Epic USA Fall Road Trips to Add to Your Bucket List
Fall is easily one of the best times for road trips in the USA! From beautiful scenic views, leaf peeping, and National Parks, you will be spoiled with all the fall vibes! In this fall USA travel guide, we are covering 10 epic USA fall road trips that need to be on your bucket list this year.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack up the car and get out of here!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Epic USA Fall Road Trips to Add to Your Bucket List
- The Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Road Trip: 3 Days
- New England: New Haven, Connecticut to Bennington, Vermont: 2 Days
- Glacier National Park To Bozman, Montana: 5 Days
- Shenandoah Skyline Drive Road Trip: 2 Days
- Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park: 6 Days
- Anchorage to Willow Alaska USA Fall Road Trip: 3 Days
- Cascade Mountains of Washington: 5 Days
- California: Highway 395 through the Eastern Sierra: 2 Days
- New England Coastline: 10 Days
- Denver to Moab Road Trip: 3 Days
- Tips for Taking Fall Road Trips in the USA
- USA Fall Road Trips Wrap-up
The Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Road Trip: 3 Days
Suggested by Sam Opp from Find Love & Travel
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best USA road trips you can do in the Southeast. This parkway offers 469 miles of panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, waterfalls, charming North Carolina towns, leaf peeping, and more!
In fact, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the number 1 visited National Parkway in the USA. It even beat out the Great Smoky Mountains! There are also fall activities you can enjoy while driving down the parkway, including apple picking in NC. North Carolina is one of the top producers of apples.
The best time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway is from mid-late October, depending on the fall foliage forecast.
Stop 1: Boone, NC
Start your adventure in the charming college town of Boone, NC. This is one of the most beautiful areas of the parkway. Head towards Grandfather Mountain. Some of the most popular pull-offs for hiking include Rough Ridge Hike, the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, and Beacon Heights. All of which are dog-friendly.
Stop 2: Asheville
Next, you will be headed to Asheville with a couple of lovely stops along the way! If you love waterfalls, you will want your first stop to be Linville Falls. This is a relatively easy hike and dog-friendly.
After, make a stop at Mt. Mitchell. This is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. From there, you should consider doing a hike at Craggy Gardens, which offers a unique landscape. Even the pull-off is lovely if you don’t want to hike!
Stop 3: Cherokee
On day 3, you will head toward Cherokee, NC. This is the entrance into the Great Smoky Mountains. Along the way, stop at Graveyards Field Loop, which is one of the coolest hikes on the parkway. You can even hike to a waterfall, or just do the loop as we did.
Next, make your way through Cherokee and stop at Oconaluftee Visitor Center to have a chance at seeing some elk.
After, stop off at Soco Falls Near Maggie Valley. This is a stunning waterfall right off the highway. If you have time, you can also head to Pisgah National Forest, which is south of Asheville, and do a loop to Cherokee and back to Asheville. Asheville is one of the best places to see fall foliage in North Carolina.
If not, you can enjoy additional time exploring Asheville. End your night in Asheville.
You can see the full Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip here! If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are 10 reasons to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway this Fall.
New England: New Haven, Connecticut to Bennington, Vermont: 2 Days
Suggested by Amanda from My Vintage Map
Without a doubt, New England is one of the most picturesque places to do a fall road trip in the USA. There are several different routes you could take through the six states in the region. One great option is to begin in New Haven, Connecticut, and go north through Massachusetts and up to Bennington, Vermont.
The best time for this road trip: Late September to mid-October
Stop 1: New Haven, Connecticut
The centuries-old Yale University campus is a kaleidoscope of colors in the fall with its towering trees nestled among the buildings. Take a walk through campus and over to the New Haven Green, one of the oldest town greens in the USA, dating back to 1638. In the fall, the “green” becomes a gorgeous mixture of orange, red, and yellow.
If you have time, you should also hike to the top of East Rock State Park for a birds-eye view of New Haven’s fall colors.
Stop 2: Northampton, Massachusetts
Stop by the bustling town of Northampton, Massachusetts for coffee and pastries at The Roost. This little cafe provides a cozy atmosphere to warm up on a chilly fall day. Spend some time walking around the town and seeing the autumn decor before continuing on your journey.
Stop 3: Bennington, Vermont
The drive from Northampton to Bennington is quintessential New England, with its winding roads, rolling hills, and dense forests. You’ll see several white steepled churches peeking through the colorful trees.
