September 22nd is the official first day of fall, but in many places, fall is already in the air. Late September and early October offer some of the best leaf-peeping opportunities across the United States.


Top Destinations for Viewing Fall Leaves

Here is a list of our top picks for the most idyllic spots in the U.S. for seeing fall colors! Some are in national parks, some are off the beaten path, and others are scenic routes for you to enjoy by foot or by car. We’ve also included dates for peak foliage viewing based on historical data and predictions by trusted sources (such as the Farmer’s Almanac).

It’s important to note that peak dates can vary from year to year. We’ve done our best to provide you accurate dates for your fall leaf-peeping trip!

Northeast Fall Destinations

Acadia National Park, Maine

Fall is one of the best times to visit Acadia National Park. The weather is crisp, there are fewer crowds than the summer season, and the fall foliage is mesmerizing.

Along the Atlantic Ocean, Acadia boasts a mix of evergreens and hardwood trees. This combination of flaming red hardwoods, dark green evergreens, and the blue waters of the ocean make for a striking contrast. The colors begin to appear throughout the park at higher and cooler elevations in September, making early October one of the best times to visit.

For a fall scenic drive, drive along the Park Loop Road, a 27-mile scenic loop that begins at the Hulls Cover Visitors Center and winds through the park. You’ll drive past overlooks and viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the park’s fall foliage.

Peak Viewing: Oct 13-22

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Also known as “The Kanc”, the Kancamagus Highway is a 34.5-mile scenic highway along New Hampshire’s Route 112. This scenic drive spans east to west from Lincoln to Conway, NH. It is well known as one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the Northeast, and the country.

The Kancamagus Scenic Byway takes you through some of the most beautiful areas of the White Mountain National Forest. On this drive, you’ll pass through and experience the beauty of the White Mountains, the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls, and the Rocky Gorge.

The Kanc is also full of wildlife. It’s not uncommon for visitors to spot animals, such as hawks, moose, falcons, eagles, deer, and bears, while traversing the highway.

Peak Viewing: Sept 28-Oct. 9

Berkshires, Massachusetts

It’s no secret that fall is a beautiful season in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. This region is full of enchanting trails and vibrant colors, making for the perfect fall destination.

There are so many ways to see the fall foliage in the Berkshires. There are endless trails for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. For those who want to cover more ground with a scenic drive, we recommend exploring the Central Berkshire Loop. This scenic route traverses charming the New England towns of Becket, Hinsdale, Dalton, Pittsfield, West Stockbridge, and Lenox.

It’s said that one of the best fall foliage viewing spots in this area is on top of Mount Greylock. The summit is 3,491 feet and yields views of the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Taconic Range. You can even have a warm meal or stay the night on top of the mountain at the Bascom Lodge.

Peak Viewing: Sept 28-Oct 9

Stowe, Vermont

A classic New England village at the base of Vermont’s highest peak, Stowe, is the perfect place for fall foliage viewing. This area has been recognized as one of the top destinations to view leaves changing colors year after year.

A leaf-peeping trip to Vermont isn’t complete without a fall foliage drive. We recommend the Stowe & Northern Mountains Loop, which winds through 60 miles of the New England countryside. You’ll also drive past two famous waterfalls, Moss Glen Falls and Bingham Falls.

If you don’t have time for a long-distance drive, there are plenty of shorter scenic drives out of Stowe, Vermont. The town of Stowe has a self-guided driving guide that will help you plan your trip. Their website also has a “foliage finder“, where you can stay up-to-date on when and where the leaves are changing colors.

Peak Viewing: Sept 24-Oct 10

Midwest Fall Destinations

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park is a storied natural area located less than 100 miles (approx 2-2.5hr drive) southwest of Chicago. This park has a rich history and is full of natural beauty, including waterfalls, bluffs, canyons, and views of the Illinois River.

Although this area is beautiful year-round, the best season to visit Starved Rock is in the fall. The Starved Rock Lodge offers amazing views of the colorful trees and a host of guided tours during this time of year.

