10 Scenic Roads to Witness the Best Fall Foliage in the U.S.

As the leaves morph into a palette of fiery hues, America's scenic byways turn into coveted corridors to witness living art at its best.

The fall foliage is calling your name. Ralph Katieb/Unsplash.

In the seasonal travel landscape, autumn emerges as America’s grandest spectacle, one that eclipses even the most epic summer getaways. Fall is the harbinger of change, not just in our closets but in the very landscapes that frame our daily lives. As the leaves morph into a palette of fiery hues, America’s scenic byways turn into coveted corridors to witness living art at its best.

Consider the driver’s seat (or the passenger’s side, because sometimes it’s nice to just take in the views) your VIP pass. As you navigate through serpentine roads, each twist and turn serves up a visual feast that’s nothing short of cinematic. The air itself shifts, now tinged with the crisp scent of apple orchards and the comforting aroma of woodsmoke, enveloping you in an atmosphere that’s as invigorating as it is tranquil.

Whether you’re drawn to Idaho’s untamed Sawtooth Scenic Byway or the Appalachian majesty of North Georgia, the options for your fall road trip are manifold and mesmerizing.  So, take out that map and start plotting. These routes are not just scenic detours but curated experiences, designed for couples and families alike. They promise indelible impressions that will etch themselves into your memory, long after the leaves have fallen.

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West Virginia. Tuan Nguyen/Unsplash

Seneca Skyway, West Virginia

West Virginia’s Seneca Skyway, a 300-mile loop inaugurated just last year, is a fall foliage heavyweight. Traversing 10 counties via US Route 219 and WV Route 92, this stretch cuts through the heart of the Monongahela National Forest. Along the way, pause in mountain hamlets like Lewisburg, Thomas, Elkins and White Sulphur Springs, each presenting its own local flavor. Don’t forget the array of natural marvels such as Blackwater Falls State Park, Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob. Watoga State Park, a newly minted Dark Sky Park, adds an astral dimension to your journey. For those seeking elevated accommodations along the way—literally—consider a night in a 65-foot fire tower in Seneca State Forest.

Image: Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia & North Carolina.
Blue Ridge Parkway. Universal Images Group via Getty

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia & North Carolina 

A relic of the New Deal, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular stretch from Charlottesville to Asheville transforms into a 384-mile catwalk for hickories and a pyrotechnic amphitheater for oaks. Spice up your journey with a hike on the Appalachian Trail, a bluegrass jam session at the Blue Ridge Music Center and a smoky barbecue feast. The Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering marvel, elegantly skirts Grandfather Mountain, leading to a sumptuous pause at Primland Resort, where luxury and nature’s vibrant palette converge.

Image: The Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire.
The Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. Universal Images Group via Getty

The Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Steer through New Hampshire’s White Mountains on “The Kanc,” a byway that transforms into an autumnal dreamscape. This idyllic route unfurls from Lincoln to North Conway, punctuated by historical waypoints like the Albany Covered Bridge, a 19th-century artifact overlooking Mount Chocorua. The Russell-Colbath Historic Site adds a poignant layer of history, while Sabbaday Falls ser]ves as the region’s geological crown jewel.

Image: Mountainous area in North Georgia.
North Georgia. Abigail Ducote

North Georgia 

In Georgia’s northwest corner, the ancient Chattahoochee National Forest stands as an untouched sanctuary, a mere hour’s drive from Atlanta’s bustle. The inaugural leg from Chatsworth to Blue Ridge serves a dual banquet: a kaleidoscope of foliage and a curated selection of award-winning local wines. Continue to quaint Blairsville before immersing yourself in Helen, a Bavarian pocket where Oktoberfest is a way of life.  Your final leg takes you through Dahlonega, the birthplace of America’s first Gold Rush, and culminates in Dillard, where deep gorges and mountain lakes deliver a captivating denouement to the drive.

