The Most Perfect Fall Day Trip in Every State from The Most Perfect Fall Day Trip in Every State
The Most Perfect Fall Day Trip in Every State
Regardless of whether you choose to take a weekend getaway or embark on a weeklong adventure in another country, fall is, arguably, the best season to travel. The temperatures are cooling down, reminding savvy travelers that they can finally start planning an adventurous fall trip. It’s hard to resists considering there will be fewer crowds and entertaining local festivals. Outdoor adventures are at their prime – the scenery is beautiful, the leaves are changing colors, and the weather is just right. Fall represents a return to “the grind” after a summer of relaxation and lazy days. But the crisp air and beautiful colors actually make the season an ideal time to take one final outdoorsy vacation.
Alabama – Russell Cave National Monument
Visit this archaeological site, which has one of the most complete records of prehistoric cultures in the country. When a portion of Russell Cave's entrance collapsed thousands of years ago, according to NPS, it created a shelter that was home to prehistoric peoples. You can now get a glimpse of daily life of early North American inhabitants dating to 10,000 B.C. The park is located five miles from Highway 72 near the small town of Bridgeport.
Alaska – Aurora Ice Museum and Denali
Check out the world's largest year-round ice environment in the world at the Aurora Museum, just 60 miles from Fairbanks. Then drive about three hours, passing by stunning nature, to Denali National Park and Preserve. You need to see Denali in the short-but-sweet season of fall. The national park has an earlier autumn season than most other parks. Fall colors usually start at the end of August. The peak, at more than 20,000 feet, is the highest in North America.
Arizona – Sedona to Grand Canyon
This is a popular day trip among locals, but it’s worth every minute (even if you don’t like big crowds). The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited sites in the entire country, and guided tours from Sedona are a very popular way to explore it. You learn about the history, don’t worry about traffic, and stop at cools spots such as the Painted Desert and Little Colorado River Gorge.
Arkansas – Scenic Byway 7 to see Ouachita Mountains and the Ozarks
There is lots to see along the 290-mile long byway, which is certainly among the most scenic in the U.S. You will pass through Ouachita Mountains and the Ozarks, each of which, on its own, should be on every American’s bucket list. Most of the fall views along the road are absolutely mesmerizing. The route begins on the south end within the West Gulf Coastal Plain and ends after Harrison.
California – Drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway
If you want to go beach hopping, this is the road trip for you. The Pacific Coast Highway is 655 miles long. You will need a few days to see everything, but the stretch from L.A. to San Francisco is doable in a day. You will drive by some remarkable beach towns, some can even be great for surfing, eventually leading to the famous Big Sur, a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon. It is a favorite spot for photos.
Colorado – Denver Mountain Parks
Explore the lovely and active city of Denver. It offers more than 200 parks, many of them connected by bike paths that are part of the city’s network of 85 miles of paved bike trails, according to Visit Denver. Then make a short trip to the surrounding Rocky Mountains. The city has 14,000 acres of parks in the nearby foothills – that is almost the size of Manhattan in New York. Be sure to stop at Red Rocks Park, Bear Creek Canyon and/or City Park.
Connecticut – Mystic Seaport
This tourist attraction, the largest maritime museum, re-creates a historical seaport village complete with a wooden whaling ship, a schooner and other various steam vessels over 19 acres on the Mystic River. The town of Mystic offers an authentic New England charm. Also, if you are looking for other things to do, hike in the nearby Bluff Point State Park, explore the 1,000-acre Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, and take a day trip to Mason’s Island for some swimming, fishing and lots of fun.
Delaware – Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach is actually a great East Coast beach town to visit in the fall. Enjoy a walk on the beach without it being full of crowds, and make a visit to Dogfish Head Brewing and Eats, which sells its seasonal Pumpkin Ale this time of year.
Florida – Three Rivers State Park
Tim Ross/Wikimedia Commons
This is where Florida meets the southwest corner of Georgia, the Chatttahoochee River, Flint River, and Lake Seminole. A day trip there is all about hiking and exploring forested hills of pine and mixed hardwoods, seeing fox squirrels, gray foxes and deer, camping, and freshwater fishing.
