Foliage fawning, or leaf-peeping, season has arrived in the Midwest, with some of the area's deciduous trees already starting to turn from green to vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. With the peak of the season just a few weeks away for most of the Midwestern states, now's the time to plan the ultimate fall road. With far less tourists than New England and a season that dips well into early November, fall fanatics have been flocking to Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa for years to capture the ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors. Whether you're road tripping through Michigan's Upper Peninsula or passing through Indiana's Brown County, these drives come packed with stunning views, crisp air and warm, welcoming hospitality.
Adams County - Ohio
Home to some of Ohio's most beautiful scenery, Adams County on Highway 52 comes alive with stunning colors during the fall foliage season. The area features an incredible array of protected nature areas, state parks and forests, like Edge of Appalachia, Shawnee State Park, Adams Lake Park and Robert H. Whipple State Nature Preserve. Although these parks offer hiking trails, the best way to see the multi-hued colors and over 1,200 plant species is with a car. A drive will take you through some of the area's famous Amish areas like Millers Bakery & Furniture where you can savor homemade pies and doughnuts while perusing the large warehouse of artisan furniture for souvenirs.
Brockway Mountain Drive - Michigan
Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in picturesque Copper Harbor, the Brockway Mountain Drive is a true hidden gem. Boasting views of Lake Superior's crystal waters, gradient limestone cliffs and thousands of acres of forest, the drive is as pretty as a postcard upon nearly every turn. Be sure to bring your camera and allow for multiple stops as you head up the mountain, the highest-above sea level drive between the Rockies and Alleghenies. If you have time, stop by Brickside Brewing Company, a crowd-funded microbrewery for a pint of the Superior Wit or UP IPA.
Brown County - Indiana
Encompassing the largest state park in Indiana, Brown County has long been a favorite foliage spot in the great Hoosier State. The best way to see the collection of brightly hued trees is with a drive through Brown County State Park. If the traffic is unbearable, soak up the scenery and the local culture with a Backroads Studio Tour, which guides you through the area's local art community. You can stretch your legs at the Bear Wallow Distillery, while sampling homemade spirits like rye whiskey. Bonus? The venue overlooks the forest, giving you gorgeous views as you sip.
Black Hills - South Dakota
The Black Hills is one of the most overlooked and underrated areas of the country with bright yellow leaves flanking scraggly stone towers. Complete with towering hills, golden aspens, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and windy alpine roads, the drive is an adventure in itself, with a new sight around every bend. For an even more adventurous drive, hit The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, which includes the infamous Needles Highway. This hair-rising drive spans 14-miles of hairpin turns, low tunnels, and narrow spots flanked by rock and granite spires. Lying within the 73,000 acre Custer State Park, the views of the changing trees against the massive rocks are unlike anywhere else.
Covered Bridge Tour - Indiana
The Bridges of Madison County aren't the only famous bridges in the Midwest. A drive through Parke County, Indiana's 31 covered bridges feels like a blast from the past, with small, quaint villages and lush forests decorating every entrance and exit. Touted as the covered bridge capital of the world, many of these structures were built decades ago. To make the trek easier, the county has five easy to follow drive routes. If you're a fan of ghost stories, make sure to stop by the Old Jail Inn, nestled in the quiet town of Rockville. Used as a jail in the 18th century, many visitors have mentioned strange sightings during their stay. If you can, visit during peak-bloom (mid-October) for the Covered Bridge Festival to sample local produce and pick up crafts from street-side vendors.
Southern Hills - Illinois
One of the more off-the-beaten-path drives in the Midwest is this cruise along State Route-127. The quiet drive through Southern Illinois spans only about 25 miles, but boasts incredible views of the oak, maple, and ash trees that decorate Shawnee National Forest. Not only are the views breathtaking, but the drive also weaves through local wineries and fruit orchards, making stops to sip and sample a necessity. For aerial views of the Mississippi floodplains flanked by vibrant fall colors, take the winding LaRue Pine Hills Road located near Anna/Jonesboro and drive along the top of the bluffs.
Marinette County Waterfall Drive - Door County, Wisconsin
Nestled in quiet Door County, the Marinette Waterfall drive boats some of the area's most scenic spots. The 125-mile loop takes you through a coveted collection of 14 waterfalls and cataracts. The falls connect to the area's many small estuaries and rivers like the Menominee and Pike. With over 200,000 acres of park land and ample picnic areas alongside the brightly painted trees, make sure to pick up snacks and sips in quaint Crivitz, which is home to just 984 permanent residents.
Hermann Wine Trail - Missouri
If you'd prefer to sip and swirl as you marvel at Mother Nature, bookmark the Hermann Wine Trail Drive along the Missouri River. Encompassing 20 miles of serene riverbanks surrounded by breathtaking fall colors, the trail also passes by seven of the area's best wineries. Heavily influenced by German settlers, the villages all have a European and Bavarian feel complete with hearty German-inspired restaurants, bakeries and sausage shops. One of the best panoramic views of the area come from the hillside cottages of the Inn at Hermannhof, which also boasts a tasting room for those eager to sample local varietals.
Great River Road - Mississippi River Valley
If you're in it for the long haul, pack your bags for the amply named Great River Road. This epic 3,000 mile trip starts in Itasca State Park and weaves through 10 different states until reaching it's grand finale, the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The Midwestern portion of the trip winds through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri for jaw-dropping views of the thousands of tree and plant species in full bloom as well as some of the USA's most turbulent and interesting historical spots. Make sure to plan stops at Upper and Lower St. Anthony Falls in Minnesota, the Potosi Brewing Company in Wisconsin, Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa, and Sunset Chain in Illinois, to name a few highlights.
Lewis & Clark Scenic Byway - Nebraska
With stunning views along the 82-mile route from Omaha to Sioux City, this byway is definitely called scenic for a reason. Named after the famed explorers Lewis and Clark, the road curves though lush wooded bluffs home to a colorful collection of native plants and wildlife. There are picturesque places to stop and admire the view, but the park experts recommend the Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, a 3,350-acre property that houses everything from beavers to bison and gives drivers a full view of the waterway and flamboyant trees. To stretch your legs a little, tackle a portion of the Lewis and Clark National Trail hike, which starts in Omaha and stretches over 3,700 miles.