The Best USA Fall Foliage Destinations to Experience This Year
Looking to experience some of the top autumn leaf color destinations around the USA? Or maybe which states offer the best fall colors? In this guide, you will find some of the best places to see fall foliage in the USA! From the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies, find out the perfect place to see fall foliage this year across the United States.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Best USA Fall Foliage Destinations to Experience This Year
- New York City Fall Foliage
- Ozark Mountains in Arkansas
- Rocky Mountain National Park in Fall
- Leavenworth Fall Colors in Washington State
- Chattanooga Autumn in Tennessee
- Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Colors in North Carolina
- Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
- Stowe, Vermont in Fall
- The White Mountains in New Hampshire
- Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania
- Fall Foliage at Mammoth Lakes in California
- Denali National Park, Alaska
- Lutsen in Minnesota
- Telluride, Colorado
- Mad River Valley, Vermont
- Finger Lakes Region, Upstate NY
- Washington DC
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Autumn Colors
- North Cascades National Park, Washington
- Acadia National Park Maine
- Aspen, Colorado
- Chugach State Park Alaska
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Jackson, Wyoming
- USA Fall Foliage Travel Tips
- Fall Foliage in the USA: Wrap-up
New York City Fall Foliage
Fall in New York City is arguably one of the best seasons to visit! The weather allows you to wear your comfy sweaters, the summer crowds are gone, and you will be greeted with some of the best fall foliage in the USA.
The best time to see fall foliage in New York City is between mid-October to early-November. Each year the peak colors are different depending on the weather.
One of the best places to see fall colors in NYC is of course the famous Central Park which is also one of the best free things to do in NYC! Be sure to take a stroll by Bow Bridge, The Mall, Gapstow Bridge, and the Ramble for some incredible foliage.
Some additional parks to add to your New York itinerary for beautiful fall colors include Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, and Washington Square Park.
Additionally, you can take a day trip to Upstate New York or Long Island, NY for apple picking and hiking! For more autumn ideas, use this NYC Fall Bucket-list! Find more New York guides here along with awesome things to do in NYC at Night here!
New York has some of the most luxurious and expensive hotels, but since fall is a shoulder month, you can get much better rates!
Where to Stay in NYC: MOXY NYC Times Square | Hyatt House Chelsea | Hotel Edison Times Square – See the full guide on the best hotels in NYC here!
NYC Passes to save money: City Pass | City Sightseeing Pass | Hop on Hop Off Bus
NYC Tours: Get Your Guide NYC Tours
Ozark Mountains in Arkansas
Suggested by Ashlee Fechino at The Happiness Function
Fall is an incredible season to explore the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Reaching elevations of over 2,500 ft, the Oak-Hickory Forest puts on an impressive fall display of foliage starting in October.
The peak season is typically late October (weather dependent, of course).
Along with the leaves changing, the weather is cooler, which is perfect for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and exploring some of the quaint mountain towns such as Eureka Springs and Bentonville.
Northwest Arkansas is a beautiful place for anyone looking to capture some jaw-dropping fall scenery. In the Ozark National Forest, the hike to Whitaker Point (also known as Hawksbill Crag) is one of the most photo-worthy fall spots and features stunning views of the Crag that will take your breath away.
If you’re planning to explore this scenic area of Arkansas, be sure to visit Buffalo National River, a U.S. National Park Service Site.
The Buffalo National River is one of the few undammed rivers in the U.S. The area has fantastic hiking, camping, fishing, and opportunities to float the river.
In fact, plan to camp at Buffalo National River and then hike to Whitaker Point. The area is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the USA!
Where to Stay Near the Ozark Mountains: TownePlace Suites by Marriott | 21c Museum Hotel | Hyatt Place Rogers/Bentonville | Vrbo
Rocky Mountain National Park in Fall
Suggested by Meg from Fox in the Forest
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best ways to experience fall in Colorado. Known for its colorful aspens and quintessential autumn colors, the Rocky Mountain National Park offers some of the best fall foliage in the USA.
Typically, the best time to visit for leaf peeping is from mid-September to early October. The best way to fully soak up the beauty of autumn in Colorado’s Rockys is to take a road trip through the alluring Trail Ridge Road.
