Fall Foliage in the US: 21 of the Best Leaf-Peeping Destinations

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Fall in the United States is undeniably beautiful. The leaves begin to transform from a lush greenery to a colorful blend of yellow, orange, and red that will delight you from all angles. Whether you are peering down from the peak of a mountain, driving through a leaf covered highway, or admiring the views from the water, you can find unique falls featuring stunning fall foliage in the US.

This year more than in previous years people are looking to get outdoors in nature, away from the crowds, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Below find 21 of the best fall destinations in the US!

NORTHEASTERN US

The Catskill Mountains, New York

The Catskills region of New York is made up of 6,000 square miles with thirty five mountain peaks, making it one of the best places to visit to see fall foliage in the US. The Catskills feature hikes for all hiking skill levels, making it perfect for beginners, families with young children, and advanced hikers.

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: The last two weeks of September to Mid October

The Catskills, fall foliage in the US
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The Catskills.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

The White Mountains of New Hampshire draw in crowds from around the world to see the blend of red, golden yellow, orange, and scattered green seen throughout the area. The White Mountains offer many hiking opportunities, a 34 mile drive through the White Mountain National Forest, and plenty of adventure and family fun opportunities.

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: Mid September to Mid October

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park is one of the most scenic locations on the US east coast and when the leaves begin to change into an array of red, yellow, and orange you will be even more amazed. The park offers plenty of hiking opportunities, scenic drives, quaint shops in Bar Harbor, and lobster to enjoy!

Top Things to Do:

  • Go for a hike through the park: Jordan Pond Trail, Bubble Rock, Ocean Path, Wonder Land Trail
  • Drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain
  • Visit Thunder Hole
  • Take a fall foliage cruise (reopening fall 2021)
  • Enjoy lunch in Bar Harbor

When to Visit: Early to mid October

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Acadia National Park. Photo Credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires is a mountainous area in Western Massachusetts. The area is well known for outdoor adventure, art institutes, and its stunning fall foliage. You can find plenty of outdoor adventures, art and historical museums to visit, and plenty of live entertainment (many of which are being offered outdoors this year due to COVID).

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: October, with the peak in mid-October

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The Berkshires. Image by Theo Dawson from Pixabay

Mad River Valley, Vermont

Vermont is one of the most popular destinations for fall leaf-peeping and it doesn’t take much to see why! The Mad River Valley is no exception and brings visitors breathtaking views of vibrant red, orange, and yellow colors. In the Mad Valley you can find plenty of outdoor adventure and family fun options.

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: Late September to Mid October

Adirondacks, New York

The Adirondack Park of New York state encompasses over 6,000 miles and has over 2,000 miles of hiking trails. That in combination with the spectacular orange, red, and yellow autumn colors make the Adirondacks one of the best destinations for fall foliage in the US. Aside from the hiking trails, you can find many outdoor adventures, spaces to relax and enjoy the scenery, and scenic drives and railroad trips.

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: Late September to Mid October

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Panther Mountain, Adirondacks.

SOUTHEASTERN US

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Sitting along a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia is the Shenandoah National Park. The park is home to the 105 mile Skyline Drive that is lined with rich red, orange, yellow, and green colors making for one of the most scenic destinations for fall foliage in the US. Take the scenic drive and stop at the many overlooks or go for a hike on the many trails that will take you to stunning views. You may also run into some wildlife, including many species of birds, deer, squirrels and black bear.

Top Things to Do:

When To Visit: Mid September to Mid October

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Photo Credit: Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is of on the most popular destinations for fall foliage in the US. The parkway is a 469 mile long road that ranges from Virginia to North Carolina and connects the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. The elevation changes along the road make it the perfect drive for taking in a variety of tree types and colors.

Top Things to Do:

  • Visit a waterfalls: Linville Falls, Crabtree Falls
  • Stop at the many look out areas: Chestoa View, Beacon Heights, Green Knob Overlook, Mt. Mitchell peak, Mills River Valley Overlook, Looking Glass Rock Overlook
  • Go for a hike: Flat Rock Trail, Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam Knob, Devil’s Courthouse, Black Ridge Trail
  • Visit Craggy Gardens
  • Visit the Folk Art Center

When to Visit: Late September through October, with peak season the first two weeks of October. The higher elevations will begin to change first.

Blue Ridge Parkway, fall foliage in the US
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Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo Credit: Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/ Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains lie on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. The mountains are filled with sugar maples, hickories, sweetgum, scarlet oaks, red maples and nearly 100 other species of trees that all transform into those brilliant fall colors.

