Most Scenic Fall Drives in the Midwest

Telltale signs of autumn are cropping up everywhere you look – the pumpkin spice latte has made its return, colorful mums and gourds adorn doorsteps, and the smell of crisp leaves begins to fill the air. The first day of fall is nearly here. For many, the end of September means the beginning of a magical season where light and shades of red and yellow mix. The color-changing leaves are a delight for people of all ages and, we think, are easily enjoyed from the comfort of your car. One of our favorite ways to enjoy the changing of seasons is on fall foliage driving tours.

Fall Foliage driving tours

Midwest’s Best Fall Drives

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite places in each Midwestern state to visit this time of year for a drive. Hop in your car this autumn and visit one of these beautiful parks to see the fall leaves in all their glory. You could make a Midwest road trip of it, traveling state-to-state on a scenic autumn drive. Before you head out, make sure you brush up on fall driving safety tips and tricks to keep yourself safe on the road! It’s time to grab a pumpkin spice latte from the nearest Starbucks and enjoy the fall foliage ahead.

Illinois

Starved Rock State Park

Best time to view: Mid November

There’s a reason Starved Rock State Park was voted the number one attraction in the state of Illinois. Filled with canyons and waterfalls, you’ll be surrounded by both the beauty of changing leaves and scenic waterscapes. Maybe you’ll even spot an otter playing in the water pools!

Indiana

Brown County State Park

Best time to view: Early November

The sloping, foggy hills of this park make it an especially wonderful place to enjoy the leaves. Twenty miles of tree-lined, forested roads will give you a view like that of the Great Smoky Mountains, but close to home in the heart of the Midwest.

Iowa

Jester Park

Best time to view: Mid October

After taking a scenic drive through around the shores of Saylorville Lake, slow it down with a guided trail ride on horseback. With its own equestrian center, Jester Park offers a unique way to view the changing leaves.

Kansas

Cross Timbers State Park

Best time to view: Early November

Right on the edge of Toronto Lake, you’ll catch glimpses of wildlife in the water through the changing leaves. It’s a great place for bird watching, as many migrating species land here for a rest.

Michigan

Tahquamenon Falls

Best time to view: Mid October

There is something especially touching about viewing autumn from the bank of a river. Even more beautiful are the Upper Falls, more than 200 feet across, which showcase the natural beauty of Michigan. This park offers a special chair program, making it one of the most accessible parks on our list.

Minnesota

Great River Bluffs State Park

Best time to view: Late October

Gaze down from the bluffs atop the Mississippi River Valley at blankets of orange and red. In the early morning, you may spot clouds of fog rolling through the valley, mixing with the changing trees.

Missouri

Graham Cave State Park

Best time to view: Mid November

While your drive through Graham Cave State Park may be one of the shorter ones on our list, it is guaranteed to be beautiful. If you’re willing to step out of the car, you can view the cave once inhabited 10,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers who may have enjoyed the same fall beauty as you, looking up at the trees from the safety of the cavern.

Nebraska

Ponca State Park

Best time to view: Early November

The forested hills of Ponca are perfect scenery for a fall drive. Come on the right day, and you may be able to take a hayride through one of Nebraska’s most visited state parks or visit with volunteers to learn more about the local biodiversity in one of their many excellent outdoor education programs.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Best time to view: Late October

Enjoy this rugged, untouched piece of America, covered in gorgeous prairie and Badland views that are dotted with autumn colors each October. You can even enjoy the park by the glow of the Northern Lights at night if you’re lucky.

Ohio

Wayne National Forest

Best time to view: Early November

Nestled into the Appalachian Foothills is Wayne National Forest. It covers over a quarter-million acres of land, filled with winding roads and all manner of trees and bushes, and other foliage. If you’d prefer to take in the brilliant shades of autumn by foot, make your way to Hocking Hills.

South Dakota

Sica Hollow State Park

Best time to view: Mid October

Many locals believe this park is haunted, making it the perfect spooky getaway for leaf viewing in October. Marked by the rich history of Dakota tribes, the red bogs of Sica match the brilliant blood-red hues of changing trees.

Wisconsin

Peninsula State Park

Best time to view: Mid October

Colorful leaves make a beautiful backdrop for Peninsula State Park’s historic lighthouse and beaches. Known as Wisconsin’s favorite camping destination, it is a destination many families choose to visit each autumn. 

If you don’t have the time to drive to one of our favorite places, there are many beautiful parks across the Midwest to view the fall colors. Not sure when to visit your local park for the best view? This fall foliage map will help you find the best time to view the autumn leaves near you. Take it from us, you can find beauty almost anywhere on the road.