Fall is such a beautiful time of year that also seems to fly by way too soon because there is so much that I want to see and do. I invited other travelers to share some of their favorite destinations and drives to visit in the fall. I think that you will find more places to add to your fall bucket list for a beautiful fall color tour.
Traveler: Shalee Blackmer
The backcountry trails of the Muskegan National Forest go on for miles. Located in western Michigan, it is a place where bright orange and yellow leaves line the roads and each hiking step is met with a crunch of fallen leaves. Whether visiting for a day or a week, hiking the autumn forest will not only be colorful, but magical. Those visiting usually stop along Lake Michigan on their visit to climb the sandy dunes. Nearby Ludington offers the House of Flavors, where explorers can grab a sweet treat after a long day of exploring. It’s a fall tour those don’t soon forget, and a place that holds it beauty long after summer ends. You can read more here.
Location or State: Illinois
Traveler: Deb Thompson
The Great River Road runs along the Mississippi River and during the fall the trees are exploding in color. My favorite spot to see these colors is in and around Alton, IL. There are great ghost hunts, excellent food and the area is loaded with history. Alton is located on the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers making it a unique location within the United States.
You can read more about it here
Traveler: Tonya Prater
The Marblehead Lighthouse on the shore of Lake Erie is the oldest continously operating lighthouse on the American side of the Great Lakes. Beautiful any time of year, it’s especially beautiful during the fall with the changing leaves against the backdrop of the lake.
You can read more here.
Location: South Korea
Traveler: Carl Hedinger
While living in Korea, Christina and I had a chance to drive around some really beautiful national parks throughout all of the country. One of them (Seoraksan) is the place where I proposed to my wife. While that was a very special moment in our lives, Seoraksan wasn’t the most colorful park we visited. The one you’re seeing is from Naejangsan National Park in Korea’s South Jeolla Province. With a couple of people we knew, Christina and I hiked up and down a ridge for six or seven hours one fall day in 2014. I even took a tumble down some stairs along with a drunk old lady who bumped into me. Thankfully I was alright and that beer after the hike couldn’t taste any better. You can read more here.
From the north shore of Lake Superior to the bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley, there is a scenic route in Minnesota for every traveler to chase fall colors. Countless orchards, 165 pumpkin patches, museums and fall festivals can complete any day trip or long weekend drive. The landscape is splashed with color as trees, shrubs and prairie grasses take on golden, ruby and tangerine hues. Mild temperatures are the perfect time for outdoor fun like hiking, biking, paddling, golfing, fishing and more.
Here are three stunning fall drives in Minnesota – and when to take them. Any one of them would make a perfect addition to a fall travel destination itinerary: North Shore “All-American Road”
Where: North Shore of Lake Superior Route: Hwy. 61, Duluth to Grand Portage Peak color: mid-Sept. to early Oct. This route – peppered with several state parks that include rivers, waterfalls, hiking trails and scenic overlooks – is extremely popular among fall color fans. Yellow aspen and birch line much of the shoreline, with scarlet maples inland along forest roads. Make sure you have a reservation for a place to stay, and try planning midweek trips to avoid the busiest travel periods. This has been designated as an “All-American Road,” one of only 15 routes given the distinction for its breathtaking scenery.
For an inland view, take Hwy. 1 through the colors of the Superior National Forest to Ely. Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Where: Brainerd Lakes & Mille Lacs Route: Hwy. 371 and 6, and the county roads between them, plus Hwy. 169 Peak color: late Sept. to early Oct. This resort region is rich in history, beauty and lake views with Gull, Pelican and Cross lakes, and the Whitefish Chain of Lakes sparkling amid woods of maple, oak, birch and aspen. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is an expanse of colorful forest at the edge of Mille Lacs, and an observation tower here offers fantastic views. Fishing, boating, golfing and biking the Paul Bunyan Trail are favorite activities in this Minnesota lake country.
The Great River Bluffs Where: Mississippi River Valley, southern portion of the Great River Road Route: Hwy. 61 between Red Wing and LaCrescent Peak color: mid-Oct. The Great River Road along the Mighty Mississippi is full of charming rivertowns, wooded bluffs and steep hillsides dressed in brilliant autumn hues of red, russet and gold.
Several scenic overlooks – including those at Frontenac and Great River Bluffs state parks – are easily reached by walking trails and offer a chance to get away in the quiet bluff country. This route features multiple roadside apple and pumpkin stands. This is a popular fall drive, so book your stay ahead of time.