This road winds right through Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. It is even considered one of the most gorgeous drives in the USA – especially for fall foliage!
Another fabulous way to experience the beauty of this national park is by hitting a few hiking trails.
Not only will the hikes be lined by colorful aspens, but the chances of you running into a few elk are high, especially if you are visiting during early October, which is during mating season. Some of the best hikes include Emerald Lake trail, Sprague Lake, and Glacier Gorge.
Moreover, nearby Estes Park celebrates elk every season by hosting the yearly Elk Festival. During this fall festival, you can learn all about these fascinating animals through educational activities, Native American storytelling, live music, and more!
Check out some Rocky Mountain National Park tours.
Where to Stay in Rocky Mountain National Park (Book well in Advance – National Park hotels go very quickly): Murphy’s Resort | Boulder Brook on Fall River | Hotel Estes | Vrbo
Leavenworth Fall Colors in Washington State
Suggested by Britt from Britt’s Bella Vita
Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed village in Central Washington that offers some of the best fall foliage in the USA. The fall colors change at different times each year, but it’s safe to say that Late September – early October is the ideal time to see the fall foliage.
You can even help welcome and celebrate fall with the locals at their annual Autumn Leaf Festival!
If you’re staying downtown, you can walk to the Wenatchee River and hike the local trails for the best views of the fall foliage in Leavenworth.
Other popular things to do in Leavenworth in the autumn are enjoying the harvest season in the surrounding wine country.
Additionally, each year during the month of October visitors flock to this European-inspired town for the ultimate Oktoberfest festival.
If attending a traditional German Oktoberfest is on your bucket list, Leavenworth, Washington is one of the closest you’ll get to that experience in the United States!
This year Oktoberfest is back for its 24th year! It will take place on Sept 30-Oct 1, Oct 7-8 & 14-15. Get your tickets for Oktoberfest here!
More fun activities in Leavenworth here!
Where to Stay in Leavenworth: Hampton Inn & Suites Leavenworth | Der Ritterhof Inn | Obertal Inn | Vrbo
Chattanooga Autumn in Tennessee
Suggested by Jordan from The Homebody Tourist
Chattanooga, Tennessee is an outdoor-lovers paradise and a great place to visit to see the best fall foliage in the USA. Chattanooga is located just 2 hours from Nashville as well as Atlanta. The fall colors peak between late October and early November.
Aside from the beautiful colors, fall is a great time to visit Chattanooga because of the mild temperatures (great for hiking and exploring!) You can start your trip out by visiting the Jack Daniels Distillery and touring its beautiful grounds.
After your tour, head into the city for a picnic at Coolidge Park and walk across the Walnut Street Bridge. End your night with a sunset boat ride down the Tennessee River.
To really get the best look at the fall foliage, head to the neighboring state parks (Fall Creek Falls and South Cumberland Falls) for some amazing waterfall hikes!
After a day full of hiking, be sure to stop at Lookout Winery for great views from the patio and all the pizza and wine tasting!
Additionally, you can check out Ruby Falls which has the largest underground waterfall in the USA!
If you have extra time, make a day trip to Rock City Gardens for a stroll through unique gardens, caves, and other magical exhibits, or take a weekend trip to the cutest Alpine Village in Helen, GA.
Check out popular tours in Chattanooga.
Where to Stay in Chattanooga: Hilton Garden Inn Chattanooga/Hamilton Place | Moxy Chattanooga Downtown | Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Helen | Vrbo
Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Colors in North Carolina
Do you love scenic drives? Then there is no better place to see fall foliage in the United States by car than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Known as the most popular parkway in the U.S. with 20 million counted visits in 2020, you are in for quite the treat.
The Blue Ridge Parkway brings you through the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains which is a part of the greater Appalachian Mountains.
This scenic Parkway stretches from Virginia through North Carolina and connects Shenandoah National and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
While it is a popular destination year-round, the Blue Ridge Parkway is by far the most popular during the fall. During this road trip, you will experience epic fall foliage and elevations over 6,600 ft!
See countless waterfalls, enjoy fabulous mountain views, hike dozens of trails, and of course see brilliant fall colors!
