20 Amazing Places To See Fall Foliage in the U.S. [2021]

New Hampshire train during foliage season

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While some people may not be happy when summer comes to an end, there is a silver (or multi-colored) lining thanks to foliage season in many parts of the U.S.

Autumn brings a spectacular show of color to the trees and foliage across the country. While not every state sees big changes as fall arrives, many do see vibrant displays of red, orange, yellow, and gold as trees give a big send-off before the winter.

As you might imagine, seeing the changing leaves is a big attraction thanks to the natural beauty, outdoor time with family, and the fact that it costs nothing to look at and enjoy.

Although this may sound like a perfect opportunity for a road trip, 1 thing to keep in mind is timing. Foliage season starts at a different time every year based on the weather.

That being said, with a little planning and a little flexibility, a fall foliage tour is a great idea for a full vacation or even just a weekend trip.

When Is Foliage Season?

Lake Champlain Vermont at the start of foliage season
Lake Champlain in Vermont at the start of foliage season. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

“Leaf peepers” are surely keeping an eye on the weather patterns and local foliage maps to try and time the perfect trip, but mother nature can be unpredictable.

In general, you can see leaves changing colors between September and November, with New England leading the way in both variety and vibrance of color as well as timing.

Colors often start changing in the north where it is colder. The phenomenon moves south as autumn progresses.

New England is a popular destination for a foliage tour thanks to its variety of trees — especially maples — that turn bright red and orange and make for some stunning photos. However, there are plenty of other regions throughout the U.S. that change color as the temperatures drop.

From the Pacific Northwest to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and beyond (heck, even Texas and Florida see some color changes in the fall), you can find fall foliage almost anywhere — and we’re here to help.

We’ve assembled a list of the best places to see foliage this fall in the U.S., separated by region.

Where To See Fall Foliage in the Northeast

1. Connecticut

Connecticut Fall Foliage
Connecticut fall foliage. Image Credit Kristina Delp via Unsplash

Connecticut is a great place to see foliage later in the season as it’s the southernmost state in New England.

Whether you’re just passing through on your way from Boston to New York, or planning a quick road trip during your stay in NYC, Connecticut has some beautiful options to see the foliage.

With covered bridges, plenty of state parks and forests, and even the Connecticut Wine Trail, the colored leaves may be the main attraction, but they won’t be the only ones.

Connecticut is dotted with cute coastal towns and quintessential New England farms that create stunning scenes when the leaves start changing.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-October until early November

Hot Tip: Taking a train is a convenient way to explore the Northeast; here is our review of business class aboard the Amtrak Northeast Regional.

2. Maine

Acadia National Park Maine
Acadia National Park in Maine. Image Credit: National Park Service

Maine is full of natural beauty, and it only gets more colorful when autumn rolls around.

Fall foliage is a big deal and big business in Maine. Regions are broken up into zones and tracked daily during the fall to keep visitors and residents up to date with the latest foliage conditions.

Leaves start changing early in northern Maine, but peak foliage may not happen until a month later in the southern regions, which may be helpful when planning a vacation.

With state and national parks (the most famous being Acadia National Park), mountains, a stunning coastline, farms, and plenty of scenic byways, Maine is a classic fall destination. And don’t forget to get a lobster roll while you’re there!

With some regions just an hour away from Boston, Maine is surprisingly easy to drive to. If you’re flying, Portland International Jetport (PWM) is served by most major U.S. airlines.

Peak Foliage Time:

  • Northern Zones: Late September until early October
  • Southern Zones: Early October until late October

3. Massachusetts

Boston Public Gardens Massachusetts during fall foliage
Boston Public Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts during fall foliage. Image Credit: Amanda Murphy via Unsplash

Massachusetts is a great place to kick off a New England foliage tour road trip.

Visitors can get a taste of the fall foliage in and around Boston, but heading out towards the Berkshires is where the colors really shine. Foliage peaks from west to east, so as you drive out from Boston, the views will only get better.

With cute towns and villages, mountains, and hiking trails, Massachusetts has plenty of options to take in the colors.

If you want to explore some more, Massachusetts shares a border with New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, so if you’re early in the season, just drive north.

