The transition to autumn means cooler temperatures, heartier foods, harvest festivals, and leaves turning into beautiful colors. Some travel agencies charge thousands of dollars for fall foliage tours. But you don’t need to shell out that kind of cash to experience autumnal colors.
With planning and foresight, you can take advantage of the best fall foliage tours in the US.
Show Table of Contents
- Best Places in the US to See Fall Colors
- Aspen, Colorado
- Scenic Route 100, Vermont
- Catskills Mountains, New York
- Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
- North Adams, Massachusetts
- Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Vermont
- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
- Upper Peninsula, Michigan
- Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
- Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
- Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania
- Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway, Utah
- Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
- Eagle Creek Park, Indiana
Best Places in the US to See Fall Colors
There are tons of places to see fall foliage in all its glory across the US. Here are some of our favorite spots!
Lined with aspens and birch that turn a magnificent gold, the winding route to the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen is a memorable trip. You will need to pay a fee to gain access to the park and the mountain trails, but it is an investment that is well worth making. Sit by a mountain lake, enjoy the colors that surround you, and be sure to grab a sandwich from Johnny McGuire’s to enjoy.
The Aspen peeping season is short, but a favorite time of year for local peepers. It starts in mid-September and ends just before October begins. If you come here in mid-October, you will find most leaves on the ground. That means you have missed their peeping. Too bad.
The ski-in, ski-out hotel is where visitors to Aspen prefer to spend their nights. It also offers the best views of the city, and surrounding foliage, and experiences a cool mountain breeze.
Scenic Route 100, Vermont
This scenic route in Vermont embraces the Green Mountain National Forest and has an ever-changing landscape to enjoy. The adventure starts in the southern part of the state and ends near Lake Memphremagog by the Canadian border. Start booking now for your tour if you want accommodation services because it takes more than a day to enjoy this road trip to the max.
One of the best stops on Scenic Route 100 in Weston. Outside of the beautiful fall foliage, there is also the world-famous Vermont Country Store to see, the Old Mill Museum, and the Playhouse. There is even a Benedictine monastery in the area for an extra level of tranquility if you need it!
See Related: Best National Parks in the Midwest
Catskills Mountains, New York
A charming bed and breakfast, a hearty meal, and all the dazzling foliage you can stand are what a road trip to Catskills entails! There is plenty enough to do here. Activities range from golfing to hiking to birdwatching to hiking and biking and much more.
With almost 3 dozen mountain peaks above 3,500 feet, there are views just waiting for you and your camera! You will also love the culture of Catskills towns, including New Paltz, Woodstock, and Livingston Manor.
Tourists go to Catskills at any time of the year because of its many river systems, stunning scenery, utter tranquility, and cultural activities. However, the most appropriate time to visit for the best autumn colors is between mid-September and late October. The second week of October is the peak leaf season here.
Piaule is a visitor favorite for accommodation. It allows visitors to sleep within the trees and connect with nature. It is located among the densely wooded forests in the area and offers wooden cabins to guests for rustic stays.
See Related: Things to Do in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
With over 80 miles to explore, the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most breathtaking sights in the Pacific Northwest when Fall comes around. It is located between Washington and Oregon and is home to over 50 waterfalls.
You can come to Columbia River Gorge any time of the year, but the ideal months to see fall foliage are October and November. That is when Mount Hood displays its best colors, giving hikers the best fall foliage experience. Cottonwood, ash, maple, pine, fir, and other trees become vibrant with golden-hued leaves. The gorgeous sight created by them will make you want to stay here forever!
Take time to go to Crown Point State Park to see much of the Gorge unfold before your eyes in one stunning view! You will also be able to hike along some beautiful trails to see waterfalls surrounded by color, like Multnomah, Horsetail, Ponytail, and Bridal Veil.
When you are finished exploring Columbia River Gorge, stop at Hood River to get locally-made beer and hand-scooped ice cream.
See Related: Best Winter Destinations in Washington State
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Like all places we have already listed, Shenandoah National Park is also in the spotlight for its spectacular fall foliage colors. This area is a perfect vacation ground because of the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Festival held for 3 days.
The best time to visit this national park is the end of September. That is when Swift Run Gap and Lewis Mountain wake up to the vibrant colors of creeper twines. This beautiful area extends up to Upper Pocosin, where you can see the ruins of the old Upper Pocosin Mission.
Drive along the Skyline Drive Scenic Byway to get the best viewing of colorful leaves. It never falls short of panoramic views throughout its entire length. You will be amazed by the buttery yellow hickories, chili pepper-red oaks, and maples that burn scarlet before turning maroon.
At the end of the Skyline Scenic Drive Byway is the Oakhurst Inn. This contemporary building has been offering accommodation services for travelers for decades. You can stop by to rest and spend your night as you plan for your next adventure!
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 100 species of trees, most of which are deciduous. If you are looking for a place to enjoy a variety of fall colors, there is no better place than this park.
