“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from an autumn tree.”— Emily Bronte
Brilliant fall foliage, winding country roads, cider and donuts, antique stores, and little mom and pop shops. What’s not to love about a scenic autumn road trip? We’ve gathered information about some of the routes to use so you can have the best fall road trip yet, full of trees bursting with color.
Maine, The Bold Coast Scenic Byway, 125 miles
This scenic drive follows the rocky coast and offers stunning views of the restless sea. On the other side, trees display their riotous autumn colors. The experience begins (or ends) at Lubec, the easternmost village in the United States. Visit Lubec’s lighthouse. Attractions along the way include little museums that showcase maritime, agricultural, and Native American History. Famous local tastes are blueberries and seafood. This is one of America’s less traveled roads for fall foliage, and the landscape is pristine. Stay in a quaint inn like West Quoddy Station on the water and be one of the first Americans to greet the rising sun.
Vermont, Scenic Route 100 Byway, 217 miles
This drive that runs along the center of the state is recognized by Yankee magazine as the most scenic route in New England. It attracts many international visitors eager to see blazes of autumn beauty. Brilliant yellow, red, and orange boughs frame little country churches, old-fashioned stores, turn-of-the-century farms, and plenty of places to indulge in New England cuisine and everything maple syrup. Don’t miss the charming, old-fashioned cider mill and gift shop in quaint Waterbury Center and the nearby Ben and Jerry Ice Cream factory.
The legendary Vermont Country Store, 657 Main Street, Weston, invites a leisurely stroll through a yesterday shopping experience. This store is stocked to the rafters with a variety of goods including penny candy, local cheeses, jams and jellies, maple syrup, and even old-time products re-created. Next door, the Bryant House restaurant has an antique soda fountain and 1885 barroom. The food is homemade and of special note are the chicken pot pie and Mildred Orton’s original gingerbread. The family-friendly Swiss Farm Inn offers cozy accommodations and an acclaimed breakfast.
Oregon, Columbia River Highway, 75 miles
America’s oldest scenic highway (the early 1900s) climbs the Oregon cliffs glowing with ash, cottonwood, and maple trees. In one, eight-mile stretch, the road skirts the bases of five dramatic waterfalls including the 620 foot Multnomah, one of the nation’s tallest waterfalls. Viewing areas allow a closer look and fine showers of mist mixing with the falling leaves.
Before or after hitting the road from Troutdale, plan to visit Lewis and Clark State Park and enjoy a picnic in the flat, grassy, tree-dotted park. Stay at Cousins’ Country Inn in The Dallas in a cozy room with a gas fireplace plates of homemade cookies. The Cousins’ Restaurant offers home cooking with locally raised sirloin and local produce served with micro-brews crafted nearby. Their in-house bakery, renowned for giant cinnamon rolls, bakes pies and biscuits daily.
Virginia and North Carolina, Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles
Spanning the southern and central Appalachians, this legendary road climbs to great heights and crosses historic valleys. The leaf-peeping season is all of October as the trees at various elevations change at different times. Leaves of the dogwood and black gum trees turn deep red. Poplars and hickories burst into yellow, maples turn red, and sassafras turn orange. At the end of the season, oaks turn brown and deep red.
Roadside stands offer just-picked apples, cider, pumpkins, and pastries. It is easy to find corn mazes, hay rides, and festivals. A good starting point for your road trip is the Virginia Fall Foliage Festival that is held the first two weeks of October in Waynesboro. Its historic district gives a pioneering vibe to the lively festival filled with music, food, and crafts. Floyd, Virginia, population 500, has some quaint inns in the surrounding area and inviting down-home eateries.
Don’t miss Natural Bridge (milepost 61.6) a twenty-story, naturally-occurring, solid-rock bridge; Marbry Mill (Milepost 176.1) and its famous buckwheat pancakes, mill, and blacksmith shop; and Southern Highland Folk Art Center (milepost 382) that showcases traditional and contemporary Appalachian crafts.
Wisconsin, Great River Road, 250 miles
Wisconsin claims to be the best in the Midwest for fall foliage, and the Great River Road was voted the Prettiest Drive in America by the Huffington Post in 2012. It winds through 33 Wisconsin historic towns along the Mississippi River. Visit the Fort Crawford Museum in Prairie du Chien for a peek at life in the early 1800s, a slice of history, and a dose of old-time medical care at the Fort Crawford Military Hospital. Go “off road” in Rush Creek Park on two miles of old service roads to the top of a 400-foot high bluff.
Eleven wineries along the way offer tasting opportunities beneath the vivid leaves of America’s newest wine region. Pair your wine with famous Wisconsin cheeses. Great River B&B in Stockholm is a fine place to relax from the road and enjoy nature at its best. The inn is an 1869 renovated pioneer Swedish stone cottage. One of the largest groupings of American eagles builds nests above the 45-acre wooded grounds.
The road rolls on to the Gulf of Mexico, but leaf peepers head in another direction when the leaves turn green.
New Mexico, The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, 85 miles
Begin and end in Taos for a journey through mountains, mesas, and valleys. Aspen trees turn shades of brilliant yellow, cottonwoods are red and gold, and purple cinquefoil adds a new color to the autumn palette. Bear and elk roam freely. Stay at The Historic Taos Inn, which has 44 individually decorated bedrooms with fireplaces, rough-hewn ceilings, and antique furnishings. It is rooted in the 1890s and is on the U.S. and the State of New Mexico’s Registrars of Historic Places. Eat at Doc Martins for southwest food sourced from local gardens. In Taos and along its byways, Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures are preserved through art and architecture, music and dance, and food and festivals year-round. Taos is a major center for the arts.
Make reservations well in advance if you want to stay overnight close to these scenic roads during the fall foliage season and be sure to pack your patience. The traffic usually goes slow, so just relax and enjoy the autumn’s beauty.
Where’s your favorite place to see fall leaves?