The magical fall season is almost upon us. That means cozy sweaters, hot apple cider, and yes – gorgeous autumn colors. Sadly, not everyone lives in a location that experiences changing fall leaves. The solution? A fall road trip!
This list of the 25 best places to see fall foliage in the United States are some of most recommended and desirous destinations for season color. In fact, you’re just about guaranteed to see gorgeous autumn hues in all their glory. So, pack your scarf and grab your mug – let’s go leaf peeping!
Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the United States
Picking a good place to see the leaves change in the fall can be tricky. Autumn colors depends on a lot of variables. That’s why knowing exactly where to find the best places to see fall foliage in the United States for consistent, almost guaranteed, colorful leaves is so important.
Every place mentioned on this list has something that makes it perfect for autumn visits – good geographical location, higher elevations, or a specific tree varietal that makes it a winner for fall color. Check them out.
One of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States is the Eastern Sierra of California. Stretching from just south of Lake Tahoe in the north to Bishop in the south, the Eastern Sierra fall colors are definitely worthy of an autumn trip.
The town of Bishop is a particularly enticing fall destination, with many scenic drives and hikes. Bishop Creek Canyon, while beautiful any time of the year, lights up in hues of yellow, orange, and red in the fall, creating picture postcard landscapes.
Drive out to the three lakes at the end of each fork of Bishop Creek: South Lake, North Lake, and Lake Sabrina. North Lake is a magnet for photographers wanting the perfect fall photo, even if the drive to get there can be a little challenging!
There are hiking trails that go up into the mountains from each of the lakes, if you want to get up close to the colors from the aspen. Also stop by the little town of Aspendell, where the size of the aspens blazing yellow at peak is breathtaking.
In town, look for fall color along roads and by the Owens Lake. North of town, Round Valley offers a brilliant display from cottonwoods later in the season.
Contributed by Dhara of Roadtripping California
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
If you’re searching for one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States then you can’t beat Blowing Rock, North Carolina. After all, this incredible town is situated right near Grandfather Mountain, just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It’s also a place that absolutely comes alive with vibrant fall foliage around the third week of October, making this an ideal time to visit.
So, after grabbing a coffee at Bald Guy Brew and doing some shopping in the downtown area, head to the Mile High Swinging Bridge on the summit of Grandfather Mountain and enjoy one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock, NC.
See, this local landmark was first built in 1952 and is known for being the highest suspension footbridge in the USA. You can also explore many of the amazing hiking trails that dot the area. Just be sure to bring a picnic lunch since Grandfather Mountain is about a 35-minute drive away from Blowing Rock.
Then when you’re ready to call it a day, grab a craft beer from Blowing Rock Brewery before spending the night at The Meadowbrook Inn.
Contributed by Victoria of Southerner Trippers
Park City, Utah
New England may get all the love for fall colors but the mountains of Utah have something they don’t – seas of quaking aspen that turn a vibrant yellow color in the fall. Not to mention the backdrop of the majestic mountains.
One of the best fall activities in Utah is driving from Salt Lake City up Big Cottonwood Canyon and over Guardsman Pass to Park City. Fall is the off-season for all the ski resorts there, so Park City’s luxury hotels are more affordable than usual.
Peak leaf season is usually around the end of September and beginning of October. If you visit before October 2nd, be sure to take a ride on the famous Alpine Slide. You won’t regret adding a fall trip to Utah to your bucket list!
Contributed by JJ of The Minivan Bucket List
If you’re looking to visit one of the best, most quintessentially New England towns to visit this fall season, you’ll want to head right to Stowe, VT.
Not only is the fall foliage absolutely stunning, you’ll find all the landscapes and activities you would hope for when visiting a small New England town like covered bridges, fall color at every turn, a charming village, and adorable country stores.
One of the most iconic views of Stowe that’s especially amazing in the fall is the lookout at Sunset Rock, which will provide you with a panorama of the quaint town, including the famous white steepled church, surrounded by blazing fall color.
Peak foliage in Stowe is typically in early October, which perfectly coincides with all the best fall activities. Be sure to take a drive to nearby Waterbury and get some cider and donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Then, drive by Emily’s Covered Bridge right in Stowe, which many say is haunted.
One of the best places to stay in Stowe in the fall is the Lodge at Spruce Peak, which offers restaurants, a spa and cozy accommodations that are perfect for this time of the year.
