The Best Destinations in the United States for Leaf Peeping • The Blonde Abroad

Do you love seeing all the gorgeous colors of changing fall foliage? If you’re a big fan of autumn like me, you’ll definitely want to check out the best destinations in the United States to visit in the fall.

Predicting when exactly the autumn leaves will change is quite tricky, so if you’re planning a trip purely to peep the leaves—it’s best to give yourself a bit of leeway. 

While New England typically gets the most attention for being the prime place to see the color change, there are so many other wonderful places around the United States to witness the seasonal shift.

From coast to coast, here are the best destinations in the United States for leaf peeping!

Timing of Your Trip

For some of these places, there are online calendars that will give you a better look at when the shift is starting and the peak time for you to visit.

Smoky Mountains’ fall foliage prediction map is an interactive tool to give you a better idea of when you’ll see colors during the autumn season. The site uses factors like historical precipitation, elevation, temperatures, forecasts, and several other data points to give you a better idea of peak leaf-peeping time.

However, fall foliage is quite a complex thing as so many different things factor into the rate at which they change — things like day and nighttime temperatures, and even the amount of sugar in the leaves.

So, while the prediction map won’t be 100% — it does give you a better idea of when to plan your trip!

Another resource is Leaf Peepers, which provides reports from on-the-ground volunteers about leaf updates across the country. Did you know that some states even have a dedicated foliage hotline you can call for updates?

My best advice: be flexible, plan ahead and look to local resources to figure out the best time.

Tips for Your Fall Foliage Trip

If you’re wanting to snap photos to relive the moment later, l highly suggest learning how to use your camera in manual mode before going so you can nail those photos.

While driving some of the byways and long stretches is great, parking and getting out of the car and exploring beautiful hiking trails is an absolute dream!

Be mindful that if you wait too long and a storm hits, the trees may be ripped bare.

Last, but certainly not least, to avoid disappointment—fill your trip with other autumn faves: find places to enjoy hot cider, go apple picking or visit a pumpkin patch, find a fall festival to attend, or take a hayride!

Again, the leaves are gorgeous but can be unpredictable.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Maine

The coast of Maine is an absolute dream. While its rustic and rugged charm is attractive all year round, folks tend to flock for summer beaches and the vibrant fall foliage.

Bar Harbor gets a lot of attention when it comes to autumn displays—plus, when you mix that with the salty, sea air, it’s a brilliantly crisp mix! Stay at the many historic hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area, and explore Acadia National Park.

 

Stowe + Montpelier, Vermont

I mentioned Stowe in the best destinations in the US to visit in the fall—and for good reason. Stowe is often referred to as “Fall’s Color Capital,” and quite honestly, it looks like it’s straight out of an autumn Hallmark movie!

Montpelier is also one of the most charming towns in the USA. And Vermont, as a whole, seriously wins when it comes to fall color. There are a number of scenic routes to drive to get your fill of yellow, red, orange, and brown hues, so take your pick.

Flagstaff Arizona Aspen Golden Leaves

Flagstaff, Arizona

While Arizona might not be the first place you think of when it comes to color-changing leaves, the northern region of the state is actually quite a prime place come October!

Flagstaff is surrounded by a ponderosa pine forest and beautiful, golden aspen trees.

You can come for the fall leaves and then stay for the Grand Canyon! Plus, Flagstaff has its own Oktoberfest for those really wanting to embrace all the fall fun.

Taos, New Mexico

Another southwestern beauty that doesn’t usually get enough attention during the fall season is New Mexico. Known as “The Land of Enchantment,” Taos truly lives up to the state’s nickname.

You’ll find gorgeous autumn foliage along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway loop which goes from Taos to Eagle Nest and Angel Fire. 

Summer is gorgeous…

But look at fall!

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

While my home state doesn’t usually make lists of best places to see fall leaves, that doesn’t mean there aren’t places to do so! The best way to peep the leaves? A California road trip!

