Fall is here, and you know what that means: it’s time to put on your coziest sweaters, order your favorite pumpkin-flavored treats and take in the sights as the leaves begin to display their striking fall colors.
While many vacationers schedule their trips during the winter to escape the cold, or during the summer to soak up the sun, this time of year presents a unique opportunity to see the stunning fall scenery that only lasts for a few weeks.
Road trips are the perfect way to witness the fall foliage. Whether you’re traveling by car or going on a scenic motorcycle ride, there are countless places across the country to see the colors of autumn. In this blog, we recommend some of our favorite fall color road trip destinations, along with the best times to visit.
Adirondacks, New York
The Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York are not only a beloved fishing destination, but they’re also home to hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, charming small towns and breathtaking autumn landscapes. The region is packed with plenty of local culture and outdoor activities to complement your seasonal sightseeing, making the Adirondacks one of the best places in New York State to book an extended stay.
Roughly one hundred species of trees stretch across six million acres of land that make up New York’s Adirondack State Park. Home to dense forests of maple, birch and beech, the sprawling vegetation of the Adirondacks creates a perfect canvas for the colors of fall to shine.
When to see fall colors in the Adirondacks
The trees in the Adirondacks begin their transition into red, yellow and orange as early as Labor Day, but they don’t hit their peak until later in the month. The Adirondack region boasts one of the longest fall color seasons in the country, with the most vibrant colors on display from late September through the end of October.
Keep an eye on fall colors in the Adirondacks with their handy fall foliage prediction map.
This small Colorado mountain town is a world-renowned skiing destination, but that’s not all it has to offer. Named after the aspen trees that grow there, the city is home to the most photographed mountain peaks in the state. Their popularity is largely due to the stunning display of fall colors that emerge every year, along with the abundance of hiking trails and a picturesque lake at the base of the mountains.
When to see fall colors in Aspen, Colorado
Leaf peepers looking to take in the fall colors of Aspen should remember to mark their calendars because peak season in this part of Colorado starts a bit earlier than usual. The aspen trees begin their transition from green to gold at the start of September and reach their peak towards the end of the month. If you’re looking to see autumn foliage in Aspen, Colorado, you should aim for the third or fourth week of September.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains is one of America’s most famous mountain ranges, rising across the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The range is home to one of North America’s most diverse ecosystems with approximately 187,000 acres of old-growth forest and over one hundred species of native trees. Suffice it to say, there’s an almost overwhelming abundance of foliage in the Smokies. The diversity of trees in the Great Smoky Mountains which includes mountain maple, yellow birch, American beech, pin cherry and hobblebush are part of what makes the fall colors so remarkable in this location.
When to see fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains
While it’s not possible to predict the exact timeframe of peak fall colors, early to mid-October has historically been the best time to witness autumn leaf season in the Smokies. Fall colors appear first in higher elevations, sometimes even as early as September, then work their way down to lower elevations through the rest of the season.
Tip: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few national parks that is free to visit. If you’re looking to visit other parks, you should consider a U.S. Park Pass. Park passes grant you entrance to all U.S. parks, plus parking for your car, truck, SUV or RV. Learn more about the U.S. Park Pass and other ways to save on your next road trip.
Stowe, Vermont finds itself at the top of multiple lists for fall color destinations. TripAdvisor, USA Today and Travel + Leisure have all called Stowe the #1 place to see fall foliage. From Mt. Mansfield and Smugglers Notch all the way down to the historic Village, vibrant fall colors can be found around every bend.
When to see fall colors in Stowe, Vermont
Stowe is another location that sees a longer fall color season, with some leaves reaching their peak colors in early September and others making the change toward the end of October. Generally speaking, the best time to visit Stowe, Vermont for fall foliage is during the last week of September and the first couple weeks of October. With such a long fall color season, you’ll have lots of time to explore the state and embark on scenic drives.
Taos, New Mexico
A southwestern location like New Mexico probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking about crisp fall air and autumn colors, but the fall colors in Taos offer some truly stunning views and plenty of ways to enjoy them. With scenic drives down the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and even an autumn chairlift ride, it’s easy to find sightseeing and tourist attractions to accompany your fall color spectating. The Carson National Forest stretches through Taos, New Mexico and turns to golden shades of yellow and orange during the fall season.
When to see fall colors in Taos, New Mexico
Taos has one of the shorter seasons if you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the fall colors, so plan your trip accordingly. Like in other locations, leaves start to change in mid-September and last through the end of October-starting in higher elevations in the Carson National Forest and working their way down through the fall months. However, peak season is only truly in effect during the month of October, specifically mid to late October at lower elevations.
Tip: For the best fall color updates across the country, check out the 2023 Fall Foliage Map. This visual planning guide will help you predict the right time and place to see peak autumn colors in every state.
Move your vehicle safely with Montway
If you’re looking to hit the road this fall but want to save money on gas or cut down on your driving time, consider shipping your vehicle to your destination. With Montway, you can have your vehicle transported anywhere in the country, fly there in just a few hours, and enjoy the fall colors from the comfort of your own car.
With over 15 years of experience and one million satisfied customers, we’ve earned our reputation as one of the nation’s top-rated auto transport companies. Learn more about car shipping costs and how auto transport works or get started now with a free instant quote.