Last Updated on September 3, 2023

Fall is the favorite season for many. After one mighty hot summer, I think we’re all more than ready to welcome autumn’s cooler temperatures. With those cooler temps come the gorgeous fall colors, bursting in shades of red, orange and yellow.

For serious leaf-peepers, finding that ideal location to witness the changing season is important. Finding them makes for an amazing road trip. But as temperatures begin dropping, unfortunately, travel costs begin rising during this popular, but limited, season.

Cost of Autumn Travel

The good news is that according to data collected by InsureMyTrip, traveling to New England costs far less than the average fall vacation. In fact, on average, policyholders will spend an average of $2,522 for an October trip to the region. That same autumn trip to other domestic U.S. destinations will cost $4,105, while an international trip will run $7,559.

Why is travel to New England more reasonable than other domestic locations? Because you can hop in the car and road trip through all six New England states which include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts on the same vacation.

That doesn’t preclude travelers from venturing out to other locations by car. We’ve listed some of our favorite leaf-peeping locales across America so that no matter where you’re located, you can find beautiful color changes. Whether on a day trip, a weekend getaway or a longer autumn vacation, these destinations will definitely “peak” your interest without breaking the bank.

Figuring out the best time to see fall colors at each location isn’t an exact science and varies from year to year, so doing some research before planning your trip is always a good idea.

Best Leef-Peeping Locations

Lake Placid, NY

The Adirondack Mountains are incredibly picturesque, but more so when blazing colors provide a stunning contrast to Lake Placid’s azure waters.

Running for over 170 miles, the Olympic Trail scenic byway features maples, aspen, oaks and beech trees all showing off their stunning shades. Or you may choose to ride the Whiteface Gondola for amazing foliage views. 

Bar Harbor, ME

This lovely coastal fishing town is notable as a top spot for fall colors, especially during mid-October. The season also brings vivid starry night skies, charming bed and breakfasts, and the magnificent Acadia National Park, ideal for hiking.

Whether you choose to attend a fall event, tour Bar Harbor’s haunted history, or play in the leaves, fall is the perfect time to visit this breathtaking destination.

Massachusetts

Yes, it’s the sixth smallest state by land area, but it has so much fascinating history with its Salem witch trials, rolling hills of the Berkshires, and colonial towns like Sturbridge Village. From its western hills to Boston Harbor, fall in Massachusetts is unforgettable.

The air is crisp, the scenery spectacular and charming towns welcome visitors for fall color each October.

Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees

This is one of the Midwest’s most stunning locations for autumn visiting. A 20-mile stretch from Harbor Springs to Cross Village with narrow hairpin turns will force road-tripping leaf peepers to keep their eyes on the road, that’s not always easy with so much beauty to behold here.

Thick hardwoods lining the route are ablaze with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. That’s not all. Along the way you’ll also spot lighthouses and rustic cottages.

Hocking Hills, OH

What an ideal destination for an easy autumn expedition.

The 36.4-mile Hocking Hills Scenic Byway follows State Route 374 into the magnificent rolling hills where travelers can take in the vibrant fall colors, but also explore waterfalls, caves and caverns surrounded by lush vegetation.

The area is also noteworthy for evidence of the ancient Adena culture and Native American tribes who lived here in the mid-1700s, including the Delaware, Wyandot and Shawnees.

Franklin, TN

If you live in the southern part of the U.S., consider a weekend getaway to this region where fall colors can be witnessed until the early part of November.

Located just south of Nashville, Franklin has a historic downtown scattered throughout 16 blocks that’s all part of the National Register of Historic Places. The real star of the show is the Natchez Trace Parkway, offering hundreds of miles of unimaginable scenery.

In addition, the Cherokee National Forest, accessed through the Cherohala Skyway, is stunningly beautiful.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway in the Fall.
Blue Ridge Parkway in the Fall. Photo by Noreen Kompanik

Traveling this scenic parkway is always an impressive experience, but as its leaves begin changing, the route becomes an impressive display of brilliant color. Though it’s the most visited site in the entire U.S. National Park system, it’s worthy of a visit.

Road trippers will also appreciate the parkway’s many scenic overlooks, spending time in nature and chilling in some of its charming mountain towns.

Aspen, CO

Aspen may be renowned for skiing, but if you haven’t been here in the fall, you have no idea what you’re missing. Though the foliage season is brief, it is stunning with chilly breezes shaking the golden leaves of towering aspen trees like a tambourine against a mountainous backdrop.

Maroon Bells, located just 20 miles from Aspen, is one of the most photographed peaks in all of Colorado.

Taos, NM

© Noreen Kompanik

This northern New Mexico town is known for its Indigenous history, mystical vibes and energy vortexes, but it’s especially magical when the fall colors come. One of the best ways to experience the beauty of fall is driving the Enchanted Circle, an 83-mile route connecting the towns of Taos, Eagle Nest, Red River and Quanta.

Siskiyou Region, California

California has so many diverse terrains from jagged Pacific bluffs, stunning lake regions, and mountain majesty. And yes, there’s even a fall.

Northern California’s Siskiyou is the ideal place to experience changing colors along with breathtaking views. When set against the backdrop of a snow-capped Mount Shasta, the region is ablaze in brush strokes of yellow, rose, orange and burgundy, making for a perfect picture postcard.

The best place to witness fall at its finest is by taking the 24-mile loop from Yreka to Scott Valley.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

An incredibly picturesque area year-round, this area is especially scenic in the fall when its big-leaf maples, cottonwoods, ash and twisted pines all put on an unforgettable performance. It’s especially awe-inspiring with the backdrop of the 11,000-foot-high Mount Hood range.

Visitors can drive along the Columbia River, kayak, river raft, and hike a virtually endless number of trails to see one of Mother Nature’s greatest spectacles.

Author

  • Noreen Kompanik

    Noreen Kompanik is a retired registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and military spouse turned travel writer. She launched her travel writing career in 2014 and has over 1,000 published articles in a variety of digital and print publications.