The best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park begins in mid-September. That is when you will be met by beautiful yellow birches, beech trees, and other colors that depict fall foliage at its best. If you go there in autumn, you will also have the best scenes of coreopsis, asters, and black-eyed Susans along the Appalachian Trails and Sugarland Mountain.
The peak of the autumnal colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park comes in October. That is when deep plum and garnet hues of sweet gums, red maples, and hickories color the park. If you are looking for a fall weekend getaway, proceed to Cades Cove. You can drive east along the Roaring Fork nature loop or hike along the Big Creek for great views.
Also, you can catch the panoramic views of Balsam Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway towards the southeastern side of the park.
You can find great accommodation at the Blackberry Farm. This facility is located at the base of Tennessee Smoky Mountain on a 4,000-acre land with features such as hillocks, ponds, and gardens.
See Related: Where to Stay in Joshua Tree National Park
North Adams, Massachusetts
North Adams is a small city near the Vermont state line known to tourists for its 19th Century factory mill complex that houses the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). Unknown to many is its lush fall foliage that lures many travelers to spend much time outdoors.
North Adams is definitely one of the best places in the US to see fall colors. Follow the hiking trails from Mount Greylock and ascend to the highest point in Massachusetts. But if this steep slope proves difficult for you, Cascades Trail offers a gentler slope.
You can also make it to the summit of Mount Greylock by car. It is a 12,500-acre reserve land with many tree species that boom in all colors in fall. On the other hand, the Cascades Trails option treats you with a picturesque view of downtown North Adams. There is also a scenic waterfall at the end, which will give you a refreshing moment.
Visitors can find accommodation at the Bascom Lodge and Tourists, a former Berkshires Motel. There is also lunch, drinks, and dinner!
Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Vermont
Smugglers’ Notch State Park is also one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States. It is one of the four state parks on the Mount Mansfield State Forest. The park is named after one of the early activities in the area. Smugglers used the narrow passage in the Green Mountains to transport their liquor from Canada to the US during prohibition.
A nearby town to the park is Stowe. It is just a 13-minute drive away and is nicknamed “Fall’s Color Capital.” The park receives visitors all year round, but it turns livelier in the fall when trees showcase their best colors. You will see shades of yellow, red, and orange if you time yourself.
Visitors to the Smugglers’ Notch State Park are hosted at the Trapp Family Lodge. It is owned and managed by the Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame. Yes, literally!
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Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469-mile path is the best route to take on your weekend road trip to see the best fall foliage colors. It winds along the Blue Ridge Mountains and covers a distance between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The surrounding vegetation comes to life during the cool temperatures of fall. The vibrant colors begin in late September and bloom in mid and late October. When you have a chance to come here during fall, you will be wowed by the different color shades emitted by dogwoods, sassafras, and maples.
Towns on the route’s 469-mile stretch offer travelers ideal stopping points. One such town that is irresistible to pass is Asheville. It offers visitors an unforgettable fall foliage experience with its apple orchards, festivals, and countless hiking options. You will also find the best chance to explore Looking Glass Falls and Rainbow Falls.
Asheville offers accommodation services to travelers. The Doubletree by Hilton Asheville Downtown is a visitor’s favorite because of its strategic location and quality services. If you’d like more options, read our guide on where to stay in Asheville.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the country. Its fame comes from natural beauty, pristine inland lakes, and craggy coastlines. It also offers the best autumn colors and an unforgettable experience.
You can see fall foliage at Acadia National Park from different spots. However, the best vistas are found hiking along a 27-mile Schoodic National Scenic Byway. It passes through fishing villages and lighthouses. As you wind your way along, you will see beautiful canopies formed by different colors from birch, maple, and other tree species.
The fall foliage moments at Acadia National Park start in late September and peak in mid-October. Your time here will be worth it!
Hiking through the park can be tiresome. After a long day reconnecting with nature, you can go to Terramor Outdoor Resort for refreshments and more. It sits on 60 acres of land and offers kayaking. The resort is also the best place to watch the skylines as the sun slowly disappears over the horizon.
See Related: Best Family Road Trips in the US
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire encompasses the most natural and beautiful autumnal colors in the Northeast. The forest covers 800,000 acres of land and is home to extensive native plant species that produce vibrant colors in the fall.
The Kancamagus Highway stretches 34 miles through the forest. It is the best route if you belong to the leaf-peeping group that enjoys beautiful vistas here from early October.
The White Mountain National Forest is not short of outdoor activities. If you aren’t into hiking, rock climbing, or biking, you can go to one of the nearby restaurants for refreshments and fill your belly for the next adventure.
The park is the traveler’s favorite weekend getaway spot in the fall. A 2-mile, waterfall-dotted walk across Flume Gorge at the southern end of The Appalachian Trail gives the best hiking experience. Echo Lake is also stunning this time of year.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Michigan has one of the most extensive forests in the United States with vibrant fall foliage displays. The state’s forests cover about 4 million acres of land.