Georgia – Rock City Gardens and the Lookout Mountain Club
This is just a part of the Lookout Mountain Parkway. Stop by the Rock City Gardens to see some rare foliage and unusual sandstone formations. The mountain is just about 10 miles wide but it has plenty for you to see such as various plants, oaks, maples, poplars and dogwoods. Along the way you’ll also see rural byways with lots of cascades, canyons, and caverns. Lookout Mountain Club is the place to go if you feel like golfing during your trip.
Hawaii – Stargaze at the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano
Stargazing is an absolutely extraordinary experience. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano located in Hawaii, when measured from bottom to top (from the ocean floor) reaches over 33,000 feet. Drive to the summit, which is known as one of the best sites for astronomical observation in the world. Tours are held every night and provide several telescopes for public viewing.
Idaho – Hagerman Fossil Beds
The second best part about this place, after the fact that you get a chance to explore prehistoric life (for example, did you know that horses evolved in North America, is the fact that it’s free. The Hagerman Horse, Equus simplicidens, is the first true one toed horse, according to NPS, and you can learn about it there.
Illinois – Northwest Illinois Loop
Galena, a town that becomes magical in the fall, is an up and coming tourist destination. If you plan a trip there, make time to explore around it and to freshen up at nearby parks and forests. See the Mississippi Palisades, White Pines Forest and Lake Le-Aqua-Na. Take on an outdoor adventure along the Mississippi River, or spend hours exploring the nooks and crannies of our many historic sites.
Indiana - Arts Road 46 and State-46 east of Columbus
You’ll drive by, and have fun in, Bloomington, Nashville and Columbus. You’ll also get to see the stunning harvest-gold wilderness and lavish Brown County State Park. This part of the state road is actually quite popular, but don’t stop there. Continue onto the highway, east of Columbus, to see rolling hills, old-fashioned buildings and robust fall colors.
Iowa – Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies of Eastern Iowa, among the best-kept travel secrets in the U.S., are seven German villages with historical structures, shopping and dining establishments. The colonies dates to the mid-19th century, when German Pietists first broke soil in this isolated Iowa location, and for many years, no outside influences interfered with their communal lifestyle. You will find good German food there.
Kansas – Lebanon and nearby attractions
The town of about 275 people has a chapel right outside it, which is actually the geographic center of the U.S. Yet, this is not the biggest attraction. The nearby World's Largest Ball of Twine probably takes that title. Make time, if you can, for the They Also Ran Gallery, which is dedicated to people who ran for president but lost – it’s just about 70 miles from Lebanon.
Kentucky – The Parklands of Floyds Fork
Kathy V. / Yelp
The nearly 4,000-acre public parks system includes four major parks that are connected by a park drive, a trail network, and even a water trail. What better way to spend the day if you are in or around Louisville? Each of the four park traces Floyds Fork. Beckley Creek Park is now open to the public. Enjoy the fishing lakes, trails and education center.
Louisiana – University Lake, Baton Rouge
A simple walk along the shore will refresh you. The views on the lake and the surroundings are awe-inspiring. You’re also going to see some beautiful villas along the shore, which will make you want to move there right away.
Maine – Bethel and White Mountain National Forest
The town is a nice blend of forestry and tourism. In addition to finding stunning fall foliage, Bethel is a fun destination for outdoor recreation opportunities year-round. Hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, golf, and sightseeing are very popular. Speckled Mountain and Caribou Mountain, a 20-minute drive from Bethel, take about 12,000 acres of the state’s portion of the White Mountains.
Maryland – Oakland and Swallow Falls State Park
Oakland is a gorgeous city with an array of fall scenery. While in Oakland, you can enjoy the turning of the leaves at Swallow Falls State Park where the Youghiogheny River offers a lovely backdrop to hundreds of oaks, aspen, pine and hickory trees. The city hosts its annual Autumn Glory Festival and a Halloween hayride along the lake every October.
Massachusetts – Boston Old Town Trolley Tour
Boston is home to some fantastic displays of changing leaves. Explore it at your own pace on a two-day tour. The pass will get you access to the Theater District, Faneuil Hall, the Boston Tea Party Museum, Cambridge, Quincy Market, Copley Square, and other historic landmarks.
Michigan – M-22 from Manistee to Traverse City
This Michigan highway goes around Lake Michigan, around the Leelanau Peninsula. All in all you will drive along 116 miles of Michigan beauty exploring peaceful towns and magnificent panoramas of 300-foot golden sand dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which, in the fall, is covered with hues of red, green and gold.