Top Things to Do:

  • Attend a fall festival: The Smoky Mountain Harvest Fest, Dollywood Harvest Festival, Fall Harvest at the Island
  • Set out for a hike: Gregory Bald Trail, Basins Creek Trail, Rich Mountain Loop, Meigs Creek Trail, Middle Prong Trail
  • Go horseback riding
  • Go for a scenic drive and visit the many overlooks: Newfound Gap Road, Clingman’s Dome Road, Roaring Fork Motor Road, Morton Overlook, Oconoluftee Valley Overlook
  • Attend a Halloween event: Gatlinburg Ghost Tours, The Mysterious Mansion, Outbreak: Dread The Undead
  • Wildlife Viewing: black bears, white tailed deer, elk, wild turkey, fox, barn owls

When To Visit: Mid October to early November

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Great Smoky Mountains. Image by Maike und Björn Bröskamp from Pixabay

Great River Drive, Multiple States

The Great River Drive follows alongside the Mississippi River and passes through 10 US states in total, making it difficult to classify as it runs through the mid west and ends in the Southeast. The Great River Drive is an epic road trip with a total distance of 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the drive there are plenty of stops for scenic overlooks, hikes, and family fun.

Top Things to Do:

  • Stop at the many overlooks: Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota, Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin, Pike’s Peak State Park in Iowa, Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Illinois, Old Mississippi River Bridge Scenic Overlook in Missouri
  • Explore Fort Snelling in Minnesota
  • Visit the Buffalo Bill Museum in Iowa
  • Stop at the Historic New Orleans Collection
  • Enjoy the many small towns along the drive

When to Visit: The best time to visit varies based on the section of the road you are visiting, but late September through October will boast the best fall foliage scenes.

Great River Drive, fall foliage in the US
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Mississippi River. Photo Credit: Image by Deb Vadnais from Pixabay

Vogel State Park, Georgia

Vogel State Park is a 233 acre park at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest of Georgia. Visitors will be greeted by the classic yellow, orange, and red autumn colors as the Blue Ridge Mountains begin their change. The park offers plenty of hiking trails and the fall months are a great time for attending festivals.

Top Things to Do:

  • Go for a hike: Bear Hair Gap loop,  Coosa Backcountry Trail
  • Visit the nearby Reece Farm and Heritage Center
  • Visit the Brasstown Bald observation deck
  • Enjoy some horseback riding
  • Attend the Indian Summer Festival
  • Attend the Fall Festival in late October

When to Visit: Late October to early November

MIDWEST US

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located between the Ohio cities of Akron and Cleveland and along the Cuyahoga River. The park is a great escape from city life and in the fall becomes a stunning display of colors. Inside the park you can find many hiking trails and waterfalls to view, a living history museum, and a scenic railroad.

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: Mid to late October

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The Upper Peninsula in Michigan is home to more than 20 state parks that feature a variety of tree types, including ash, birch, beech, aspen, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarack. In the fall, the trees paint a colorful, popping image for visitors toThe Upper Peninsula is a great destination for hiking or boating to take in the fall colors. You will also find plenty of wineries where you can taste the state’s most popular wines.

Top Things to Do:

  • Visit the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
  • Stop at one (or more!) of the many wineries and try state’s crisp Pinot Grigios, fruity Rieslings and dry Pinot Noirs
  • Go apple picking
  • Enjoy a hike: Porcupine Mountains, the shores of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
  • Spend some time canoeing: Indian River Canoe Trail, Keweenaw Water Trail
  • View the Northern Lights (on rare occasions!)

When to Visit: Mid-September to Mid-October

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Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Photo Credit: Image by semiproflyfishing from Pixabay

Glacier National Park, Montana

Fall time is one of the best times to visit Glacier National Park not only for the brilliant golden yellow larch trees but also the limited crowds you will find. The mix of the evergreen trees with the yellow larches makes for a great scene. Wildlife will also be abundant during the fall months.

Top Things to Do:

  • Take a bike ride along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Take a cruise with the Glacier Park Boat Company
  • Go for a hike: Cedars Loop Trail, Hidden Lake trail, Highline Trail
  • Visit Lake McDonald
  • Visit Avalanche Gorge and Avalanche Lake
  • Go star gazing after dark
  • Visit the Many Glacier Valley

When to Visit: Late September to Late October.

