The days of blistering heat are dwindling down. The sun is starting to dip below the hill behind my house a tad earlier every day and the evening breeze is cooler by a few degrees. The first tinges of yellow are beginning to tint the leaves in the tops of the birch trees in my front yard and it won’t be long until I’ll have to break out the rake. It also means I’ll need to break out my flannel, neck gaiter and gauntlet gloves soon and head out on my favorite fall motorcycle ride. Won’t be long until the trees will signal the end of summer with burnt oranges, brilliant reds, majestic magentas and faded yellows. Temperatures will be almost ideal for riding and I love the earthy smell of the forest floor after the first fall rains.

Between the milder weather and the bounty of beautiful colors, fall motorcycle rides are some of the best. In my 15-year career as a motojournalist, I’ve had the good fortune to ride all over the country, so I’ve compiled a list of places I know put on a show when autumn arrives. A handful of others popped up on more than one list while researching fall rides, so I figured they were good enough to share and now they’re on my radar, too. Admittedly, this list is by no means all-inclusive which is where you, the reader, comes in. We’d love to hear about your favorite scenic fall ride. Where is it and why is it your favorite? Please share it in the comments section below. Bonus if you’ve got a picture of you and your bike. In the meantime, here’s 10 of the Best Fall Motorcycle Rides for inspiration.

Blue Ridge Parkway ranked at or near the top of every list I saw for epic fall rides. 

1.       Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina & Virginia

Not surprisingly, Blue Ridge Parkway popped up on just about every list I saw. With good reason. The parkway runs through a series of East Coast forests, and different types of trees flourish in each, from Red Maples to Oak to Sassafras to Sourwood. Leaves begin to change in early October at higher elevations above 5,000 feet and gradually descend into the lowest valleys by the end of the month. Most of the trees along the Parkway in the North Carolina mountains peak the second and third weeks of October. Popular stops include Linvalle Falls, one of the most photographed falls in the eastern US, and Green Knob Overlook where you can get a panoramic view of Mother Nature’s brush strokes. While there’s some seriously twisty stretches in these parts, slow down, breathe deep, and take it all in.

2.       Kancamagus Highway/Mt. Washington – New Hampshire

I’ve ridden on New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway several times covering Laconia, but I’ve never had a chance to ride the “Kanc” when it’s in full fall splendor. A jaunt on this 34-mile stretch of Route 112 between Conway to Lincoln is a quintessential New England fall ride. Between the dense hardwood forests and alpine peaks, the forests will be ablaze in vibrant fall colors. The leaves begin to change in late September and by mid-October are in full brilliance. There’s plenty of scenic overlooks to take it all in or hop off your bike and take a quick hike to picturesque Sabbaday Falls. If that weren’t enough, there’s covered bridges and historic waypoints along the route, too. While you’re in the area, why not make a run up Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern U.S.? But your window of opportunity is narrow because snow hits the mountain pretty early in the season. If it is open, though, it’s worth a ride up because no two trips up Mt. Washington are ever the same.

Pig Trail Scenic Byway is "Very Crooked and Steep" just the way we like it! 

3.       Pig Trail Scenic Byway to Eureka Springs – Arkansas Ozarks

I was blown away the first time I rode in the Arkansas Ozarks. The forests are thick and lush, the roads are delightfully twisty, and the people and towns are friendly to bikers. Last year I got to spend some time there for the Metzeler CruiseTec press launch with the first signs of fall just beginning to dot the landscape, and it left me wanting to see it when fall is full-blown. While there’s plenty of fine roads in these parts, AR-23 aka Pig Trail Scenic Byway, was once dubbed the “top motorcycle ride” in the U.S. by a USA Today Readers’ Choice poll. While the first 24-mile stretch from Interstate 40 to Brashears is the most famous section, don’t stop there. Keep on chugging up AR-23 all the way to Eureka Springs, about 80 miles total from I-40. Eureka Springs is quirky, cool, and a bit touristy, but the road is a combination of tight turns and fast sweepers that tunnel through the heart of the Ozarks which should be absolutely splendid decked out in its fall attire.

4.       Olympic Peninsula - Washington

Wait, isn’t Olympic National Park a rainforest? Yes, it is, but if you’re ever seen evergreens and mountains misted by morning fog, they’re magical. While the rainy season on the Olympic Peninsula runs between October and June, in late September and early October the weather’s still fairly good. A visit to Hurricane Ridge is a must because you won’t find a better vista point. Cape Flattery is famous for its Sitka spruces and misty coves. Waterfalls are everywhere (the hike to Marymere Falls comes highly recommended for fall colors), and for all you fungi-fans out there, the trails are littered with a variety of mushrooms. Salmon are running upstream, elk are out and about, and there’s something special about seeing autumnal colors reflecting off a lake. Word to the wise – bring rain gear!