Peak Foliage Time: Early October until late October

4. New Hampshire

New Hampshire lake during foliage season
New Hampshire lake during foliage season. Image Credit: Peter Lewis via Unsplash

New Hampshire is famous for its White Mountains, picturesque lakes, and stunning drives that only get prettier when fall comes around.

Bordering Massachusetts to the south and Quebec, Canada to the north, there’s a lot of ground to cover during a trip to the Granite State — which means it’s a great destination for a foliage road trip.

Visitors should consider driving up the Mt. Washington Auto Road (or take the charming cog train) to reach the Northeast’s highest peak, or take your time driving the 140-mile Sunapee Loop which is full of Instagram-worthy small towns, antique shops, and lakes.

Of course, don’t skip stopping by a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard for a true autumn experience!

Peak Foliage Time:

  • Northern Zones: Late September until early October
  • Southern Zones: Early October until late October

5. New York

Central Park New York City during foliage season
Central Park in New York City during foliage season. Image Credit: Pierre Blache via Unsplash

New York has so much to offer year-round, but it’s not often at the top of the list when it comes to foliage season. However, the largest state in the Northeast has plenty to offer for leaf peepers.

While there’s always stunning foliage in and around Manhattan (Central Park is particularly great in the fall), heading north will open up a whole new world of fall foliage.

The Catskills and Finger Lakes are popular destinations year-round and are spectacular destinations in the fall. If you want to keep heading north, The Adirondacks and Lake Placid always put on a show when the leaves start changing. And don’t forget about Niagara Falls!

With countless drives, parks, and trails, New York state is a great destination for those looking for classic fall foliage.

Peak Foliage Time:

  • Northern Zones: Mid-September until early October
  • Southern Zones: Mid-October until early November

Hot Tip: Taking the family to New York? Don’t miss our ultimate travel guide to New York as well as tips for great things to do with kids in New York City

6. Vermont

Stowe Community Church Vermont
Stowe Community Church in Vermont in fall. Image Credit: Michael via Adobe Stock

Vermont is home to some of the most classic and iconic New England sights, and when fall rolls around, the Green Mountain State bursts with color.

Visit charming small towns like Stowe and Woodstock, get some pictures of covered bridges, take a sail on Lake Champlain, pick some apples, drink some cider, and take in the beauty as the mountains turn vibrant colors all around you.

With everything from farm-to-table dining, fresh maple syrup, and an impressive craft beer scene, the leaves will make a stunning backdrop to a memorable Vermont foliage trip.

Just like New Hampshire, Vermont borders Massachusetts to the south and Canada to the north, so there’s plenty of ground to cover. No matter if you take the main highways or meander through the backroads, the views will be spectacular.

If you don’t feel like driving to Vermont, Burlington International Airport (BTV) is conveniently located and has flights from many major airports, including from nearby cities like Boston and New York.

Peak Foliage Time:

  • Northern Zones: Late September until early October
  • Southern Zones: Early October until late October

Hot Tip: Many of the routes suggestions in our guide to the best road trips in the U.S. are ideal for those on the hunt for amazing fall foliage.

Where To See Fall Foliage in the Southeast

7. Arkansas

Sams Throne in Ozark National Forest
Sam’s Throne in the Ozark National Forest. Image Credit: Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

Arkansas may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of fall foliage, but with an abundance of mountains, parks, and wilderness, there are some great trips for anyone looking for some quintessential fall scenery.

Since Arkansas sits further south, visitors can enjoy the vibrant leaves later into the fall season.

The Ozark Mountains are a popular destination thanks to the massive amount of trees. There are even some parts of the state that you will be able to only see uninterrupted shades of red and orange for miles.

Whether you’re looking for a hike, drive, or a dip in a natural hot spring, Arkansas is a great option for a foliage tour.

Peak Foliage Time: Late October until mid-November

8. North Carolina

Snowbird Creek at Great Smokey Mountain National Park North Carolina
Snowbird Creek at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Image Credit: Jeff DeWitt via Unsplash

North Carolina is a popular destination in the fall with thousands of people heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Mountains to see the leaves turn yellow, orange, red, and even purple.

