Pumpkin spice everything, cozy coats and hearty soups — call us #basic if you want, but we l-o-v-e fall. Plus, it’s the time of year that Mother Nature puts on her best show, transforming the trees across the US from a lush green to a brilliant palette of yellows, reds and oranges. There’s nothing better than packing a family picnic and heading off to the mountains to enjoy the free view. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most gorgeous spots to check out the changing leaves, from Oregon to Arkansas and everywhere in between.
1. Skyline Drive, Virginia: This 109-mile road is located inside Shenandoah National Park and traces the ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There’s a $20 entrance fee to access the road, but once you’re inside, there are countless stop-off points and hike entrances where you can picnic, stretch your legs and get a closer look at the dazzling display of fall leaves.
2. Traverse City, MI: Book a hot air balloon ride to take in the blazing fall colors along the Lake Michigan shoreline from above, or just enjoy a small-town getaway to this charming coastal town.
3. Ozarks, AR: Stay a night at Bentonville’s artsy 21c. Museum Hotel for a bit of culture before spending the next day riding State Highway 21, which will lead you through the dazzling hardwood forests of the Ozark mountains. Stop off in Jasper for a 10-mile boat ride along the Upper Buffalo National River to get a worm’s eye view of the neon-colored treetops that tower above the water.
4. Rangeley Lake Scenic Byway, ME: The Rangeley Lake Scenic Byway winds through lots of quaint New England towns and numerous lakes and is surrounded by flame-tipped trees each fall. The drive takes about three hours, but we suggest devoting an entire day to the trip, stopping off to grab lunch at Merced’s on Brandy Pond in Naples or taking a cruise on the Songo River Queen II at the Causeway.
5. Lost Maples State Natural Area, TX: Leaves change mid-October through late November here, which makes this the perfect fall trip for all you Southern procrastinators out there. Spend a day backpacking through the park to peep the fiery maple leaves and then spend an evening at the charming Meyer Bed and Breakfast for a much-deserved recharge.
6. Columbia River Highway, OR: A mere 13 miles outside of Portland, this scenic highway will lead you to some of the best leaf viewing in the country (waterfalls included!). There are a number of incredible viewpoint stop offs along the way, including Crown Point, which is home to the Vista House, a memorial to Oregon’s pioneers. Here, you can visit an observatory that provides 360-degree views of the Columbia River and all the vivid colors that surround it.
7. Mono County, CA: Evergreens, big leaf maples, Pacific dogwoods and black oaks combine here to make for a uniquely diverse palette of fall colors in this Eastern Sierra spot. They tend to reach their peak in mid to late October, so schedule this in for a Halloween weekend treat.
8. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, CO: One TripAdvisor reviewer calls this Rocky Mountain drive “almost spiritual,” so be ready to feel some serious feels on this trip. Estes Park is a prime location to spend an autumn day, as it offers restaurants, a river walk, boating opportunities, mountain biking and hiking routes so you can marvel at the leaves any way you’d like.
9. Iron Mountain Road, SD: If you’re looking to add a touch of tourism to your fall foliage agenda, take the 17-mile Iron Mountain Road that runs through the Black Hills, connecting Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore. Peep the presidential peak and get your leaf looking on, all in a single go!
10. Lake Placid, NY: Enjoy the fall foliage, wildlife and rivers of the magical Adirondacks, and make a stop in Lake Placid, host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
Do you have a favorite place to visit every fall to see the leaves change? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
(Photos via Getty)