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US Scenic Drives and Hikes to Enjoy This Fall

10 US Scenic Drives and Hikes to Enjoy This Fall

By Sometime Traveller

Fall is a wonderful time to explore the natural beauty of the US, whether you prefer to drive along scenic routes or hike through colorful forests. There are so many places to choose from, each with its charm and appeal. But how do you decide where to go for your next fall adventure?

That’s why I’ve created this list of 10 US Scenic Drives and Hikes to Enjoy This Fall. These are some of the best destinations to experience the autumn foliage, the crisp air, and the stunning landscapes. Whether you’re looking for a short getaway or a longer trip, you’ll find something here that suits your taste and budget.

So grab your camera, your hiking boots, and your sense of wonder, and get ready to discover some of the most amazing places in the US this fall. Here are 10 scenic drives and hikes to enjoy this fall in the US:

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#1 The Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

The Kancamagus Highway is one of the most famous scenic drives in New England, and for good reason. It’s a 34-mile stretch of Route 112 that winds through the White Mountain National Forest, offering spectacular views of the mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and of course, the fall foliage. The highway is also known as “The Kanc”, which is easier to pronounce and remember.

The Kanc is a great drive for any season, but it’s especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll feel like you’re driving through a painting, with every turn revealing a new scenic vista. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, such as scenic overlooks, picnic areas, hiking trails, and historic sites. Some of the highlights include Rocky Gorge, Sabbaday Falls, Lincoln Woods Trailhead, and Loon Mountain.

You can drive the Kanc in a few hours, but you might want to spend a whole day or more to fully enjoy it. The best time to visit is from late September to mid-October when the colors are at their peak. However, be prepared for some traffic and crowds during this popular time. You should avoid weekends and holidays if you can.

#2 McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

If you think Texas is all about deserts and cacti, think again. In the far western corner of the state, near the New Mexico border, lies Guadalupe Mountains National Park, one of the least visited national parks in the country. This park is home to the highest peaks in Texas, as well as a surprising diversity of landscapes and ecosystems.

One of the most remarkable places in the park is McKittrick Canyon, a lush oasis in the middle of the desert. Here you’ll find a forest of deciduous trees that contrast with the surrounding cacti and rocks. The canyon is especially stunning in the fall when the trees change color and create a striking contrast with the blue sky.

McKittrick Canyon is best explored on foot, as there are no roads or vehicles allowed in the park. Several hiking trails range from easy to strenuous, depending on how far you want to go. The most popular trail is the McKittrick Canyon Trail, which follows a dry creek bed for about 4.8 miles one way. Along the way, you’ll see various plants and animals, as well as historic structures such as Pratt Cabin and Grotto Picnic Area.

You can hike McKittrick Canyon in a day or less, depending on your pace and how much time you want to spend at each stop. The best time to visit is from mid-October to early November when the colors are at their brightest. However, be aware that this is also the busiest time of year for the park, so you might encounter some crowds and limited parking.

#3 Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Wisconsin may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of fall foliage but don’t underestimate this state’s natural beauty. Wisconsin is home to one of the longest and most diverse hiking trails in the country: the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

The Ice Age Trail traces the edge of a massive glacier that covered most of North America during the last Ice Age. As the glacier retreated, it left behind a unique landscape of hills, lakes, ridges, valleys, and moraines. The trail showcases this geological history as it winds through various terrains and habitats across Wisconsin.

The trail is over 1,200 miles long, but you don’t have to hike it all at once. You can choose from many segments that vary in length and difficulty, from short day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips. Some of the most scenic sections include Devil’s Lake State Park, Kettle Moraine State Forest, and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

It’s a great hike for any season, but it’s especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn into a rainbow of colors. You’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer bugs than in the summer. The best time to visit is from late September to early November, depending on the location and elevation of each segment.

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#4 Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most iconic and scenic drives in the US and one of the best ways to experience the Appalachian Mountains. The parkway stretches for 469 miles from Virginia to North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It offers stunning views of the mountains, valleys, forests, and waterfalls along the way, as well as access to many attractions and activities, such as historic sites, museums, hiking trails, camping areas, and more. Some of the highlights include Humpback Rocks, Mabry Mill, Linn Cove Viaduct, Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, and Mount Mitchell.

This is a wonderful drive for any season, but it’s especially spectacular in the fall when the leaves change color and create a dazzling display of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also enjoy the crisp air and clear skies that enhance the views. The best time to visit is from mid-October to early November but be prepared for some traffic and crowds during this peak season. You might want to avoid weekends and holidays if you can.

#5 Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the most popular and visited national parks in the US, and for good reason. It’s a stunning place that showcases the beauty and diversity of Utah’s landscape. The park features towering cliffs, narrow canyons, rivers, waterfalls, and rock formations that will take your breath away.

It is a paradise for hikers, as many trails range from easy to challenging, depending on your skill and preference. Some of the most famous trails include Angels Landing, The Narrows, Observation Point, Emerald Pools, and Canyon Overlook. You can also enjoy other activities such as biking, horseback riding, kayaking, and climbing.

It is a great destination for any season, but it’s especially gorgeous in the fall when the leaves turn into warm colors that contrast with the red rocks. You’ll also enjoy milder temperatures and fewer crowds than in the summer. The best time to visit is from late September to early November, but be aware that some trails may be closed or restricted due to weather or maintenance.

#6 North Shore Scenic Drive

Minnesota may be known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but it also has some of the most scenic coastline in the country. The North Shore Scenic Drive is a 142-mile route that follows Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage, passing through charming towns, state parks, historic sites, and natural wonders along the way.

