Autumn is the perfect time of year to head out on a road trip. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp (so you can break out the coziest sweaters), and you can hit every single pumpkin patch you see along the way.
More than a quarter of Americans traveling between Labor Day and Thanksgiving seek out fall foliage, according to an AAA survey.
While driving gives you the freedom to explore, spending the weekend stuck behind a line of vehicles on the best-known routes is a major nuisance. Instead, travel midweek or to an off-the-beaten-path destination. No matter which of these special spots you choose, you’re bound to find gorgeous autumn scenery.
Vogel State Park: Blairsville, Georgia
If you’re looking for a park with mind blowing fall color, head to Vogel-ville. Vogel State Park is one of Georgia’s top parks to see fall foliage in October. To reach the park, travelers can drive through the Chattahoochee National Forest on Wolf Pen Gap Road. Even the drive into the park is something special.
Once inside, families with young children can walk the easy Trahlyta Lake Trail to the small Trahlyta Falls waterfall. Experienced hikers will enjoy the 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail, which boasts a high vantage point with spectacular views of the vivid Blue Ridge Mountains.
New River Gorge National River: Glen Jean, West Virginia
New River Gorge National River kicks off fall in late September with its Hidden History Weekend, an annual event that explores Appalachian and Native American traditions. It’s also a prime spot for adventure activities. Visitors ages 15 and older can join Adventures on the Gorge for lodge- or tent-based whitewater rafting trips, while those 12 and up can admire the region’s fall foliage from the resort’s zip lines. Leaf peeping is best enjoyed in late October from the New River Gorge Bridge or the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.
Skyline Drive: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
See Shenandoah National Park from your RV or toad as you drive along Skyline Drive, an historic 105-mile National Scenic Byway that traverses the park. The highway meanders along the mountaintops, providing exceptional views of the terrain. During the fall, the mountains are blanketed with fiery hues of yellows, reds, and oranges, coming alive with the bright autumn foliage.
This scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains gives drivers an up-close look at Virginia’s lush fall foliage from late September to early November. Whether looking east to the Virginia Piedmont or west to the Shenandoah Valley, Skyline Drive motorists will find golden hickory trees and red maple, sumac and oak trees with vivid orange leaves. It’s a busy road, but be sure to pull over at designated overlooks like Stony Man to admire the beautiful display of colors.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park: Arizona
Located in the Tonto National Forest near the rustic town of Superior, Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. Boyce Thompson is a surprising spot for fall color, given that the high-desert garden is only about 1,000 feet higher in elevation than nearby metro Phoenix.
During the fall season, enjoy live music and cider at the park while admiring the changing colors of its pistachio, hackberry, black walnut, and sycamore trees.
Follow trails through the 100-acre botanical garden to see colorful trees and shrubs such as canyon hackberry, sycamore, willow, ash, cottonwood, pomegranate, and the spectacular red of the Chinese pistachio.
Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia and North Carolina
The crown jewel of spectacular autumn drives is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Established in 1936, the 469-mile parkway in the heart of Appalachia serves as a connection between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Because its reach is so extensive and accessible, the parkway is consistently ranked at the top of the National Park System’s most visited list.
Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.