Fall is definitely my favorite season. I know a lot of people love summer, but I definitely pine (see what I did there?) for those chilly mornings and spiced apple cider.
Of course, pumpkin spice and hoodies aside, the leaves are the real star of the show. It feels magical when the trees burst with all those vibrant colors. So, if you’re looking for the best spot to do some leaf peeping, I’ve rounded up some of the best places to see fall foliage.
Most people think of the Northeast when they think about breathtaking fall views, but there are some great spots all around the U.S. And while this isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, I did try to include locations across different regions of the country. There’s a little fall beauty for everyone here!
So, pack your sweaters and get ready for that crisp fall air. Here are some of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
This recreational lake is a popular family vacation spot for outdoor fun in the summer, but it’s also a great place to catch fall colors. You’ll find a breathtaking backdrop of maples, oaks, ashes, and hickories. It was even voted one of the best places to see fall colors, according to a “Destination for Fall Foliage” poll released by USAToday. The peak season varies from year to year depending on the weather, but traditionally, the peak of fall color here occurs in mid- to late-October.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The Columbia River Gorge is gorge-ous! It is a designated National Scenic Area, and stretching for over eighty miles, it is the largest one in the U.S.! The area is home to over fifty waterfalls, but spectacular fall colors really add an unbelievable amount of beauty. Come here for leaf peeping at its peak, in October and November. Head out for scenic hiking or biking, or take in the views from a boat in the 4,000-foot deep canyon. You can even head out on a laid-back cruise around the river, on an authentic sternwheeler.
Catskill Mountains, New York
There are plenty of great places in New York to see fall foliage, but do yourself a favor and check out the brilliant colors in the Catskills. Although peak season can vary throughout the state, peak season for fall foliage in the Catskills is usually around early- to mid-October. Hit the trails for spectacular fall hiking, go on a craft beer tour at a local brewery, and see if you can escape a corn maze!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
If you are hoping to peep some fall foliage without the extra chilly fall temperatures, head down to the Southeast. It’s still sweater weather, but it’s a little more tolerable! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, and is the most visited national park in the U.S. You’ll find sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgums, red maples, and hickories. The best time to visit this area for maximum fall foliage is mid-October through early November, when the ridges explode in shades of yellow, orange, and red.
Taos, New Mexico
The Southwest deserts feature many evergreen plants, but they do also enjoy some changing seasonal colors, too. Take in the rich, vibrant fall colors in Taos, New Mexico, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Take a drive around one of the U.S.’s most scenic drives, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. It’s an 83-mile drive that connects Taos, Eagle Nest, Red River, and Questa. Or, catcha an unforgettable ride on a vintage steam locomotive, with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
Colorado is already so beautiful, so it’s pretty much a given that fall foliage is spectacular in Colorado, right? This is especially true in Aspen, named for its gorgeous aspen trees that turn the perfect golden yellow in the fall. It is a remarkable sight! So, before ski season hits, head to Aspen to enjoy the amazing views of fall beauty, set against regal snow-capped mountains. You’ll do best to visit in late September. There’s plenty of hiking, biking, and scenic drives here to take in all that breathtaking color.
No list of fall foliage would be complete without Stowe, Vermont. There’s a reason why this town is called “Fall’s Color Capital.” From September to mid-October, you’ll find spectacular views in this town at the foot of Mount Mansfield. It’s basically a picture-perfect fall postcard, but in real-life. Go for a hike, or take a scenic drive down the Mount Mansfield Auto Toll Road. You can even get a bird’s eye view as you soar to the top of Vermont’s highest peak, on the Stowe Gondola KyRide.