Rebecca Bernard
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Tips for an Unforgettable Leaf Peeping Road Trip

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Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls
Photo: Jay Huang

The trappings of fall are all around us, from pumpkin spice everything to those temporary Halloween stores you aren’t sure if you should trust with your credit card. Now we’re all just waiting for the leaves to change color. The experts have already spotted the vibrant colors of autumn in northern New England and other states near the Canadian border.

If you’re planning on hopping in the car to see the season’s brightest hues in person, make sure you’re prepared for the perfect autumn drive.

Heading Out? Make sure your tires are ready

Check the colors

Before you load your family into your vehicle, make sure that there will be leaves to see. The official site of the Smoky Mountains has an interactive Fall Foliage Prediction Map that shows when leaf colors should hit their peak in each county of the Lower 48 United States. If you’re headed to the ever-popular New England region for your leaf-peeping adventure, it has its own dedicated map that relies on local reporters to chart the progression of colors.

Make reservations

If you’re heading into areas of the country known for fall foliage, such as New England, National Parks, or other parks with picturesque views, you need to make reservations to stay overnight. Leaf peeping is a popular activity*, and the short window of peak color means that everyone interested has to go at the same time. You don’t want to end up sleeping in your car or driving home early because there’s nowhere to stay.

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Research your route

There are lists galore on the internet of the most popular leaf-peeping routes in the country (including one of our own). You can choose one of these roads, which will probably be busy with other tourists. Take a look at a map to see if there are other ways around the area not on the websites to enjoy a drive with less traffic. Be prepared to get out and walk: some of the best views of nature’s autumnal glory might be trails in parks.

Find some fall fun

Gazing at leaves is fun, but there’s a good chance the smallest members of your family will get bored before your trip is over. Thankfully, fall is a great time of year for harvest festivals. Considers checking community calendars in the area of your trip to see if there are some corn mazes or pumpkin patches you can stop and enjoy.

Fall is a great time of year for a scenic drive. Just a little preparation can make the difference between a bumpy ride and smooth sailing.

*Rightfully so, nature is awesome.