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Fall Color Tours: 7 Amazing Must-See Roads and Towns for the Best Colors

There’s something truly magical about the fall season. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the beauty of autumn is by embarking on a fall color tour. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photographer seeking stunning vistas, or someone looking for a peaceful escape from the daily grind, a trip through the yellows, oranges, and reds of a fall color tour is an experience you won’t want to miss. Unfortunately, not all fall colors are created equal. Most will delight, but a cherished few locations will knock your socks off with their beauty.

So, where are the best places to see those beautiful leaves? In this article, we guide you through everything you need to know to plan your memorable fall foliage trip. Let’s dive in!

Why You Need to Plan a Leaf-Peeping Trip this Fall

Fall foliage is nature’s masterpiece. It’s a time when trees shed their vibrant green coats in favor of fiery reds, oranges, and yellows. But beyond the aesthetic appeal, there are many reasons to plan color tours this fall. You can escape the hustle and bustle of crowded summer destinations.

Fall is usually a quieter season; the kids have gone back to school and more people are retreating inside due to the cooler weather. Fall color tours provide a perfect opportunity to relax and reflect outside. It’s also a wonderful way to get the entire family outdoors. With all the seasonal treats sold in nearby towns, you’re sure to enjoy a scenic and delicious road trip.

truck camper in fall colors
An autumn camping trip is the perfect way to connect with nature.

Which States Have the Best Fall Colors?

If you’re from a region that doesn’t experience the quintessential fall colors, you might wonder where the best places are for foliage tours. Certain states are renowned for their breathtaking displays. For example, visitors often claim New England states like Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont have the pinnacle of fall foliage in the U.S., with their hardwood forests and vibrant array of colors.

If you don’t want to drive to New England, no worries. Colorado is also famous for its beautiful golden aspen groves. Set against the backdrop of rugged mountains, Colorado’s fall scenery is unparalleled, and there are numerous byways, National Parks, and scenic lands to explore. 

Of course, you can’t pass up the Midwest. Upper Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are notorious for their fall colors and stunning wilderness. The Great Lakes state boasts impressive displays around its numerous lakeshores and forests, while Minnesota’s Land of 10,000 Lakes showcases beautiful fall colors around its waterways and parks. 

Northern Lights In Alaska, Chena Hot Springs & Ice Museums | Go North Ep 17
We we able to spend time in Alaska’s short but amazingly beautiful fall season in this Go North episode.

When Do Fall Leaves Change Color?

Typically, the peak of fall foliage for fall color tours occurs in different regions and at different times. In New England, the vibrant fall foliage typically peaks in September and October, which is a little earlier than other regions. Southern states like North Carolina may experience peak fall colors in November, while the Midwest experiences its peaks between mid-October into November. 

It’s crucial to note that while these are general guidelines, the exact timing of fall foliage can vary due to fluctuations in weather conditions. Cool temperatures, especially chilly nights, play a significant role in the timing of fall foliage. When temperatures drop, chlorophyll (the green pigment in leaves) breaks down, revealing the other pigments responsible for the vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues. To plan a trip to view fall foliage at its peak, it’s best to check local fall foliage reports and consult with experts or resources specific to your area.

7 Best Roads and Towns for Fall Color Tours

So, where should you go on your fall colors tour? Let’s check out seven stunning places to explore during peak foliage season. 

#1 The Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Nestled in the heart of the White Mountains, the Kancamagus Highway offers a beautiful fall color experience. This 34.5-mile scenic byway winds through a pristine forest, offering panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and crystal-clear rivers. The foliage is vibrant, with hues of red, orange, and yellow painting the landscape. During your trip, don’t forget to visit the Sabbaday Falls, Albany Bridge, and the various overlooks along the route. 

#2 Rangeley, Maine 

Maine’s western mountains around Rangeley are a hidden gem for fall color tours. Unlike some other touristy places in Maine, Rangeley is a secluded paradise with pristine lakes, rolling hills, and dense forests. This region transforms into a wonderland of color during the fall. You can see it from the Height of the Land, which overlooks Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Toothaker Island off Route 17. Other fun places to visit include Coos Canyon in Byron and Rangeley Lake State Park. 

