12 Stops on the Ultimate Fall Foliage Road Trip

There’s no better way to fall into fall (ahem) than by viewing the colors of the season. You don’t have to trek to the Northeast to satisfy your urge for leaf peeping. We've rounded up a dozen cities and parks across the country that boast eye-popping fall foliage—no Instagram filters necessary!

1. Michigan // Upper Peninsula

Michigan Upper Peninsula fall foliage
Michigannut/iStock via Getty Images

Some 7 million acres of forest make the Wolverine State’s upper half perfect for fall color viewing. With a spin through Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, along the edge of Lake Superior, you can also catch sight of deer, moose, and black bears.

2. Maine // Acadia National Park

This site’s 47,000-plus acres are so popular with leaf peepers that Maine’s state foliage website offers updates on the current conditions. (The best times are generally late September and early October.) For prime fall color and ocean views, head to the top of Cadillac Mountain—at 1528 feet, it’s the tallest on the North Atlantic seaboard.

3. Vermont // Stowe

Stowe, Vermont fall foliage
Patrick from Barrington, RI, Moretown, VT, United States, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Hues of gold, orange, and red cover this mountainside town from late September through mid-October. You can tour the area by boat, canoe, bike, horseback, gondola, or even dogcart. Double your entertainment by scheduling a visit for the first weekend of October when the city holds its annual Oktoberfest celebration.

4. New York // Lake Placid

Fall foliage, Lake Placid NY
diane cordell, via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0"

Nestled in the state’s Adirondack Mountains, this city offers sugar maples, American beech, and yellow birch trees. The best time to go: the second weekend of October during the aptly named two-day Flaming Leaves Festival. In between lawn games and blues bands performances, you can take a chairlift to the top of the nearly 400-foot ski jump for choice views.

5. Virginia // Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park fall foliage
Katy Cain/National Park Service, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For top-notch picture snapping, cruise the 105-mile stretch down the park’s Skyline Drive. To ensure an optimal viewing experience, the speed limit is only 35 miles per hour and there are 75 overlooks you can stop at to take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

6. Tennessee // Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fall foliage

More than 100 species of trees (including scarlet oaks, maples, and hickories) make this spot along the North Carolina border the most visited national park in America. After driving the 11-mile Cades Cove loop, head over to the popular tourist town of Gatlinburg, which is chock full of breweries, wineries, and even moonshine distilleries.

7. Colorado // Aspen

Aspen Colorado fall foliage
kanonsky/iStock via Getty Images

The town is literally named for its abundance of aspen trees—which turn a golden yellow come mid-September. For stunning views, take a shuttle to Maroon Bells, the two most photographed peaks in the Elk Mountains.

8. New Hampshire // Portsmouth

Portsmouth, New Hampshire fall foliage
capegirl52, Flickr // CC BY-SD-NC-ND 2.0

You can catch the colors in this New England town by car (drive the 18-mile oceanside Coastal Byway), boat (try a 2.5-hour river cruise) or foot (wander the 10 acres of the Strawbery Banke living history museum). Visit New Hampshire’s foliage tracker to determine when to plan your visit. Hint: aim for mid-October.

9. Oregon // Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge fall foliage, Oregon
Michael Matti, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Every October, the firs, cottonwoods, and twisted pines in this canyon, which cuts through Oregon and Washington, turn golden. Book a room at the charming, antique-style Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa to spy views of the trees—and the 208-foot Wah Gwin Gwin waterfall—from bed.

10. New Mexico // Taos


Kevin Eddy, via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The yellow and orange aspens are the highlight of the 83-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway loop (which surrounds Wheeler Peak, the state’s highest point). But leaf lovers can also catch a glimpse of some reddish cottonwoods. Post-drive, visit 1000-year-old Taos Pueblo and marvel at the remarkable adobe structures.

11. Montana // Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road fall foliage in Glacier National Park
Photosbyjam/iStock via Getty Images

Your best bet to check out the yellow larch and red maples is a 50-mile stretch called Going-to-the-Sun Road. But early snowfalls mean portions of the drive close as early as mid-October. You can also head to Flathead Lake, which offers the opportunity to partake in another local tradition: huckleberry picking!

12. Minnesota // Stillwater

Stillwater Minnesota fall foliage

Take a trip back in time when you visit this city on the Wisconsin border. Board a 1890s paddlewheel riverboat and photograph the trees as you cruise the St. Croix River. Then, make vino the old-fashioned way at the September Grape Stomp Festival and crash at one of the town’s many bed-and-breakfasts.

Driving This Thanksgiving Holiday? Here’s the Worst Time to Leave, According to Google Maps

Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images
Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, cooking the turkey correctly or dodging political arguments with family members aren't the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving. It's having to share the road with millions of other travelers on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. If you're hoping to make this element of the holiday a little more tolerable in 2019, plan your day with data from Google Maps.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Google Maps recently published a roundup of Thanksgiving travel tips, including the absolute worst times to hit the road. You may think that leaving the day before Thanksgiving will give you a head-start on traffic, but according to Google, Wednesday is the busiest travel day of the week. Congestion peaks between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday in many parts of the country. If you have no choice but to travel on November 27, plan to leave earlier in the day before roads get too crowded.

It pays to leave the house early the day of the actual holiday. Around 6 a.m., roads will be clear in most major cities, with traffic gradually increasing throughout the morning and peaking as early as noon.

As people who regularly travel for Turkey Day know, getting to dinner on time is only half the headache. Traffic can be just as brutal on the way home. To make the journey as painless as possible, plan to leave first thing in the morning—ideally on Sunday, when most travelers have completed the trip.

Traveling for Thanksgiving is rarely as simple as driving to and from dinner. If you plan on making pit stops along the way, Google has travel information for that as well. According to Google search trends, "ham shops" are busiest at noon the day before Thanksgiving, and outlet malls reach peak traffic around noon on Black Friday. Here are some more stress-free travel tips for the holiday season.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Journey to the Monarch Mosh Pit

iStock/Spondylolithesis
iStock/Spondylolithesis

Each fall, millions of migrating monarchs return to Mexico to wait out winter. The gathering makes Woodstock look like a business conference. Here’s how they get there.

Mosh Pit

In the mountains of central Mexico, the butterflies crowd on the branches of oyamel fir trees. The trees provide a perfect microclimate that prevents the butterflies from getting too hot or cold.

Texas Toast

After winter, the butterflies fly north to Texas in search of milkweed, where they lay their eggs. Many adults will die here; northbound monarchs generally live only three to seven weeks.

Juice Cleanse

One of the reasons monarchs love milkweed? Protection. As caterpillars, they absorb the toxins in the plant, which makes them less tasty to birds.

Connecting Flight

Eventually, a new generation of butterflies will make its way north to Canada. It takes multiple generations of butterflies to reach their final, most northerly destination.

Dine and Dash

On the way, butterflies will eat practically anything. Sure, there’s nectar—but they’ll also slurp the salts in mud.

Catching Air

When fall returns, a new generation of monarchs rides the air currents more than 3000 miles back to Mexico. They navigate by calibrating their body clocks with the position of the sun. (An internal magnetic compass helps them navigate on cloudy days.)

Latitude Adjustment

Monarchs “are one of the few creatures on Earth that can orient themselves both in latitude and longitude,” The New York Times reports—a feat sailors wouldn’t accomplish until the 1700s.

Southern Charm

Miraculously, each generation of southbound monarchs lives up to eight months—six times longer than their northbound descendants. Their longevity might have something to do with a process known as reproductive diapause (which is a fancy way of saying that the insects won’t breed until winter ends).

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