September through October is fall foliage season across much of America. In truth, just about every state has places where there are spectacular fall colors, including gold, orange, and red. However, some destinations stand out from the rest, and we’re highlighting 12 that make a great weekend trip or short vacation.
Peak viewing times vary by altitude, latitude, and how much rain there’s been, so before heading out, check with local agencies or park rangers about when the best time to go will be that year.
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
In this New England treasure, the maples are the fall stars, just as they are across all of the New England states. Acadia is special because, in addition to the leaves, you have the ocean crashing against sea cliffs, tidal pools, and inland lakes carved by ancient glaciers.
2. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
This scenic strip of road winds and climbs through the granitic White Mountains, where several peaks rise higher than treeline and support swaths of delicate Arctic tundra. The highway also provides access to hiking trails, waterfalls, and more.
3. Green Mountains, Vermont
In the Green Mountains, you’ll love the storied small-town charms of Vermont while gaping at the stunning fall colors. You can also buy some freshly made authentic Vermont maple syrup.
4. Adirondack Park, New York
This huge state park is home to the state’s highest peaks as well as lakes, hiking trails, and small towns with a rustic feel. In addition to admiring the maples, appreciate the birches, which turn a dazzling yellow in peak season.
5. Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia-North Carolina
Skyline Drive winds along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. From the southern end of Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway twists and turns for 470 miles to the southern entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (another worthy place to visit). The views alone are worth the drive, but there are plenty of trails leading to spectacular destinations such as mountaintops, waterfalls, and crystal-clear streams.
6. New River Gorge, West Virginia
Recently expanded to a national park, the New River Gorge is the scenic jewel of the Mountain State. It’s also home to world-class rock climbing and whitewater rafting, so hire a guide and pursue an adventure!
7. North Shore, Minnesota
Minnesota’s North Shore is the section of land running along Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border at Thunder Bay. It runs inland for several miles, but the lakeshore gets most of the attention, where there are several small towns and state parks. In addition to leaf viewing, prime fall activities include hiking, boating, fishing, and rock climbing.
8. McKittrick Canyon, Texas
In West Texas, the Guadalupe Mountains (much of them preserved in a national park of the same name) rise like an island above the sea of the Chihuahuan Desert. McKittrick Canyon is a hiking destination, but it’s worth it for the intense fall colors that are rare in most of the rest of Texas (another is Lost Maples State Natural Area).
9. Vail, Colorado
Known mostly as an upscale skiing destination, Vail is a golden treasure of aspens in September and early October. Truly, much of Colorado is blessed with golden aspens in the fall, but they seem the most intense around Vail.
10. San Juan Skyway, Colorado
In southwestern Colorado, a series of roads roughly form a triangle of asphalt through the rugged and colorful San Juan Mountains, connecting the mountain resort towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride with the cities of Cortez and Durango. The scenery is spectacular, and there are countless recreational opportunities, including hiking and backpacking, exploring mining ghost towns, and visiting ancient cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park. All around, golden aspens make a gorgeous fall backdrop.
11. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
The least known and most remote of Utah’s national parks, Capitol Reef is home to the Fremont River. This river creates a healthy water supply that supports the growth of large cottonwood trees in the heart of the park. In fall, their leaves glow a yellow reminiscent of aspens.
12. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Forming part of the border between Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River Gorge is incredible in all seasons. In the fall, though, with October and November usually being the peak months, the gorge really comes alive with colorful trees often framing vistas of snow- and ice-capped Mt. Hood.
Stunning Fall Drives in Every State
New England is arguably the quintessential place for fall color in the country. There, join thousands of other drivers on New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway, or watch the sunrise cast a glow on the foliage along Maine’s Acadia Byway. However, it’s certainly not the only place in the United States for a great fall drive. Alabama’s Fall Color Trail is dedicated to showcasing the beautiful scenery this time of year, Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway features 100 miles of tree-lined mountain peaks, and California’s Everitt Memorial Highway will take you up a forested volcano engulfed in color. There’s truly no state without a road trip worth taking this time of year.
Ready to hit the road for an autumnal adventure? Click through to see these stunning fall drives in every state.
Vermont in the Fall: How to Plan the Perfect Getaway
If seeing the changing color of leaves in New England has been on your bucket list, you should plan a visit to Vermont in the fall. You’ll think you’ve walked right onto the set of a Hallmark movie!
While there, you’ll enjoy picturesque views of fall foliage, charming small towns, and relaxing scenic drives. Not only that, you’ll find farm-to-table cuisine and an endless array of exciting outdoor activities. You’ll feel the spirit of New England and what makes Vermont such a special place to be in the fall!
Best Small Towns in America to See Fall Foliage
The feeling of change that permeates the air during the fall affects everyone in different ways. It can inspire a desire to spend more time outside, admiring the nature that we often take for granted – and what better time than in autumn?
Here are the top small towns and villages you should visit to take in prime leaf-peeping this fall.
This article was produced by Our Woven Journey. Featured Image Credit:
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.