The Fall Colors Trolley Tour includes a 45-minute, guided hike to two majestic canyons, a trolley ride, and lunch at the Starved Rock Lodge restaurant. This tour is available at 9:30 or 11 am on any Saturday or Monday in October. For those who prefer to see the fall beauty from the water, the Autumn on the River Cruise is a great option. This leisurely boat ride allows passengers to see Starved Rock State Park from the Illinois River. The tour is offered every Thursday and Friday in October and begins with lunch in our historic dining room.

Peak Viewing: October 5-21

Minnehaha Falls, Minnesota

A striking wilderness waterfall in an urban setting, Minnehaha Falls is just under 6 miles from downtown Minneapolis. Minnehaha Regional Park overlooks the Mississippi River and is one of Minneapolis’ oldest parks.  Visitors can enjoy not only colorful leaves but river views, a waterfall, and limestone bluffs.

The 193-acre park also features the famous 53-foot waterfall, Minnehaha Falls. And its setting is unlike any other on this list. One moment you’re in an urban area, the next, you’ve escaped to a completely natural world.

This vibrant destination also offers different forms of adventure to see the sights beyond the waterfall. Walking trails and bike rentals (through mid-October) will take you further into and around the park for more scenic views. 

Peak Viewing: Oct 1-17

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva in the fall is all about colors. With an abundance of lakes, nature areas, and outdoor recreation spaces, you’ll find room to roam and take in the crisp fall air.

There are plenty of scenic drives around the Lake Geneva area. If you haven’t been to the area before, we recommend a scenic drive around Geneva Lake. While this might not be the most picturesque drive for those who are familiar with the area, the combination of water and colorful trees makes it beautiful.

For those looking for a more rustic road, Snake Road (Rustic Road 29) weaves through the countryside and is stunning in the fall. It’s only 3 miles long, so drive slowly. And if the weather is warm enough, you can rent scooters or bikes to cruise through the countryside.

Peak Viewing: Oct 5-14

North Shore, Minnesota

The North Shore of Minnesota boasts some of the most vibrant fall colors in the state. With charming small towns, majestic waters, and colorful foliage, the North Shore is truly a magical place in the fall.

It is said that the last week of September is peak for inland maple forests and in the forests farthest north. While the first weekend of October should be peak farther south. The forests of Duluth stay golden through the second weekend of October.

The North Shore Scenic Drive spans all the way from Duluth to Grand Portage State Park, at the Canadian border. As its name suggests, this 150-mile route runs along the shore of Lake Superior and is most known for the Maple-laden Sawtooth Mountain peaks flanked by the lake.

Peak Viewing: Oct 1-17

Southeast Fall Destinations

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah is a magical, outdoor oasis unlike any other. During the fall, the park comes alive with colorful trees, auburn sunsets, and golden rolling hills.

During the first week of October, the leaves begin to change color at the highest elevations. Throughout the last three weeks of the month, the autumn colors reach their peak at mid-to-low-elevation areas. Keep in mind that fall is typically the busiest time of year. For the best chance of avoiding crowds, try to visit Shenandoah during the week.

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile scenic road that runs north and south through Shenandoah National Park. It’s the only public road in the park and meanders along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll pass through over 70 overlooks (yes—70!) during this 3-hour car ride. The beautiful overlooks offer panoramic views of the fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, such as deer, black bears, and wild turkeys. 

Peak Viewing: Oct 12-28

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Fall foliage in the Great Smoky Mountains begins in late September and spreads across the area towards early November. There will always be an opportunity to view scenes of leaves changing colors somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountains during the fall.

This area is fortunate enough to have about four to six weeks of autumn, making it a great destination to view fall foliage.

There are multiple spots throughout the park and the surrounding area to take in the beautiful colors. Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smokies at 6,643 feet and offers majestic 360-degree views. You can also hike along one of the park’s famous trails for a more active fall activity. Chimney Tops Trail gains 1,400 feet over 2 miles, and the challenge is well worth it. Both the trail and the views at the summit are incredible.

Peak Viewing: Oct. 12-28

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

We think Georgia is one of the most underrated fall foliage destinations in the country! The Peach State is packed with beautiful and accessible state parks with plenty of trees to take in all those vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.

One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks, Cloudland Canyon, is a beautiful Georgia destination year-round, but its colors really come to life in the fall. This state park has impressive 1000-foot canyons and broad vistas full of deciduous trees.

