15 Epic Fall Foliage Drives with Kids

Fall Drive

GettyImages- Artur Debat 

Cooler weather signals that it's time for leaf peeping, the perfect excuse to plan a weekend road trip to view fall foliage. From Vermont to Missouri to California, there are gorgeous spots across the country. So pack the car, grab the kids and bring a camera for these stunning road trips. 

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Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

The Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

 Credit-Wendy Altschuler

Peek leaf peeping: Early to late September, weather dependent

If you were to drive straight through, without stopping, it would take you two hours to drive the full 50 miles of the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana. Of course, you'll want to pull over to the side of the road here and there to see wildlife—this area is known for mountain goats, bighorn sheep and bear sightings, especially near Logan Pass, the highest point at 6,646 feet. Portions of the road are open all year, and summer is definitely the busiest time of year and should be avoided if possible, leaving September as the best time to visit—you'll see brilliant groves of Aspens, Western Larch trees and colorful mountain shrubs.

Drive through the charming little town of Whitefish before you head to the park, where you can grab coffee at Montana Coffee Traders and car snacks. Fill up on gas as well because there are no gas stations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

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West Elk Loop Scenic & Historic Byway, Colorado

Autumn foliage and Chair Mountain, West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
Witold Skrypczak/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Mid-September to early October

Every autumn in the Colorado Rockies, America’s most spectacular aspen grove, delivers a stunning display of gold, orange and crimson against the backdrop of the snow-peaked Rockies. From Gunnison, the 204-mile drive heads north on Highway 135 to Crested Butte, continues on the gravel Kebler Pass Road (County Rd. 12) and links with Highway 133 near Paonia Dam. Complete the loop back around to Gunnison by going south on Highway 133 and east on Highway 92 toward Blue Mesa Lake and the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. At Highway 50, go east back to Gunnison through Curecanti National Recreation Area or west to the main entrance of the national park and Montrose.

Plan to stay for a weekend; the season provides ample opportunity for outdoor activities and fall festivals in the Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley.

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Golden Road, Maine

Fall colors around Southbranch, Baxter State Park

Robert C Nunnington/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Mid-September to mid-October

For a famous fall foliage route in rugged Maine, try the Golden Road, a 20-mile logging road near Baxter State Park. At the western end of the drive, the Penobscot River drops more than 75 feet per mile through Ripogenus Gorge, a haven for white-water rafters who time their rides to the scheduled releases from Ripogenous Dam. A much-photographed view of Baxter’s Mt. Katahdin can be had from the footbridge that runs alongside the Golden Road’s one-lane Abol Bridge.

About a two-hour drive away, the Moosehead Lake Region also delivers a spectacular drive underneath gorgeous tree canopies and along unpaved logging roads with peek-a-boo views of water. Consider stopping at The Forks, a white-water-rafting hub, and at the Attean Overlook for an incredible view of the Moose River Valley that stretches all the way to the Canadian border.

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North Shore Scenic Drive, Minnesota

Teal Lake, Grand Portage Minnesota


Thomas Davison/Getty Images 

Peak leaf peeping: Mid-September to mid-October

You can complete the 154-mile drive from Duluth to Grand Portage in a single day, but it's more satisfying to allow time for a beautiful detour or a hike. Tracing the shore of Lake Superior along Highway 61 and Old Highway 61, North Shore Scenic Drive can be especially vibrant between the Caribou and Sawbill trails around Lutsen, where there are many sugar maples, and around Grand Marais to the north. 

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Gold Coast, Michigan

forest trail in autumn in traverse city michigan

Deb Perry/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Late September to mid-October

Michigan's scenic Gold Coast is drop-dead-gorgeous any time of year, but autumn is a particular magical time. Brilliant fall color abounds and Traverse City (the region's main hub) is quick to show off why it's known as the Cherry Capital (in a word, pie) and the perfect base from which to visit vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula.

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Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Highway in autumn , White Mountain National Forest , New Hampshire ,

Raimund Linke/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Late September to mid-October

Route 112 in New Hampshire—a.k.a. "the ‘Kanc"—is a 35-mile scenic byway that's one of the country's premier fall foliage viewing routes. It takes you through the heart of the White Mountain National Forest and travels through two of the state's famous notches (known as gaps or passes in other parts of the country), climbing to just under 3,000 feet at its highest point. West of the darling town of Woodstock, make a pitstop at Kinsman Notch and picturesque Beaver Pond, a great spot for picnickers and photographers wishing to capture the stunning reflections of fall foliage on the water.

