The Best East Coast Fall Road Trip

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From the legendary fall colors in New England to the crisp autumn air in the South, an east coast road trip is a great way to experience this season. These two trips take you from Maine through New England or across the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, through North Carolina, and into Tennessee.
While you can take a couple of weeks to hit all the stops on this trip, we’ve broken it down into a more accessible northern route and southern route.
Whichever route you take, you’ll need great car insurance for your fall foliage adventure. Jerry can provide you with competitive quotes in under a minute. Swapping is just as effortless. Jerry takes care of all the paperwork and phone calls and even cancels your old policy for you!
Once you and your vehicle are protected, the only thing left to do is drive.
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Northern route trip details

Road trip map from Acadia, ME to Sandisfield, MA.
Acadia, ME to Sandisfield, MA
One-way distance: 525 Miles
One-way driving time: 9 hours and 48 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 5 to 7 days

Northern route itinerary:

  • Acadia National Park, Maine—1 to 2 days
  • Stowe, VT—1 to 2 days
  • The Berkshires, Sandisfield, MA—1 to 2 days

Acadia National Park—Maine

Acadia National Park is the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic,” located on Mount Desert Island in Maine. This was the first national park dedicated east of the Mississippi, and it spans over 49,000 acres. Start your trip here for incredible hikes or drives through the park’s majestic trees and breathe in some crisp coastal air.

Where to stay near Acadia National Park

  • Acadia Inn: The Acadia Inn is a perfect spot to stay for a few nights with a family. The hotel sits on four acres of land near Acadia National Park, and it even has family activities—like s’mores roasting and movies on the lawn. Cost per night: from $239
  • Hadley’s Point Campground: If you’re on a budget, look into one of the many campgrounds near the park. This site has been family-owned and operated for 40 years, and there are both campsites and cabins available. Cost per night: from $32

Where to find the best leaves in Acadia National Park

Colorful trees change with the fall season on rocks over the ocea.
Acadia National Park, ME
Acadia National Park is awash with colorful foliage in September and October. The prime leaf-peeping time is generally between October 13-22, but you’ll see spectacular colors all season.
The best way to see leaves is by driving Acadia National Park Loop Road ($). The 27-mile loop covers the best of the best of Acadia National Park, beginning at Sand Beach. Highlights of the drive include Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole.
Note: Much of the road is one-way, but a two-way section starts at Wildwood Stables.

Other things to do in Acadia National Park

  • Hikes: There are many hikes for all skill levels throughout the expansive park, many of them starting right off the main Park Loop Road. Some of the best hikes include Jordan Pond Nature Trail (very easy, 1.0-mile loop), Ship Harbor Nature Trail (easy, 1.3-mile loop), Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail (moderate, 4.4 miles), and Acadia Mountain Tail (strenuous, 2.5 miles).
  • Scenic Flights of Acadia ($$): Get a bird’s eye view of the changing foliage in a biplane, flown by experts. Flight times range from 15 minutes to a couple of hours, giving you plenty of time to soar above the trees (and maybe meet eye-to-eye with a bald eagle).

Where to eat in Acadia

  • Geddy’s ($$): Maine is known for its lobster, and there’s no better place to go than Geddy’s in Bar Harbor. Grab a table at this local hot spot and order a lobster roll or famous New England Clam Chowder for a true New England experience.
  • The Chart Room ($$): A Bar Harbor local favorite, The Chart Room serves up big platters of Maine seafood and Prime Rib. It sits right along the cove, so you can dine next to the water.
Pro Tip: Many restaurants and hotels close for the season in November. Be sure to head to Maine early in the season.
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Acadia National Park to Stowe, Vermont

309 miles, 6 hours 9 minutes
Stowe is a small town in northern Vermont nestled at the base of Mount Mansfield.
To get to Stowe from Acadia, take I-95 S to US-2 W through New Hampshire. Continue on VT-15 to Stowe.
  • Little River Inn: A no-frills inn along the Little River, the Little River Inn is a lovely retreat in scenic Stowe. Breakfast is available daily, and the inn’s location gives you easy access to some of the best rails in the town. Cost per night: from $100

Where to find the best leaves in Stowe

A view looking at the Stowe Mountain Resort surrounded by fall Vermont trees.
Stowe, VT
As the self-proclaimed Fall Colors Capital, Stowe offers landscapes ablaze with color in September and October. There are many routes to find fall foliage in Stowe, including:
  • Sterling Valley and Mud City
  • Stagecoach Road and Johnson
  • Craftsbury Common, Hazen’s Notch, and Covered Bridge

Other activities in Stowe

  • Fishing and boat tours ($$): The trout season opens in mid-April and overlaps with the fall foliage season. The Fly Rod Shop offers casting classes and tours all season.
  • Zip-line canopy tours ($$): Get up-close and personal with the changing leaves on a zip-line tour. Arbor Trek is an award-winning adventure space that includes zip-lines and a 90-element treetop obstacle course.