Starting in September each year, travelers can also sign up for Explore Minnesota’s free weekly fall color report to get the latest updates on where the fall colors are in Minnesota.
For additional information, inspiration or ideas on leap peeping getaways or itineraries, visit exploreminnesota.com. Travelers can also follow the photographic foliage in real time, using #OnlyinMN on social media channels.
Location: Virden, IL
Traveler: Cindy Ladage
Ryan’s Round Barn, a place of circular beauty! I don’t know when I have seen anything as lovely as Ryan’s Round Barn. Located in Johnson’s Sauk Trail State Recreation Area near Kewanee, I talked my mom into traveling with me to take a tour.
The barn is perfectly round without a beam in it. Steve Christian, Director of the Friends of Johnson Park Foundation, provided my mom and me with the gold tour. “This barn is 360 degrees, a perfect circle on the outside as well as the inside,” Steve said. “It is made of 16’ long White Pine that was soaked in large vats and then when pliable, they nailed it and it held. There are no beams in this barn so they laminated five one inch boards together that sit on these posts in a perfect circle,” Steve said. “This is the largest round barn of this style (that they know of), and they used all horizontal siding.”
Built for Dr. Laurence Ryan who used the barn for his prized Black Angus cattle he imported from Scotland, the barn was completed in 1910. The Dr. was a well known surgeon that lived in Chicago. He had lived his early life on a nearby farm and the barn and farm house he built was a summer retreat. The barn is now owned by the State of Illinois and is maintained by the Friends of Johnson Park Foundation who also provide tours. They offer tours every Saturday.
Read more about it here.
Traveler: Jennifer Gjerde
One of the most beautiful times of year in Nebraska is no doubt the fall season. What used to be colors of the summer turn in to bright, vibrant colors of red, orange and yellow everywhere you look. The yearly tradition of nature changing to autumn colors is one of the reasons why people love fall in Nebraska so much. Home to the founder of Arbor Day, Nebraska City celebrates, nurtures and conserves trees, making the Arbor Day Farm an explosion of foliage throughout the year.
Viewing the fall foliage by driving through the town of Nebraska City is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. Take N 60th Road from Kimmel Orchard to Union Orchard for a scenic drive or bike the Steamboat Trace Trail for a closer up picture. Views from the Lied Lodge looking over Arbor Day Farm will take your breath away and a hayrack ride through the farm will make you feel immersed in the beauty.
The fall foliage truly transforms this part of the state from orchards to trails to lodging views, parks and golf courses. Drink Nebraska made wine while taking in the view at an orchard, look around you as you golf 18 holes or take a moment to admire your surroundings when biking through the area. Acres upon acres of trees line this town and make it a city of autumn color. You wouldn’t expect anything less than from the place where Arbor Day was founded.
You can read more here.
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Traveler: Dr. Jessie Voigts
One of our favorite places at any time of year – but especially in the fall – is Meijer Gardens, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The enormous campus (handicap accessible!) is beautiful, with nature shining right alongside incredible works of art. Wander through the many outdoor gardens – including the children’s garden – and delight in the art, thoughtfully scattered through the rolling landscape. Our daughter loves to run ahead and then report back as to what’s next. No kid? Be surprised by what’s around every turn of the path.
You can read more about this adventure here.
Traveler: Tara Schatz
Vermont is amazing in the fall! Our family always does a weekend road trip just as the colors are at their peek. Often our trips are unplanned and we can’t score a hotel room. Vermont State Parks will almost always have a lean-to or cabin open, and the weather is usually warm enough in October to camp without freezing. Our favorite road trip so far has been in Southern Vermont – starting in Wilmington and driving in a circle – through the mountains, up the Connecticut River Valley, through the mountains again. Favorite stops? Quechee Gorge State Park and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park.
You can read more about this adventure here.
I also wanted to share a few of my favorites to visit in the fall. You can’t go wrong with Hocking Hills in Ohio, Red River Gorge in Kentucky, any where around Gatlinburg in Tennessee, a scenic drive on M22 in Northern Michigan to visit Petoskey, or a carriage ride on Mackinac Island when the island is less crowded. In the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky area I recommend a drive to Big Bone Lick State Park in Northern Kentucky with a visit to Jane’s Saddlebag, Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, north of Cincinnati at Yellow Springs.