Cloudland Canyon offers some great hiking routes to see the fall foliage up close. The Five Points Recreation Area also has single-track trails for anyone interested in some extra excitement on their autumn getaway.

Peak Viewing: Oct 19-Nov 4

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

With more than 100 species of trees, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best scenic drives for leaf-peeping. The 469-mile roadway is operated by the National Park Service and passes through six mountain ranges in Virginia and North Carolina. This “park-to-park” highway connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Many people wonder if the Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the Smoky Mountains. The highway runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are just around the corner from the Blue Ridge Parkway on the western end of North Carolina.

Fun fact: The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountain System. Thus, the Great Smokies are the Blue Ridge Mountains, but not all of the Blue Ridge Mountains are the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Peak Viewing: Oct 12-28

South Central Fall Destinations

Scenic Byway 7, Arkansas

Nicknamed “The Natural State,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Arkansas is one of the best destinations for an autumn getaway. Vast forests full of maple, hickory, and oak trees cover most of the state and offer an explosion of colors every fall.

Scenic Byway 7 meanders through the Ozark National Forest up to Jasper, Arkansas. It traverses through four of the state’s geographic regions: the Western Gulf Coastal Plain, the Ouachita Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, and the Ozark National Forest.

This 290-mile road offers several “can’t miss” spots during the fall. Buffalo National River and the Grand Canyon of Ozarks both offer beautiful drives and plenty of opportunities to view the colorful forest. Closer to Little Rock, you’ll go through the historic downtown and the Ouachita National Forest, which are also great places to see fall colors.

Peak Viewing: Oct 12-28

Lost Maples State Park, Texas

When it comes to autumn color in Texas, Lost Maples State Park is the jewel that brings stunning red and yellow hues every single year. Located on the banks of the scenic Sabinal River among rolling tree-covered hills, Lost Maples State Natural Area showcases the beauty of the Texas Hill Country.

This park is home to an uncommon type of maple tree, the Uvalde bigtooth maple. Hardscrabble limestone bluffs and canyons, picturesque grasslands, and a unique group of maples make it a hotspot for fall colors.

To see the very best of the fall colors, we recommend exploring the East Trai. This is where the majority of the maple trees are.

Peak Viewing: Nov 2-11

Mountain West Fall Destinations

Kebler Pass, Colorado

Secluded away in the center of the Rockies, Kebler Pass is an absolute wonderland of autumn color. You’ll see fall colors at their finest as the aspens turn color, from green to gold.

Kebler Pass, also known as Gunnison County Road (GCR) 12, is a great place to go leaf-peeping in Colorado. It’s not as busy as Independence Pass in Aspen, and you’ll see just as many yellow and amber aspen leaves. The 30-mile road follows Coal Creek west from Crested Butte and climbs gradually past the old Keystone Mine.

This pass used to be a 4-wheel only pass, and with the major improvements, people drive it every day. It is passable for 2 wheel drive, low-clearance vehicles from approximately late May to early November. Because it’s at over 10,000 feet it can get extremely muddy if it snows or rains. We recommend a 4WD or AWD vehicle if the weather looks ominous.

Peak Viewing: Oct 5-14

Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Idaho

One of the best ways to enjoy autumn in Idaho is to take a drive along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway. Aside from beautiful fall colors, expect to see peaceful meadows, towering mountains, and views of rolling rivers.

This 115-mile, two-lane road runs from Shoshone to Stanley on Idaho Highway 75. You’ll see a mix of trees, from cottonwoods along the Big Wood River, to aspens in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area.

Along the route, you’ll drive through the Picabo Desert and Black Magic Canyon. This unusual canyon was carved over the years by the rushing Big Wood River in Shoshone. The lava-strewn landscape and rock sculptures are surreal. They create a supernatural appearance and are one of the famous features of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Peak Viewing: Oct 5-21

Whitefish, Montana

Fall foliage in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley is beautiful. Many locals call fall in northwest Montana their favorite time of year when the golden autumn colors reflect in the clear mountain streams.

While the West is well-known for its golden aspen trees, this area of Montana is special because of the tamarack trees (also called larch). Tamarack trees look like evergreens, but in the fall, their needles turn gold and drop to the forest floor.

