For parents, one of the most challenging parts of family road trips is listening to children (and, sometimes, adults) who repeatedly ask, “Are we there yet?” The likelihood of exhaustion grows even more if your driving tour happens during the grueling heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter. But with fall foliage road trips, impatient “Are we there yet?” questions might quickly turn into ecstatic “Wow! I wish we could stay on this road longer” remarks. There are many stunning places in the world that your family can visit for fall road trips. Just ensure that you’re prepared for specific requirements, like updated passports, to get access to some of these locations. In the United States, eligible citizens can mail a completed passport renewal application form directly to the State Department for processing. Use Find Post Office‘s search tool to help you locate post offices in your area.
If your family loves the outdoors and the beauty of rural landscapes, the fall season is probably your year’s highlight. Up for a scenic family drive? If so, you may ask, what are the best places to visit with your family? How much do you need to prepare to go to these places? Also, what do you need to bring when planning a road trip during the fall? This article lists and describes incredible places to visit for fall family road trips. It also enumerates the preparations needed, including travel essentials and costs expected.
10 Incredible Places to Visit for Your Next Family Road Trip
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom: St. Johnsbury, Burke, and the Connecticut River Loop
Plan to spend most of your day on this 125-mile round trip to see the Northeast Kingdom’s panoramic hills and forests. Aside from quaint towns like Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury, this route involves long stretches of exceptional countryside and forests. Burke Mountain’s summit also offers expansive views of the entire area and close-up views of the fall foliage along the river and farm tracks. The leaves turn here a little sooner than in most New England, United States. You may drive for approximately four hours to complete the trip. Also, expect to pay a $5 fee per car for the Burke Mountain toll road.
During the road trip, visit East Burke’s little ski village if you want to stop by some places for family activities. This area is best known for skiing and the “Kingdom Trails,” the mecca of New England mountain biking. Just drive past the town center, go right on Mountain Road, and bear left onto the toll road in about two miles. The toll road ascends through a series of switchbacks past several viewpoints to a parking area just below Burke Mountain’s peak. Your family may enjoy incredible views, festivals, and riverside swimming at East Burke. There’s also a tiki bar and food trucks where you can eat and drink to your heart’s content. Additional hotspots in the area include Lake Willoughby, Mount Hor, Mount Pisgah, and Mt. Orne Covered Bridge.
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom: Groton State Forest, Cabot, and Peacham Loop
This 50-mile loop features almost everything that’s Vermont: a covered bridge, remote forests, pastoral landscapes dotted with cows, and white-steepled churches. The track starts and ends in Danville, a small village along U.S. Route 2, and spans rural paved and dirt roads through even smaller towns like Groton, Cabot, and Peacham. Suppose you and your family live in the hustle and bustle of the city. In that case, the rolling hillsides of the areas above may make your family feel like you’re far from civilization. Still, you’ll feel farther away when driving through Route 232, a road passing through Groton State Forest. Here, you’ll drive for some miles without seeing any artificial structures. During peak fall foliage, the road is vibrant with color. Fall is also a perfect time to visit this area’s more open landscapes, including barns, farms, and cathedrals set against brightly-colored hillsides.
The usual route follows U.S. 2 west from Danville, then West Shore Road, just after Joe’s Pond. After this drive, you’ll go through Cabot Plains Road. This track hits a T intersection after about 1.5 miles. Here, you may turn right, and shortly after this turn, you’ll see the Foster Covered Bridge, approximately 100 yards off the road, in a field on your left. This romantic, vintage-looking structure stands on private property, but travelers may walk down and check it out. Its unique location near the top of a hill with views of more hills and farms stretching for miles makes it a captivating destination for fall foliage trips. The tour is only 50 miles long, but you may pace yourself to give yourself and your kids more time to enjoy the scenic views.
In the U.S., another excellent family driving tour option is through Aroostook’s cultural and scenic byways. Here, you’ll enjoy the view of vast open fields and experience the region’s “big sky.” You can begin your fall foliage road trip in Sherman, off I-95, and drive through Route 11’s byway to Fort Kent. Along the way, you’ll have one of the most stunning foliage views in the U.S. Make sure to stop at the town of Patten to take pictures of the breathtaking sight of Mt. Katahdin. From Patten, Ashland is the following location where you’ll find restaurants and convenience stores. You can also bring your kids to Portage Lake, a public beach, if you want to take a break. Remember to be extra careful while driving to avoid hitting deer and moose.