Where to eat in Stowe

  • von Trapp Brewing ($$): Get a taste of Austria in Vermont from the von Trapps—yes, those von Trapps. von Trapp Brewing brings Austrian-style beers to the mountains of Vermont, along with other Austrian favorites like chicken schnitzel, bratwurst, and apple strudel.
  • Stowe Bee Bakery and Cafe ($$): If you’re looking for breakfast before you get on the road, stop at Stowe Bee. Their breakfast sandwiches are made on a homemade buttermilk biscuit and are grab-and-go ‘till 11, so you can make a stop before you get on the road.
Pro Tip For an extra stop, check out White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, which is on the route.
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Stowe, VT to The Berkshires, MA

220 miles, 3 hours 44 minutes
The last stop on the northern route is The Berkshires region—a region of small farm towns in villages in Western Massachusetts.
To get to The Berkshires from Stowe, take I-89 S to I-91-S along the New Hampshire border.

Where to stay in The Berkshires

  • Devonfield Inn: The scenic and centrally located Devonfield Inn is an 1800s inn, situated on 32-acres and close to the famous Tanglewood music venue. Reservations include a full breakfast and quick access to many activities. Cost per night: from $350
  • Mt. Greylock Campsite Park: Get off the grid at Mt. Greylock Campsite Park. The campsite includes spots for RV and tent camping, with two bathhouses and plenty of activities on site. Cost per night: from $30

Where to find the best leaves in The Berkshires

Water falls over mossy rocks at Race Brook Falls, MA.
Race Brook Falls, MA
While there are many scenic drives in The Berkshires, the best way to see leaves is on foot. Some of the most popular trails include:
  • The Stony Ledge Trail on Mount Greylock, accessible from Williamstown
  • Pine Cobble, which runs through the Appalachian Trail and is accessed via Route 2 (a great drive option)
  • Race Brook Falls in the Southern Berkshires, which features five distinct waterfalls

Other things to do in the Berkshires

  • Fall Foliage Festival (Free): If you are in the Berkshires during the first weekend of October, you can catch the annual Fall Foliage Festival. The festival has operated for over 60 years, and it features a parade, craft fair, and leaf hunt.
  • Hancock Shaker Village ($$): Get a taste of life in the Shaker commune by visiting this lovely village. Take a walk along the Farm and Forest trail to learn about their farming practices (still in operation today!) and go through the museum to experience the community’s history.

Where to eat in The Berkshires

  • Bartlett’s Orchard ($$): You can’t go to western Massachusetts without tasting some top-notch apples. Go to Bartlett’s Orchard to pick apples and grab cider and donuts before you get back on the road.
  • The Old Mill ($$$): Situated in a repurposed 1700s grist mill, The Old Mill offers upscale, ethically-sourced dining in the heart of South Egremont.
Pro Tip: The Berkshires are home to world-class wineries. Take a break and sample some wine, but never drink and drive.
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Southern route trip details

Road trip map from Shenandoah National Park to Pigeon Forge, TN.
Shenandoah National Park to Pigeon Forge, TN
One-way distance: 428 miles
One-way driving time: 7 hours 31 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 5 to 7 days

Southern route itinerary

  • Shenandoah National Park—1 to 2 days
  • Asheville, NC—1 to 2 days
  • Arrive at Pigeon Forge, TN

Shenandoah National Park, VA

Shenandoah National Park is a majestic expanse, spanning over 190,000 acres. As the northernmost point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah allows you to see beautiful fall colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the Appalachian Trail.

Where to stay near Shenandoah National Park

  • Allstar Lodging: With 70 cabins and rentals available, Allstar Lodging offers convenient, family-friendly accommodations along the Shenandoah Valley. The cabins and cottages range from rustic to luxurious, and they come with fully-equipped kitchens. Cost per night: from $135

Where to find the best leaves in Shenandoah National Park

A fall image of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park
While leaves peak in mid-October in the North, fall colors stick around for a little bit longer in Shenandoah National Park. To see the most vibrant colors, visit the park from late October to mid-November.
The best way to see the most fall foliage is by following the Skyline Drive. The drive runs 105 miles from north to south along the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can access the drive from several spots, but if you want to start at the beginning, start at the Front Royal Entrance Station near Route 66 and Route 340.

