Now that it's officially autumn, everyone is losing sleep over pumpkins, Halloween costumes, and going back-to-school. But let's be real — nature is doing some pretty amazing things right now, and you won't want to miss it. That's why now is the perfect time to hit up one of these fall road trip destinations. Think about it: the leaves are dying in a way that creates the most beautiful visual. Mother Nature sure has a way of proving there is beauty in everything.
Obviously, you are going to want a front row seat to the annual color show. That's where a road trip comes in. It's the perfect excuse to check out quaint rustic towns, marvel at a fiery gradient of leaves, and get some outdoor reading in. It also goes without saying that a fall road trip isn't complete without apple picking and hiking. Whatever you end up doing, your summer vacation is going to be so jealous.
The best part is that “bad fall road trips” don’t really exist — this is exactly why I love them. If you go alone, you’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated in the most badass way. I recently drove solo through the Rocky Mountains, and felt that 120 percent. And if your girl gang tags along? You’ll get to make memories with the ladies you adore. To get you started, here are the country’s top seven road trips to take this fall. Time to grab a PSL, and hit the road!
1. Catskill Mountains, New York
Nestled in the southern portion of New York state, the Catskill region is a Manhattenite's autumn dream come true. By car, the trip will take you about two hours on NY-17 or I-87. Don't have a set of wheels? Luckily, there are ample trains and buses that will take you into an autumn wonderland. The Catskills are also under four hours from Philadelphia, making it an ideal weekend road trip for Pennsylvania city dwellers.
While I'm a city girl to the bone, I can vouch for the awesomeness of the Catskills. Because I grew up right outside of this region, I have vivid childhood memories of brilliant foliage and apple picking overlooking the mountains. Of course, these days, I have a new appreciation for that sort of thing. For another reason to make this trip, catch an outdoor show at Bethel Woods Center of the Arts in Bethel, New York. You won't be disappointed.
Rumor has it that the Catskills is slowly replacing the Hamptons as the getaway from Manhattan. Look up the #catskillsvshamptons on Instagram... it's totally a thing.
2. Adirondack Mountains, New York
No New York autumn road trip is complete without a trip to the Adirondacks. All it takes is another hour and a half on I-87 North once you leave the Catskills. This particular region, which is located in the Northeast area of upstate New York, is full of even more lodges, campgrounds, and trails. It's also home to Lake George, a popular camping destination for city dwellers and folks from out-of-state. I hear the Adirondacks is also where the Cream Cheese Festival goes down. YUM.
If you continue to trek up I-87 North, you'll head straight into Montreal in about five hours. Get ready to see some amazing scenery, deer, and maybe even a bald eagle or two.
3. Green Mountains, Vermont
As the Adirondacks' next door neighbor, the Green Mountains is the ultimate gem of Vermont. Located just four hours from New York City and three from Boston, this New England mountain range is the epitome of beautiful. To get the most out of it, plan your road trip along the Green Mountain Byway. At 250 miles long, you'll have more than enough time to soak in the nature.
While you're at it, take some time to stop by the town of Wilmington. My personal recommendations? Sticky Fingers Bakery, Bartleby's Books, and Wilmington Candle Company. Oh, and maple candies. ALL the maple candies.
4. Kennebec Valley, Maine
While we're on the topic of New England, let's just talk about Maine's Kennebec Valley. Can we just look at this view for a minute (or five)? Your best bet is to take Route 201 for some serious eye candy. At 157 miles long, Route 201's claim to fame is the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway. This segment of Route 201, which runs for 78 miles, will bring you through some of the most colorful peaks you'll ever see. Between the charming towns and kayaking sites, you'll be in for a prime autumn experience.
5. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
Often, fall road trips are associated with the Northeast or Midwest. But it turns out the fall fun doesn't stop there. Located in the Southeast portion of the U.S., Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Virginia and (mostly) North Carolina. With multiple entrances coming from Asheville in North Carolina, this 469-mile trip is the definition of picture-worthy.
So, where should you visit? Between picnic areas and meadows, it can be hard to decide where to go first. For starters, check out Looking Glass Rock, a mountain made of granite with a reflective surface. To get in touch with your inner gloom and doom, make a stop at Graveyard Fields. This valley, which is said to have a similar vibe to gloomy England, is home to some of the area's best hiking trails.
6. Talimena Scenic Byway, Oklahoma and Arkansas
Here's another Southern surprise for you. Based in Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Talimena Scenic Byway runs for 54 miles. From Talihena, Oklahoma to Mena, Arkansas, this short drive is perfect for getting that quick fall fix in. The entire byway can be done in just an hour and a half without stopping.
But where's the fun in that? Between horseback riding, trails, and mountain bike routes, this region is a nature lover's dream come true. This trip will take you along the breathtaking views of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain, part of the Ouachita National Forest.
7. Rocky Mountains, Colorado
While the Rockies are beautiful all year round, they really know how to steal the spotlight in the fall. A short hour and a half drive from Denver will bring you to Estes Park, a popular gateway town to the Rockies. If you decide to spend some time in town, I highly recommend Notchtop Bakery & Cafe — they make one heck of a breakfast hash.
Once you get on the winding roads of Route 36, checking out the gorgeous layers of colorful mountains will be far too easy. In September and October, you can expect a vibrant golden hue from Colorado's aspen trees. The leaves start changing at higher elevations and slowly work their way down, creating a stunning gradient of color.
Images: Chris Ford/Flickr