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Inyo National Forest, California

Bishop Creek under Sierra peaks, Inyo National Forest


Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Late September to mid-October

Stretching from the eastern side of Yosemite to south of Sequoia National Park, the Inyo National Forest covers 1.9 million acres of land and encompasses nine wilderness areas in the Eastern Sierra Nevada and White Mountains, including the John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness. Fall is arguably the most picturesque times to visit, when the area's rugged canyons, high peaks and sprawling valleys are rich with colors from aspens, willows and cottonwoods turning bright orange, gold and red. It takes just over two hours to drive from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes or June Lake, two popular resort communities.

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Route 7, Vermont

Fall foliage in Vermont

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Peak leaf peeping: Late September to mid-October

Vermont is justifiably famous for its spectacular foliage season. Southern Vermont often gets overlooked as a foliage hub, but we heartily recommend a drive along Route 7, which cuts a gorgeous path north-south through charming towns such as Manchester and the rolling farmland of the Green Mountains. At various points, the ribbon of road offers a sightline across several ridgelines dotted with fiery maples and chalky birch, punctuated by a classic red barn. 

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Route 30, New York

Aerial vie of rolling hills covered in colorful trees in the Adirondacks

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove 

Peak leaf peeping: Late September to mid-October

New York's Adirondack Mountains make up a vast expanse of forested wilderness renowned for its beautiful foliage season. The I-87 (known locally as the Northway) is the fastest way to cut through the region but the views are better off the beaten path on Route 30, a scenic byway that runs from Gloversville (30 miles west of Saratoga Springs) up to Rock Bay Island. Expect to lose your cell phone signal in places. Along the way, you'll be treated to a feast of fall color and glimpses of the Pillsbury Mountain Fire Tower and Snowy Mountain Fire Tower. Continue north to Saranac Lake, then east to Lake Placid.

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Glade Top Trail, Missouri

Mark Twain National Forest in Autumn, Missouri, USA


Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Late September to mid-October

Missouri's only National Scenic Byway, the 23-mile Glade Top Trail skips along narrow ridge tops above rolling hills in the Mark Twain National Forest. In autumn, this drive is a fiery kaleidoscope of brilliant oranges, pinks, and scarlets, thanks to the abundance of the American Smoke Tree, an autumnal favorite in the Ozarks. Wildlife lovers may spy white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, roadrunners and, if you're lucky, you may also get a glimpse of a collared lizard.

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Cascade Loop Scenic Highway, Washington

view of the Columbia River from Cape Horn, Skamania County, WA

Darrell Wyatt/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Early to late October

The Cascade Loop is arguably the best road trip in Washington State, encompassing Puget Sound, the Cascade Range and the Columbia River. Along its 440 miles you'll encounter glacially sculpted summits, impossibly blue lakes, rippling mountain streams, a German-style village, apple orchards, and an Old West mining town. In the autumn, big-leaf maples create a riot of golden yellow, deep red and orange.  

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Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

Fall in New England as seen from Mohawk Trail, Florida, Massachusetts

Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Early to late October

National Geographic named the century-old Mohawk Trail one of its top 50 scenic routes in America. The winding road traces an ancient Native American route in the Berkshires, bringing you over hill and dale, past pastures and red barns, alongside lakes, and through charming towns with white-steeple churches and village greens. Make the drive up Mount Greylock, the highest point in the Berkshires, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area and Mohawk Trail below.

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Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

Autumn foliage on the Housatonic River in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut

Denis Tangney Jr/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Mid-October to early November

Looking for quintessential New England within driving distance of New York City? Any drive through Connecticut's Litchfield County takes you meandering along tree-lined rolling ribbon-roads that cross covered bridges and through towns with immaculate village greens and white steepled churches. Highlights include a hike around Lake Waramaug or up Mount Tom, which both blaze bright with color every autumn.

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Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona

Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Arizona

Michele D. Lee Photography/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Mid-October to early November

The winding drive on State Route 89A through Oak Creek Canyon between Flagstaff and Sedona erupts into shades of crimson and amber during the cooler autumn months. If you’re looking for the closest thing Arizona has to a New England display of foliage, hike the West Fork Trail. Nearby in Slide Rock State Park, the canyon explodes into color and you can visit the park’s apple orchard, which was planted in 1912 and is still cared for by park rangers.

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Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Autumn trees, Linn cove viaduct, Blue ridge Parkway

Pierre Leclerc Photography/Getty Images

Peak leaf peeping: Mid-October to early November

Built as part of the New Deal to create jobs during the Great Depression, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway links the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks and crosses the Appalachian highlands between North Carolina and Virginia. With a top speed of 45 mph, the parkway’s lazy pace lets you soak in the gorgeous scenery. 

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