You can also enjoy a relaxing dinner in Bennington before turning in for the night. There are several cozy inns to choose from in Bennington, including Four Chimneys Inn and Eddington House Inn.
On Day 2, before heading back south, consider taking a hike at the nearby Harmon Hill (part of the Appalachian Trail) or Greenberg Headwaters Park for stunning autumn views.
Stop 4: Stockbridge, Massachusetts
As you drive back toward New Haven, stop by the historic town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Stockbridge is in the heart of the Berkshires, one of New England’s fall foliage epicenters.
The quaint Main Street shops in this town were made famous in a Norman Rockwell painting. (The Norman Rockwell Museum is also in Stockbridge.) Here you’ll find fall treats, pumpkins, and colored leaves galore. Main Street Cafe is in the old general store and is one of Massachusetts’ many hidden gems.
Stop 5: Washington, Connecticut
For any Gilmore Girls fans out there, Washington, Connecticut is said to have inspired writer Amy Sherman-Palladino’s creation of Stars Hollow in the show. It’s not hard to see why when you visit this picture-perfect town. Its white buildings positioned against the colorful trees showcase New England at its finest.
Glacier National Park To Bozman, Montana: 5 Days
Suggested by Taylor Deer from Brown Eyed Flower Child.
One of the best USA fall road trips is through the state of Montana! It is best to start in the northern part of the state, near Glacier National Park, and end at Bozeman, near the Wyoming border.
Overall, the best time to road trip through Montana is in September or early October. When you visit Montana in the fall, expect foliage to peak anytime from early to mid-September in and around Glacier National Park. Everywhere else in the state, autumn colors peak from late September through mid-October!
The best Montana spots on a fall road trip are Glacier National Park, Missoula, and Bozeman. Below is the best mini-road trip itinerary for you to follow in Montana.
Stop 1: Glacier National Park 2-3 Days
Glacier National Park is one of the most incredible places to visit for all ages! The two top towns to stay in outside of Glacier National Park are Whitefish and Kalispell, Montana. Both towns have wonderful hotels and mountain resorts, like The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, along with great restaurants, breweries, and a plethora of outdoor adventures.
When you’re in Glacier National Park, enjoy autumn colors at Lake McDonald; drive the breathtaking Going-to-the-Sun Road; hike the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail; see the stunning St. Mary and Virginia Falls and, if you have extra time, hike the incredible Iceberg Lake!
Stop 2: Missoula, Montana Half Day or Full Day
It takes two and a half hours to drive from Whitefish to Missoula. As you make your way south to Missoula, stop at the National Bison Range, where you can learn all about the conservation of bison and enjoy a scenic drive! The National Bison Range is 45 minutes north of Missoula.
In Missoula, make sure to enjoy the city’s craft beer scene at fun spots like Tamarack Brewing, visit the city’s museums, and check out the farmer’s market. For fall foliage, walk along the Lewis and Clark Trail and hike to the concrete “M,” which overlooks the city and nearby mountains!
Stop 3: Bozeman, Montana 2 Days
Bozeman is one of the USA’s most underrated cities, and it’s an awesome spot to stop on a fall road trip in Montana. It’s a three-hour drive to get from Missoula to Bozeman. With a lot of great accommodations, like the Kimpton Armory Hotel, and trendy restaurants, like The Farmer’s Daughter, you won’t have a difficult time making memories in Bozeman, Montana.
Situated near Bozeman is Big Sky. Not only is it a renowned winter ski resort, but it’s also one of the best places to enjoy leaf-peeping in Montana! At Big Sky, you can experience great hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fly fishing, kayaking, and more.
Please be mindful of your gas tank when road-tripping through Montana. A lot of spots are remote and have zero cell phone service.
Shenandoah Skyline Drive Road Trip: 2 Days
Suggested by Sam Opp from Find Love & Travel
If you are looking for Southeast fall road trips in the USA, consider driving down Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. This underrated Virginia National Park is perfect for leaf peeping, fun hikes, and great mountain views. The park is also very dog-friendly.
You can choose to do this road trip from the North end or the South. Many people like to also include the Blue Ridge Parkway within their fall foliage road trip itinerary. This is because they are relatively close together. You can enter the South of Shenandoah or the North of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station.
The best time to do this fall road trip is mid-October to the end of October, depending on the changing of the leaves. Skyline Drive has 105 miles of road so technically, it can be done in a day, but with all the stops you will make, it is best broken up in two. Here are some of the best stops to make.
