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11 Fall Road Trips for Your Autumn Adventure

Updated: June 14, 2024

The fall is the perfect time to take a road trip in the United States. The temperature is cooler than the summer but as cold as it gets in the coming winter. Throughout the country, you can see the trees and foliage changing into beautiful colors as you travel through and to some scenic destinations. The magnificent views are just one of the many reasons to take a road trip, but best of all, you get to make memories with loved ones.

Today, we list 11 of the best fall road trips with locations throughout the U.S., and when you plan your trip using your AAA membership, you can benefit from an assortment of discounts on gas, hotels and more.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway 

Distance: 469 miles 

Total Travel Time: About four to seven days

Best Time To Go: October and early November

The Blue Ridge Parkway makes for the perfect road trip during the fall, and it stretches almost 470 miles. You can start your road trip in Asheville, North Carolina and travel up through Virginia while experiencing the amazing views. In addition to the fall foliage, you can also make stops to see the Whitewater Falls in Jackson County and a variety of national parks. 

The entirety of the trip can take four to seven days, depending on how often you stop and what you’d like to do along the way. There are many outdoor activities, like zip-lining in Blowing Rock or a three-day family adventure in Montgomery County, Virginia. Blue Ridge Parkway goes along the Appalachian Mountains, so you’ll also find camping spots, cabins and more.

2. Smoky Mountains

Distance: 400 miles

Total Travel Time: Three hours to three days

Best Time To Go: September and October

Depending on your preference, your road trip through the Smoky Mountains can be a day trip, or you can turn it into a three-day adventure. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the shorter trip, and when driving through, there are historic attractions and scenic overlooks where you can park. The longer trip allows you to visit Cades Cove Loop Road and Cataloochee Valley. You can also visit Roaring Fork to see some historic buildings. 

3. Pacific Coast Highway

Distance: 1,675 miles

Total Travel Time: One to seven days

Best Time To Go: September

If you want to get the full experience of the West Coast, a Pacific Coast Highway road trip is your best option. The great part about this road trip is that you can choose to do a shorter, one-day trip or get the full experience and road trip for a week. The full length of the highway goes from San Diego, California, to Olympia, Washington, but you can also just visit some popular coastal cities of your choosing for a shorter trip.

While driving through California, there are a lot of great cities to check out during your road trip. You can start in San Diego and see the dolphins playing as you drive along the coast of Santa Barbara. You can take the highway up to San Francisco to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and go further north to see the Redwood National and State Parks. If you want the full experience, driving up through the Pacific Northwest has great destinations like Haystack Rock in Oregon and Ruby Beach in Washington.

4. Southern New England

Distance: 229 miles

Total Travel Time: Five hours

Best Time To Go: September and October

For Northeastern sightseeing, a Southern New England road trip may be just what you’re looking for. This is one of the best New England road trips to see fall foliage, and there are historic sites throughout the area. You can visit the Old North Church and the Old State House. You can also travel 127 miles from Mystic, Connecticut, to Boston, Massachusetts and see the Mystic Seaport and Aquarium. The fall is an incredible time to visit New England, which is why it’s one of the most popular road trips in the country.

5. Kentucky’s Scenic Route 90

Distance: 58 miles

Total Travel Time: 1 hour

Best Time To Go: September and October

This is one of the shorter trips on our list, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for some weekend relaxation, which makes it one of the best fall getaways for couples. Kentucky’s Scenic Route 90 offers scenic views of the Cumberland River on either side as you drive over spectacular bridges. You will also go through gorgeous meadows along your journey and can stop at one of the small communities for a bite to eat.

6. White Mountain Scenic Highway

Distance: 34 miles 

Total Travel Time: 30 to 60 minutes

Best Time To Go: October

The Kancamagus Highway, also known as the White Mountain Scenic Highway is another short road trip you can take this fall. Located in New Hampshire, this highway takes you up through the White Mountain National Forest, where you can spend the day outdoors. In addition to the national forest, there are also attractions like the Hobo Railroad and Loon Mountain.

