Fall’s just around the corner, which means it’s time to get ready for leaf-peeping season! The combination of spectacularly multi-hued canopies and arguably the best weather of the year is intoxicating, not least when you’re hitting the open road in an RV.
Below, explore our picks for the 15 best fall RV trips to take if you’ve got leaf-peeping on the brain. (These are presented in no particular order.)
The most popular national park in the U.S., this wonderland of the Southern Appalachians not only includes some of the East’s biggest and most beautiful mountains, but also some of Earth's most diverse—and best-preserved—temperate forests. That, and the major elevational spread, makes for absolutely topnotch leaf-peeping between mid-September and early November, with October prime time.
Drive Cades Cove, cross Newfound Gap, or steer your way to the high point of the park atop Clingmans Dome to drink in the color show, made possible by maples, beeches, scarlet oaks, mountain-ash, and a host of other broadleaf players. The park’s campgrounds offer convenient RV camping, with additional opportunities in surrounding national forestlands and among a bevy of regional RV resorts.
The scenic glories of the Front Range of the Southern Rockies draw sightseers from around the world to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the mountainscape looks arguably the most stunning in autumn. That’s courtesy of the vast acreage of quaking aspens, whose golden fall leaves—peaking usually from late September to early October—are take-your-breath-away glorious, especially set against the landscape's darker conifers and snow-dusted peaks.
Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road, Bear Lake Road, and other scenic drives serve up plenty of showstopper views, with hikes to Sprague Lake, Glacier Gorge, and other aspen-rich destinations highly recommended as well. RV-camping opportunities abound in the park and nearby.
The world’s oldest national park is known for many things—a dazzling collection of geysers, hot springs, and mudpots, some of the greatest concentrations of large animals in the Lower 48, a smorgasbord of waterfalls—but fall colors aren’t necessarily high on the radar of most visitors. Nonetheless, Yellowstone in autumn guise achieves a special, piercing beauty. Among the best places to go for fall colors here are the Northern Range, where numerous aspen groves lie amid rolling steppe and timber stringers, and up in the adjoining Absaroka and Gallatin mountains, where huckleberries, thimbleberries, and other deciduous shrubs add their own yellows and reds to the seasonal spectrum.
Here again, numerous park campgrounds welcome RVs—though key into when they close for the season, as winter arrives early in Yellowstone—and the vast adjoining national forests as well as friendly gateway towns provide extensive opportunities for fall RV camping.
Among the most celebrated spots for fall foliage on the East Coast, Acadia sets its blazing, multicolored hardwood trees and shrubs against a backdrop of rocky heights, islets, and the glinting Gulf of Maine. Take in the show from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, or consider a little leaf-peeping kayaking to admire the colors from offshore. Acadia National Park’s prime leaf-peeping window is October, with the normal peak in the middle of the month.
The Blue Ridge vistas of Shenandoah National Park pull out all the stops in October, when hickories, maples, dogwoods, oaks, and other species suit up in fiery fall hues. Skyline Drive threading through the heart of the park will surround you in this beauty, and the Blue Ridge Parkway—”America’s Favorite Drive”—unfurls southward all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, surely ranking among the country’s top leaf-peeping drives.
Overnight in Shenandoah campgrounds such as Mathews Arm or Big Meadows (though don’t expect hookups in the park), or consider the KOAs and RV resorts close to the park boundary, with local national-forest and state-park campgrounds providing additional options.
Covering roughly 400,000 acres, Green Mountain National Forest drapes along the namesake range forming Vermont’s swoony backbone. Maples, aspens, paper birches, beeches, ash, and other hardwoods steal the show in the autumn, and drives such as the Molly Stark Scenic Byway seem tailor-made for fall foliage RV road trips.
RV camping is available in the national forest at such spots as Greendale Campground and the Hapgood Pond Recreation Area, and meanwhile there are plenty of commercial RV resorts and parks in the region.
Particularly from mid-September into early October, Aspen’s famously gorgeous backyard—dominated by the soaring summits of the Elk Mountains and the Sawatch Range—comes banded in gold via sprawling aspen stands. The fall-colored view of the Maroon Bells, those famous twinned peaks in the Elks, must rank among the most iconic autumn scenes in America.