Day 1: South Skyline Drive
Starting from the South of Skyline drive, some of the best stops you will want to make include Rockytop Overlook, Brown Mountain Overlook, and The Point Overlook. The Point Overlook has incredible sunsets and one of the best views in Shenandoah.
Day 2: North Skyline Drive
On your second day, you should incorporate some hiking to really see all the beautiful fall colors. Some of the best hikes in Shenandoah to consider on the North end of Skyline Dive include Dark Hollow Falls, Old Rag Trail, Rose River Loop Trail, The Stony Man Trail and Upper Hawksbill Trail.
If you only do one hike, it should be the Upper Hawksbill Summit since it is the highest point in the park and offers beautiful views.
Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park: 6 Days
Suggested by Candice from CS Ginger Travel.
Another one of the best fall road trips in the USA is the drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park. This road trip includes two amazing national parks as well as beautiful canyons and mountain towns, perfect for enjoying the fall foliage.
Stop 1: Salt Lake City and Big Cottonwood Canyon
In the canyons near Salt Lake, on your way to Yellowstone, you can see beautiful fall colors. Small Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon are two great places to see the fall leaves. You can take Big Cottonwood Canyon to Park City as you make your way up through Northern Utah and to Yellowstone National Park.
Plan on spending a day in Salt Lake City.
Stop 2: Yellowstone National Park
The early fall is a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park. The summer crowds have gone home, but most of the amenities in the park and nearby cities are still open. You can see lots of fall foliage in Yellowstone, and the animals are full and healthy after a summer of grazing. Some of the best things to do in Yellowstone include watching Old Faithful Erupt, hiking to the Grand Prismatic Overlook, and looking for wildlife in Hayden and Lamar Valley.
Accommodations inside the park fill up well in advance. If you aren’t able to find lodging inside the park, West Yellowstone is a charming city just outside the park that is great to stay in. Here are additional Yellowstone travel tips and a full 2 day Yellowstone itinerary!
Plan on spending 2.5 days in Yellowstone before driving down to Jackson.
Stop 3: Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming
On your way back to Salt Lake City, a short detour will take you through Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming. The Tetons are such a beautiful area and a great place to enjoy fall colors. The best time to see the leaves changing in the Tetons is from mid-September to the first week of October.
Plan on spending 2 days in Jackson Hole and the Tetons.
Anchorage to Willow Alaska USA Fall Road Trip: 3 Days
Suggested by Lina from Bucket List Places
Alaska is widely known for its collection of glaciers, the famous Brooks Falls bears, and the Northern Lights, but did you know that Alaska also has some of the best foliage in the USA, making it a great place for road trips?
For the ultimate adventure, head on this road trip in the fall to view the incredible fall foliage, witness spectacular wildlife, and get the chance to see the Northern Lights.
This Alaska road trip itinerary from Anchorage to Willow will take a leisurely 3 days, and two nights, and will give you the chance to see some of the incredible sights that Alaska has to offer in the fall. The best time for fall foliage is beginning to mid-September when the area experiences its peak (although exact dates vary from year to year).
Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage and rent a car. Explore the city and check out the vibrant downtown area, then start making your way toward Chugach State Park.
Stop 1: Eagle River Nature Center
The trees and landscape in the Chugach State Park vary greatly, even on one trail. Take a walk on one of the many trails that start at Eagle River Nature Center. The fall colors here will be very vibrant.
Stop 2: Peters Creek Trailhead
Peters Creek Trailhead is another part of Chugach State Park that has different types of trees in more of a variety of colors. Hike up Bear Peak for incredible views of the foliage.
Lodging: Spend the night at Loft in the Clouds located right near Peters Creek Trailhead, to maximize the incredible fall colors. This property is located right by the state park on top of a mountain with views of the surrounding area from 3 decks (including a roof deck with 360-degree views).
Day 2: Today you will be heading through Hatcher’s pass. This is one of the most beautiful drives in all of Alaska and will take you a few hours to complete. The fall colors in Hatcher’s Pass are truly breathtaking.
Stop 1: Independence Mine
Drive to independence mine and spend some time walking around the museum learning about its history and exploring the variety of trails that lead right from the visitors center.
Stop 2: Summit Lake
Breathtaking glacial lake with a beautiful deep blue color surrounded by mountains. This is a must-stop and a great area to pick blueberries from if they are in season.
Finish the day by driving the rest of Hatcher’s Pass and enjoying the fall foliage ending in Willow, AK.
Lodging: Spend the night at EagleQuest Cabins and Lodge, a beautiful property situated on a lake. If you’re lucky, maybe you will spot moose right in your backyard!
