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8 Best U.S. Fall Road Trip Destinations

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Fall is a great time to head out on a U.S. road trip. The summer crowds have headed home since the kids are in school again. The fall foliage is making its first appearances. Cities and states all over the country are hosting fabulous fall festivals that you won’t want to miss. 

If you’re planning a road trip before the season ends, check out these destinations that are sure to please.

CHEROKEE, NC – MAY 11: One of the main park roads along the Tennessee border is viewed from the top … [+] of a ridge near the Appalachian Trail on May 11, 2018 near Cherokee, North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina borders in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain Range. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

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1. Shenandoah National Park 

Shenandoah National Park on the East Coast is a lovely spot for some leaf-peeping. Plus, it’s right outside Washington, D.C., making it an easy flight in if you’re coming from elsewhere in the country. If not, you may still enjoy the park’s proximity to the nation’s capital, as you can combine a visit to both in one trip.

Peak leaf-peeping season at Shenandoah is mid-to-late October. You’ll want to take the park’s Skyline Drive for plentiful outlooks and photo ops. 

2. Green Mountain Byway

No one does fall quite like New England, so head to Vermont for all things seasonal. You’ll want to drive the Green Mountain Byway. While this little stretch of road is only 11 miles, make sure to take your time.

However, the short distance means that this road trip is one you can knock out over a weekend visit, perfect if you can’t get away from work for too long this season. Don’t forget to make pit stops for all the amazing New England food and farm activities that pop up this time of year. 

3. Blue Ridge Parkway

It gets a lot of hype, but for good reason. North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway is known as “America’s favorite drive,” and it’s honestly pretty no matter what time of year you visit. But if you love fall foliage, definitely head there now.

The road is long — nearly 500 miles — so you could take your time over several days or a week to see it in full. While in the state, enjoy all the North Carolina hospitality your heart can handle. The locals really make you feel at home.

4. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

For something in the Midwest, try Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is a great spot to go if you want to combine all the great fall foliage with some lovely water features. Michigan is filled with picturesque waterfront along the Great Lakes, inland lakes, waterfalls, streams and more.

Visit the fun-filled state parks and maybe even enjoy a little camping while you’re in this jaw-dropping outdoor wonderland. 

5. San Juan Skyway

Heading further west, you’ll find the San Juan Skyway in Colorado. Whereas the East Coast gives you fall foliage galore and the Midwest combines leaf-peeping with water features, Colorado blends paintbrush strokes of vibrant colors with towering, dramatic mountain peaks.

The scenery along the skyway is gorgeous and not to be missed, but you’ll want to add some stops to your itinerary to get a glimpse of the region’s history. 

6. The Pacific Coast Highway 

The Pacific Coast Highway gets pretty crowded during the summer months, so maybe skip a June or July trek along this famous coastline and instead visit in October or November. The weather isn’t nearly as bad as what you’ll find on the East Coast in late fall, where snow is always a threat, and you’ll get to see some of California’s best cities.

Remember, though, California doesn’t only have its major urban hubs along the coast. The charming small towns right on the water are worth checking out all on their own.

7. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

In New Mexico, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway takes you across more than 80 files of lush fall foliage, all lit up in vibrant hues of yellow. Aspen trees dominate here, so you might not see your characteristic reds, oranges, and browns that you’ll spot on the East Coast, but the golden leaves are nearly otherworldly in their beauty.

The byway will even take you to views of Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in New Mexico. 

8. The Finger Lakes

Coming from New York City? Then you need to see the Finger Lakes, especially if you’ve never been. While Upstate New York itself is lovely during the fall months, the Finger Lakes region specifically shines because of its wine roots.

The Finger Lakes produce wines to rival those you’ll enjoy in California and you can find plenty to go around during a Finger Lakes road trip. Just make sure you practice safety first and either take it slow or get a designated driver to show you around the area’s best sipping spots and scenic sites.

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