With plenty of high peaks and low valleys, peak foliage season can last longer than in many other places, especially by the ocean.

While driving across the state is a great way to take in all of the different fall colors, North Carolina is full of great parks and hiking trails that are truly special when the leaves start changing.

Peak Foliage Time: Early October until early November

9. Tennessee

Tennessee railroad tracks covered in fall foliage
Tennessee railroad tracks covered in fall foliage Image Credit Silviu Zidaru via Unsplash

Tennessee is known for its long and hot summers, but as fall arrives so does the cooler air and colorful leaves.

From Memphis to Chattanooga and beyond, there are countless destinations in the state to enjoy the colorful foliage. Whether it’s in a riverboat cruising along the Tennessee River or a hiking trip into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll be sure to have a memorable experience in the Volunteer State.

It’s no surprise the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the country because when the leaves start changing, it turns into one of the most beautiful displays of nature around.

Peak Foliage Time: Early October until early November

Where To See Fall Foliage in the Midwest

10. Illinois

Cloudgate The Bean in Chicago Illinois during foliage season
Cloud Gate, or “The Bean,” in Chicago, Illinois during foliage season. Image Credit: Antonio Gabola via Unsplash

Illinois is an excellent place to enjoy the fall foliage. It’s home to over 100 different species of trees that turn into spectacular shades of yellow, orange, and red.

If you’re starting your expedition in Chicago, you’ll be able to enjoy the colors popping in the many parks and gardens in the city, as well as along the shores of Lake Michigan, before venturing out into the rest of the state.

Whether you’re hitting Route 66 for an extended road trip or exploring the many state parks, Illinois is an excellent choice for your fall foliage tour. And don’t forget to add some apple picking to your itinerary!

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-October until early November

Hot Tip: Leaf peeping with the family? Here are the best things to do in Chicago with kids

11. Michigan

Porcupine Mountains in Michigan
The Porcupine Mountains in Michigan. Image Credit: Dave Hoefler via Unsplash

Michigan has everything you want in a fall foliage tour. From apple orchards to pumpkin patches, whether you’re driving across the state or hiking and camping your way around, there’s plenty to do in the fall in the Great Lakes State.

With over 19 million acres (yes, you read that correctly) of forests, once the leaves start changing, the state turns into a dazzling display of yellow, orange, and red hues.

Michigan has shores on 4 of the Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Michigan. Along those shores, you’ll find state parks, campgrounds, hiking trails, and hundreds of miles of bike paths.

If you’re looking for a road trip, you’ll find plenty of scenic drives throughout the state including the epic Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route in the Lower Peninsula.

On top of all of that, Michigan is home to over 100 vineyards and 300 breweries for adults to enjoy while the kids run through corn mazes and sip on some fresh apple cider.

Once you’ve filled up on cider donuts, set your GPS to the Porcupine Mountains and seek out the famous Lake of the Clouds which will provide endless opportunities for perfect photos.

Peak Foliage Time:

  • Upper Peninsula: Late September until early October
  • Lower Peninsula: Mid-October until early November

12. Minnesota

Minnesota during foliage season
Minnesota during foliage season. Image Credit: Jaime Dantas via Unsplash

Minnesota is delightful in the fall thanks to clear skies and beautiful fall foliage. With plenty to see in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Twin Cities area, you can get your foliage fix without straying too far from the city. But the real magic starts when you start exploring.

Minnesota is ripe with countrysides that are perfect for spotting leaves. With many varieties of maple trees, foliage season is especially bright with a stunning mix of golds and reds that make for a beautiful backdrop along the more than 10,000 lakes throughout the state.

If you’re looking for a classic, scenic byway, the Chippewa National Forest has some charming back roads with plenty of stops to enjoy lakes and hiking excursions as you hunt for the perfect photo. The Iron Range Loop is also a popular spot with golfers and travelers with ATVs.

From the shores of Lake Superior to the winding roads and rivers that criss-cross the state, searching for fall foliage in Minnesota is as fun as it is rewarding.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-September until mid-October

13. Missouri

Waterfall in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri
A waterfall in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri. Image Credit: Connor Wilkins via Unsplash

Missouri has plenty to offer anyone making their way around the Midwest in search of beautiful foliage. The Show-Me State really does put on a show when its oak, maple, hickory, and ash trees start changing colors.