Head up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California and you’ll find some fantastic viewing points.

You’ll usually find the fiery colors at Lake Tahoe—where the warm hues make a striking contrast against the water. Some other spots that offer good viewing are Bishop Creek, Surveyors Meadow, Hope Valley, and Lake Sabrina.

Add a trip to Apple Hill to embrace all those autumnal vibes!

Catskills New York Fall Leaves

The Catskills, New York

While there are numerous places I could list off when it comes to New York (NYC’s Central Park is an iconic fall scene!), the Catskill Mountains take the cake here.

Go for a scenic drive or hike and end up at one of the many breweries or cider mills. The Catskills offer vibrant views of electrifying fall hues, and there are so many natural wonders to take in: rivers and mountain peaks, to boot.

If the leaf viewing time lines up, many of the historic villages host craft fairs, festivals, and farmers markets…plus you’ll likely find several pick-your-own apple orchards!

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge is well, gorgeous!

The area is beautiful year-round, but it absolutely stuns in the fall when the Oregon ash, cottonwoods, firs, and big-leaf maples shift to their fall colors. Located between Washington and Oregon—and a prime stop on a Pacific Northwest road trip—the area has over 50 waterfalls to add to its breathtaking beauty.

Mount Hood is the ideal place for hiking, biking, and taking in all the fall colors.

Another favorite is the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway! Talk about a beautiful drive.

Grand Portal Point

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

While folks usually think of the Great Lakes, Michigan offers up some gorgeous scenery and vibrant fall foliage. Drive across the Mackinac Bridge and all along the Keweenaw Peninsula and soak it all in.

Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

The 105-mile Skyline Drive is famous for its symphony of fall colors—you’ll find red, orange, yellows as you drive along in absolute awe.

One of the most iconic stretches is the Blue Ridge Parkway which starts in central Virginia and will take you way up into the Cherokee National Forest.

Usually, this area will turn first as it is at a higher elevation (sometimes around mid-September), and then the other areas of Virginia that are at lower elevations will shift later in the season.

Aspen, Colorado

You can bet that a place which is named after Aspen trees is going to have some gorgeous colors! While Aspen’s colorful season doesn’t last long, if you’re able to plan it just right—you’ll be greeted by brilliant golden hues all over.

You’ll want to stop at Maroon Bells while here—an iconic vista and one of the most-photographed mountain ranges in the country.

Lake Ozark Missouri Fall Autumn Leaves

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is at its most scenic around fall. The forests come alive with mahogany, gold, and scarlet hues. As the temperatures get a little bit crisper, this state park is perfect for hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking.

Look at all that autumn color!

Glacier National Park, Montana

You’ll definitely want to check out this local’s guide to Glacier National Park. For those wanting to embrace rugged nature and make fall foliage viewing and adventure, this national park is a must!

While most of the park’s concessions have closed by the end of September, this means the park is rather empty. If you’re self-sufficient (and again, game for an adventure), you’ll have stunning views of larch trees as they turn a brilliant gold before shedding their needles.

You’ll also find tons of wildlife preparing for the winter, like elk, mountain goats, bears, and bighorn sheep. Heads up, all the other trees — namely maple, aspen, birch, huckleberry, and cottonwood — turn earlier than the larch trees.

Litchfield Connecticut Fall Autumn

Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

Litchfield Hills is a hidden gem and a wonderful place to add to an East Coast road trip.

It offers all those charming small-town vibes, but with big doses of colorful leaves. Make sure to check out Topsmead State Forest and Lake Waramaug while here!

Yellowstone + Grand Teton, Wyoming

These two national parks are absolute beauties!

At Yellowstone, you get the added bonus of seeing the Old Faithful geyser along with Yellowstone Lake—a rainbow-hued wonder. Combine this with a trip to Grand Teton to view all the colossal mountains and you’ll get your fill of bright autumn colors!

Do you have any suggestions or places you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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