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Road trip ideas to see the best fall colors in the St. Louis area

It’s finally feeling like fall, y’all. Here are four road trip ideas for you to take in all the beauty autumn has to offer

ST. LOUIS — Crisp fall air has arrived in the St. Louis area. Finally, the weather is catching up to how the trees are starting to look, turning from vibrant greens to beautiful fall colors of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows.

If you’re ready to fully embrace all the beauty fall has to offer, throw on your favorite sweater, scarf and boots and grab a PSL. We have four leaf-peeper-approved road trip ideas you can take to check out the best fall foliage in the St. Louis area.

If you want to see exactly when the fall colors are expected to peak near you, check out an interactive foliage predictor map here.

Great River Road

The mother of all drives to make if you want to really see some spectacular fall foliage. The Great River Road winds you along the Mississippi River on the Illinois side. The drive features tree-lined bluffs with dramatic pops of color all along the way.

If you’d like to see what it looked like last October as the colors were starting to peak, take a look at 5 On Your Side’s drone video below showing an eagle-eye view above the limestone bluffs.

Trails to bike or walk

If driving in a car isn’t enough, there are several great bicycle trails in the St. Louis area that will get you up close to nature.

The Katy Trail spans 237 miles from Machens, Missouri, in St. Charles County west to Clinton, Missouri. More than half of the trail follows Lewis and Clark’s path along the Missouri River, according to the trail’s website, “where you can ride beneath towering river bluffs while eagles circle overhead.” The Katy Trail used to be the MKT rail line – the longest “rails-to-trail” project in the U.S. – so it’s flat and scenic.

You don’t have to bike across Missouri to take in colorful fall foliage. There are more than 125 miles of the Great Rivers Greenway in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. Most of the segments are paved and often connect from one city or attraction to another – while winding you through the scenic route along the way.

Drive to wine country

If you want your fall colors to also include white, red and rosé, head to Missouri’s popular wine country. There are two designated Missouri Wine Trails in the greater St. Louis area.

Drive down Highway 94 toward Augusta where you can visit Augusta Winery, Balducci Vineyards, Montelle Winery or Noboleis Vineyards. Augusta is about a one-hour drive from downtown St. Louis. 

Head out a little further west on Interstate 44 and MO-100 to visit the Hermann Wine Trail, which features Adam Puchta Winery, Bias Winery, Hermannhof Winery, OakGlenn Winery, Röbller Vineyard and Winery and Stone Hill Winery. Hermann is a 90-minute drive from downtown St. Louis.

The wineries feature spacious outdoor seating, but double check with each specific location for adjusted hours and offerings due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Ozarks

The hilly terrain of the eastern Ozarks is always a good bet. Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks are a couple of state parks that not only offer beautiful fall colors but also some pretty unique scenery and hikes.

Elephant Rocks is about a 90-minute drive from downtown St. Louis. It’s south of the city down I-55 and Highway 67. Johnson’s Shut-Ins is about 30 minutes further southwest.