The rich forests of the Catskills, woven with maples, birches, beeches, oaks, hickories, and more, create a symphony of fall colors within ready striking distance of the Big Apple. A fall drive up the Hudson Valley and into the byways and backroads of these looming, heavily forested mountains is a leaf-peeper’s dream come true. Camping opportunities run the gamut from Catskill Park and other state campgrounds to private RV parks and resorts.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is one of the Midwest’s chief wilderness destinations, much of it sparsely populated and draped in magnificent sylvan acreage. Along with boreal conifers and pine groves, that acreage includes plenty of northern hardwoods that look mighty stunning in the autumn—not least backdropped by vast, wild Lake Superior.
From the Porcupine Mountains and Tahquamenon Falls to Copper Harbor’s Brockway Mountain Drive, you’re spoiled for choices when it comes to fall color here. The same goes for RV camping, which can play out from national and state forests and state parks to charming lakeside resorts.
Along with leaf-peeping by RV (and along hiking trails), don’t miss the opportunity to feast on fall color while riding a heritage train! The Conway Scenic Railroad puts the justly hallowed autumn foliage of New Hampshire’s White Mountains on full display along sightseeing routes out of North Conway, set near the lofty summits of the Presidential Range.
An oft-overlooked gem of America’s leaf-peeping geography, the Texas Hill Country puts on its own autumnal smolder in late October and early November. Set amid the bluffs and gulches of the Balcones Canyonlands, Garner State Park harbors a nice lineup of fall-color trees, including mesquites, oaks, permissions, and the unique deciduous conifer called the bald-cypress.
The park harbors several campgrounds suitable for RVs, including Oakmont and Rio Frio camping areas; Shady Meadows Camping Area offers full-hookup campsites. There are also commercial RV campgrounds nearby.
The Northern Rockies may lack the genuinely vast tracts of aspen the Southern Rocky Mountains boast, but they still offer their own fine leaf-peeping opportunities. Given its scattered aspen groves and thickets of mountain-ash, thimbleberry, huckleberry, and other understory shrubs change color against some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful mountains on the continent, Montana’s Glacier National Park very much rewards the fall visitor. Throw in highly active wildlife—ungulates in rut, grizzly and black bears fattening up for winter—and you’ve got the makings for magical RV camping in the fall here.
There are RV sites available both inside and outside Glacier (the latter preferable if you’re looking for full hookups). The park's Many Glacier Campground, for example, sets you amid a forest well-stocked with aspens, amping up its leaf-peeping appeal.
Experience the fall colors of the High Sierra—and some world-famous granitic scenery—in Yosemite National Park, where peak foliage tends to occur in late October. Bigleaf maples, oaks, quaking aspens, dogwoods, cottonwoods, and other broadleaf trees and shrubs contribute to the varied palette. Yosemite Valley itself is a fine destination for leaf-peeping, as is the Tioga Road (with abundant aspens) and Glacier Point.
Easily combined with the Conway Scenic Railroad, the White Mountain National Forest definitely deserves a slot on the shortlist of America’s finest leaf-peeping realms. Swaddling the highest mountains in New England, this beautiful national forest puts on an extended and varied fall-color show thanks to its significant relief and its diverse hardwood communities.
Among the best fall RV road trips out there, the White Mountain National Forest includes the must-do Kancamagus Scenic Byway between Conway and Lincoln. There are plenty of RV-camping opportunities in national-forest campsites as well as the interspersed state parks, with private resorts and campgrounds also available.
Hike into the yawning caldera of Arizona’s volcanic San Francisco Peaks on the Inner Basin Trail during the early autumn, and you’ll see plenty of aspens doing their photo-op fall thing. This scenic hike on the Coconino National Forest is easily reached from Flagstaff, and there’s both public and commercial camping for RVers in the region.
From Montana to Texas, from Vermont to California, track down zesty autumn colors on RV road trips, an amazing way to mark the season. Make sure you hit the road with plenty of delicious, just-add-hot-water Mountain House meals to make your leaf-peeing fall RV camping that much more perfect! (And don’t forget to explore other road-tripping resources here on the Mountain House blog, including our primer on van-life food essentials…)