cabin atmosphere with a cozy fireplace, and a hearty breakfast.