Glacier National Park, fall foliage in the US
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Glacier National Park. Photo Credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Pere Marquette State Park, Illinois

Pere Marquette State Park has been described as a leaf-peepers paradise. The 8,050 acre park is located in Southwestern Illinois near the Mississippi River. Along with the gorgeous fall colors, you will also find many of outdoor adventures and activities to enjoy with the whole family.

Top Things to Do:

When to Visit: Mid October

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Cluster State Park in South Dakota along the Black Hills in South Dakota. Custer State Park is home to many scenic drives and in the fall months the golden and orange colors of the leaves only adds to the beauty of the drives. You can also find many delightful hikes throughout the park and plenty of wildlife. Be sure to take the 10 mile drive and visit Mount Rushmore.

Top Things to Do:

  • Drive along Needles Highway
  • Drive the Wildlife Loop Road
  • See the Begging Burros at the end of Wildlife Loop Road
  • Visit Sylvan Lake
  • Go for a hike: Sylvan Lake Shore Trail, Black Elk Peak Trail
  • If you have the time take the 10 mile drive to Mount Rushmore
  • Attend the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup in late September

When to Visit: Late September to early October

Custer State Park
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Custer State Park Needles. Image by heatherthunen from Pixabay

WESTERN US

Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, Utah

The Logan Canyon Scenic Byway comes to life in the fall with the leaves changing into yellow, scarlet and brown hues that contrasted with the evergreens and blue waterways of the area, making it one of the best destination for fall foliage in the US. The byway is a 41 mile road that passes through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Top Things to Do:

  • Go for a hike: there are plenty of trailheads accessible along the drive
  • Stroll the streets of historic downtown Logan
  • Visit the American West Heritage Center
  • Visit Bear Lake
  • Go star gazing at Ogden Valley’s North Fork Park
  • Visit the Spiral Jetty

When to Visit: Late September to Mid October

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Fall is the perfect time to experience Grand Teton National Park with few crowds and the brilliant golden yellow of the changing trees. Along with the breathtaking scenes you can still enjoy many outdoor adventures, including kayaking and rafting, and enjoy some wildlife tours.

Top Things to Do:

  • Enjoy a ranger led program
  • Go for a hike: Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls, the Phelps Lake Overlook and the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve’s Lake Creek, Woodland Trail Loop
  • Enjoy a wildlife tour
  • Spend the day kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding on one of the many lakes
  • Take a guided raft tour down Snake River

When to Visit: Early September to early October

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Grand Teton National Park. Photo Credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain National Park sits in Northern Colorado and spans across the continental divide. At any time of the year, visitors can enjoy scenic drives and 360 degree views from the parks peaks, but in the fall visitors will be even more delighted when the park transforms into a golden color as one of the best destinations for fall foliage in the US. Inside the park you can find plenty of hikes, waterfalls, and scenic drives to enjoy.

Top Things to Do:

  • Go for a hike: Bear Lake, Cub Lake, Deer Mountain, Twin Sisters Peaks, Flattop Mountain
  • Visit the many waterfalls: Adams Falls, Alberta Falls, Cascade Falls, Timberline Falls, Ouzel Falls
  • Take a scenic drive around the park on Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road
  • Take a ranger guided tour
  • Attend the Autumn Gold Festival or Elk Fest

When to Visit: Early to late September

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Rocky Mountain NP. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge sits along the border of Washington state an Oregon. A beauty to behold at any time of the year, the gorge’s beauty is only enhanced during the fall months when the many firs, twisted pines, cottonwoods, big-leaf maples, and Oregon ash trees begin to turn a golden yellow color. The gorge is full of outdoor adventures and scenic views.

Top Things to Do:

  • Take a scenic drive along the Columbia River
  • Go for a hike along the gorge
  • Kayak or raft down the river
  • Visit Multnomah Falls
  • Visit the Vista House at Crown Point (interior closed due to COVID)
  • Try your hand at kiteboarding

When to Visit: Mid September through Mid October is the best time to visit for peak foliage

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

Although New Mexico may not generally be considered as a prime spot for fall foliage viewing, the enchanted circle scenic byway drive is the perfect drive for viewing aspen trees that have transformed into golden yellow and dark orange colors. Aside from the aspens you will also find some cottonwoods that have changed from a range from red to orange. The drive encompasses Wheeler Peak and many mesa and mountain views.

Top Things to Do:

  • Take the 83 mile loop drive that begins and ends in Taos, New Mexico
  • Visit the Red River Fish Hatchery
  • Stop at Artesanos de Questa
  • Visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Explore the old mining town of Elizabethtown

When to Visit: Late September to early October

The US is glowing with the red, orange, and golden yellow colors of Autumn. Find some of the best destinations for fall foliage in the US.
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25 Comments

  1. Wow, USA seriously looks beautiful during the fall. But more than that I am amazed to know there are so many things to do outdoor. It can be a good rendezvous with the nature along with some form of exercise.

