Autumn is an excellent time for a road trip. You’re not dealing with the snow and sleet of winter, or the heat and insects of summer. Long drives can even be enjoyable for the whole family when you have fun car games and great views. For fall road trip routes that double as fall foliage driving tours, read on!
Where Should You Go for Fall Foliage?
Blount County, Alabama
Come autumn, Alabama residents can enjoy vibrant foliage right in their home state by taking a road trip to Blount County. This county is home to Palisades Park and a variety of historic covered bridges such as the Swann, Horton Mill, and Easley, all of which make for great photo ops. Palisades Park is in the foothills of the Southern Appalachians, making it a prime spot for hiking, rock climbing, and picnicking.
Plan your Alabama fall road trip from late October to early November since that’s when the colors of fall are at their peak. And, if you can, check out the Oneonta Covered Bridge Festival. The 2019 Covered Bridge Festival takes place on October 26th.
Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
The Boston Mountains of the Ozarks traverse northern Arkansas. During foliage season, Ozark National Forest offers a wealth of recreational activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, hunting, and more. As you take in the Ozark Scenic Byway, make time to canoe down the Buffalo River or engage in some DIY-treasure hunting at Ron Coleman Mining.
Along the byway, the fall foliage peaks from late October to early November. If you make a hiking pit stop at one the many trailheads, be aware of your surroundings. State and national parks are refuges for wild animals like bears, snakes, and deer. So, before you embark on this wildlife-filled route, it might be best to ensure you have roadside assistance.
Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia
“Amicalola” comes from the Cherokee words for “tumbling waters.” The park is located at the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a local favorite for hiking and birdwatching. If you’re interested in hiking, take the Springer Mountain Trailhead to the Amicalola Falls overlook. And if the hike wears you down, there’s a cozy lodge at the top of the mountain!
In late October, fall colors peak, along with the number of visitors. Plan your Georgia road trip well ahead of time to beat the crowds.
Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi
Year-round, the Noxubee Refuge is home to a variety of protected trees, flowers, and wildlife. The rich colors of autumn only make it more breathtaking! During the fall season, visitors can take advantage of milder temperatures to do more extended hiking and birdwatching tours.
Autumn colors are at their most vibrant from mid-October to mid-November. The refuge allows dogs, as long as they are kept on a leash and picked up after.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
The Parkway starts in Virginia, shadowing the Blue Ridge Mountains from Rockfish Gap to Cherokee, North Carolina. The route offers stunning panoramic views that are further enhanced by warm fall colors. Along the parkway, there are family-friendly stops such as the Folk Art Centre, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, or the Humpback Rocks hiking trails—if your legs need a good old stretch.
Because of the varied elevations along the route, it’s difficult to pinpoint a peak foliage period. The scenery is beautiful all year long, but if you’re in it for the fall foliage, try to schedule your drive between early October and the first week of November.
Rocky River Reservation, Ohio
Located in Cleveland, this reservation runs from the Rocky River to Lake Eerie. It offers picturesque hiking trails and is one of the best fishing spots in the entire country. If you have little ones, stop at the Rocky River Nature Center for some play time at HideAway Hollow, a giant oak tree-turned-playground that will wear them out before you get back on the road. For maximum fall fun, plan your trip from mid-October to early November.
Oconee Station State Historic Site, South Carolina
In the 18th century, Oconee Station was a military compound. Today, tourists visit for the fishing pond and hiking. Trails lead to the Sumter National Forest. Along with the historic sites and foliage, Station Falls Cove waterfall located at the end of the nature trail.
The leaves are at their brightest toward the end of October or early November. The Oconee area is also notorious for its lush wildflowers come spring. If you want to turn your day trip into an overnight stay, consider Oconee State Park Campground.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
This National Park straddles Tennessee and North Carolina. It receives over 11 million tourists per year. Along with 850 miles of hiking trails, the Smoky Mountains National Park offers self-guided automobile and bike tours. These tours take you past well-preserved historical sites such as log cabins, barns, and churches that provide a glimpse into the way of life in old-time southern Appalachia.
Peak foliage varies by elevation. Plan your Great Smoky Mountains road trip between early October and November to get a glimpse of the most vibrant hues.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Known as the “the Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon is most popular in the fall due to cooler temperatures. It boasts several miles of hiking and biking trails. Along with foliage, tourists are known to enjoy the geological features of the canyon.
Foliage season is short in Texas—peak colors usually arrive at the end of October or start of November, and are only around for a short period. For those wanting to spend the night, Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers cabins and campgrounds.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park runs along the Virginia side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every year, thousands of hikers flock to its 500+ miles of trails. The park is also a haven for deer, songbirds, and black bears. Read the National Park Service’s guide on what to do if you spot a bear before your visit.
Enjoy the best of fall in Shenandoah National Park by planning your visit in mid-October.
Set Your Navigation to Fall Vacation
If you’re thinking of making one or more of these fall foliage driving tours, make sure you have the right car insurance coverage and road trip essentials. If you’re not sure if your current insurance policy will do, call or visit your local Direct Auto for roadside assistance and affordable coverage.
Then leave a comment below to let us know where your fall fun takes you!