Day 3: This is the last day of your road trip. Head back to Anchorage and visit 49th State Brewing for some delicious beer and great food!
Cascade Mountains of Washington: 5 Days
Suggested by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
The aptly named Cascade Loop, taking you through the Cascade Mountains of Washington, is a spectacular road trip to take in fall, thanks to the dramatic mountains, rushing waterfalls, and stunning autumnal colors you’ll pass along the way. The loop, which covers about 440 miles, is best enjoyed over at least five days.
Best time for this road trip: Late September to the beginning of October
Stop 1: Deception Pass State Park
You’ll begin your trip by taking a ferry from Everett, Washington over to Whidbey Island and driving northbound to Fidalgo Island. Here, explore Deception Pass State Park, the most popular state park in Washington, thanks to its dramatic cliff sides, rugged beaches, and wildlife sightings.
Stop 2: North Cascades National Park
Continue your journey by driving eastbound to North Cascades National Park. Throughout this hidden gem, you’ll find jaw-dropping fall foliage, with coniferous trees that turn golden (called larches) and autumnal wildflowers carpeting the mountain slopes.
Plan to spend at least two days here hiking some of the amazing trails, including the Maple Pass Loop, Cutthroat Pass, or the Blue Lake trail, and enjoying the fall foliage. While North Cascades usually flies under the radar, it’s quite popular in the autumn- so be sure to hit the trails early!
Stop 3: Winthrop, Washington
After your exploration of the North Cascades, make a stop at the nearby town of Winthrop. This 1800s gold rush town was restored to its Wild West glory in the 1970s- now, it’s home to antique boardwalks and quirky yet charming businesses, like a microbrewery housed in an old schoolhouse.
Stop 4: Leavenworth, Washington
Continue south and finally, make a stop in the adorable town of Leavenworth, whose streets are lined with Bavarian-style buildings. Leavenworth celebrates all kinds of German festivities, including Oktoberfest from mid-September through early October. It is one of the best places to experience fall in the USA!
There are also lots of incredible hikes here to enjoy- for example, the Colchuck Lake trail will take you to a stunning turquoise lake and is an excellent spot to view the changing larches. While you’re in town the Bavarian Lodge is an excellent home base, with an outdoor hot tub to soak in and enjoy the fall foliage on the surrounding Cascade Mountains.
California: Highway 395 through the Eastern Sierra: 2 Days
Suggested by Dhara from Roadtripping California
Looking for a superb fall road trip in the western US? Consider driving Highway 395 in California to see the fall colors in the Eastern Sierra: they are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the country.
The Eastern Sierra has a long fall foliage season, generally starting in mid-September and going all the way to the end of October. The first half of October is usually a great time to do this road trip between South Lake Tahoe and Bishop.
Stop 1: Bodie State Historic Park
Bodie State Historic Park in Bridgeport is a must-stop for its arrested-decay buildings from the Gold Rush era. You can even see some fall colors in the surrounding hills.
Stop 2: Conway Summit
Right along Highway 395, the Conway Summit viewing area offers excellent leaf peeping at peak, with large masses of aspen.
Stop 3: June Lake
One of the best places to explore on this road trip is the June Lake loop, a beautiful place where you can see fall foliage in the context of several alpine lakes and the majestic mountains.
Stop 4: Convict Lake
Just south of Mammoth Lakes, Convict Lake is a breathtaking alpine lake with fall color from aspen and willows along the shore. Arrive at sunrise for the best photos!
Stop 5: Bishop Creek Canyon
At the south end of the drive, Bishop Creek Canyon offers breathtaking scenery and superb fall foliage viewing, with several lakes. You can drive to these lakes and also hike trails that start at each lake.
The Eastern Sierra is an extremely popular fall road trip location, so be sure to book lodging or campsites well in advance.
Mammoth Lakes makes an excellent base, and in the south, you can stay in Bishop. Check out the Westin Monache Resort in Mammoth Lakes, set close to dining.
New England Coastline: 10 Days
Suggested by Brittany from Travel by Brit
New England’s picturesque coastline is, without a doubt, one of the best fall road trips to take in the USA.
This New England road trip itinerary includes Boston, MA, Newport, RI, and Portland, ME, but an insider travel tip you should know is that there are plenty of lesser-known stops you can include along the way, like Plymouth, MA, and Portsmouth, NH. Fall foliage along New England’s coastline reaches its peak toward the end of October, which is the best time to plan your road trip for vibrant autumn colors.