  2. So many gorgeous fall foliage pictures! I’ve been to some of these places – Great Smoky Nat Park and Custer State Park. Would love to see these in Fall through. Leaf-peeping around the USA is such a dreamy thing to do!

  3. I absolutely LOVE fall foliage! I live pretty close to Columbia River Gorge, but have never actually been there. I have so many places to visit now! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This makes me so homesick for our house in Virginia! Fall is magical on the east coast. I’m going to pin this for when we can get back for a visit again.

  5. What a thorough list but I think that out of all those places I would love to visit Shenandoah National Park first. Do you know if there is camping allowed in it? I see that you can enjoy hiking but it would be a dream to be able to spend the night safely in it.

  6. I love fall colours so much! I live on the west coast so we don’t get as much here. I really want to visit some of those East Coast destinations one fall as I think it would be so beautiful to explore New England during that time 🙂

  7. I love fall; it’s my favorite season. I love fall colors, reds, yellows, browns, and drooping leaves. I like walking on fallen leaves. Your list is impressive. I would love to see all these autumn places. Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park are places from the top of my bucket list. I hope I will visit them in the autumn.

  8. It is such a great list of places worth seeing in the U.S. in the fall. It’s great that you are also giving tips on what to do in each of these places, how to spend your time, and the most exciting trails. A beneficial post in planning your fall trip!

  9. Fall is such a beautiful time of year for a roadtrip and I had one planned for now to drive to Acadia (from Canada). Judging from this post, there are many more road trips that I need to add to my list for when the borders open up again (like the Glacier National Park).

  10. Once before my lifetime, I want to experience fall in US and Canada. Such a beautiful compilation of places and things to do in each one. I am adding all of these into my bucket list, and pinning this post for my future reference.

  11. I wish I was close to all these destinations right now. The Netherlands definitely has a good fall season but the US and Canada too have the best forests and places to admire the changing colors of the leaves.

  12. Wow a ton of awesome spots throughout the states. Growing up in New Jersey, I always loved the fall season for all the beautiful colors!

  13. Fall is so colorful out there. I love the myriad of colors and the temperature seems perfect for exploring the various places you have shared. Hiking in some of these sounds amazing and given the new normal and the little rest that our nature has had, I bet the views are going to be just awesome. Fall festival in Smoky mountain sounds intriguing. Will be reading up more on that.

  14. Fantastic thorough post!! We don’t get a lot of fall foliage on the West Coast so I’ve always wanted to plan a road trip to the East Coast, especially to the Catskills, I’ve only been there during the winter. But am waiting until next year when more things are open like ziplining on Bobcat Mountain, the Ben & Jerry’s factory, and the Vista House.

  15. Fall is such a beautiful time of year, and these pictures are stunning! I wish I could travel to the US right now, but for this year I’ll have to enjoy the leaves from up North in Canada. Thanks for the suggestions of where to go next year 😉

  16. Fall is my absolute favorite season of the year and I’ve always wanted to do an extensive fall foliage type road trip through the States. All of these destinations are so stunning and I honestly can’t pick which I’d want to see more. The Adirondacks Balloon Festival sounds super fun and I’d love to do a hike in that area. Glacier National Park is gorgeous too. I’m definitely bookmarking this for next year’s trip planning!

  17. Oh my God such stunning pictures. I love autumn as well as they are so pretty and colourful. I would love to go on a hike in the Glacier National Park, that definitely seems like a dream to me. I wish I could just teleport myself to one of these places right now and explore these beautiful places.

  18. wow, every place you listed feels magical and i just love the fact that you also indicated when is the best period to explore. Thanks for that! 🙂

  19. I really want to see fall colors in US and all places look amazingly beautiful with so many shades of oranges & reds. Last year in September I was in Illinois but it was too early to see fall colors. Next time I would surely plan for some of the destinations mentioned above. Glacier National Park really look beautiful with wonderful orange shades and a picture perfect location. Panther Mountain, Adirondacks is also photogenic.

  20. I miss these colors! I am American but living in Mexico so it’s been a while since I’ve seen something like this. Fall doesn’t really exist in MX lol. I plan to go to Porcupine Mountains, what’s the best campsite? I heard Union Bay is good but maybe it’s too far from the park? Thanks for the tips, Melissa!

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