Some of the best stops to include in your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip itinerary are Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, Mt. Mitchell (highest peak West of the Mississippi), Asheville, NC, Pisgah National Forest, and Cherokee (entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains).
Peak fall foliage on the parkway ranges from mid-October to the end of October. Because the Parkway ranges in elevations, you will find that the leaves start to change color at the highest points and make their way down the mountain. Apple picking in NC is also popular during this time.
You should spend at least 3 days driving the parkway. I’d recommend starting in Boone, NC, and ending in Cherokee.
Find out more about why to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall here!
Find Blue Ridge Parkway tours here.
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
Suggested by Erin Gifford from Go Hike Virginia
You’ll feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of daily life as you motor along the 105-mile Skyline Drive at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park during leaf-peeping season in October and November.
The eye-pleasing colors across the majestic Shenandoah Valley reward visitors eager for dramatic pops of fiery orange, persimmon, and golden yellow.
Enjoy the wildly beautiful Shenandoah National Park overlooks, like Franklin Cliff Overlook and Hawksbill Summit.
In all, more than 75 overlooks implore visitors to stop and admire the views of the vibrant splashes of color that drape the forested landscape.
Lace-up your hiking boots for one of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park, like the scramble to the top of Bearfence Mountain for foliage-filled 360-degree panoramas. Waterfall-watchers, revel in colorful leaves as you hike to Doyles River Falls or Dark Hollow Falls.
Stay the weekend in the park in a rustic-chic cabin or modern guest room at Skyland or Big Meadows Lodge. Before you return home, indulge in a slice of the park’s signature mile-high blackberry ice cream pie. Heavenly!
Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park: Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Conference Ctr. | The Village Inn | Vrbo
Stowe, Vermont in Fall
Suggested by Sunetra Biswas from Globetrotting Su
Dreaming of vibrant autumn hues with picturesque fairytale towns set in the rolling mountains? Then drive Route 100 all the way to Stowe in Vermont for that extraordinary fall experience.
Stowe, VT is the quintessential fall village that you must visit during a New England fall foliage road trip in the USA.
The gorgeous fall foliage of Stowe along with its idyllic backdrops make this a popular destination from the end of September to mid-October.
While leaf-peeping is the most popular activity in Stowe during autumn, you must also experience the beauty of Stowe by biking, paddling, or hiking around.
Interesting things to do in Stowe are strolling the cute Stowe village, tasting the cider donut from the infamous Cold Hollow Cider Mill, eating ice cream from the official Ben & Jerry’s Factory Store, and tasting the Vermont maple syrup.
Other important places to visit while in Stowe are Smuggler’s Notch State Park and picturesque Woodstock farms.
For the adventurous souls, enjoy an exhilarating zip line experience at Stowe Mountain Resort.
Others can enjoy the Gondola Skyride to the summit of Mt. Mansfield with breathtaking fall foliage views of Stowe. While Stowe is a year-round destination, it gets incredibly magical during fall that you must experience once in your life.
Where to Stay in Stowe, Vermont (book in advance- rooms go quick): The Lodge at Spruce Peak | Sun & Ski Inn and Suites | Trapp Family Lodge
The White Mountains in New Hampshire
Suggested by Nichole from Nichole the Nomad
If you are looking for one of the best places to see fall foliage in the USA, the White Mountains in New England are for you!
The White Mountains make up a quarter of New Hampshire and are home to some of the most beautiful foliage in the world, with vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and purples painting the mountains and valleys.
Fun Fact: The White Mountains are a part of the Appalachian Mountains and reach elevations of over 6,200 ft! They are also known as one of the most rugged mountains in New England.
The best time to visit the White Mountains for foliage is from late September to early October.
Visiting the White Mountains offers so many ways to experience the fall foliage. You can hike to many iconic spots, including Mount Washington, Mount Willard, and the Flume Gorge, to get epic views of the foliage.
You can also drive the Kancamagus Highway, which is considered one of the most beautiful foliage drives in the world!
The Kancamagus Highway has waterfalls, trails, and overlooks that offer stunning views of the foliage.
If those aren’t for you, you can take a scenic train ride through the mountains or to the summit of Mount Washington!