Minnesota – Lake Minnetonka
The waters of Lake Minnetonka are even more stunning when surrounded by color. Ride on the restored 1906 Steamboat Minnehaha or one of the many charter boats. Make time to visit the Wayzata Depot Museum to see some amazing outdoor garden railroad displays. Hike and bike along the Luce Line State Trail, a 63-mile long former railroad grade, and the 20-mile Dakota Rail Trail next to the Wayzata Beach for remarkable views of the lake and rolling countryside hills.
Mississippi – Cypress Swamp
Missouri – Hermann Wine Trail
Vineyards are stunning in the fall. In the heart of the Missouri country, in the historic Hermann, they are truly stunning. Go in mid-November for the Holiday Fare Wine Trail, a wine tradition going back more than 175 years. The mood turns really festive then, just in time for the annual celebration of good food and good wine.
Montana – Glacier National Park in West Glacier
Nebraska – Sandhills
The mixed-grass prairie covers almost a third of the state. Most of it is actually remote and sparsely populated, which means high visibility at night, especially due to of elevation of 2,500 feet and the dry nature of the region, and amazing spectacles of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Nevada – Lake Tahoe
An incredible destination that is very popular in the summer and winter is largely forgotten about in the fall. Lake Tahoe is one of the highest (and best preserved) alpine lakes in the country. The area is a haven for outdoor recreation. Fall is the time to enjoy beautiful hikes, fall foliage and wildlife that’s getting ready for winter. It’s a remarkable place to go on a hot air balloon in the fall.
New Hampshire – Jackson and White Mountains
The New Hampshire’s White Mountains, including the town of Jackson, which is a nice resort area, are a true highlight of the Northeast. Enjoy the miles of trails and many outdoor adventures, and relax in comfortable mountain huts and lodges. There is an abundance of cute and historic inns.
New Jersey – Thomas Edison National Historical Park
See where it all started. If it weren’t for Thomas Edison, there may not have been smartphones, computers or even electricity. The historic park provides a unique opportunity to interpret and experience important aspects of America's industrial, social and economic past, and to learn from the legacy of the world's best known inventor.
New Mexico – Visit Taos Pueblo
This is a 1,000-year-old community just about a mile outside Taos. The Native American village is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the country. The 56 miles between Santa Fe and Taos offer a charming view but twisted road through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The community is designated both as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.
New York – Explore vineyards in the Finger Lakes region
Explore and enjoy a place with a true passion for life’s simple pleasures. New York’s Finger Lakes region is considered one of the country’s best spots for leaf-peeping. There are three distinct wine trails –Seneca, Keuka and Cayuga. There are other exciting ways to see the fall foliage there, including whitewater rafting, biking, and even wine tours by boat.
North Carolina – Anywhere along the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway provides both stunning scenery and close-up looks of the natural beauty through the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks. You can also bike the Blue Ridge, and the best time for that is early November. You’ll see hundreds of fiery native hardwood species—sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweet gum, red maple and hickories. Fall is a special time on the Parkway with the harvest visible along the roadsides in many places and communities showcasing their own version of fall festivals.
North Dakota – Enchanted Highway
Some may argue that there is not much to see in North Dakota. Excluding a few parks, this may be true. But an attraction that shouldn’t be misses is the Enchanted Highway, known for some bizarre roadside attractions. Beginning with “Geese in Flight,” large metal sculptures are placed along the county highway. They include "World's Largest Tin Family," "Teddy Rides Again," "Pheasants on the Prairie," "Grasshoppers in the Field," "Deer Crossing" and "Fisherman's Dream.”
Ohio – Ohio and Erie Canalway
This 110-mile national heritage area has an abundance of trails that will take your breath away in the fall. The scenic railway and waterfalls of Cuyahoga Valley National Park look like they have been painted. As a bonus, along the way you will get a chance to stop by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Oklahoma – Beavers Bend State Park
Located in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River, the popular park is a real gem in the fall. You’ll pass through forests of pine and hardwood trees and see gorgeous scenery all around.
Oregon – Parks and hikes along the Oregon Coast
Take a drive along Highway 101. With 363 miles of outdoor adventures and excitement, there are many opportunities to have fun. Follow the road down toward Cannon Beach, a place you’d want to visit even in a sweatshirt. You’ll drive by stunning evergreen forests and marvel at places such as Cape Sebastian and the renowned Haystack Rock.
