Fall road trips are a great way to enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage. It’s like the trees put on a show for us, every single year. And taking a fall road trip not only affords driver and passenger some breathtaking views, but can offer a weekend respite from work and school. You can either choose a good spot for viewing the leaves close to home, or you can fly to another city and rent a car. In either case, a fall road trip tends to be the kind of short trip that won’t take a big bite out of your vacation days.
Here are some of the best places for a fall road trip to see those russet red and golden yellow autumn leaves!
Delaware: Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway
You might not have thought about Delaware as a fall road trip destination. But apparently President Joe Biden’s home state offers a stunning display of autumn leaves from late October to early November. Not to mention, it isn’t far at all from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City.
The residents of the Brandywine Valley have done a good job of protecting the natural beauty of the Valley. That makes it a pleasure to slow down and take it all in. Why slow down? Routes 100 and 52 wind through narrow roads with many twists and turns. But the gorgeous canopy overhead, created by the oaks and tulip trees with their fall foliage display makes you want to slow down anyway, so you can gasp and gawk appropriately at Mother Nature’s gift of autumn leaves.
From Rodney Square in Wilmington to the Delware-Pennsylvania State Line traveling on Routes 52 and 100, the length of this fall road trip is 12.25 miles and it takes about an hour from start to finish.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, completed in 1932, was declared a “scenic wonder road of the world” by the Rocky Mountain News. Some call the 48-mile-long stretch of road, the “highway to the sky.” A full eleven miles of this road trip will have you traveling above the tree line at an elevation of close to 11,500 feet at the point where the park evergreen forests end. At its high point, Trail Ridge Road (U.S. 34) reaches an elevation of 12, 183 feet and offers thrilling views to travelers.
You can begin your journey at either Estes Park or Grand Lake. Whichever path you choose, you will find that you have climbed some 4,000 feet in just minutes. The scenery changes just as quickly. You will first see forests of aspen and ponderosa pine and then more forests, thick with spruce and fir. When you reach the summit, stop and get out of the car, and get a gander at the view below with its stunning color display of oranges, reds, and yellows.
Michigan: Tunnel of Trees
One fall road trip of particular note is northern Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees. This is the Trail Ridge Road experience in reverse. No longer are you looking down on pretty trees in a valley. Instead, the trees stretch above you, creating the experience that you are traveling through an all-embracing autumn-hued tunnel.
Stretching 20 miles from Harbor Springs to Cross Village along M-119, this narrow roadway traverses an old Native American trail and splendid views of Lake Michigan. It’s not an easy drive. There are some iffy hairpin turns, but it’s all worth it to see the lighthouses, the homey, old-fashioned cottages, and the newer, expensive estates. Of course, the main reason you go there is to experience those hardwood trees all around you with their blazing fall leaves.