#3 Stowe, Vermont 

Vermont, or the “Green Mountain State,” becomes a fiery canvas of oranges and reds in the fall. Stowe, nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains, is a charming town full of unique shops, restaurants, and plenty of fall activities for the entire family. Drive up Auto Toll Road for the chance to park and take in the breathtaking views from Mount Mansfield, or take a Gondola Ride at Stowe Mountain Resort. Whatever you do, the quaint town of Stowe, Vermont, will not disappoint. 

Daniel Boone National Forest waterfall
The East Coast is full of stunning spots for a fall color tour.

#4 The San Juan Skyway, Colorado 

This wouldn’t be an adequate fall foliage guide without mentioning Colorado’s stunning aspen trees. The golden hues of aspens contrast against the San Juan Mountains. The San Juan Skyway is one of the best ways to view them. Looping from Durango, through Rico, and back to Silverton, this 235-mile loop takes you through some of the state’s most picturesque landscapes Colorado offers. On your trip, make sure to visit Telluride, a charming mountain town with free gondola rides. 

#5 Door County Coastal Byway, Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Door County provides picturesque coastal landscapes along Lake Michigan. In the fall, the county’s forests and shorelines reveal vivid colors. The Door County Coastal Byway offers a lovely drive through the fall leaves. While you’re there, explore the charming towns of Ephraim, Bailey’s Harbor, and Fish Creek for some frozen custard and views of Lake Michigan. Peninsula State Park is another place for hiking and viewing the changing leaves.

Pro Tip: Rest up for your drive along the Door County Coastal Byway at one of these 7 Best Door County Campgrounds for Amazing Northern Camping.

Door County campground in the autumn
Door County, Wisconsin is full of picturesque coastal and forest camping spots.

#6 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan 

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a hidden treasure for nature enthusiasts, especially when the leaves turn in the fall. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with its dramatic cliffs and pristine lakeshores, is especially breathtaking in autumn for fall color tours. The vibrant foliage contrasts beautifully with the turquoise waters of Lake Superior, and we highly recommend taking a boat tour along the Pictured Rocks Shoreline to witness the colors from a unique perspective. Don’t forget to try some delicious white fish from Brown Fisheries Fish House while you’re there. 

#7 Grand Mesa Byway, Colorado 

Colorado makes the list again, this time with the Grand Mesa Byway. Known as the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, Grand Mesa is a paradise for fall color tours. The aspen groves create a dazzling display of gold and orange during the fall, and there are plenty of scenic overlooks to stop and admire. You can pass through Grand Mesa National Forest and travel back in time with a visit to Pioneer Town. It’s a reenactment of the town that thrived during the turn of the 20th century. Visit Main Street and the 25 historic buildings, including the Indian museum, blacksmith shop, and train depot. 

Fall color tour autumn destination

Keep Elevation in Mind

When planning your fall color tour, it’s essential to consider elevation. Because higher elevations tend to be cooler, they experience the change in foliage colors earlier than lower ones. If you’re planning some fall hiking or drives through higher elevations, we recommend planning your trip a week or two before that area’s peak foliage. This way, you’ll experience the stunning colors as you travel higher into the mountains. 

Pro Tip: Have you ever broken any of these 5 Old Roadtrip Rules That Still Apply Today? Find out!

Is a Fall Foliage Road Trip Worth it? 

A fall foliage road trip is more than just a journey, it’s a sensory experience. The colors of autumn inspire a sense of wonder and remind us of the beauty that comes with change. Whether you’re driving along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, exploring the coastal beauty of Door County in Wisconsin, or witnessing the golden aspens of Colorado, a fall color tour is an adventure that promises lasting memories. So, pack your bags or RV, hit the open road, and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of autumn. 

Where are you going this fall? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

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Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Steve H

Monday 11th of September 2023

Both CO by-ways mentioned are nice for aspen leaf-peeping. But the two most photographed aspen leaf locations in CO are the Maroon Bells, with Maroon Lake in the foreground, off CO 82 near Aspen and Dallas Divide, with Mt. Sneffles and Wilson Peak in the background, on CO 62 near Ridgway.