Pennsylvania – Jim Thorpe
Hike the gorgeous Glen Onoko Falls in Lehigh Gorge State Park; bike the Switchback and D&L trails; or camp and canoe at Mauch Chunk Lake Park. Whatever you choose to do, you will not be disappointed doing it in the fall. The scenery is simply spectacular.
Rhode Island – Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence to Cold Spring Park in Woonsocket
Rhode Island is synonymous with stunning fall displays and fun. Since this is the smallest state in the U.S., you can be fairly certain that it won’t take you long to drive from one charming place to another. Wherever you start, stop by and visit the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in October. Eventually make your way to Woonsocket for a chance to cruise the waterways on the Blackstone Valley Explorer Riverboat.
South Carolina – Congaree National Park
Hike or paddle through this 22,200-acre park for stunning views of some of the tallest trees in the East. Motorized transport is prohibited in the Congaree wilderness. You have to travel into the swamplands by foot or canoe, which only makes your experience more exciting. The park protects the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the U.S.
South Dakota – Black Hills
See the canyons, go hiking to streams and even swim in one of the azure lakes. RV camping is a popular adventure here. Sites in the campground are widely spaced and open up to views of lakes. Wildlife in the area abounds.
Tennessee – Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is home to more than 150 miles of well-maintained hiking trails. Head to the Twin Arches Loop Trail. The 4.6-mile loop takes hikers through two of the most incredible rock formations in the east and, during the fall, through some impressive foliage. The North Arch towers 62 feet over the trail, while the South Arch tops out at 103 feet tall.
Texas – San Antonio and Lost Maples State Park
If you’re looking to attend exciting (free) festivals and explore history, San Antonio should be your fall destination. Learn about culture, history and more about the Spanish and Native American heritages at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Then drive about two hours to the Lost Maples State Park. It is known all over the country for its fall color, even though the scenery is beautiful all the time. You’ll see an abundance of wild flowers and steep canyon walls.
Utah – Mystic Hot Springs
Soak in rejuvenating waters for the ultimate relaxation. The water contains lots of calcium, magnesium, and iron – do not drink it! The views from the tubs, especially of the sunset, are incredible. The tubs are the place to be if you want to gaze at the stars. (In the winter you can even see a meteor shower.)
Vermont – Central Vermont Foliage Tour
This is a foliage tour of a lifetime. Some of the cities you will pass by are Gaysville, Barnard, Woodstock, Ludlow, and Killington, to name a few – all of them are absolutely stunning any time in the fall. The K-1 Gondola at the Killington ski resorts is a special experience in the fall. Fly through the stunning treetops and see some of the best colorful displays in all of New England. Late changing maples are just starting to turn red, but the forest canopy in the Killington basin area is dominated by the yellow and gold of birch and poplar trees, according to Vermont Fall Foliage reports.
Virginia – Skyline Drive
Washington – The Olympic Peninsula
The rocky coast of Washington, which includes the absolutely otherworldly Olympic National Park, gorgeous this time of year. Beaches in the park are empty and secluded in the fall, making them ideal for escaping the noise and chaos in the city. Popular attractions such as the Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls and Lake Crescent are tremendously beautiful in the autumn.
West Virginia – Harpers Ferry and Appalachian Trail
The Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River at this small West Virginia town that was the site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid on the United States arsenal in 1859, an event that hastened the onset of the Civil War. The extremely affordable city sits in the middle of the Appalachian Trail and offers both casual nature-lovers and die-hard sportsmen hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting opportunities.
Wisconsin – Kettle Moraine State Forest
“This is definitely the place to drive through if you want to catch all of the colors of fall in southeastern Wisconsin,” a person wrote on TripAdvisor. There are beautiful winding roads and uncrowded trails where you can hike and many lakes to explore. Some even call the forest the “new Colorado.”
Wyoming – Wait for Old Faithful to erupt in Yellowstone
Get up close and personal with many of Wyoming’s most distinctive geological and cultural features. The Old Faithful is one of the strangest natural wonders in the world and one should absolutely see it. Why not do it in the fall, surrounded by majestic red, yellow, and orange hues. The eruptions occur about every 90 minutes.