No matter how you want to experience fall foliage, the White Mountains will steal your heart and become one of your favorite places to view the autumn colors in the USA!
Where to Stay Near The White Mountains: Omni Mount Washington Resort | The Inn at Thorn Hill | White Mountain Hotel and Resort | Vrbo
Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania
Located about 2 hours Northwest of NYC, find the perfect fall escape in the mountains of Poconos, Pennsylvania. The mountains hit an elevation of over 2,600 ft, offering a range of beautiful fall foliage for this USA destination.
One of the best ways to see fall foliage in the Poconos is by taking a scenic drive down route 209. This will bring you through the Deleware Water Gap and on to Bushkills.
Next, explore Bushkill Falls which covers 300 acres and has dozens of hiking trails, a 100 ft waterfall, and 8 additional waterfalls. They even consider the main waterfall the Niagra of Pennsylvania.
Tickets are needed to visit Bushkill Falls and range from $14-$18 dollars. Find tickets to Bushkill here.
Other popular parks to visit for fall colors include Lehigh Gorge State Park and Hickory Run State Park. You will also be able to see waterfalls, hike tons of trails, camp, fish, and more!
If you love wolves, you might also want to consider taking a road trip to the Lokta Wolf Preserve Refugee just about 30 minutes away from the Poconos in New Jersey.
The best time to see the leaves change colors in the Poconos is during the month of October.
Where to Stay in the Poconos: Hampton Inn Lehighton – Jim Thorpe | Hampton Inn & Suites Stroudsburg Bartonsville Poconos | Mount Airy Casino Resort | Vrbo
Fall Foliage at Mammoth Lakes in California
Suggested by Michelle from the Wandering Queen
One of the best places in California to witness fall colors is Mammoth Lakes. This beautiful mountain town is located in the Eastern Sierra area and reaches elevations of over 7,800 ft! Full of bright yellow Alpine trees, it is easily one of the best places for marvelous fall foliage in the USA.
With tons of stunning mountain views and scenic lakes, Mammoth Lakes is an outdoors lover’s paradise. Enjoy hiking, scenic drives, camping, fishing, biking, and more!
One of the best places to spot the fall colors is by driving the June Lake Loop. Make sure to check out Silver Lake, Gull Lake, Grant Lake, and Rush Creek for lovely fall foliage.
Another fun area to explore is Convict Lake. You can hike the Convict Lake loop trail to the base of the mountain, where you will find alpine trees galore! Additionally, you can explore the Lundy Canyon trail for more leaf-peeping in Mammoth Lakes.
After all the fall color chasing, make sure to relax by one of the many hot springs, one of the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes. This is such a great place to visit for the fall, especially if you want to get away from the crowds in the Eastern United States.
Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes: The Westin Monache Resort | The Village Lodge | Juniper Springs Resort | Vrbo
Denali National Park, Alaska
Suggested by Jami From Celiac Travel Pack
Denali National Park in Alaska is a beautiful wilderness in any season but the beauty of fall colors with snow-capped mountains is unmatched. Since Denali is so far north fall colors come at the end of August and the beginning of September.
To reach Denali you’ll want to fly into Anchorage or Fairbanks. The park is 4 hours from Anchorage and 2 hours from Fairbanks. Make it a full Alaska road trip with a stopover in Denali. You could take the trains in Alaska but they are slow and expensive. Rent a car instead. There are no major hotels near Denali but you’ll still want to stay in the area for at least one night if you can. Stay in a small hotel, BnB, or rental.
During peak season, a bus takes you through the park. You can choose a tour with a guide or a hop-on-hop-off style bus to explore on your own. Whichever option you choose take it all the way out and stop on the way back. You could try to visit after the busses stop running but it requires more research, planning, and luck since the weather can turn from fall to winter quickly.
Hiking at Savage River in the park provides beautiful scenery with a hike that isn’t strenuous. However, most day hikes are near the visitor’s center. Horseshoe Lake is beautiful and Mount Healy Overlook is worth the workout for the view. You can also meet the sled dogs and sled dog puppies at the kennel!
