Autumn driving USA: 5 fantastic routes

Summer can be too hot and winter too cold but in autumn you will find some of the best driving weather of the year. If you find that the call of the open road is just too much to resist this autumn, we’ve picked out five of the best drives available in the US.

America loves the open road like no other country. The highways and byways which crisscross the states have come to embody romance, freedom and individual expression in a way that has captured the imaginations of travellers from around the world.

There are many reasons why this may have happened. Certainly cross-country travel has played a vital part in US history. From the frontier settlers who crossed the continent to those who got caught up in the gold rushes of the 19th century, there is a long history of people taking to the roads in search of their dreams.

But one thing which must play a part in the US love-affair with the road is the sheer beauty of many of the routes that can be found in the country.

Five of the best USA driving routes:


Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina


Blue Ridge Parkway
By Alex G. under CC BY 2.0


First up is a route which is known by many simply as “America’s favourite drive”. The 469 mile road sweeps through North Carolina and Virginia, winding through the majestic scenery of the Blue Ridge – a part of the southern area of the Appalachian mountains which stretch up through the east of the USA.

The exceptional road has national parks on both ends, allowing drivers to bookend their trip along the incredible road with visits to two of America’s finest areas of outstanding natural beauty. From the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south to the Shenandoah Natural Park in the north the whole route will give you a glimpse into the wild areas of America that still exist beyond the glare of the big city lights.

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San Juan Skyway, Colorado


San Juan Skyway, Colorado
By David Fulmer under CC BY 2.0


Mountains are also a feature of this magnificent circular route which takes in the rugged country of the south-west of Colorado. Starting in the city of Durango, the San Juan Skyway crosses through some of the state’s most breathtaking landscapes.

From the pine-blanketed San Juan Mountains to the startling geological spectacle of the Red Mountain Pass, as you cruise down these roads you’ll find jaw-dropping sight after jaw-dropping sight.

The route covers a total of 330 miles travelling along four separate highways, allowing you to see some of America’s most dramatic scenery in a relatively short trip.


Lake Placid, NY


Lake Placid, NY as one of the autumn USA driving routes
By Tony Fischer under CC BY 2.0


The heavily wooded Adirondacks in New York state are an area of natural beauty throughout the year but when Autumn transforms the foliage to earthy reds and browns it is something truly special. Although the area is particularly popular with walkers who can get some incredible views by scaling the hills of the areas, taking a drive around the Lake Placid area can be just as rewarding, and a lot less exhausting!

There are numerous routes in the area but most of them will take you around some of the many lakes that pepper the landscape. These provide a stunning contrast with the woods and peaks, providing oases of calm and tranquillity in what is one of the most alluring areas of natural beauty in the US.


Green Mountain, Vermont


Vermont State Route 17
By Doug Kerr under CC BY-SA 2.0


Settled in the New England district of the US, Vermont is one of the least populous states in America – which leaves plenty of room for stunning drives.  While the natural beauty of the area is beyond dispute, one of the best things about taking a long drive through the region comes from discovering some of the friendly little towns and hamlets dotted about the state.

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Vermont is quite far north in America so even though autumnal days are often pleasant and warm, the evenings can carry an unmistakable chill. On nights when this chill is in the air there is nothing more enjoyable than pulling your car into a small town and finding a local hostelry in which to relax and enjoy a hot meal and a cold drink. These moments can make your road-trip as special as any sight you see through your windshield.


Scenic Byway: State Highway 60, Wisconsin

Our final pick is from the Great Lake state of Wisconsin and the Scenic Byway 60 which boasts one of the best big-sky drives you’ll find in the US or anywhere else. The route tracks the journey of the Wisconsin river as it sweeps down from broad Empire Prairie, down through the glacial plans in the centre of the state and on south, finally meeting the iconic Mississippi River.

All along the route of the river you’ll drive through spectacular landscapes formed by ancient geological events. From gorges carved out of the land by ice ages to riverside ecosystems which boast a rich natural makeup, it’s easy to find yourself captivated by the stunning area.


Staying safe during your trip

Just reading about the five driving routes should give you a sense of why you should take the time to explore these all-American classic routes but the question of how best to do this should still be considered.

Whenever you’re taking on a long road trip there are a few things you’ll need to take into consideration:

  • Firstly, you should always plan your trip in advance to make the most of your drive. Check the places you want to see and the places where you want to stop – you don’t want to miss something that you might find particularly interesting.
  • Next, whether you hire a car or buy one for your driving trip, make sure it is in good working order and that you have the insurance required to take care of you should something go wrong with it. If something goes wrong with your vehicle you might need work urgently so make sure you can get it.  Make sure you know both cost of issues such as windscreen repair, and where you need to go to have such maintenance carried out.
  • Finally, take your time to relax and enjoy the view. These roads are heaven-sent for drivers and sightseers so don’t rush to get to the end of them. Some of the routes may form a circuit but that doesn’t make them a race! Take it easy, take in the scenery and enjoy a trip like no other.
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