Contributed by Samantha of New England Wanderlust
Want to see some beautiful fall foliage in Colorado? Head to Breckenridge! No matter which direction you approach this charming town, you’ll likely see swaths of aspens turning from green to yellow and orange. Don’t fret if you can’t pullover to get that perfect photo, you’ll have plenty of chances from town.
Venture off of Main St to Ridge St. Take Lincoln up, and look towards the slopes from that intersection—you’ll have views of the colorful mountains above Breckenridge.
As you wander around the side streets peaking in the shops, you’re sure to find your own secret lookouts. For a more close up view, walk to the ski gondolas off of Watson Ave on the edge of downtown.
If you get hungry or thirsty along the way, Breckinridge offers many opportunities to cross-off something on your food bucket list. The town is filled with eateries from casual pizza joints to high end farm to table restaurants. Fall is also a great time to take advantage of off-season hotel deals.
Contributed by Denise of Chef Denise
You might be surprised to find out that Waikiki Beach in Hawaii is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States. The combination of leaves on the trees near the beach and the sandy water will take your breath away.
The most common trees that you can see are Banyan Trees and Palm Trees. In fall, you’ll notice the brown fronds from the trees dropping all over the walkway of the beach.
Where to stay? The nearest hotel near Banyan trees is the Moana Hotel. It’s a historical hotel in Waikiki that was built in a European Style.
There are many activities that you can do on Waikiki beach such as surfing, snorkeling, and water tubing. The most popular activity is surfing, so prepare your surfing gadgets for an experience of a lifetime.
Contributed by Ossama of Awesome Traveler
Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan
There is no better place in the United States to enjoy the fall colors in Michigan than the Leelanau Peninsula. This gorgeous area of Northern Michigan dazzles year-round, but the kaleidoscope of colors against the vibrant blue waters of Lake Michigan is jaw-dropping.
The best way to enjoy the area’s beauty is to hop in the car! Start in the charming beach town of Traverse City and take M-22 around the Peninsula. The drive is over 180 miles long from Traverse City to Manistee, but you don’t have to do the whole thing.
Prioritize stops at the Leelanau State Park, Leland, and The Sleeping Bears National Lakeshore – you will also find plenty of other photogenic stops along the way. Make sure you take your time and soak in the beauty!
Contributed by Rebecca of Veggies Abroad
Bar Harbor, Maine
The town of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island (in coastal Maine) is a great place to visit for anyone interested in seeing fall foliage in New England. Bar Harbor has plenty of comfy hotels and restaurants, and it’s also located right next to Acadia National Park, which is loaded with great hikes and walking trails where you can see the changing leaves.
Some of the best Acadia National Park trails include the Jordan Pond Loop and the Beehive Trail, which are both known for their stunning views of the area. In fact, you can see wonderful leaf colors on almost any walking trail near Bar Harbor! That’s just another reason it’s one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States.
Contributed by David & Intan of The World Travel Guy
Images of desert, cactus, and snakes understandably come to mind when most people think of Arizona, but did you know the high desert of northern Arizona is a prime location for colorful fall foliage?
Flagstaff sits in the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. It’s home to the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Coconino National Forest, and San Francisco Peaks, including Arizona’s tallest mountain Humphreys Peak.
In the winter it is snowy enough to be inaccessible for hiking and thus turns into a ski destination known as Snowbowl, and in autumn the golden aspen leaves render Flagstaff reminiscent of Colorado.
As the sun glistens against the vegetation on hiking trails such as Inner Basin, Bear Jaw/Abineau Loop, or Weatherford Trail, it’s no secret why Flagstaff is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States.
Contributed by Claire from The Detour Effect
Hudson Valley, New York
The Hudson River Valley in New York has spectacular fall foliage! The valley extends from New York City in the south to the state capital, Albany, in the north. It is bordered on the west side by the Catskill Mountains, and has several hilly areas, including the Shawangunk Mountains Ridge. This means that there is somewhere with stunning fall color from late September into early November, depending on altitude and latitude.
The leaves typically peak the middle two weekends in October in the mid-Hudson Valley (though this can vary), earlier further north and higher up, and later as you head south towards NYC. Top spots to see fall foliage include Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park, both around the Shawangunks, and up into the Catskills. However, the entire valley is filled with sugar maples and other trees that burst into bright fall colors.
A great place to stay is Mohonk Mountain House – a fantastical collection of Victoria-era buildings around a lake and surrounded by stunning fall foliage.
Contributed by James from Travel Collecting
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
For one of the most spectacular national parks to see fall color – Shenandoah National Park is an absolute must for anyone on the east coast who strives to see fall’s beautiful colors. With over 100 miles of scenic road to travel and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains alongside the park, it’s one of the best places to see fall foliage in the USA.
