The Best Places in the United States to See Fall Colors


It may be spring, but it’s never too early to start planning a fall vacation.

After all, you don’t want to have to rush. Start mapping things out now and you’ll have plenty of time to get all the logistics in order.

Fall is the best time of year to see the colors, and we’ve put together the ultimate guide to where you’ll find the most spectacular sights to satisfy the so-called ‘leaf decorator’ in all of us.

northeastern states

There’s no shortage of places for leaf voyeurs to visit in the northeast corner of the United States.

Best Spots:

  • Green Mountain Highway in Vermont

  • Central Park in New York

  • The Catskills in New York

  • Talbot Mountain State Park in Connecticut

  • Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts

  • Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire

  • Acadia National Park in Maine

  • Rodgers Williams Park in Rhode Island

Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Bring a hoodie and maybe a parka as it will be chilly, but the sight of those colors will be worth the extra clothes.

Best Spots:

  • Porcupine Mountains Wildnerness State Park, especially chairlift rides for $7
  • Tahquamenon Falls
  • Illustrated rocks
  • Mackinac Island (between the lower and upper peninsulas)
  • Marquette Mountain with chairlift rides for $7
  • Cut River Bridge, Naubinway

  • Tree Tunnel, Haymeadow Creek (not to be confused with Lower Peninsula Tree Tunnel at Cross Village)

washington d.c.

If you’re more of a city dweller and don’t like hiking in the middle of nowhere to see the colors, the nation’s capital is a good option. The changing colors of the leaves with some of the country’s major landmarks in the background are never a bad sight.

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Best Spots:

  • national mall
  • United States National Arboretum
  • Meridian Hill Park
  • the washington monument

The Ozarks

This area spans four states – Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas, so there are plenty of great vantage points.

Best Spots:

  • Boston Mountain Range, Arkansas

  • St. Francis Mountains, Missouri

  • Glade Top Trail near Ava, Missouri

  • Ouachita National Forest, Oklahoma and Arkansas

  • Cliff Drive Scenic Byway, Kansas

Blue Ridge Parkway

Much like the Ozarks, this stretch of road crosses several states. Anyone can stop and visit mountain sites in North Carolina and Virginia. Or, you simply enjoy the breathtaking views from the road as you drive the 470-mile stretch.

Best Spots:

  • Mt. Pisgah in Asheville, North Carolina (6,000 feet)

  • Hanging Rock at Potts Mountain, North Carolina

  • Cahas Knob Overlook in Callaway, Virginia

  • McAfee Knob in Catawba, Virginia

  • Overlook Purgatory Mountain near Buchanan, Virginia

  • Mill Mountain Overlook in Roanoke, Virginia

  • Roanoke Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia

  • Otter Peaks, Virginia

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Cheers for Dollywood! OK, that’s not how the famous song goes, but it certainly can apply to lovers of fall colors heading out to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or any other location in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Best Spots:

  • Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg

  • Chimneys Trail

  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

  • Dollywood

  • New Gap Road

Mendocino National Forest, California

What could be better for leaf voyeurs than seeing the colors of fall? Do it in the lush wine country of Northern California. There are many interesting combinations, such as peanut butter and chocolate, but wine and fall colors also look awesome.

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Best Spots:

  • Pine Mountain Lookout

  • Red Bluff Recreation Area

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

Located 100 miles east of Portland, this area is a paradise not only for leaf-voyeurs, but also for waterfall enthusiasts who can see an 80-mile stretch of canyon along the Columbia River. For those who love both fall colors and waterfalls? Then there is no better place to be.

Best Spots:

  • Table Mountain and the Bridge of the Gods

  • Mount Hood Scenic Loop

  • Angel’s Rest Belvedere

  • Beacon Rock Trail

Glacier National Park, Montana

Located in the northwest part of Montana, not far from southern Alberta, it’s a long way to go, but feel free to dream a little. The big advantage of seeing the usual fall colors here is that you get a bonus color: the white of the snow-capped mountains in the background.

Best Spots:

  • Grinnel Glacier

  • Virginia Falls

  • road to the sun

Denali National Park, Alaska

OK, that’s probably too far to go, but there’s nothing wrong with pretending you’re there! Not only can you see 6 million acres full of fall foliage, but you can take wildlife tours (bear, moose, caribou, etc.) and see Mount McKinley. It may be far, but if you can handle the cold and the journey, it will be worth it.

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Best Spots:

  • Mount Healy Overlook Trail

  • wild alpine trail

  • Horseshoe Lake Trail

All photos are copyright of Getty Images and all maps are from Google Maps. This story was first published in 2018. It has since been updated.


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