Lutsen in Minnesota
Suggested by Shelly from Almost There Adventures
A trip to Lutsen, Minnesota is an off-the-radar gem perfect for fall foliage in the USA. Lutsen is located along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota. It’s about a two-hour drive from Minneapolis.
Start your adventure in Duluth, a small industrial harbor town where large ships pass in and out and you can view the Aerial Lift Bridge. Enjoy lunch and skip rocks in Canal Park before you make your way northeast on Hwy 61 towards Lutsen.
The drive to Lutsen has lovely scenic stops including Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock lighthouse, and Temperance River State Park. You can also check out the lesser-known Iona Beach which has a shoreline covered in smooth pink rocks.
A stay in Lutsen or Grand Marais will put you centrally located for hiking, waterfalls, and epic leaf-peeping.
Once in Lutsen, check out Cascade River State Park, along with taking an aerial gondola ride up Moose Mountain to view the spectacular fall colors. Hiking in Lutsen is another one of the best ways to see the fall leaf color along the North Shore.
The window for peak fall color on the North Shore varies but can be seen the last two weekends in September through mid-October.
Where to Stay Near Lutsen (they book up fast): Cliff Dweller on Lake Superior | Mountain Inn at Lutsen | Vrbo
Suggested by Erin from Super Simple Salty Life
The cute mountain town of Telluride is in southwest Colorado, about 6.5 hours from the Denver International Airport. Alternatively, the Telluride Regional Airport just outside of town has daily flights from Denver and Phoenix and is known as North America’s highest airport at 9,078 feet in elevation. Part of the draw of Telluride is the fact that it is so remote, so you must have your own vehicle to explore the town.
In September Telluride and the Aspen groves in the surrounding San Juan Mountain Range become alight with brilliant golds, yellows, and oranges. Colors begin to shift in mid-September and reach their peak towards the end of the month, typically falling off by the middle of October. Don’t miss a ride on the Telluride Gondola, a free and exhilarating way to get from Telluride to the neighboring Mountain Village. The views of the changing leaves and the brilliant mountain peaks from the gondola are breathtaking.
Fall weather in this region is cool and crisp, with highs during the day reaching the upper 60s, which creates the perfect environment for long hikes. One popular local hike is the trail to Bridal Veil Falls, starting just outside of downtown Telluride and climbing 1,650 feet in elevation to the base of the falls. Hikers can then continue to the top of the falls with panoramic views of the valley below.
The best way to get a feel for the historic town of Telluride is to stay in the heart of downtown. A popular boutique European-style chalet is The Hotel Telluride which sits in the perfect location, within walking distance of the main street downtown and local shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Mad River Valley, Vermont
Suggested by Heather Kasvinsky From This Noshtalgic Life
The Mad River Valley of Vermont is perhaps best known for Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, two of its classic ski areas, but it is so much more than that, especially on an autumn day. The area is a definite hidden gem in the fall compared to other more popular destinations and is much less crowded.
It’s like driving through a living postcard in early October. The area comes alive when you can enjoy an autumn day unlike any other – thanks to the brilliant colors all around. It’s truly a sight to behold. When people imagine fall color in Vermont, THIS is what they picture!
The best way to take it all in is by driving down Rt. 100. This popular scenic route winds its way through the heart of the valley, giving you plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the views. The valley is spacious and open, with lots of fields, country roads, and covered bridges to explore as well. Stop in for a coffee or treat at the Sweet Spot, riverside, and stroll from shop to shop on Bridge Street in Waitsfield.
Fall is also the perfect time to go for a hike up on Lincoln Gap. Specifically, the views from the top of Mount Abraham, at 4,017’, are amazing! Sunset Ledge is also an easier shorter hike that leads to a spectacular view of fall foliage.
The Pitcher Inn in Warren, VT is the perfect place to stay in the Mad River Valley for a romantic autumn getaway. This historic inn dates back to the 1800s, and it has been beautifully restored to its original elegance. It’s in the heart of the village and is nearby many shops and places to eat.
From late September through mid-October the leaves are changing color in the Mad River Valley and the air is crisp and cool. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely drive or an invigorating hike, it is the perfect place to be in the fall. Remember, a car is a must when accessing the Mad River Valley. It is an hour’s drive from Burlington, VT, the closest airport.
