Short Drives

It's not the destination, it's the road trip

5 Best Fall Foliage Short Drives in the US

Fall is the special time of the year when a short drive proves to be a delight of colorful landscapes of fall foliage. While the northeast is legendary for the color show it puts on from September to November,  beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow can we had nationwide. Here are five of the best fall foliage road trips around the country where you can see the leaves in all their colorful splendor by car. A convertible, open sunroof or windows down adds to the show as you take in Fall’s crisp, fresh air.

Maple and Mountains Tour, Maine

Mother Nature never skimps in Maine. Fall foliage beauty is everywhere statewide and one of the prettiest drives for fall leaf aficionados is the Maples and Mountains tour. The loop begins in the historic town of Naples featuring 19th century architecture and passes through Bridgton, South Paris where locally mined gems like amethyst and topaz are for sale, and Stow, before ending in charming Fryeburg.

Along the way, road trippers can stop and visit Sebago Lake State Park and explore Grafton Notch State Park for many outdoor activities. The drive takes you through covered bridges and the White Mountain National Forest into Evans Notch, where you can enjoy stunning views of the White Mountains, framed by pom poms of colorful fall bushes.

For peak foliage times, visit mainefoliage.com foliage index for current conditions.

White Mountain Majesty, New Hampshire

The sugarcone-laden peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains sound winter-like, but they are worth visiting year round, especially in fall. Most colorful from mid-September to mid-October, when fall foliage is at its most spectacular peak. But even after leaves reach their peak in a certain area, the colors can hang on for a week or two.

The 125 mile drive includes brilliant foliage displays, restaurants and gourmet shops galore, quaint country villages and traditional country fairs on weekends. A pond at the 6,500-acre Franconia Notch State Park that is built around a spectacular mountain pass is worth a cruise on crisp, fall day.

The State of New Hampshire updates a real-time, regional foliage peak report for those needing a short drive and maximum fall foliage fix.

The Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. More than 100 species of native trees, including scarlet oaks, maples, and hickories, put on a kaleidoscopic autumn display of golds, crimsons, and purples.

There are over 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails to explore the stunning forests in the fall, which means you can visit a new portion for leaf gazing every year without ever repeating the same drive. The best part is that the fall display goes on as late as November, when other forests nationwide have dropped all their leaves.

Smokymountains.com offers the best Fall Foliage prediction map for not only the local area but nationwide as well. A simple slider helps predict color intensity by weekly period.

Upper Peninsula Panoramas, Michigan

Michigan’s state forest system is the largest one in the eastern United States consisting of nearly 4 million acres.There are more than twenty forested state parks in the Upper Peninsula to enjoy in fall. Local species of ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarac reign over of the densely forested peninsula located between three Great Lakes. The still, mirror-like waters are more startling in colors ranging from azure to navy due to the tree’s vibrant, fall colors.

The Fall Colors blog reports weekly on changes to the area’s fall foliage.

Columbia River Gorge Gorgeousness, Oregon

Forming a natural border between southern Washington and northern Oregon, the eighty-mile-long Columbia River Gorge is an outdoorsman’s paradise. But in fall the big-leaf maples, Oregon ash, and firs start their color displays creating a gorgeous landscape with waterfalls in the backdrop.

This is the first scenic drive in the U.S. to earn National Historic Landmark status. While driving along the Columbia River is a relaxing and soul-satisfying journey, the active and adventure seeking prefer to hike, kayak or river raft down the Columbia river.

The blog, Oregon Fall Foliage offers a weekly update of what sections are popping each week in Fall.