Are you looking for the most amazing places to experience fall in the USA? This guide has a bunch of the best places to see fall foliage in America.
Fall in the USA is a magical time. The bright green leaves of summer fade away into the brightest, warm-hued leaves. Red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves fill the trees, sky, and streets.
There are many breathtaking places to experience fall in the USA. While national parks are some of the best places for leaf peeping in the USA, there are also big cities and small towns that come to life with the warm colors of fall.
When Does Fall Season Start In America?
Fall in the USA is officially from the end of September to the end of November. But if you’re specifically trying to see fall colors at their peak, the timing may vary a little bit.
Denver has the earliest leaf-changing, as it starts at the end of September and lasts until the beginning of October. In the Northeast, Midwest, and West, the fall colors come to life in October. In the South, these fall colors run from late October and into November.
What Is The Best Time To See Fall Foliage In The USA
Just like determining when fall changes actually happen all around the US, the best time to see fall foliage in the USA also differs based on the location.
Parts of the Rocky Mountains, such as Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Montana, have their peak fall foliage at the very end of September and beginning of October. Similarly, the northernmost part of New England reaches peak fall foliage at the same time.
By mid-October, most of New England is in prime leaf-viewing time. Then, from the end of October to the beginning of November large swathes of the Midwest and West have reached their peak. And November is when any patches of the South that experience the changes of the leaves get around to it.
Best Places To See Fall Foliage In The USA
New York City, New York
Despite being the biggest city in the US, New York City is home to some of the most exceptional fall colors! While there are so many things to see on your trip to New York City, the fall foliage must be one of them.
Central Park is a fantastic place to go in New York City, regardless of the time of year. But in the fall, this park becomes extra popular, because it is full of those breathtaking autumn hues! Besides Central Park, Prospect Park, Fort Tryon Park, and Bloomingdale Park are just a few of the best places to see fall foliage in New York City.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Arguably one of the best places to visit in fall in the USA is Acadia National Park. Between the scarce crowds, comfortably chilly air, and brilliant leaves, your time at Acadia National Park is bound to be amazing. As a matter of fact, this amazing national park is a fantastic place to stop on a Maine road trip during the fall!
As for the best place to see fall foliage in Acadia National Park, it’s hard to say, simply because the colorful leaves are everywhere. That said, the top of Cadillac Mountain is definitely a spot you’ll want to check out.
San Juan Mountains, Colorado
One of the reasons the San Juan Mountains are one of the most amazing places to experience fall in the USA is because the bright autumn colors are combined with other breathtaking natural features. Waterfalls, mountain peaks, and hot springs all make the beauty of the fall foliage even more magical.
Situated near the famous skiing town of Telluride, the San Juan Mountains are a popular Colorado road trip stop, even more so in the popular colder seasons of fall and winter. To stare in awe at some of the best fall colors in the USA, drive along the San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway, relax in Orvis Hot Springs, or make your way to the top of Molas Pass.
Glacier National Park, Montana
When planning a Montana road trip, Glacier National Park is always a stop, regardless of the season. That’s just how breathtaking it is. And in the fall, the brilliant hues make this national park even more wonderful.
One of the most popular things to do in Glacier National Park is drive or bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This road is lined with views of striking mountains and cascading waterfalls. Combine these natural attractions with the fiery tones of autumn, and it becomes a must-do experience.
Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina
There are so many great places to experience fall in North Carolina, so it is difficult to just add one or two to this list. That said, Grandfather Mountain had to make it onto this list of the best places to experience fall in the USA.
As the tallest mountain the Blue Mountain Range, Grandfather Mountain has already made a name for itself. But being one of the best places to see fall colors in the USA might just be an added bonus. This singular mountain peak has dozens of hiking trails that allow you to get up close to the fire-colored leaves that make this time of year so special. And if you’re looking for a little extra adventure, head to the swinging mile-high bridge between two of the mountain peaks and peer at the warm-colored landscape below.
When fall comes around, Montpelier, Vermont, one of the cutest towns in the USA, becomes even more adorable! Vermont as a whole is most well-known for its autumn leaves. As a matter of fact, these leaves are one of the state’s most popular attractions!
Montpelier is a particularly good place to stare in awe at the brilliant autumn colors, because it is often along the routes of Vermont’s most scenic fall foliage drives. One popular drive runs from Montpelier through the Appalachian Gap and into the quaint old town of Vergennes. Another great fall foliage route is from Montpelier into the Northeast Kingdom. It is truly one of the best places to enjoy Fall In Vermont!
Garner State Park, Texas
The contrasting colors of the turquoise waters of the Frio River and the red-orange fall leaves of Garner State Park paint such a stunning picture. While this state park manages to slide under the radar, it would make a wonderful stop on a Texas road trip.
Hiking is one way to see all of the fall colors. While Old Baldy Trail will grant you a view from above, Blinn River Trail will allow you to walk alongside the river. If you want to try something a little different, you can kayak or canoe on the river through all of the fall foliage.
Litchfield Hills, Connecticut
The small town of Litchfield Hills, Connecticut has managed to slip under-the-radar thus far. But this hidden gem is sure to become a popular place to experience fall in the USA and a renowned East Coast road trip stop once word gets out.
While the colorful leaves can be seen just about anywhere in Litchfield Hills, there are a few particularly good spots. Drive the road from Litchfield Hills to Torrington, wander around Topsmead State Forest, and soak in the natural beauty of Lake Waramaug.