7. New Hampshire’s Scenic Route 123

Distance: 19 miles

Total Travel Time: 30 minutes

Best Time To Go: September and October

Another great road trip in New Hampshire is traveling along New Hampshire’s Scenic Route 123. This lovely, tranquil region has small towns you can stop at as you drive through to check out the scenery. In early October, you’ll be able to catch the best of the fall colors throughout the dense woods on either side of the byway. During this short road trip, you can visit Nubanusit Lake and Evas Marsh.

8. Skyline Drive

Distance: 198 miles

Total Travel Time: Five hours and 30 minutes

Best Time To Go: September through November

Taking a Skyline Drive road trip gives you a full day of national park areas to explore, or you can even turn it into a multi-day adventure. Skyline Drive passes through Virginia’s incredible Shenandoah National Park, which spans 200,000 acres. The speed limit in this area is 35 mph, so you can take your time to enjoy the sights during the fall.

The Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, which is perfect for people who love to hike. You can hike to Hawksbill Summit and explore Whiteoak Canyon. There are also areas to stop for a picnic and camping grounds where you can spend the night and gaze up at the stars. Whether you’re driving, camping or hiking, keep an eye out for local wildlife like deer, wild turkeys and black bears.

9. Upper Peninsula Scenic Drive

Distance: 24 miles

Total Travel Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Best Time To Go: September and October

In Michigan, you can take the Upper Peninsula Scenic Drive, which is also known as the Lake Superior Circle Tour. During this fall road trip, you’ll have stunning views of Lake Superior, and this is the perfect trip for people who enjoy the outdoors as well. You can spend the day relaxing on the lake’s shore, taste the local cuisines or get a little more adventurous.

This area of the Great Lakes is the home to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, where you can find the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. This area also has outdoor activities, like kayaking and canoeing, and you can also explore the sea caves and sandstone cliffs. This area also has historical sites like the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and the 19th-century military outpost, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park.

10. Scenic Pennsylvania

Distance: 356 miles

Total Travel Time: Eight hours and 30 minutes

Best Time To Go: September to November

Traveling through Scenic Pennsylvania offers a relaxing road trip through rural areas of the state. You can travel the length of this route in a day or make some stops and have a two-day trip because there’s plenty to do. In addition to the various stops and sights, you may see some deer while driving around Scenic Pennsylvania.

A popular starting location is the lakefront in Erie, Pennsylvania where you can visit the Maritime Museum, Presque Isle State Park and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. From there, you can travel east toward St. Mary’s, where there are plenty of places to go, like Allegheny National Forest and the Drake Well Museum. For beer lovers, St. Mary’s also has the Straub Brewery to experience over 100 years of history, along with delicious food and excellent handcrafted brews.

11. Maine’s Scenic Route 26

Distance: 45 miles

Total Travel Time: One hour

Best Time To Go: Mid-October

If you’re looking for fall trip ideas in the Northeast, Maine’s Scenic Route 26 is perfect for spending a weekend. This tree-lined highway travels near the White Mountain region, and there are some cozy bed-and-breakfasts where you can stay the night. During this drive, you can stop at Grafton Notch State Park, where you can hike and visit the waterfalls. You can also visit Moose Cave and the historic Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery.

The Best Time for a Fall Road Trip

When planning your fall road trip, the best time to see peak foliage is mid- to late-October and early November for most areas. This time of year is when the trees and plant life are done changing into stunning fall colors, and it’s also ideal for good weather conditions. If you’re planning to take one of the Midwest road trips near the Great Leaks, you may want to plan your trip for late September or early October.

It’s also helpful to note that the timing may change a little each year depending on the weather. Factors like temperature, elevation and rainfall may change when the foliage is at its best. 

Plan Your Fall Road Trip With AAA

Fall road trips offer beautiful views, relaxation and fun, and you now have 11 great fall trip ideas to choose from. Many people are also traveling during this time of year, so it’s best to start planning early, especially if you plan on booking a hotel or renting a car.

The best way to plan your trip is through AAA. When you sign up for an AAA membership, you receive various benefits, like discounts on hotel stays and many other benefits. We also make it easy to plan your entire trip and view travel guides, making us your one-stop shop for all your travel needs.

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