So you can time your visit just right, the park has a live webcam and uses social media to inform the public about the ever-changing fall foliage in the park. Be sure to visit the beautiful Shenandoah Caverns.
Since fall is their busiest season, it’s best to book in advance. A stay at the campgrounds is one option if you enjoy being outdoors. For more comfort, a stay at Skyland in Luray or the Shenandoah Yurt are both fantastic accommodation options.
Contributed by Diana from Travels in Poland
The abundant Aspens in the Colorado Rockies guarantee a vibrant golden show of colors in autumn.
Aspen are at their peak brightness for around a week however visitors will enjoy non-peak colors for up to a month in Colorado making it a great destination for fall foliage in the US.
Telluride, Colorado offers exciting golden aspens foliage in fall. The best way to experience the fall foliage in Telluride is to take the free gondola from Telluride Station to the Mountain Village. Enclosed gondola cars offers sweeping mountain views while gliding through groves of Aspens for the 15 minute ride.
However, Telluride can be expensive and somewhat remote for a weekend trip so most visitors enjoy day trips to Telluride.
Alternatively, the small town of Nederland Colorado is located within a few hours drive of Denver and offers world class hiking, biking and adventure sports. Fall foliage is equally as beautiful in Nederland as Telluride with much more affordable lodging and dining.
Contributed by Kara from Trying to Unwind
Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is a stunning area of Wisconsin all year long, but it’s especially beautiful during fall. The fall foliage in this area is breathtaking and there are plenty of fun things to do here.
The fall colors typically begin appearing by the end of September. Peak leaf-peeping season is usually mid-October.
To enjoy the colors, you can hike in any of the beautiful state and county parks, such as Peninsula State Park, Whitefish Dunes State Park, and Cave Point County Park (just to name a few spots). Another great option is to simply drive along Highway 42.
If you’re trying to figure out where to stay in Door County, Fish Creek is one of the most centrally located towns and is a popular place to stay for first-time visitors. Bailey’s Harbor is also very centrally located and is a quieter area of Door County than Fish Creek.
Contributed by Lindsey from Have Clothes, Will Travel
When you live in the south and crave a bit of fall, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the southerner’s go-to destination to experience it. Even when color in absent in other deeper south cities, Gatlinburg’s placement near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a sure fire way to see some color.
In town, take a ride on the 407 foot high Space Needle to get a bird’s eye view of fall foliage. Or cruise up the mountain on the Skylift chairs to the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America for a different perspective on leaf peeping.
In Gatlinburg’s cute downtown, you’ll have plenty of chances to get in the fall mood with apple fritters, candied apples, tasty fudge and a Gatlinburg staple – salt water taffy. Gatlinburg also hosts a yearly Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival that embraces the fall season with citywide decorations and displays through November.
Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Located about an hour southeast of Columbus, Ohio, you’ll find Hocking Hills State Park – the perfect place to enjoy all the colors that autumn brings along with it!
When you head out on hikes in this area, you’ll feel like you’re transported to a different world. You’ll be surrounded by massive rock formations with trees towering above you.
And in the fall, hiking on the trails with colorful leaves falling around you feels magical. The hikes range in difficulty and length. Some are even handicap accessible, so everyone can enjoy this beautiful area!
There are also many unique places to stay when visiting Hocking Hills, such as these geodomes that are open year round and allow you to immerse yourself in nature while still having all the comforts of home.
Contributed by Jenn of Those Johnson Boys
Seattle, Washington is known for its beautiful mountains, bayside views, and endless pine tree forests – not exactly for its fall foliage. But this is, in fact, a huge oversight! The areas surrounding Seattle have spectacular fall foliage, from the shrubs and wildflowers blanketing the ground that turn blazing colors, come autumn.
For example, the North Cascades, about two hours north of Seattle, are renowned for their spectacular fall colors.
You can enjoy the autumn foliage on any of the awesome hikes in the area; Heather Maple Pass Loop is one of the most famous, which takes you through countless groves of larch trees, a special type of conifer, found only in alpine settings, that turns golden in the fall before its needles fall off for winter.
Back in your home base of Seattle after your leaf peeping adventures, be sure to stop at Pike Place Market to shop for some autumnal flowers and have a cozy cup of coffee while you overlook Elliot Bay and keep an eye out for orcas, playing in the nearby water.
You can even book a stay at the Inn in the Market, the only hotel, well, inside the market.