Maine also has the North Woods, the largest forest in the eastern U.S. Maine’s North Woods has approximately 20 million acres of uninhabited countryside broken up by small villages from time to time. Most of the area is privately owned timberlands. But it remains rustic and stunning, with glowing sky-blue lakes reflecting dense forests and rugged mountain ranges, making it one of the best family road trip destinations in the U.S. Greenville is one of the best places to start and end this driving adventure. This route allows your family to explore the wonders of the Kennebec River valley, one of Maine’s biggest watersheds. Still, remember that this trip involves long drives where there are no towns or villages with services, so stock up in Greenville. Lastly, the drive takes about four hours nonstop, so if you factor in breaks, it may last six hours.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains
This trip provides some of the most impressive and well-known views of New Hampshire. From the towering heights of the Kancamagus Highway and Bear Notch Road to the awe-inspiring cliffs above the valley floor in Crawford and Franconia Notches, there’s hardly a curve in the road that doesn’t display a new stunning vista. The most colorful hardwood forests are on the eastern end of the Kancamagus Highway, Bear Notch Road, and parts of the U.S. 302. At higher elevations, you’ll see bright yellow birch trees adorned with the green leaves of spruce and fir trees. Aside from colorful leaves, you’ll also see rushing rivers, mountain views, and waterfalls when driving. You can travel this loop within three hours if you drive nonstop. On the other hand, you’ll probably want to spend an entire day on the tour because there are many worthwhile places to pull over and visit.
One of the most well-known hotspots along the Kancamagus Highway is the Albany Bridge, a historic covered bridge spanning the Swift River. You can find this site 6.5 miles west of New Hampshire Route 16. Constructed in 1858, The 120 feet long Paddleford truss-style bridge offers a charming view of distant peaks upstream from the river. For a quick leg-stretch break, cross the bridge and walk left, following the dirt forest road adjacent to the river. After the walk, continue driving west for another mile to Lower Falls’s parking area. Lower Falls, a vast part of the Swift River, features many small waterfalls and a 10-foot drop. This spot is a famous swimming hole during the summer. Still, it’s also an excellent place for leaf-peepers to see picturesque fall colors because of the birches, sugar maples, and aspens that line the river.
Canada: Ontario and Quebec
Canada provides a uniquely rich experience. With their scenic backdrop of gold, amber, and crimson leaves, Canada’s Ontario and Quebec are two of the best places on Earth for fall family road trips. Fall is a magical season to tour these locations due to their enchanting red and golden light patches under beech, maple, birch, and poplar trees. From Toronto, you can head north to Ontario’s Muskoka region, an iconic place locals call “Cottage Country.” This site is home to 1,600 lakes, coniferous trees like white pines, and deciduous trees like yellow birches and red maples. The natural variety combines to create a reflective kaleidoscope of color every fall. Families have traveled this route for many years, settling along the water’s edge in tents, cottages, and stately houses. So, the region offers a mix of quaint villages, iconic eats, and farms.
From Muskoka, you can drive through Ottawa and cross a short bridge into Quebec. Depending on your itinerary, head to Wakefield Town for an overnight stay. In the morning, you can take pictures while exploring Wakefield’s adorable storefronts and iconic red-covered bridge. Travel through Chelsea to reach Gatineau Park, a 150-square-mile provincial park with natural and historical landmarks that provide a window into Canada’s past. If you’re up for adrenaline-boosting activities, you may zipline high above the vibrant foliage at Mont-Tremblant or ride a gondola 2,871 feet to the peak for a panoramic view of Saint Laurent. A weeklong road trip is an excellent way for your family to get the whole fall experience that Ontario and Quebec offer. Lastly, suppose you intend to use a foreign driver’s license in Canada. In that case, you must first get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your home country.
The United Kingdom
1. The Sperrins: Derry to Coleraine
Travel south into the Sperrin Mountains, one of the country’s most excellent upland areas, after taking in the atmosphere of Derry, the old walled city on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Sperrins are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and traveling through them while the fall foliage is in full bloom is a treat. If you’re up for a stroll, the Sperrins are also home to over 90 stone circles that are likely to capture your kids’ imaginations. When you’ve had your dose of the Sperrins, turn north and travel to Coleraine, which serves as the entrance to the neighboring Giant’s Causeway. Don’t miss the atmospheric Dark Hedges on the way, an 18th-century avenue of beech trees that gained popularity among tourists after serving as a backdrop for Game of Thrones.
2. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: Dumbarton to Stirling
Before traveling north to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park’s largest freshwater loch, start your Loch Lomond tour by visiting Dumbarton’s picturesque riverfront. Take the A82 road up the lake’s western coast from the south. While driving, as burned orange hillsides descend toward the tranquil loch and the Trossachs beyond, you’ll see some of the most spectacular sights the United Kingdom offers. Once you’ve traveled around the top end of the loch, turn east into the Trossachs, a remote region of lochs and valleys that gets its name from the Gaelic word for “bristly.” Because of the Trossachs’ remoteness, ensure your car is in working order before you set out so that a breakdown won’t leave you stranded. This trip is not taxing because it is only a few miles long, and you’ll mostly drive on quiet roads.
3. Forest of Dean: Chepstow to Hereford
After exploring the 11th-century castle and small historic district of Chepstow, head north to Tintern, which is in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Forest of Dean is an excellent place to view the fall’s festival of colors because it was once a royal hunting preserve and one of the few remaining old woodlands in the U.K. The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, which spans 600 square miles and has over 20 million trees, appears to be a paradise for leaf-peepers. The area also has a long industrial history due to its mining roots, so there are many family-friendly activities to enjoy. After experiencing picturesque Ross-on-Wye, ascend towards Hereford and take any country lanes that circle the winding River Wye. Here, you can check out the spectacular cathedral and sip on a well-earned pint of local cider.
Japan: Kyoto Trip
Only Kyoto’s stunning fall foliage can rival Japan’s famous cherry blossom season. The peak viewing period is around the middle of November. Still, the leaves begin changing color nationwide in October if you want to visit Kyoto a little sooner. This place is home to many deciduous trees that burst into bright colors of orange, red, and yellow during the fall season. You can also travel to Maizuru, an idyllic place located in northern Kyoto Prefecture, near the Sea of Japan coast. You can enjoy the breathtaking contrast of the fall foliage of the mountains and the stunning shoreline at Maizuru because it is tucked between the sea and the mountains. Fall foliage and fine dining are just a short drive away from JR Nishi-Maizuru Station.
France’s Loire Valley
The Loire Valley in France is a well-liked summer vacation spot. Few people know that the site is also one of the gorgeous spots in the country to visit during the fall season, making it an excellent option for family driving tours. This trip allows you to behold the region’s stunning fall foliage while passing by epic castles. Also, Chaumont-sur-Loire hosts an international garden festival from April 21 to November 6 every year, where your kids can enjoy permanent features like the Valley of the Mists or the Wild Iron Pathway. Additionally, you can drive through the Foret Domaniale de Boulogne to reach Chambord, one of the most prominent chateaux in the world, which Francois I constructed as his hunting lodge.
How To Plan a Perfect Road Trip
When planning a road trip, everything must be perfect because you have to sit in a car with children for an extended period. There are many ways to make a road trip fun for children who are impatient and just want to reach their destination. However, if you plan beforehand, you can ensure the road trip is a pleasant experience for everyone in the car. Here are some tips on planning the perfect road trip for your family.
Choose a Route
One of the most critical parts of a road trip is the route you choose to take. If there are multiple routes to your destination, aim to choose one that is enjoyable to drive through. Many people prefer to choose the scenic route to have fun watching the scenery change as they drive by. However, if you have impatient children, you will benefit from choosing the shortest possible way to reach your destination quickly. Depending on your preference, you may want to look at the maps and plot your route. Ensure you choose a route with plenty of stops so you can take a break and stretch your legs.
Although many people enjoy spontaneous road trips, it may be better to plan ahead, especially for accommodation. If you plan to camp, booking ahead is best, as some prime campsites tend to have pre-bookings. Additionally, suppose you are visiting a new location. In that case, it is best to pre-book a hotel room as there is always a chance you may be unable to find hotel vacancies at the last moment.
Prep Your Vehicle
Before taking off on your road trip, ensure your car is up for the long drive. It is best to take your vehicle to a service appointment and get the oil, tires, air filters, and fluids checked. You should also have up-to-date copies of your insurance cards and registration documents on hand. Pack jumper cables, flashlights, and water in your car to prevent getting stranded in a roadside emergency.
Fall foliage road trips are excellent ways for families to bond while enjoying nature’s wonders. Ensure that you’re well-prepared before the tour so you can fully enjoy what lies ahead of your routes and destinations. You can create a road trip packing list so you won’t miss essential items before the tour. Additionally, there are two types of road trips: one where you travel overseas and rent a car and the other where you make with your vehicle. When traveling overseas, pack light and bring your passport and extra money. Pro tip: avoid carrying too many toys for kids, especially squeaky ones, and sweet drinks or foods that’ll only give them too much energy. Lastly, don’t forget to bring essential files like insurance or car registration documents during your driving tours.