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2023 East Coast Fall Foliage Road Trip Ideas

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love sipping pumpkin spice lattes, slurping apple cider, and gazing at the colorful fall leaves. That’s why I was so excited when I finally got the chance to head out on an East Coast fall foliage road trip in our camper van right before the start of winter.

I spent days researching the best East Coast fall road trips and working out the best driving route for fall foliage. Dusting off my favorite road trip car games, with a list of East Coast road trip attractions, we headed east. It was my goal to hit as many scenic drives as possible. We spent two whole weeks crisscrossing the coast, making stops at the coziest cafés along the way.

These are some of the most popular destinations to see the East Coast fall colors.

Winding road leading to a farmhouse and autumn trees in fall, New England

When to Go For the Best Fall Colors

If you want to see the most vibrant fall foliage on the East Coast, you need to travel during the peak leaf-changing season, which is around six weeks between September and October.

Leaves tend to change colors at higher elevations first, and at northern latitudes before southern. For that reason, we decided to start our coastal road trip in Maine during late September and head down the coast into October.

5 Scenic East Coast Fall Foliage Destinations

The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway in Maine

Venture far north to check out The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway. It is a 52-mile drive, but you will want to take a few hours to soak the scenic fall vistas.

The trail runs along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains and is famous for its eye-popping yellow, gorgeous burnt orange, and fiery red fall landscapes. The magnificent fall colors set against the lakes that line trails offer visitors breathtaking photo opportunities.

Red and gold fall foliage by the lake on a road trip to Acadia National Park

Maine is also known for its charming bed and breakfast accommodations. Highland Heath House is worth a visit, the views of the lake are outstanding, and gourmet breakfasts are their specialty.

A visit to The Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway to watch the leaves change is enough to complete your visit to the New England area.

You Might Also Like: Charming 3 day Maine Coast Road Trip Itinerary.

The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire

The Kancamagus Highway is a mouthful, so the locals refer to it simply as Kanc. At more than 30 miles long, The Kancamagus Highway winds through Route 112 in the backcountry of New Hampshire.

Kanc is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in New Hampshire, especially in the fall. Locals will instantly refer those wanting to see the best fall landscapes to this area. The crowds along the route taking pictures during the fall season are a testament to the area’s beauty.

A potpourri of colour in fall foliage above Kangamangus Pass, New Hampshire.

Kanc winds its way from Conway to Lincoln. Be aware: there is a lack of gas stations along the route, so ensure you have plenty of gas before you set off.

Some of the top sights include Sabbaday Falls and the White Mountains–which contrast beautifully with the changing colors. If you are courageous, check out some swimming areas for a late-season dip.

If you want to spend extra time in New Hampshire, consider stopping at the White Mountain Hotel and Resort. If you are feeling up to it, you should also add a side trip to Cape Cod in the fall from New Hampshire. You will get a completely different vibe from the usual summer vacation destination. 

The Green Mountain Byway in Vermont

Vermont is known for its gorgeous fall season. The Green Mountain Byway is 11 miles long and runs from Waterbury to Stowe at the northern edge of Vermont.

While this area of the country is known for its skiing, there is also a spellbinding array of fall colors that flow beautifully across three state parks.

Man and dog taking in the fall view in Vermont

Striking fall foliage sets the backdrop to beautiful churches, rolling hills, and meadows that seem to go on forever. You need to make sure that you take photos of Smugglers’ Notch, Little River, and Mount Mansfield.

If you have time, make a pit stop at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Grab a fresh cider and donut and take a few extra photos of the surrounding area.

The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts

Massachusetts should not be left out of the East Coast fall foliage parade. The Mohawk Trail is a gorgeous 70-mile route that runs from Williamstown, MA, to Athol. The name pays homage to the heritage of the area as Native American tribes initially used the trail.

Gold and red forest reflections on a lake in Massachusetts

The trail winds through routes 2 and 2A, and the foliage follows the route spanning the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. As you make your way along this historic route, stop to take photos of the Taconic and Berkshire Mountains. 

Be careful on Dead Man’s Curve, which is a tight hairpin. If you need a break, consider a stop at The Orchards Hotel, known for its blazing wood fireplaces. Grab a few cookies while you’re at it as well.

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than 460 miles long, so it offers plenty of gorgeous fall foliage destinations along the way. Whether you are in Asheville, NC, or Roanoke, VA, you will be able to see something special.

Road trip through the forest, Blueridge parkway

The two national parks, the Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains, are real treasures. The farmhouses at Humpback Rocks provide an excellent backdrop for the fall leaves of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the triple summits located at the Peaks of Otter are something to behold.

If you want to extend your road trip, consider stopping at the Windsor Boutique Hotel in Asheville, NC, for a truly unique experience.

A Fall Road Trip on the East Coast

If you are considering planning a fall road trip to watch the leaves change, these are a few of the destinations you need to consider. The fall season on the East Coast is a special time of the year that can’t be beaten anywhere else in the US.

Be sure to plan your trip during September and October so you can enjoy the most vibrant colors in the region.

Golden leaves and shards of sunlight with fall colours line this track along the Mohawk trail

Discover More Scenic Fall Destinations Around the World

Beautiful Autumn Destinations in Europe – Best Places to Visit in Fall: The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Europe and fall is one of the most beautiful.

Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Quebec: Discover some of the most scenic places for fall foliage in Quebec.

About the Author

Kate Moore

Kate has been traveling in a camper van conversion throughout the US and Canada for over two years. She uses her blog to teach other travelers about van life and RV living.

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