Other things to do near Shenandoah National Park

  • Hiking (Free): There are over 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park, and some of them overlap with the famous Appalachian Trail. Some top hikes include the Fox Hollow Trail (at mile 4.6, easy), Whiteoak Falls (at mile 42.6, strenuous), and Rose River Falls (at mile 50.7).
  • Horseback riding ($$$): If you don’t want to explore the many trails on foot, book a 1-hour horseback ride from Skyland Stables, located at mile 42.5.

Where to eat near Shenandoah National Park

  • Pollock Dining Room ($$): Located at mile 41.7, the park’s flagship dining room features specialties of the Shenandoah Valley like pulled pork and locally-caught rainbow trout. Save room for the signature blackberry ice cream pie!
Pro Tip: Plan to stay in two different locations as you make your way south on the 105-mile Skyline Drive.
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Shenandoah National Park to Asheville, North Carolina

348 miles, 5 hours 45 minutes
After traversing Skyline Drive in its entirety, you will reach the Blue Ridge Parkway, which marks the southern portion of Shenandoah National Park. One of the best stretches for fall leaves, the Blue Ridge Parkway will take you south through Roanoke to Asheville, NC.
This stretch of the drive takes about 6 hours, so you might want to break it up by stopping in Linville County to see natural wonders like caves and orchards.

Where to stay in Asheville

  • Courtyard Marriott Asheville: Located near downtown Asheville, the Courtyard Marriott is within five miles of hiking trails and other adventures. Rooms have standard amenities, and breakfast is included. Cost per night: from $259

Where to find the best leaves in Asheville

A stone staircase bordered by fall trees in Pisgah National Forest, NC.
Pisgah National Forest, NC
While the drive to Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway offers some of the best leaf-peeping in the region, there are many drives in and around Asheville to see more fall colors.
Some top areas of interest include:
  • Grandfather Mountain
  • U.S. Highway 19
  • Pisgah National Forest

Other things to do in Asheville

  • River Arts District (Free-$$): Asheville is known for its incredible arts scene. Take a walk through the galleries along the river to see the works of local artists—many of whom are inspired by the local foliage.
  • Botanical Gardens at Asheville ($$): To further explore Asheville’s beautiful nature, visit the Botanical Gardens. The gardens have operated for over 60 years. Take a class or tour to learn about the region’s plants.

Where to eat in Asheville

  • Rhubarb ($$$): Indulge in some Appalachian fare at Rhubarb, a farm-to-table concept that showcases some regional favorites. Menu highlights include the sunburst trout and the wood-roasted half chicken.
  • Benne on Eagle ($$$): Benne on Eagle proudly serves upscale soul food, taking inspiration from Ghanian regional traditions and food. Some of the best items on the menu are the vegetarian thieboudienne and the berbere-spiced chicken—not to mention the sweet potato pie!
Pro Tip Asheville is home to the Biltmore, the famous estate of George Vanderbilt—which is open for visitors.
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Asheville, NC to Pigeon Forge, TN

88.3 miles, 1 hour 52 minutes
After leaving Asheville and continuing along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll reach the Great Smoky Mountains. Located there is Pigeon Forge, a small town with a big legacy—it’s the home of country legend Dolly Parton.
To get to Pigeon Forge, take I-40 W.

Where to stay in Pigeon Forge

The pool area at Dollywood Resort sits under a stormy sunset.
Dollywood Dream More Resort and Spa, TN
  • Dollywood Dream More Resort and Spa: It only makes sense to stay in a Dollywood Resort. The expansive hotel has world-class amenities, and its location at the foot of the Smoky Mountains means you don’t have to leave your balcony to see fall colors. Cost per night: from $276

Where to find the best leaves in Pigeon Forge

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park protects the history, wildlife, and foliage of the Appalachian Mountain region. One of the best ways to see the leaves in this area is by taking a drive up Newfound Gap Road to Clingman’s Dome—at the highest point of the Smokies, you can get a panoramic view of the lovely fall leaves.

What to do in Pigeon Forge

  • Dollywood ($$$): The most famous attraction in Pigeon Forge is an homage to the town’s favorite daughter—Dolly Parton. The expansive park has rides, shows, and even a water park. It hosts several seasonal festivals including the renowned Harvest Festival for fall.

Where to eat in Pigeon Forge

The restaurants of Dollywood routinely rank on many foodie favorite lists. Some of the best stops include:
  • The Grandstand Cafe—Classic county fair food with both sit-down and to-go options
  • Aunt Granny’s Restaurant—Consistently considered a top theme park restaurant, Aunt Granny’s serves classic Appalachian favorites like fried fish, cornbread, and green beans
  • Spotlight Bakery—Home of Dollywood’s famous 25-pound apple pie
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Why you need roadside assistance

The last thing you want on your epic foliage road trip is to have your plans foiled by a flat tire. Fortunately, with Jerry’s roadside assistance program, you can make sure that never happens.
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