Here is a list of our picks for the most idyllic spots in the U.S. for viewing fall leaves. Some are off the beaten path, some are on more popular, scenic routes for you to enjoy, whether on foot or by car. We’ve also included the dates for peak foliage viewing for each location.
Tell us in the comments below about your favorite fall foliage destinations!
Includes New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C.
For fall foliage, New England can’t be beat. And anyone who has visited Maine knows that Acadia National Park, and the coastal towns along the ocean, provide everything a leaf peeper could ask for. But move inland a bit and you’ll find that Rangeley, in the Western part of the state, offers the perfect mix of brilliant colors; the reds and greens embedded in the mountains provide a perfect backdrop to the contrasting deep blue of the lakes, creating a truly breathtaking fall foliage experience. Peak Viewing: October 1-17
Letchworth State Park, located about 35 miles southwest of Rochester, is renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” and is considered one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. Visitors come to this 14,340-acre park to view the dramatic 600-foot cliffs, and during fall foliage season, the colors add even more spectacular drama. Peak Viewing: Autumn leaves in the region peak during the third and fourth week of October. For up-to-the-minute color information, check out the New York State Fall Foliage Report.
The Kancamagus Scenic Highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, known by the locals as “The Kanc,” provides some of the most spectacular fall foliage viewing in New England. The Kanc’s 35-mile scenic pass that connects Lincoln to Conway (Route 112) has some tricky hairpin turns and no gas stations, so be prepared. It does have plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the grandeur of the vistas. Peak Viewing: Sept. 28-Oct. 9
Includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin
Encompassing 125,000 acres, the BSFNRA is located in some of the most rugged territories on the Cumberland Plateau, in the Eastern portion of the state. Big South Fork of the Cumberland River passes through 90 miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs. The wildflowers and fall foliage of this terrain make for colorful viewing. Be sure to hop aboard The Big South Fork Open Air Scenic Railway, which makes runs during October foliage season. Peak Viewing: (Eastern) Oct. 5-21; (Western) Oct. 12-28.
Wisconsin’s farmlands, lakes, streams, and rivers, combined with an abundance of oak, maple and hickory trees, make it a popular destination for viewing fall leaves. For over a century, leaf peepers have been flocking to the Lake Geneva area in Autumn. A trio of Wisconsin quiet rustic roads (Routes 11, 12 and 36) make for nearly 20 miles of scenic fall driving. Also consider booking one of the foliage cruises on the Lake for a truly colorful experience. Peak Viewing: October 5 – 14
Includes Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, West Virginia, Virginia
Virginia’s Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway that runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The speed limit is 35 mph with 75 overlooks to pull over and enjoy the sights of the Shenandoah Valley below. Often called one of America’s favorite mountain drives, Skyline Drive is “good for the soul.” Peak Viewing: October 12-28; Foliage Updates found at virginia.org
You’d be hard-pressed to find any terrain more perfectly orchestrated for fall color viewing than the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Lots of sumac adds to the brilliant reds but the Park boasts an amazing diversity of trees and terrain that add to the color spectrum — some 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies. To enjoy them, drive the Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway. Peak Viewing: Mid to late October, depending on elevation. Keep tabs on the foliage via their high-elevation web cam.
The highest point in Alabama, the top of Mount Cheaha sits 2,407 feet above sea level. Called “Chaha” (or high place) by the Creek Indians, the mountaintop is now home to Cheaha State Park, a resort park complete with amenities at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Head up to the observation tower for a panoramic view of the autumn leaves’ vibrant colors. Peak Viewing: October 19 – November 4. Can’t make it in person? Check out their Foliage SkyCam!
Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana
Fort Ransom State Park, which takes its name from an 1860s military fort named for Civil War General T.E.G. Ransom, is located 34 miles south of Valley City, in the midst of the scenic and heavily wooded Sheyenne River Valley. In autumn the trees within the 887-acre park are ablaze in colors ranging from golden yellow to a brilliant red, with the Sheyenne River snaking through all of it. The best spot to take it all in is the Peterson Hills Trail. Peak viewing: October 5 – 21
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the fall is a must. Starting in late August, aspens begin their annual “quaking,” a term to describe their unique leaves that change to a golden-yellow hue and shimmer in the wind. The Rocky Mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop to it all. Take Colorado 7 past the 14,255-foot Longs Peak to Estes Park (which is not really a park in the traditional sense, but described as a “glacial cut, level valley between mountain ranges”). Peak Viewing: The month of September through early October.
Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico
Hawksbill Crag of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area of the Ozark National Forest is easily one of the most photographed and recognizable features in Arkansas. It’s an easy 3.0-mile round trip hike and offers scenic vistas, huge boulders, beautiful waterfalls, and colorful wildflowers. A little difficult to find from the road, but so worth it. Some of the best vistas anywhere. Peak Viewing: October 12 – 28
Washington, Oregon, Idaho
Washington State has such diversity of flora that fall color viewing can only be described as “spectacular.” Fall is considered the best time to visit Olympic National Park, which showcases the deep reds of vine maples and brilliant yellows of the aspens, so you’ll get what you are looking for, whether hiking or driving, in your foliage quest. The terrain is rugged, but the views are outstanding, with wildlife aplenty (listen for the bugling of Roosevelt Elk). Consider hiking in the Hoh Rainforest or along Hurricane Ridge, the most easily accessible. Peak Viewing: October 12 – 28
California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona
The Logan Canyon Byway has been called “the byway of all seasons,” although this stretch of Us Highway 89 that leads to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, is particularly stunning in the fall. Visit First Damn along the Logan River and enjoy a true autumnal assault on all the senses. Peak Viewing: The first trees that start to turn in Logan Canyon are the mountain and canyon maples, which generally start their fiery transformation at the beginning of October.
This may come as a surprise to many fall foliage enthusiasts but The Big Sur Coast Highway, also known as US Highway 1, approximately 100 miles south of San Francisco, rivals anything on the East Coast for fall foliage grandeur. The narrow, windy highway is tricky for some but offers panoramic views of the ocean, crashing waves, rocky cliffs and bold fall colors making this destination an unforgettable experience. Add in brilliant red shrubbery and the rolling autumn mists, and it’s a leaf peeper’s dream come true! Peak Viewing: October 15 – 31
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