Contributed by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Some of the best things to do in Charlottesville Virginia are even better when fall foliage covers the hills and mountains surrounding this historic city. Visitors can take in the Autumn colors while touring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, which is perched on a hill overlooking the city.
Nearby, Jefferson Vineyards and Carter Mountain Orchard offer more great views combined with Virginia wine, cider, and apple picking (don’t miss the apple cider donuts!).
Colorful trees are dotted throughout the downtown as well. Stay in the Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown Charlottesville and you are just steps from the many shops and restaurants lining C’ville’s excellent pedestrian mall. The Draftsman is another great downtown hotel close to the University of Virginia.
Take a short walk to see the maple trees on The Lawn at UVA, a UNESCO World Heritage site. If time allows, visit nearby Crabtree Falls, a stunning place for fall hiking.
Contributed by Julie from Fun in Fairfax VA
Sonoma Valley, California
For a unique take on fall colors in the US, look no further than the Sonoma Valley in Northern California. While this area is filled with evergreen redwood trees, the maples turn a lovely shade of orange and red. However, the real stars of the show in California’s wine country are the vineyards!
Acres upon acres of rolling hills are covered in vineyards growing wine grapes for your delicious Cabernets and Pinots but after harvest, the vines get into the fall mood and start to change their colors too. October is prime time for fall colors, with peak season varying between earlier or later in the month depending on the year.
Highway 12 offers great views and many wineries to choose from to stop for a wine tasting and stroll through the rows of vines. Benziger Winery offers educational tours and their property is stunning. Ledson Winery is also a show-stopper with its castle -like winery and gorgeous vineyards foreground.
Taking a scenic drive out Dry Creek Road through Alexander Valley in Healdsburg for photo opportunities and leaf peeping is also a great choice. Stop at Ferrari-Carrano for a tasting out on their beautiful patio with views that are to die for. Drive out further to Francis Ford Coppola Winery to have dinner at Rustic in the middle of the hills.
Contributed by Sierra from Island and Alpine
Franconia Notch, New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, you’ll find stunning colors everywhere and Franconia Notch is no exception. Franconia Notch is the name of a spectacular, 8-mile mountain pass that spans both sides of the I-93. The state park is named after the mountain pass, which is located in the heart of the White Mountains National Forest.
Inside the park, be sure to walk the 2-mile Flume Trail loop through Flume Gorge, where you’ll see granite walls and cascading waterfalls amidst golden fall colors. At sunset, park at Echo Lake Beach and hike the Artist’s Bluff Trail for spectacular views of the autumn leaves while overlooking Echo Lake.
Contributed by Jina from By Jina Lee
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado – often called the Gateway to the Rockies – brims with fall color beginning in September and peaking around the first weeks in October. This quaint town makes the list of the best places to see fall foliage in the US because the panoramic views in autumn are outstanding.
Besides seasonal fall festivals, there are plenty of other things to do in Estes Park. Some of the most fun activities are visiting the famous – and haunted – Stanley Hotel, riding the aerial tramway (check for seasonal hours), kayaking, boating, or paddle boarding on Lake Estes, perusing downtown shops, boutiques and candy stores and spotting elk roaming through town.
When visiting to Estes Park, make sure to also visit nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. In the park, discover the best views of fall foliage as you drive Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center – the highest visitor center in the National Park System.
Estes Park still maintains its small town charm. You won’t find many big name hotels but will love the variety of cabins and condos available to rent.
Contributed by Jolayne of simplyjolayne
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
With almost eighty percent of the state covered in National Forest land, West Virginia is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States. And you couldn’t pick a more perfect spot to leaf peep than Harpers Ferry.
Nestled in the mountains at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, this picturesque small town – that’s also a national historic park managed by the National Park Service – is one of the most historic towns in the US.
Among many other unique things, the town is home to 19th-century buildings setting the perfect backdrop for fall foliage. Beyond the historic component, the famous Appalachian Trail passes right through town giving ample opportunity to experience fall foliage on a hike or leisurely walk.
In town, stay at one of the several quaint bed and breakfasts. Start your morning with breakfast – or brunch – and coffee at Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee before exploring the John Brown’s Fort and lower town with all the notable buildings. Climb the Appalachian Trail steps to Jefferson Rock for the best views of downtown and see why our third president declared “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”.
Starting in late September, peak foliage is mid to late October. Check out West Virginia Tourism’s website for a fall foliage live report.
