The Best Places to See Fall Colors in the USA

White church with a tall steeple in Stowe, Vermont with the trees in full fall color

pdbreen / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The U.S. is full of national and state parks, scenic byways, and other places to view beautiful fall colors. Covering everywhere from Michigan to Colorado and Alaska, our state-by-state guide to the autumn foliage spells out the numerous adventures you can take in search of gorgeous leaves changing around the country. New England is one of the top spots to enjoy fall foliage in the U.S. From Connecticut to Vermont and on up into Maine, dozens of forests, ample parks, and bucolic towns put on colorful displays. The Foliage Central Twitter account is a great source for news on autumn activities and leaf-changing forecasts. Wherever you go in the country, it can be hard to forecast the dates when the colors will be at their best, so it is helpful to call the local foliage hotline for your given destination.

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Mid-Atlantic

Delaware Water Gap panorama in Autumn

rabbit75_ist / Getty Images

From Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Pennsylvania Dutch country, several unique places in the Mid-Atlantic region have great autumn displays, which can make a perfect day trip. The Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area has many state and national parks, national forests, and historic estates, such as Mount Vernon, where you can take in the scenery. 

For those living or traveling in Pennsylvania, explore the fall foliage drives in the Western part of the state for suggested spectacular nature excursions you can take in the Pittsburgh area. Another particularly good place for nature lovers is the Poconos, a popular vacation spot in Pennsylvania.

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The Southeast

Dense clouds of fog roll through the Smoky Mountains in autumn, with the forest trees showing their brilliantly colored leaves.
Howard Grill / Getty Images

The Great Smoky Mountains, on the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina, is one of the last areas in the country to show fall color. In this region, fall foliage typically starts peaking in late September at higher elevations, and then the color creeps down the mountains through October and November. The Smokies are a top spot for seeing fall color in the South, and northern Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains and state parks offer beautiful foliage. Hikers can go to Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, Georgia, to see the lovely fall colors and the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast along part of the Appalachian Trail.

Alabama is a nice state for getting away from the heat and soaking up the gorgeous autumn foliage as well. North Alabama's Little River Canyon National Preserve and Yellow Creek Falls are some good viewing spots. Enjoy the foliage in Bankhead National Forest—where the Sipsey Fork, the state's only National Wild and Scenic River, is located. Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center is an additional place to see the rainbow of colors and learn about history in Lawrence County. The park has artifacts dating as far back as 10,000 B.C. 

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The Midwest

A tree-lined road in full fall color in Harbor Springs, Michigan
Jouko van der Kruijssen / Getty Images

October is the time to be in the Midwest. You'll see peak color from mid-September through late October in Minnesota and Michigan. In the Minneapolis–St. Paul area, a popular spot is the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum at the University of Minnesota in Chaska. Michigan's Highway M-22 along the Lake Michigan shoreline of the Leelanau Peninsula offers 116 colorful miles (187 kilometers) for viewing the foliage. Michigan also is a great place to take a train, including the Coopersville and Marne Railway Famous Pumpkin Train for the kids, which features entertaining characters and a stop at a pumpkin patch. 

Iowa, Ohio, and most of Indiana and Illinois usually show off their colors in mid-October. Missouri has its lovely rainbow of orange, yellow, red, and purple foliage around late October. Taking Highway 94 from Hermann to St. Charles in Missouri also gives visitors a chance to explore German heritage, bed and breakfasts, and the Hermann Wine Trail featuring seven wineries.

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The West

Redwoods in Yosemite National Park

Vincent Lock / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Fall in the Western U.S. is best experienced through Colorado and Wyoming, where you'll find the Rockies and the Tetons mountain ranges. The fall foliage in Colorado peaks from mid-September to mid-October. Golden Gate Canyon State Park, 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Denver, is a lovely place to see the state's beloved golden aspens, which you can also catch from a scenic historic ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad traversing through the almost two-million-acre San Juan National Forest. Our guide to top U.S. National Parks to view fall foliage has listed the Tetons as one of the best places in the country to see autumn color.

Another great region to view the autumn leaves spans from the Pacific Northwest down to parts of northern and central California. Our primer on fall foliage in the Pacific Northwest has detailed information on Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. Idaho's scenic byways are prime viewing spots for fall foliage from late September through October. National parks and forests are some of the best places to catch the beauty in Montana from late September through the middle of October. In Washington, you may want to visit the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade Mountains from the middle of September through mid-October. Oregon's scenic highways usually offer great foliage viewing from mid-September through mid-October, depending on humidity and fog density. If you're heading to California, consider visiting Yosemite National Park in the fall.

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05 of 05

Alaska

A shot of one moose calf wandering in red bushes at Denali National Park, Alaska
Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon / Getty Images

Fall in the U.S. comes first in its northernmost and largest (by area) state. Alaska is rich with wilderness and includes eight national parks where you can view spurts of yellow, orange, and red among the evergreens as early as during the first weeks of September.

To see not only the highest mountain peak in the country but also some beautiful fall colors, head to Denali National Park and Preserve, part of the Alaska Range. In addition, the park is home to wildlife such as moose, grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou. Also full of wildlife and lovely landscapes including colorful foliage, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in southeast Alaska is the biggest national park in the U.S., comprising 13.2 million acres with everything from lava flows to glaciers. Katmai National Park and & Preserve attracts courageous visitors, housing one of the largest grizzly bear populations in the world; it's another worthwhile place to be dazzled by fall foliage.

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