The Lake of the Ozarks is extremely popular in the summer months, but once fall rolls around, things get really special. With fewer crowds and still-enjoyable weather, being on the water surrounded by fall foliage is an unmatched experience.

As popular as the mountains and state parks can be, fields and prairies are also enjoyable on a foliage road trip as grasses and wildflowers turn shades of gold, purple, and olive throughout October.

Nature-lovers should plan on visiting the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (part of the National Park Service), which was the first national park area to protect a river system. It’s the perfect place for hikes or canoe trips in the fall.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip from Kansas City or St. Louis or are planning a longer road trip throughout the state, Missouri is an excellent destination to see fall foliage.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-October until mid-November

Where To See Fall Foliage in the Mountain States

14. Colorado

Maroon Bells Aspen Colorado during foliage season
Maroon Bells peaks in Aspen, Colorado during foliage season. Image Credit: Shelby Smith via Unsplash

Colorado is a popular outdoor destination year-round. Whether you’re into hiking, mountain biking, or skiing, there’s always something to do in and around the Rocky Mountains.

Take your pick from Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Vail, and more as your home base and start exploring the seemingly endless beauty.

One unique advantage of Colorado: There are 3 different climate zones within a 2-hour drive from Denver. Basically, that means that visitors can experience different stages of foliage season all during a quick drive.

No matter if you end up exploring a state park, drive the 236-mile San Juan Skyway, ride the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad, or just hike the closest trail to your hotel, you’re sure to have a great experience hunting for leaves in Colorado.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-September until mid-October

Hot Tip: As fall gives way to winter, learn more about how to maximize spectacular skiing in our ultimate guide to season ski passes around the world.

15. Montana

Glacier National Park fall foliage
Glacier National Park fall foliage. Image Credit: National Park Service

Montana is stunning year-round and only gets better in autumn.

Montana is home to 2 of the most visited national parks in the country: Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. With fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, visiting Big Sky Country during foliage season is always a good choice.

Besides exploring the parks, scenic drives are the best way to take in all the rich colors that arrive in autumn. With countless backroads and trails to get lost on, meandering your way through Montana in the fall will be a memorable journey.

If you want to switch up your foliage content for Instagram away from the iconic red and orange mountains, consider a drive through southeast Montana where the miles and miles of ranches and farmland turn into a golden sea of fall crops.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-September until mid-October

Hot Tip: If you want a preview of your next vacation, be sure to check out our article, Virtual Tours of Iconic National Parks Around the U.S.

16. New Mexico

New Mexico during foliage season
New Mexico during foliage season. Image Credit: Robin Sommer via Unsplash

New Mexico is another state that doesn’t often come to the top of people’s minds when thinking of foliage in the fall, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t impressive.

Usually lasting only a week in certain areas, the Land of Enchantment turns a vibrant gold that lights up the byways and hiking trails each fall.

With plenty of great drives like the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and the High Road to Taos, you’ll see some truly stunning parts of the southwest U.S. with a colorful backdrop that few have experienced, if you can time it right.

For locomotive fans, don’t miss the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad which was voted one of the country’s best train rides and goes from Chama, New Mexico to Antonito in southern Colorado. This is arguably one of the best ways to experience foliage season.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-September until mid-October

Hot Tip: New Mexico is famous for hot air balloon rides and they make for a great way to see the foliage from above.

17. Utah

Zion Canyon fall colors
Early November is when you can find fall colors peaking at Zion Canyon. Image Credit: National Park Service

Utah gets visitors year-round who stand in awe at the breathtaking natural beauty. In the fall, it only gets more beautiful as the vista rolls on with vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges stretching up the Rocky Mountains.

Canyons and lakes are popular spots to search out in your hunt for the perfect foliage photoshoot, and there are plenty to choose from in the Beehive State.

Hop in the car and follow the leaves on one of the many iconic drives like Alpine Loop or Hobble Creek Canyon. And don’t forget that Utah is also home to 5 national parks, with Zion National Park really coming to life in the fall.