And the colorful autumn leaves aren’t all that this tiny town has to offer – it goes all out for fall. Take a pumpkin patch train ride or even attend the yearly Garlic & Harvest Festival.
Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
Situated in Northern California, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are another fantastic place to experience fall in the USA. This beautiful natural landscape and popular California road trip stop becomes even more enthralling each autumn.
As with many of the other fall foliage places on this list, there are quite a few fantastic spots to see the fiery colors of fall. Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek, and Surveyors Meadow are all consistently good spots to check out the leaves in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina
Beating out national park giants, like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds the title of the country’s most visited national park – and much of that popularity is due to the park’s great fall colors. Plus, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just a few minutes away from the two of the most adorable towns in Tennessee, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, making it easily accessible.
Due to the wide variety of tree species found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the peak autumn colors last a little longer than the typical week. As a matter of fact, the beautiful bright hues can last up to three weeks!
Cades Cove and Newfound Gap are two of the most popular places to see the fall foliage. But if you want to escape the crowds, check out the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, or the Look Rock Tower Trail.
Yellowstone National Park And Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are both known for quite a few things. While Yellowstone is known for the Old Faithful geyser and the rainbow-colored Yellowstone Lake, Grant Teton is known for its towering mountains. But neither is known for the bright fall colors that adorn the parks each autumn.
While the fall colors in these two national parks don’t get quite as deep or rich as they do in the Northeast, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a visit. In Yellowstone, head to the Lamar Valley, Blacktail Plateau Drive, and Mammoth Hot Springs for the best views. In Grand Teton, you’ll want to head to Oxbow Bend and along Snake River.
The Catskills, New York
The Catskills, New York often tops the lists of the best places to experience fall in America, making it a great stop on an autumn New York road trip. Why? Because the Catskills have gone all out to make your fall in the USA as enjoyable as possible.
While many fall foliage spots simply have you walk or drive around the colorful trees, the Catskills has a few more options. Ride along on the Delaware & Ulster Railroad or see the trees from above with the New York Zipline Canopy Tours. But if driving and hiking are your preferred method of leaf peeping, check out the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, Mount Uthsayantha, and Five State Lookout.
Zion National Park, Utah
When most people think of Zion National Park in Utah, they think of towering red rocks and canyons or a stop along a Utah road trip. They don’t think of autumn leaves, but Zion National Park is a surprisingly great place to experience fall in the USA.
Due to the varying elevations at Zion National Park, the color changing of the leaves lasts a little longer than the typical week. So if you visit early in the season, you’ll be able to see the bright reads of the highest trees. And if you visit later in the season, the trees at the lowest elevation will be at their peak.
A couple of the most popular places to see fall foliage at Zion National Park include Timber Creek Overlook and the Kolob Canyons. Between the red rocks and the red leaves, this landscape is truly a sight to see.
Ozark National Forest, Missouri/Arkansas/Oklahoma/Kansas
Ozark National Forest, simply known as Ozarks, has some of the best fall foliage in the USA. As a matter of fact, there are so many great spots to see brilliant autumn leaves that it’s nearly impossible to enjoy all of them in just one season! The fall is the perfect time of year for an Ozarks road trip because of the beautiful views and good weather.
Hawksbill Crag is by far the most popular spot to see the fall foliage at Ozark National Park, and for good reason. This jutting rock point towers over a sea of warm hues of leaves each fall. If you’re looking for a spot that’s a little less crowded, some of the best leaf peeping spots in Ozarks are on the under-the-radar dirt roads and trails.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Nearly a million and a half people visit Shenandoah National Park each year, and many of them do so in the fall. Regardless of the season, one of the most popular things to do in Shenandoah National Park is cruise down the 105-mile Skyline Drive. And in the fall, this drive just becomes even more amazing.
This Skyline Drive fall foliage experience comes with an added bonus. Many times, when we think of fall in the USA, we are so enamored with the brilliant warm colors, that we forget the brutal chill of the autumn air. By seeing the leaves through the comfort of your car on Skyline Drive, you won’t have to brave the frosty air – unless you want to, of course.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Many of these places to experience fall in the USA highlight the leaves on their own. And while the leaves are, of course, a spectacular sight, the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon adds something else to the mix: waterfalls!
There are tons of awe-inspiring Oregon waterfalls dotted throughout the Columbia River Gorge, including Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, and Metlako Falls. When these waterfalls are paired with the bright, warm hues of autumn, it creates an absolutely stunning landscape.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
While the Northeast and Rocky Mountain regions of the USA typically top the lists of the places to catch the best fall colors in the USA, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan gives those spots a run for their money.
Situated along the Great Lakes, the Upper Peninsula has a ton of great ways to see the colorful autumn leaves. While you can of course see the fall foliage on your own on a scenic drive or hike, Michigan also offers a few different train tours just to see the leaves!
As for where exactly to see the fall leaves in the Upper Peninsula, the Tree Tunnel (officially US-41) and Mackinac Island are two of the most highly recommended. If you’re looking to go a little off the beaten path, consider visiting Tahquamenon Falls, Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor, and Lake of the Clouds.
We hope this guide has given you a bit of inspiration for you to experience the best of fall in the USA. We are happy to answer any questions that you may have about fall in the USA in the comments below!