Fall has been off to a slow start in the St. Louis area this year. However, the cooler temperatures are finally starting to arrive and trigger the changing of the leaves. If you are planning to load up the car and head out leaf peeping, here are 5 St. Louis fall color drives for the ultimate scenic road trip.
1. Great River Road
This epic scenic drive is amazing no matter the season, but the road really puts on a show in fall. Start the drive with a sweet treat in Alton at Duke’s Bakery then cruise north on Highway 100. The Great River Road is sandwiched between the sparkling Mississippi River on one side and towering bluffs on the other. Trees bring a pop of fall color along the bluffs.
Be sure to make a detour through the village of Elsah for a picture straight out of a Hallmark movie.
Continue the drive north through the charming town of Grafton. If time allows, take a ride on the Grafton Sky Tour to view the fall color from above.
End your drive at Pere Marquette State Park. The scenic drive through the park offers more scenic vistas. If you feel up for a hike, the Goat Cliff Trail is a great choice with panoramic views. Finish your day with lunch or dinner at the Pere Marquette Lodge.
2. Great Views and History on Bluff Road
Another St. Louis area fall drive is along Bluff Road in Illinois. Access the route off I-255 in Columbia. Head south along Bluff Road for more scenic views of the namesake bluffs and river floodplain.
If you are looking for a great hike along the drive, there are several that climb up through the woods to the top of the bluffs. Salt Lick Point is one of the best hikes in the metro-east. White Rock Preserve offers a shorter but steeper climb with fewer crowds.
Take a short detour off Bluff Road along Mayestown Road to see the quaint town of Mayestown before continuing south to Prairie Du Rocher. Follow the signs to view the impressive Fort de Chartres Historic Site.
After exploring the Fort, take 155 east to Ruma and Red Bud. Explore Red Bud’s beautiful downtown, Pumpkin Blossom Hill pumpkin patch, or Stuckmeyer’s Market as you head north on route 3 back to Columbia and I-255.
3. Head North on Highway 79
Highway 79 offers a way to view the Mississippi River from the Missouri side along with spectacular fall foliage. For this fall color route, take 79 north from St. Peters through small towns and rolling farm fields. Several scenic overlooks can be found along the route.
Make a stop at the historic river towns of Clarksville and Louisiana to get up close to the river and enjoy the shops and restaurants. Closer to Hannibal, the ghost town of Ilasco is an interesting stop. Once you reach Hannibal, the options for adventure are endless in this town made famous by Mark Twain.
The scenic Sodalis Nature Preserve is a great spot in Hannibal for a fall hike or stroll. The preserve offers a mix of paved and unpaved paths for all abilities. Don’t forget to stop for a panoramic view from towering Lover’s Leap or enjoy free coffee, ice cream, and popcorn at Dutch Country General Store.
On you way back south, detour slightly west to stop at Cuivre River State Park. This park is a beautiful site in fall and makes a great drive even by itself.
4. Highway 94 and Highway 100 Loop
Highway 94 offers a great St. Louis fall color road trip for those in west county or St. Charles County. Start your trip in Weldon Spring and head west on highway 94.
Follow 94 through the towns of Defiance and Augusta. If you feel like stretching your legs along the journey, Klondike Park is a jewel of St. Charles parks with a lake and trails of all difficulty levels. The Daniel Boone Home is a nice historic side trip along the route.
Continue along the scenic rolling hills of Missouri wine country Highway 94 intersects with Highway 47. Take 47 southwest to cross the river bridge at Washington. Washington is a great river town with abundant options for dining or a sweet treat.
To make a full loop, take Highway 100 east from Washington. This winding road has beautiful fall color. Take a hike along the route at Rockwoods Reservation or explore Babler State Park by foot or car. Continue along either 109 or 100 to Chesterfield and take I-64 back to Weldon Spring to return to the start point.
5. Lone Elk Park
If you are looking for a shorter drive that is fun for the whole family, check out Lone Elk Park. Not only is the park a great leaf peeping spot, but you can also view elk and bison.
If you catch this park at peak color, the winding roads through the park are stunning.
To extend your visit, add in a stop at the neighboring World Bird Sanctuary to view many beautiful birds. The Sanctuary also offers several hiking trails.
Do you have a local favorite fall drive?