Peak Foliage Time: Late September until late October

Where To See Fall Foliage in the Pacific States

18. California

Yosemite Valley California during foliage season
Yosemite Valley in California during foliage season, Image Credit KC Welch via Unsplash

California may be known for its beaches, surfing, and wine, but it’s not often thought of for its foliage — which is surprising.

The Golden State has a very diverse climate thanks to its size and many mountains and valleys. All of those unique environments and changes in elevation mean foliage season can stretch for a long time, sometimes even months!

A road trip up and down the coast of California is on the bucket list for many people, and doing so during foliage season would only make it more enjoyable.

You’ll have the choice of hunting through redwoods, heading up to Lake Tahoe, visiting Yosemite National Park, touring wine country in Napa Valley, and so much more.

From beloved state and national parks to unique and beautiful drives, California has just about everything you could want on your fall foliage tour.

Peak Foliage Time:

  • Northern and Higher Elevation Zones: Mid-September until mid-October
  • Southern and Lower Elevation Zones: Late October until late November

19. Oregon

Oregon during foliage season
Oregon dirt road during foliage season. Image Credit: Nick Romero via Unsplash

Oregon gets cool and crisp as autumn arrives, bringing clear skies and colorful trees — very similar to what you might expect fall to look (and feel) like in New England.

This beautiful (and very large) Pacific Northwest state is nearly half forest, so when the leaves start changing, there are reds, oranges, and yellows as far as the eye can see.

You may think you’d need to hit the road to really experience the change of colors, but many of the most colorful trees can be found in urban and residential neighborhoods, which makes it easy for visitors to hunt for multi-color leaves.

Of course, if you want to get out and explore, your options are plentiful. Whether you drive up the Mt. Hood Scenic Loop, hike one of the many state parks, take a boat out on the lakes in the Cascades or sip your way around wine country, foliage season is a great time to do it.

Peak Foliage Time: Early October until early November

20. Washington

Mount Baker in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State
Mount Baker in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Image Credit: Toan Chu via Unsplash

Washington may be known as the Evergreen State, but don’t let the nickname fool you. When autumn rolls around, the state glows with the colors of changing leaves.

All those evergreen trees make for a spectacular backdrop (as do the snowcapped mountains) to the reds and oranges that visitors come for.

If you’re starting in Seattle, you don’t have to go far for stunning views. Just about an hour away is Mount Walker in Olympic National Forest, where you’ll be able to see for miles once you reach the top. With countless scenic drives, gorges, parks, and even a rain forest (yes, a rain forest!) to explore, foliage season would be long gone before you could visit them all.

One popular spot not to be missed is Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian-style town located in the Cascade Mountains that hosts an annual Autumn Leaf Festival that provides fun for the whole family.

Peak Foliage Time: Mid-September until mid-October

Final Thoughts

Hiking path in Vermont during foliage season
Hiking path in Vermont during foliage season. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Fall foliage is nature at its best, when trees across the country get ready for winter by putting on a big show before doing so.

Even if you live in an area where leaves changing is common, it’s still nothing to take for granted because the natural beauty is unparalleled.

If you don’t live in an area where fall foliage is a thing, the U.S. has plenty of options in almost every region to visit — just don’t forget your camera.

Whether you want to head to New England for apple picking or to California for wine tasting, if you plan accordingly (and get a little lucky), you can do so among some spectacular fall scenes.


Frequently asked questions

When is foliage season?

Foliage season changes by year and by location. In general, though, you can see colorful foliage in most beginning in September and October and it generally ends by November.

Where is the best place to see the fall foliage?

There are so many places inside and outside the U.S. that have spectacular foliage during the fall. New England is always a popular fall destination, but there are cities and states across the entire country where you can take in spectacular fall vistas.

Is there foliage in November?

Yes, depending on the year. In the northern states, peak foliage season often tends to end at the end of October. However, in some southern and lower-altitude states, foliage season can stretch into late November and even December.

How long does foliage season last?

Peak foliage may only last a week or 2 depending on the weather. However, since the changing colors depending on location, you can drive along and see the progression in real time.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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