The North Shore Scenic Drive offers spectacular views of Lake Superior, the largest and deepest of the Great Lakes. You’ll also see rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife. Plenty of places to stop and explore, such as Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Tettegouche State Park, Lutsen Mountains, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage State Park.

It is a beautiful drive for any season, but it’s especially stunning in the fall when the leaves change color and create a vivid contrast with the blue water. You’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer tourists than in the summer. The best time to visit is from late September to mid-October but be prepared for some variable weather and road conditions.

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#7 Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a natural wonder that spans between Oregon and Washington, carved by the mighty Columbia River over millions of years. It’s one of the most scenic and diverse regions in the US, featuring towering mountains, lush forests, dramatic waterfalls, volcanic peaks, and more.

It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, as there are many ways to enjoy its beauty and adventure. You can drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which offers scenic overlooks and access to many attractions and activities. Some of the highlights include Vista House, Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam, Hood River, Mount Hood, and Beacon Rock.

Depending on your skill and preference, you can also hike along many trails that range from easy to challenging. Some of the most popular trails include Eagle Creek Trail, Horsetail Falls Trail, Angel’s Rest Trail, Dog Mountain Trail, and Hamilton Mountain Trail.

It is a wonderful destination for any season, but it’s especially amazing in the fall when the leaves change color and create a dazzling display of green, orange, and yellow. You’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures and clearer skies that enhance the views. The best time to visit is from mid-October to early November, but be aware that some areas may be closed or restricted due to wildfires or landslides.

#8 Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the most pristine and majestic national parks in the US, located in the northern part of Montana. The park covers over one million acres of land and features over 700 miles of hiking trails, 25 glaciers, 200 lakes, and hundreds of species of plants and animals. The park is also known as the Crown of the Continent, as it is the headwaters of three major river systems: the Columbia, the Missouri, and the Saskatchewan.

It’s a dream destination for hikers, as many trails range from easy to challenging, depending on your skill and preference. Some of the most famous trails include Going-to-the-Sun Road, Highline Trail, Grinnell Glacier Trail, Hidden Lake Trail, and Many Glacier Loop. You can also enjoy other activities such as biking, boating, fishing, and wildlife watching.

And a beautiful destination for any season, but it’s especially breathtaking in the fall when the leaves change color and create a stunning contrast with the snow-capped mountains. You’ll also enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices than in the summer. The best time to visit is from late September to early October but be prepared for some variable weather and road conditions.

#9 Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of the most popular and visited national parks in the US, located on the coast of Maine. The park covers over 47,000 acres of land and features rocky shores, granite peaks, wooded islands, and diverse wildlife. The park is also home to Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the US East Coast, and the first place to see the sunrise in the country.

It is a paradise for hikers, as many trails range from easy to challenging, depending on your skill and preference. Some of the most famous trails include Ocean Path, Precipice Trail, Beehive Trail, Jordan Pond Path, and Cadillac Mountain Summit Trail. You can also enjoy other activities such as biking, kayaking, sailing, and birdwatching.

And a wonderful destination for any season, but it’s especially gorgeous in the fall when the leaves change color and create a spectacular display of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures and clearer skies that enhance the views. The best time to visit is from late September to mid-October, but be aware that some facilities may be closed or limited during this off-season. 

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#10 Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile scenic road that runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, within Shenandoah National Park. It’s one of the most scenic drives in the US, offering panoramic views of the valleys, forests, and wildlife below. The drive has four entrances and exits, and 75 overlooks where you can stop and admire the scenery.

It’s a perfect drive for the fall when the leaves change color and create a stunning display of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer crowds than in the summer. The best time to visit is from mid-October to early November, but be aware that some sections may be closed or foggy due to weather or maintenance.

Conclusion

Fall is a great time to explore the US and enjoy its natural beauty. Whether you prefer to drive along scenic routes or hike through colorful forests, you’ll find something here that suits your taste and budget. These 10 best scenic drives and hikes are some of the best destinations to experience the autumn foliage, the crisp air, and the stunning landscapes.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to discover some of the most amazing places in the US this fall. You won’t regret it!

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FAQ’s

Where can I drive in New Hampshire in the fall?

Drive the Kancamagus Highway, a picturesque 34-mile route through the White Mountains, renowned for its stunning fall colors.

How do I plan a trip to see fall colors?

Start by researching peak foliage times for your destination. Book accommodations early, plan scenic routes, and pack for varying weather.

What is the most scenic drive in New Hampshire?

The Kancamagus Highway stands out as New Hampshire’s most scenic drive, especially during the fall.

What are the best scenic drives in New Hampshire for fall foliage?

Consider Kancamagus Highway, the White Mountains Trail, and Sunapee Loop—all are renowned for breathtaking autumn views.

What part of the USA is best known for its colorful fall foliage?

New England, especially Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, is famed for its vibrant autumn hues.

What place has the best fall colors?

New England in the USA is globally celebrated for its brilliant fall colors, particularly areas like Vermont’s Green Mountains.

How do I plan a fall foliage trip in New England?

Monitor foliage maps for peak colors, visit iconic spots like Acadia National Park, and embrace off-the-beaten-path destinations.

What state looks prettiest in the fall?

Many argue Vermont, with its fiery maples and quaint towns, is the prettiest state in the fall.

What are 3 things Vermont is famous for?

Vermont is renowned for its maple syrup, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and picturesque covered bridges.

Is New Hampshire or Vermont better for fall foliage?

Both offer breathtaking views, but Vermont’s expansive forests and rolling hills edge slightly ahead for many foliage enthusiasts.

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