6 Fabulous Fall Drives in Missouri

September 3, 2019

Trees drenched in shades of red, orange and yellow make autumn one of the best times to explore Missouri. An abundance of hardwood forests filled with oaks, hickories, maples and more make the Show-Me State is an ideal place to find fall color.

Leaf peeping-season usually peaks from mid to late October, depending on the weather. Check the Missouri Department of Conservation's Fall Color Forecast to get the latest updates September through November.

You can surround yourself with colorful foliage in areas across the state. 

Here are six fall drives to get you started:

Hannibal to St. Louis: Highway 79

In Hannibal, you can mix Mark Twain lore with fantastic fall color. Take in the sweeping vista from a spot called Lover's Leap, a huge bluff just outside the city limits. Travel south along the Mississippi River, through Louisiana and Clarksville – both have expansive river views along with shops and restaurants. In St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Forest Park and Gateway Arch National Park offer a kaleidoscope of colorful foliage.

Hermann to St. Charles: Highway 94

Sample the wine, beer, spirits and sausage in Hermann as you experience the region's German heritage and the Hermann Wine Trail. Cross the Missouri River to reach Highway 94, which runs alongside the river and past several small towns including Augusta, home to several wineries and bed and breakfast inns. Visit historic St. Charles where you'll find a riverside park and dozens of retail shops, restaurants and points of interest, including Missouri's First State Capitol. Leave your car behind for a couple of hours for a hike or bike ride on the Katy Trail.

Caledonia to Van Buren: Highway 21

In the tiny village of Caledonia, visit the old fashioned mercantile store and antique shops before heading south on Highway 21. You'll find some of the state's most popular outdoor attractions, including Elephant Rocks State Park, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park and Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, decked out in fall's finest colors. Further south, a few miles off Highway 21, explore the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Near Van Buren, stop at Big Spring, one of the country's largest natural springs.  

Cuba to Eminence: Highway 19

See Route 66 attractions and outdoor murals in Cuba, on Highway 19. Then travel south toward Steelville, the self-proclaimed floating capital of Missouri, located near the Meramec, Huzzah and the Courtois rivers. Further south, Highway 19 runs through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, where Round Spring and Blue Spring sparkle in beautiful shades of blue in the middle of the forest. The Jacks Fork and Current rivers are popular places for canoeing, kayaking and rafting. Once you reach Eminence, take a short trip up Highway 106 to see Alley Mill, one of Missouri's striking historic mills, sitting at the edge of Alley Spring, surrounded by gold- and copper-colored oaks and deep green pines.    

Lake of the Ozarks loop: Highway 5, Highway 54 and Highway 52

The hillsides around the Lake of the Ozarks put on a colorful show during autumn. Loop around much of the lake by starting in Versailles and heading down Highway 5. Fall color is especially vivid along the shoreline – in full view where the highway crosses the lake at the Hurricane Deck and Niangua bridges. In Camdenton, travel a few miles south on Highway 54 to see Ha Ha Tonka State Park where the fall foliage provides a perfect backdrop for deep ravines, towering bluffs and the ruins of a 1905 stone "castle." Miles of hiking trails put you in the middle of it all. Turn north through the bustling lake town of Osage Beach. Waterfront cabins and condos and numerous dining options are located throughout the area. Further north In Eldon, take Highway 52 through rolling farm country back to Versailles.

Table Rock Lake loop: Highway 65, Highway 13, Highway 76

Deep in the Ozark mountains, travel a winding path around portions of Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo to see southern Missouri bathed in the shades of fall. Lodging and dining options can be found in communities across the region. Explore the family friendly attractions and live entertainment in Branson before heading south on Highway 65 through the historic town of Hollister. Nearby Table Rock Lake State Park offers plenty to space to enjoy fall's crisp temperatures and clear blue skies. Further south, take Highway 86 across the lake to Highway 13 and into Kimberling City. Continue north to Branson West where Highway 76 will take you back to Branson.

Find more fall beauty at Missouri State Parks and Natural Areas.

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