If you’re looking for the best place to see fall foliage in the western United States, make sure you add Portland, Oregon to your list. You don’t even have to leave downtown to see some incredible colors – Laurelhurst Park, Forest Park, and Mt. Tabor park all have beautiful colors.
However if you are willing to venture out a little further, there are beautiful fall colors along the Columbia River Gorge, in the Willamette Valley wine region, at Silver Falls State Park and near Mt. Hood. You can see many colors from a scenic drive or check out some of the best hikes near Portland for amazing leaf peeping.
If you’re headed to Portland, make sure to pack your rain coat as fall can be quite wet. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, there are many lovely hotels downtown.
Contributed by Andrea from BeaUTAHful World
North Shore, Minnesota
The North Shore of Lake Superior is one of the first places to see fall colors in the United States. By the last weekend of September, colors have usually peaked in this region of northeastern Minnesota.
Eight state parks and miles of backroads through the Superior National Forest means endless opportunities for leaf peeping on the 140 mile stretch of Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth to the Canadian border near Grand Portage.
The Lutsen area, about 75 miles from Duluth, is especially known for its gorgeous red maple stands. Favorite autumn North Shore activities including taking the gondola to Moose Mountain and the Summit Chalet at Lutsen Mountains, hiking off the Gunflint Trail, hitting up the independent shops in small towns like Grand Marais and Tofte, and enjoying endless autumn vistas overlooking area lakes.
Contributed by Ada from Beyond Yellow Brick Blog
Visit Ponca, Arkansas and the nearby Buffalo National River in fall and you’d swear you’re not even in the south. The popping colors, the wildlife – yes, there’s an elk herd – and the crisp autumn air makes this area one of the most desirable and best places to see fall foliage in the USA. Let alone in the southern USA.
Located in the northwest part of the “The Natural State”, this region is full of outdoorsy activities and things to do like canoeing, hiking, fishing and horseback riding. It’s also one of the best places to chase some of those impressive Arkansas waterfalls.
Your first stop in the area should be the Buffalo Outdoor Center. The knowledgeable staff there have everything you need for your visit including cabin and equipment rentals, a store and deli, plus info and maps about the best activities in the area. For adrenaline junkies – there’s a wilderness zip line course that will have you buzzing through the treetops.
Ponca is an easy road trip from Little Rock – another one of my favorite fall cities – or could be included in an northwest Arkansas or Arkansas State Park road trip. Within the Buffalo National River boundaries, don’t miss the Boxley Valley Historic District and the Lost Valley trail.
Sun Valley, Idaho
While Idaho’s Sun Valley is beautiful at any time of year, it really comes alive in autumn. The crowds that usually pack the little mountain towns during summer and winter months dissipate as the rolling hills turn golden, reaching its peak in late October.
More than seventy percent of Idaho is comprised of protected public lands, so there’s no shortage of towering trees and sweeping landscapes to explore here. Top recommendations for starting points include Galena Lodge, Draper Preserve, Townsend Gulch, and the North Fork Visitor Center.
For a truly spectacular view that’s worth the effort, spend an afternoon hiking to the top of Bald Mountain for eagle-eyed views across Big Wood River and beyond.
Contributed by Rose of Rose Campau Travels
You may travel to Oregon in fall to discover the amazing color at the coast, but it may surprise you to find hidden treasures along the way. Fall is a stunning time to visit Oregon.
Sherwood, Oregon is about 30 minutes by car from Portland and approximately two hours from the coast. You’ll love the beautiful trees that are popping with brilliant reds, bright yellows, and outstanding oranges. In fact, Sunset Boulevard in Sherwood is brimming with color up and down the street throughout the season.
There are plenty of things to do in and around Sherwood. Some fun contenders include touring Champoeg State Heritage Park. The park has a museum, pioneer town and hiking trails. It’s especially fun in fall.
Or plan a visit a local winery to soak up the season in a glass of wine or two. Alloro Vineyards is close to the city and Potter’s Vineyard offers wine and art. The vineyard showcases local artists and hand-crafted clay art.
If you are sticking close by to Sherwood, don’t forget your camera to take pictures of the amazing city streets with all the fall foliage. You can overnight in Sherwood but the best way to enjoy fall foliage in the area is by visiting Sherwood for the day and then booking a quaint cottage at the Oregon coast.
Contributed by Jolayne of simplyjolayne
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the United States
Does our list have you ready to pack you bags yet? If so, be sure to add a few of these destinations to your autumn travels. And if you already have a favorite spot to add to this list of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
See you on the road!
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