Image: Fall foliage of Aspen trees in Green Mountain Byway, Vermont.
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont. Tim Graham

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont 

Along Vermont’s Route 100, the Green Mountain Byway unfurls like a 71-mile-long mosaic of autumnal hues. Your journey kicks off in Burlington, where a farmers’ market sets the culinary tone for a day of leaf peeping. As you venture southward to Stowe—the self-proclaimed “Fall Color Capital”—your palate is in for a treat with craft brews from Long Trail Brewing Company and locavore dishes from Hen of the Wood. The journey reaches its peak in the time-honored town of Woodstock, where Fat Toad Farm’s artisanal fare provides a fitting culinary coda. 

Image: Fall foliage colors in Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts. Eilis Garvey

Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts 

Step back in time on the Mohawk Trail, where each mile whispers tales from 10,000 years of history. The route meanders through the Berkshires, a canvas awash in fall colors and dotted with quaint hamlets. For an immersive experience, trek the Mahican-Mohawk Trail or delve into North Adams, a town reborn as an arts mecca with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Check out Williamstown for more gallery-hopping and Shelburne Falls for cutting-edge glass craftsmanship.

Image: Fall foliage colors in an empty road in Columbia River Highway, Oregon.
Columbia River Highway. Avalon/Universal Images Group vi

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Circle October 12 through 28 on your calendars, when Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge dons its polychromatic fall wardrobe. This 75-mile swath along Interstate 84 and Route 14 in Washington is America’s first scenic highway, established in 1913—it has earned its moniker as the “King of Roads.” Here, you’ll encounter the country’s highest density of waterfalls, including the iconic 620-foot Multnomah Falls. For a panoramic sweep of this natural marvel, make a pit stop at the Women’s Forum State Viewpoint. The route is punctuated by a series of cascades, each a visual sonnet—Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil, Multnomah, Wakheena and the family-friendly Latourell Falls.

Image: Green grass field by the river in The Great River Road, Minnesota to Illinois.
The Great River Road. Christopher Osten

The Great River Road, Minnesota to Illinois

Picture a 565 mile-long theater where autumn unveils its most dramatic performance: welcome to the Great River Road. Starting at the Mississippi River’s headwaters in Itasca State Park, the road is a curated gallery of natural masterpieces like the Great River Bluffs. Transform your journey from mere travel to experiential moments with paddleboat rides and narrated cruise tours. Essential waypoints like Wisconsin’s Perrot State Park, Iowa’s Pikes Peak State Park and Dubuque’s Fenelon Place Elevator are not mere stops, but act in a multi-state play of fall colors.

Image: Salmon River, Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Idaho.
Idaho. Visit Idaho

Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Idaho

Those daring to take the road less traveled should put Idaho’s Sawtooth Scenic Byway onto their bucket list. While evergreen pines usually hold the spotlight, the western larch steals the show here, turning a vivid yellow from early October to mid-November. It’s a narrative that winds through the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness, offering glimpses of the Boulder Mountains and the resident wildlife. For stargazers, go for an overnight stay in Salmon-Challis or Sawtooth National Forest, one of America’s first Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Reserves.

Image: Cherohala Skyway, East Tennessee.
East Tennessee. Universal Images Group via Getty

East Tennessee

East Tennessee’s collection of scenic byways makes this block of the Southern state a goldmine for leaf-peepers. There’s the East Tennessee Crossing, which is steeped in Cherokee and Civil War lore, and the Ocoee Scenic Byway that bisects a historic mining region. For a culture-packed slice of Americana, the Sequatchie Valley holds plenty. Adventurers will undoubtedly fawn over the Cherohala Skyway for its dizzying Appalachian vistas, and the Great Smoky Mountains Byway is your gateway to America’s most visited park. Combining multiple routes? Book a night at Blackberry Farm, where top-notch hospitality meets the great outdoors.

10 Scenic Roads to Witness the Best Fall Foliage in the U.S.