If you are looking for the best weekend getaway spot with dazzling displays of fall colors, choose one or more of the forested state parks of the Upper Peninsula. The tree species here range from birch to maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarack.
The Upper Peninsula’s most dense foliage is around the Great Lakes. The tranquility of the lake’s water enhances your fall foliage experience. The reflections in the water vary in color depending on the time of the day. That adds to the already brilliant fall colors.
The best time to go to The Upper Peninsula is mid-September to mid-October. The peak begins in early October. So, you may want to come here around such time for the best experience.
See Related: Things to Do in Detroit, Michigan
Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
The peak leaf-peeping season can never end before leaf peepers come to the Ozark National Forest! Arkansas may not be the first option that rings in your mind when you want to see the brilliant fall colors but one of the best.
Arkansas’ natural beauty is often overlooked – but it is genuinely breathtaking. The Ozark National Forest in the Ozark Mountains covers over one million acres of land and has many tree species. This stretch of forested area has made Arkansas one of the best fall foliage tourist destinations.
You can drive through the forest for miles without losing shades of red and orange leaves. Besides, the state also offers natural hot springs where visitors can take a dip. It is a complete spot for an autumn foliage tour!
The best time to go to Ozark National Forest is late October and mid-November. Its cooler temperatures and fewer crowds in fall make it a great spot during tree peeping season, as shades of gold and maroon color the roadside.
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
New Mexico might not instantly come to mind for leaf peepers, but it is also impossible to ignore. It’s likely overlooked because the fall foliage doesn’t last more than a week here. Normally, leaves turn gold and maintain dazzling displays for 7 days.
With great drives like Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and the High Road to Taos, New Mexico deserves to be on the list of best places in the US to see fall colors! That one week of autumnal awesomeness is worth it! Driving or hiking through this land of Enchantment reveals a colorful backdrop with unique experiences.
The infamous Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is an 83-mile loop circling Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. Apart from the rich yellow and dark orange colors, you will also see purple, red, and yellow shades. These come from cottonwoods and other tree species along the route.
The best time to drive along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is in the last week of September/the first week of October. Hacienda del Sol is a romantic bed and breakfast in Taos that can accommodate leaf peepers along this route. Its strategic position gives spectacular views of the mountains.
See Related: New Mexico vs. Colorado: Which Is Better?
Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania
The Leonard Harrison State Park sits on a 585-acre land on the east rim of Pine Creek Gorge. This world wonder is commonly known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon and is about 800 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide.
Taking the Turkey Trail Path is how to get to the bottom of the Pine Creek Gorge. This place is ideal for a foliage road trip in fall, as trees display a blend of vibrant colors. Red, yellow, orange, and purple combine to create spectacular scenery for every leaf peeper.
When you visit the Pine Creek Gorge, you can stay in Rough Cut Lodge. The facility has cabins and suites that are clean and spacious.
Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway, Utah
Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway offers the best hiking site or a weekend getaway spot in the fall. The vibrant fall colors along the route from Park City to Midway city draw the attention of anyone that passes by.
The route has fiery red oak trees and golden aspens that create the best photo moments for travelers. You can also focus on the verdant alpine canopies and pink hues in the Wasatch Mountain State Park.
The best time to travel along the Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway is late September and early October. This scenic mountain pass will wow you during fall!
Waldorf Astoria Park City is the best facility for refreshments and accommodation. It provides a welcome break after hiking along Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway.
See Related: Best Parks in Utah to Visit
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
Green Mountain Byway is lined by maple, birch, and beech trees whose leaves turn vibrant in fall. This 71-mile-long route offers the most dazzling displays of colors in the country. It may be among the last on this list of the best places in the US to see fall colors, but that does not mean it is any less attractive!
You can drive from Waterbury to Stowe while enjoying an ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. It passes through state forests and state parks. When you get to Stowe, you will have an aerial view of the colorful canopy of the forested slopes.
The Vermont leaf-peeping season starts from mid-October to early October. When you visit, make your reservation at Topnotch Research. There is a trail system nearby for hiking and horseback riding.
Eagle Creek Park, Indiana
The last on our list is one of Indianapolis’s city parks. Time to visit Indianapolis in the fall to enjoy the natural beauty and vibrant fall foliage.
There are different urban trails for hiking. They pass through rivers, greenways, and state parks, allowing you enough time to enjoy the best fall colors. You can also zipline through the trees at Eagle Creek Park, canoe along the White River, or bike along the Monon Trail. All these activities offer a sensational fall foliage experience.
The best time for a foliage trip to Indianapolis is mid-October. The fall begins mid or late September and ends in late November. The Hotel Broad Ripple is the best place to enjoy a relaxed evening and night. This boutique hotel has all the amenities to make your stay enjoyable and comfortable.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.