Many people don’t want the summer season to end, but fall is on its way, whether we like it or not. The classic symbols of fall include apple cider, crisp, cool nights, and cozy sweaters. In addition to those signals that a new season is upon us, one of the easiest to see is the changing of the leaves. These are some of the best places to see fall leaves in the US this year.
Best Places To See Fall Leaves in The US
While many associate weekend getaways to the Northeast as the height of leaf-peeping excellence, there are plenty of other places across the United States to enjoy the beauty of fall foliage. For many, scouring the country for those all-important colors is viewed as one of their favorite fall activities.
New England and The Northeast
One of the most popular and classic trips to take in the fall is visiting the Northeast/New England region. It should top anyone’s list as a fall travel destination, as multiple states boast the most popular viewing destinations in the country. In Maine, a great place to start is Acadia National Park. Next, head through Stowe, Vermont, and the White Mountains area of New Hampshire. The Berkshires in Massachusetts and upstate New York also provide stunning visual scenery.
It’s also easy to travel through many of these states on long weekend road trips, given their size and proximity to one another. For those not wanting to plan their own itineraries, some companies offer guided tours for fall foliage in New England. Tour Radar and Caravan Tours are two such offerings for regional official tours.
The Midwest region is certainly no slouch when it comes to fall colors and can complete well with a New England foliage tour. With multiple lakefront areas and scenic byways, taking a venture through here will also provide the beauty of fall. The Great Road Scenic Byway, one of the oldest and longest scenic drives in the U.S., is touted as ideal for fall color viewing. It spans 3,000 miles through ten states, following the course of the Mississippi River.
In the state of Wisconsin, Door County, along the banks of Lake Michigan, is another recommended stopping point along with the Wisconsin Dells. In neighboring Michigan, the Tunnel of Trees on the Upper Peninsula and the Northwest Lower Peninsula of the state as well. Heading up to northern Minnesota along Lake Superior, 150 miles of scenic beauty await for a perfect road trip, complete with waterfalls.
Visiting the South for fall colors is a popular alternative for those looking for a taste of fall without the chill of Northeast or Midwest temperatures. Start with a drive through Arkansas through the Ozark National Forest, with over 1.2 million acres of scenery. Visitors can then head through Georgia to check out Tallulah Gorge State Park (two hours from Atlanta) or Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia, featuring maple and oak trees.
Standout destinations in the south include Beech Mountain, North Carolina, the highest town on the East Coast, and the rolling hills of Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee. Additionally, visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains range in Virginia and South Carolina makes for excellent viewing. Further north, driving to Maryland’s Garett County can yield even more of a multitude of colors.
The western states can compete quite nicely with their rivals in the Northeast and Midwest regarding fall colors. According to U.S. News and World Report, the Payette Scenic Byway 114-mile drive in Idaho features fall delights with views of the Idaho Rockies. Additionally, they point to Breckenridge, Colorado, where the colorful aspens take center stage. Venture to neighboring Wyoming and take in the sights and colors from Laramie to Aspen Alley along the Snowy Range Scenic Byway.
The Pacific Northwest is such a destination for fall that Amtrak Vacations even has a train trip centered around the fall leaves viewing in the area. While in Oregon, don’t miss out on a journey to the Columbia River Gorge, where foliage peaks in mid-to-late October. Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state is another Pacific Northwest locale that should be on a fall travel list in the region.
The Golden State
Many might not think of California as a place to view the beauty of leaves in fall, but it can be done by finding the right locations, with timing being key.
Kara Hams, founder of travel blog Whimsy Soul, shared her tips on finding fall colors in California. “The key is being flexible, so if you hear that a foliage window is starting or dying, you can quickly tailor your travel plans to catch the colors,” she shares. “That being said, October to December are the fall months in California, with the peak in October for catching the best fall leaves.”
In Northern California, a must-see itinerary for fall leaves is along the US 395 corridor through the Eastern Sierra range. Venture further north through Grass Valley and Nevada City to treat yourself to viewing dogwoods, maples, and other fall trees. South Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay are must-sees as well.
Fall can look different in Southern California, with warm temperatures still present in October. Head to the mountains to find the best sights for fall leaves, with peaks in late November to early December. Within an hour of San Diego, some of the best fall spots include Julian, also known for its fall festivals. Temecula Valley and Murrieta up the road in Riverside County are also hotspots.
The mountain community of Big Bear Lake serves as another must-see place for fall leaf viewing. Visit California provides even more insight into more specific locations in the Golden State. There’s even a website devoted to finding and locating the California fall colors.
Fall leaves in the US can be found in more than just the northeast. From coast to coast and many areas in between, a road trip awaits to enjoy colors that no other season can bring. Grab that sweater, camera, and a great pair of hiking shoes worthy of your next fall adventure.