5.       Trinity Scenic Byway - California

“From the Valley Oaks to the Redwood Coast,” Trinity Scenic Byway is a popular day trip for Northern Californian motorcyclists. The route starts in Redding, California, and makes a scenic 140-mile run to the Pacific Coast. As you ascend, the forests get thicker as it passes by mountain lakes and roaring rivers. In fact, much of the road parallels the Trinity River. You’ll start in tanned grasslands, then pass through piney forests before kicking out at some of the most majestic trees on this planet, the giant Redwoods. For all you Squatch fans out there, a stop at Willow Creek is a must as you’re in the “Bigfoot Capital” of Nor-Cal. Trinity Scenic Byway takes you through every type of ecosystem in Northern California, and the seasonal hardwoods glaringly stand out in a sea of evergreens.

What about you, what's your favorite fall motorcycle ride? Tell us all about it in the comment section below. 

6.       Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, like Blue Ridge Parkway, is a given. It’s one of those places that always takes your breath away, no matter what time of year you visit. Aspens in the highest reaches of the park begin to turn golden as early as mid-August. As fall draws nearer, the colors spread down the mountainside. One of the best places to take it all in is the 10-mile stretch of Trail Ridge Road. Be sure to bring your camera! Bring some hiking shoes, too, and take a romp on Glacier Creek Trail to Alberta Falls because the golds and yellows against the white-barked aspen are supposedly stunning. Cottonwoods also add more splashes of yellow against the green canopies of pines. Peak fall foliage starts in late-September and runs for approximately four to five weeks. Hit up Estes Park September 21-22 for its Autumn Gold Festival where the town celebrates with a festival of bands, brats and beers.

7.       Driftless Region - Iowa & Wisconsin

I learned about Iowa’s Driftless Region along the Mississippi River by chance. I was in Anamosa, Iowa, visiting the National Motorcycle Museum to write a feature article for a magazine I was working for and J&P Cycles hooked me up with a sweet Street Bob to rip around on. Curt Foust told me I should ride out to the Driftless Region, and I’m glad I took his advice. On the way there, plump pumpkins sat at roadside stands and mazes had been cut out of corn fields with Halloween right around the corner. Upon arrival, the road rose and fell as it skirted the Mississippi and trees and vegetation replaced corn fields. I went south toward Sabula, but if I would have headed the other direction into Wisconsin, I hear its section of the Driftless is pretty spectacular in the fall. Maple and sumac trees line the hillsides while oak and hickory splash the river valleys in yellows and oranges.

OK, so up to this point, I’ve ridden in the first seven places on the list. These last three got rave reviews, so I rounded out the list with them. Like I said, these are definitely on my radar. Maybe they’re right out your back door, in which case, tell us all about them and if they are truly indeed worthy of being in the top 10.

8.       Tunnel of Trees – Michigan

When your name is “Tunnel of Trees” you’ve got to be among the most epic fall rides, right? With a reputation as one of the most scenic roads in the Midwest, the Tunnel of Trees skirts Lake Michigan between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. Part of the M-119, the winding road cuts beneath a canopy of trees, and when those trees take on fall colors, the ride becomes even more spectacular.  Along the way there’s a breathtaking bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, some nasty twisty stuff at Devil’s Elbow and Horseshoe Curve, and plenty of quaint towns, unique shops and good eats along the way.

9.       Green Mountain & Shires of Vermont Byways - Vermont

A spin through the Green Mountains was another New England ride that came highly recommended. This region is home to the highest concentration of maple trees, and it’s hard to beat the beauty of maples in the fall. For the best viewing opportunities, take the 11-mile Green Mountain Byway in northern Vermont between the mountain ridges of Waterbury and Stowe. If you’re in the southeastern part of the state, the Shires of Vermont Byway that links the Taconic and Green Mountains is the way to go. Like most areas, fall foliage hits its stride between late-September and mid-October.

10.   Door County – Wisconsin

Door County is a peninsula that stretches out into Lake Michigan and forms the famous Green Bay of Wisconsin. The stretch is known for its long shoreline and numerous parks. While the peninsula hustles and bustles during the summer, things reportedly calm down in the fall and the Door is one of the best places to take in the vibrant colors of autumn. Seeing those colors contrasting against the blues of the lake deepen the experience. Some of the region’s best festivals are held in the fall, and apples in the orchards are ripe for picking. The best time to catch fall colors in Door County is between late-September and mid-October.

Enjoy a fall ride, but be careful, there's plenty of nuts out there (and we don't mean just those littering this road!).