Day 1-3: Boston, MA
Begin your trip in Boston, Massachusetts, where you can enjoy the fall foliage while walking along the Freedom Trail, strolling around the Boston Public Garden, and meandering through Beacon Hill and Acorn Street. While in Boston, stay at The Godfrey Hotel for quick access to all the major sites!
Day 4-6: Newport, RI
Next, hop in the car and head to Newport, Rhode Island, where you can enjoy hiking the Cliff Walk, which offers gorgeous views of the Newport Mansions. You should also stroll down Bellevue Avenue and Thames Street to try some of Newport’s top-rated restaurants with fantastic views, like The Mooring Seafood Kitchen and Bar. If you’d like to stay within walking distance of all the major attractions, stay at Hammett’s Hotel.
Day 7-9: Portland, ME
Finally, drive north to Portland, Maine, for the last leg of your road trip. You can go leaf peeping on a cruise in Casco Bay, go on a craft brewery tour to popular spots like Allagash Brewing Company, or visit the iconic Portland Head Light. The Portland Regency Hotel & Spa is the ideal space to stay in Downtown Portland!
Day 10: Back to Boston
When your time in Portland is over, drive back to Boston—where you’ll fly home and dream about your next vacation to the New England coast.
Denver to Moab Road Trip: 3 Days
Suggested by Nikki from She Saves She Travels
One of the best fall road trips in the Southwest USA is the route from Denver to Moab. You’ll love the dramatic contrast of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to the red rocky cliffs in Moab, Utah. The last week in September and the first week in October is typically the best time to experience the vibrant Aspen trees turning to bright golden yellow.
A Denver to Moab road trip could technically take you less than a day to complete. But with so many amazing sights and activities along the way, you’ll want to take more time. A long weekend at a minimum – but a week to explore this awesome US road trip is better.
Day 1: Denver, CO
Starting in Denver, be sure to check out the downtown area a stay at the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown will put you in the middle of the action! Union Station, 16th Street Mall, and the RiNo Arts District area are all fun to see.
Day 2: Dillon, CO & Glenwood Springs
As you head west, be sure to stop in Dillon, Colorado. Sapphire Point Overlook or Old Dillon Reservoir Trail offers excellent views of this picturesque lake setting. It’s especially gorgeous during the fall!
As you make your way through the Rockies, be sure to stop in Glenwood Springs. Home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs, the pool is a must-see. Afterward, be sure to walk the lively downtown area to grab some food. If you wish to stay in Glenwood Springs for the night, the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is a great spot to stay in the heart of the action.
Day 3: Moab, UT
As you exit Colorado, take the scenic 128 in Utah to Moab instead of following the interstate. You’ll get stunning views of the red rocky cliffs of Utah. Of course, once you make it to Moab, you can explore the nearby national parks; Arches and Canyonlands. A stay at the Hyatt Place Moab is convenient to the parks, too.
Tips for Taking Fall Road Trips in the USA
Now that you know the best places to take fall road trips in the USA, here are some tips to keep in mind for having the best road trip!
- Check your car beforehand. Make sure your tire pressure, oil, etc, is in order! Having a breakdown during a vacation is the worst! Jumper cables are always a good idea.
- Bring a first-aid kit.
- Have a flashlight and some layers packed in the car. It can get cold at night during some of these road trips.
- Download the offline maps on Google maps in case you lose service.
- Map out your trip before driving, to avoid getting lost. Look for any road closures that might affect the drive.
- Let someone know where you plan on driving to or even share your location – especially if you are road-tripping solo.
- Hit the road early. Fall is a busy time for road trips – especially when the fall foliage starts. Trying to do your road trip during the week will help you avoid the crowds.
- Bring extra water and snacks in the car.
- Try not to go under half a tank on the car. Fill up when possible since the gas stations are often spread out. You can also use the app Gasbuddy. Here are more great travel apps.
- Drive carefully at night. Many of these road trips include more remote spots where deer and other wildlife are likely to be crossing the road.
- Bring a bag to hold waste in the car until you find a trash can.
USA Fall Road Trips Wrap-up
This concludes some of the most epic fall road trips to take in the USA this fall. I hope you have the best time hitting the road, exploring new places, and seeing all the fall foliage.
Other travel guides you might enjoy: Ultimate Bucket List for Fall in NYC | Epic Warm Weather Winter Getaways | Winter Wonderland Vacations | Expenses To Cut Now So You Can Travel More | Travel Outfits for Great Photos