This post was most recently updated on September 19th, 2022
Fall just might be the best time of the year. Despite plenty of sunshine, the temperatures are more comfortable. Prices for traveling go down just a bit — and so do the crowds. One more bonus: the fall foliage is just stunning! If you’re also a fan of outstanding autumn colors, this post is just for you. Here are some of my fall foliage favorites; they might become your favorites too!
1. Utah’s Aspen Loop Scenic Byway
The Aspen Loop Scenic Byway is an easy fall foliage day trip from Salt Lake City or Utah Valley. Only 20 miles long, you could spend an hour driving it, or several hours exploring places like the Sundance Ski Resort, Bridal Veil Falls, Cascade Springs, Mt. Timpanogas Cave, and the Provo and American Fork rivers. You’ll see lots of golden aspen groves and colorful red and orange trees dotting the mountainsides.
2. California’s Eastern Sierras
Near Mammoth, California, you’ll find lots of beautiful fall foliage at stunning locations like Convict Lake, June Lake, and McGee Creek. At Convict Lake, hike the trail that follows the lake shore to find a gorgeous tunnel of yellow foliage at the southwest end of the lake. The trail from McGee Creek Campground heads straight into a valley among the mountains, with foliage lining the creek. In fact, most of the lakes along this stretch of the Eastern Sierras have fall foliage you can enjoy. Not everything can be seen by car. Here you’ll need to get out and do a bit of hiking, but it’s not strenuous.
3. Middle Tennessee
Fall is gorgeous in Tennessee because there are more deciduous trees than evergreen — and everything bursts into color come October and early November. It’s hard to go anywhere and NOT see colorful fall foliage. Perhaps the best places to leaf-peep are near lakes where the colors are reflected in the water. Tim’s Ford State Park in Winchester, TN, is a great place to see foliage. It’s easy and free to park there, and the hiking trails are well-marked. Another great place is Old Stone Fort State Park in Manchester — with the addition of lots of cascading waterfalls!
The Great Stone Door Trail in South Cumberland State Park has an overlook (Laurel Gulf Overlook) with incredible views of the entire valley just filled with red and gold! Another bonus: Laurel Falls at the beginning of the Stone Door Trail — a beautiful waterfall surrounded by colorful leaves. These are all relatively short hikes with very little elevation change — great for families.
4. Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and Scenic Skyway
You could easily drive this loop in one day, but it is best explored in 2 to 3 days. It’s an epic road trip with an amazing mountain backdrop and several popular towns to explore as well. Ouray and Telluride are former mining towns turned into posh ski resorts. Biking and hiking are both great ways to see the views and colors here. Hike Bridal Veil Falls for a spectacular view of the valley below. (Yes, there’s a Bridal Veil Falls in Colorado AND in Utah!) There’s even a free gondola ride in Telluride that will give you a birds-eye view of the colorful landscape. Enjoy some of the best fall foliage favorites along this scenic byway.
5. Massachusetts/New England
Really, almost anywhere in New England is a great place to enjoy fall foliage. Some of the best fall scenes are the many front porches covered in pumpkins and autumn blooms, with fall colors in the background. Something else you’ll only find in this area are covered bridges. So a landscape like this just invokes wonderful autumn vibes:
This covered bridge is found in Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. You do have to pay an admission to get to this scene, but you can drive nearly any highway in Massachusetts and find foliage along the road and surounding lakes.
6. ND’s Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway
What once was a native American footpath is now a 63-mile scenic highway through Valley City, North Dakota, along the Sheyenne River. Plan to take your time to travel the Byway, as there is so much to see and discover. Check out the interpretive panels and information kiosks along the route and don’t miss the many beautiful bridges as well. You can’t miss the gorgeous fall foliage as it is everywhere!
7. New York’s Finger Lakes Region
Another stunning area for fall leaf peeping is the Finger Lakes Region of New York. In fact, there are five official road trip routes you can take, and they all focus on the lakes in the area. That means you’ll be able to snap beautiful photos with fall colors reflected in the water — and maybe even go kayaking for a better view. This region has many waterfalls and rivers, too. There’s no end to the breathtaking views you’ll have access to!
8. Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a magnificent river canyon, 80 miles long. Highway 30 (and Interstate 84) is the route that parallels the Columbia River and passes many waterfalls, historic bridges, and other attractions, like the Vista House at Crown Point. While there are a lot of evergreen trees in this area, the forests are peppered with the brilliant fall foliage of many deciduous trees, too. Be sure to hike Multnomah Falls and less crowded Dry Creek Falls, if you have the time.
Viewing fall foliage favorites
Autumn colors generally begin showing late September through early November. Of course, it depends on where you go and the elevation, as higher elevations show foliage earlier. Occasionally, a late Indian Summer will delay the onset of fall colors. Plan your fall foliage favorites road trip now, so you’ll have something to look forward to. As the time gets closer, be sure to check with peak fall foliage maps, such as this one, to get the timing right. Get out your jackets and boots, pack some great road trip snacks, and have a wonderful autumn!