Whitefish is a small charming town at the bottom of Big Mountain and 26 miles west of Glacier National Park. It’s a picture ski village with plenty of restaurants, boutiques, and outdoor recreation. Due to its proximity, it’s also worth it to visit Glacier National Park while you’re in here. Fall is one of the best times of year to visit. Just be sure to get there before they close Going to the Sun Road.

Peak Viewing: Oct 5-21


Olympic National Park, Washington

Washington’s Olympic National Park is diverse in both its beauty and geography. From its wooded coastlines to snow-capped mountains, and lush rainforests, fall in this area is truly spectacular.

The park boasts bigleaf and vine maples interspersed among deep green hemlock and spruce trees. Most of the year, the trees have a lush green moss coat. But in fall, the trees are speckled with red, orange, and yellow leaves.

The only drawback to visiting Olympic National Park in the fall is that this is the start of the rainy season. Some days, it can rain up to 6 inches. The weather is a bit unpredictable, but as long as you are prepared, you can experience the dramatic weather patterns of the Pacific Northwest.

Peak Viewing: Oct 12-28

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Known for its breathtaking waterfalls, the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway is one of the most scenic areas for autumn leaf-peeping. Located along Interstate 84 in Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area includes over 80 miles of forests rich in bright fall colors.

This area boasts a landscape full of crimson, orange, and yellow as far as the eye can see. Visitors also flock to this area to see the magnificent Waterfall Corridor, which makes for even more striking vistas.

You can enter the Columbia River Gorge from either side of the river, and both sides have stunning views of fall color. The best waterfall views are on the Oregon side in Troutdale. You can see some of the waterfalls right from your car window. No need to stop if you’re in a hurry.

Peak Viewing: Oct 12-28


Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, Utah

Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, or U.S. Route 89, runs along the Logan River and through Cache Valley. This agricultural area is full of old farms and picturesque natural areas. The road spans 41 miles and until it peaks at an elevation of 7,8000 feet. The highest peak overlooks the blue waters of Bear Lake, which is often nicknamed “the Caribbean of the Rockies”.

Along this route, you will drive through limestone cliffs and evergreens, lined by colorful aspen and maple trees. The backdrop of the dark evergreens and the blue waters of the lakes in this area make for a spectacular fall drive.

Stops along the way include Old Ephraim’s Grave, Rick’s Spring, Tony Grove Lake, Wind Cave, and Bear Lake Viewpoint.

Peak Viewing: Oct 5-21

Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona

A leaf-peeping trip in Arizona wouldn’t be complete without a scenic drive through Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon.

Oak Creek Canyon lies on Highway 89A, between Sedona and Flagstaff. You’ll drive through 28 miles of canyon, switchbacks, and the beautiful Coconino National Forest.

Halfway between Sedona and Flagstaff, you’ll run into the Oak Creek Vista. This is a great opportunity to snap some pictures and to get out of the car and smell the crisp, clean fall air.

Other great leaf-viewing drives in Arizona include Dry Creek Road to Boynton Canyon Road and the Red Rock Loop. Dry Creek Road and Red Rock Loop Road are both west of Highway 89A.

Peak Viewing: Oct 5-21

Yosemite National Park, California

California gets a bad rap for fall foliage. That’s because most people think of the Pacific Coast, where fall colors are rare. Yet, California’s range of elevations, temperate climate, and variety of deciduous trees make it a great place for leaf-peeping.

Yosemite National Park is full of towering peaks, free-flowing rivers, granite formations, and a generous helping of autumn color. You’ll see a mix of aspens, cottonwoods, dogwoods, maples, and oaks. All contrasting against Yosemite Valley’s grassy meadows and jagged peaks.

On the west side of the valley, golden big-leaf maples and crimson red dogwoods line the waterway at Bridalveil Creek. One of Yosemite’s most photographed trees is also worth a visit. This non-native sugar maple planted near Yosemite Chapel turns a brilliant red in the fall.

Leaf-Peeping Across the U.S.A.

Fall leaves can be seen across the U.S., especially if you know where to look. The best time to visit the destinations mentioned above varies greatly, but most of the peak viewing dates are between September to October.

Don’t forget your camera and remember to dress in layers as the temperatures can fluctuate greatly during the autumn season. And if you find any new spots, be sure to let us know!

Have you visited any of these destinations during the fall? Let us know in the comments below.