It’s peak Fall out there right now, which means it’s the perfect time to pile into the car and head out of the city to take in some beautiful autumnal foliage. There are plenty of sights to behold along the way on each of these five scenic drives, each a short ride from downtown D.C.. Before the snow starts to fall, get out and enjoy the views that await you just outside the city limits.
You’ll drive past (and stop at) nine different presidential homes, dozens of Civil War battle sites, wineries, orchards, and plenty more on this 180 stretch from Gettysburg to Monticello. You’ll also encounter 13 national parks along the way, allowing travelers to balance their travels through history with pristine natural views. There are nearly endless spots of interest in this region, a treasure trove of experiences of both what went into the creation of our nation, and what makes it what it is today.
Recognized as an All-American Road, the Chesapeake County Scenic Byway is a gorgeous tour of some of the best sights Maryland has to offer. Taking you through countless picturesque small towns, dazzling stretches of untouched nature, and coastal views of the Chesapeake Bay that will knock your socks off. There’s plenty to take in, whether you’re just experiencing one small segment of the ride or spending a few days exploring the 400+ miles with of roadways that await.
A shorter, less ambitious course than most of the others we’re talking about, the Great Falls Scenic Drive Loop can be completed in about an hour. Located just 20 miles west of D.C., it’s a quick and easy way to get out of the city and be surrounded by nature, with plenty of options to visit historic villages, unique small businesses, and exceptional restaurants. You’ll encounter waterfalls, hiking tails, and plenty of greenery along the way, a great opportunity to refresh and relax for the day or a weekend.
A 100+ mile artery that helps connect Shenandoah National Park, this lush roadway is abundant with opportunities to see some of the most beautiful sights the region has to offer. There are over 75 overlooks offering views of the Shenandoah Valley along the way, as well as numerous trailheads, visitors centers, and small towns. The drive is perhaps at its most scenic in the fall, as the leaves change colors and the foliage becomes a symphony of red, orange, and yellow.
This delightfully named historic roadway in Loudon County, Virginia, just an hour outside the city, is another quick antidote to city life. It was the first turnpike to operate in America, built along the path of an Iroquois hunting trail in 1786. At just around 60 miles, you can easily make the drive in a day, but you’ll want to spend more time stopping to take in the various historic and natural sights, including centuries old bridges, Victorian farmhouses, and mind-blowing overlooks. For those looking for a bit of modernity, there are a handful of high quality breweries operating along the turnpike as well.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.