Finger Lakes Region, Upstate NY
Suggested by Carley from Home to Havana
Located just a few hours north of the major cities of the East Coast, the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is home to an explosion of fall colors in mid- to late-October and all the fall festivities you could ever want to enjoy an unforgettable fall vacation.
Home to some of the best backpacking on the East Coast, the Finger Lakes are known for their incredible gorges and plunging waterfalls, such as the towering Taughannock Falls near Cayuga Lake and Watkins Glen just a short drive away. These natural wonders create incredible perspectives for viewing the fall colors, as well as provide excellent hiking trails.
The easiest way to explore this enchanting region is by car, as you’ll have a chance to better access the countless hiking trails, waterfalls, parks, wineries, and more with lovely views of the leaves. Destinations are spread out, making bus travel or ridesharing too expensive or impractical.
For an easy base to explore the area, consider staying in Ithaca. You’ll find frequent buses to and from New York and other cities on the east coast, as well as a small but well-connected airport. You’ll find an array of hotel and VRBO options, plus charming bed and breakfasts like Quinta Rosa. Tucked away in a lovely, lush area with a babbling brook and comfortable rooms, the owners have created several charming rooms filled with luxurious details for an unforgettable stay just a few miles from Ithaca.
Ithaca is also home to fall festivities and must-visit spots like the bustling Ithaca Farmer’s Market, countless farms for u-pick pumpkins and apples, as well as the Apple Harvest Festival on the Ithaca Commons in the charming downtown, usually held during the first few days of October.
Washington DC is often overlooked as a place to see fall foliage, however, like most of the USA’s east coast, you can see some awesome colors!
Peak fall colors in Washington DC begin around mid to late October. The best part about fall in DC, is that most of the main attractions will include seeing fall colors!
One of the best places to see fall colors in DC is while strolling around the National Mall. Make your way up to the Lincoln Memorial and take in all the autumn vibes!
The best way to get around Washington DC is by foot or metro. Finding parking is pretty difficult in DC and the cost of parking is generally high. If the weather is nice, consider doing a sightseeing tour of the Nation’s Capitol! It is very popular!
And to help you plan your perfect trip, use this Weekend in Washington DC itinerary!
Where to Stay in Washington DC: Dupont Circle Hotel | Omni Shoreham | Grand Hyatt Washington | JW Marriott Washington, DC
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Autumn Colors
Known as the most visited National Park in the USA, The Great Smoky Mountains easily make the list of top places to see fall colors! Because it is one of the busiest parks, however, expect this park to be busier than most to take in all the fall colors!
The Great Smoky Mountains are located mainly in Tennesse with a tiny bit in North Carolina. Peak season ranges by elevation, however, you can expect to see beautiful fall colors around mid-October at high elevations to the end of October in lower elevations.
This National Park has elevations over 6,000 ft and home to the 3rd highest peak east of the Mississippi. You also have the opportunity to see black bears and elk!
There are dozens of hikes throughout the National Park to go leaf peeping! Additionally, there are fun places nearby like the Dollywood amusement park and the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg!
The best places to stay around the Great Smoky Mountains will be in the towns of either Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. These town areas are a ton of fun, but make sure to book far in advance for fall festivities!
Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains: Pigeon Forge | Gatlinburg
North Cascades National Park, Washington
Suggested by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
While the Pacific Northwest may not be the first spot to come to mind for fantastic fall colors, there’s certain areas, like North Cascades National Park, that are nothing short of dazzling, come autumn.
The North Cascades are approximately three hours northeast of Seattle, Washington, and most easily accessed in a car.
In the last weeks of September through the beginning of October, the North Cascades explode with fall color. And while there’s maple and other deciduous trees that turn vibrant colors, the spectacular thing about the Cascades is that the wildflowers and shrubs blanketing their slopes also burst into brilliant hues of orange, red, and yellow. Additionally, there’s a coniferous tree found along the alpine slopes, called the larch, which turns a flaming golden color, before its needles fall off for winter. It’s such a beloved spectacle in Washington that it’s known as “larch madness”!
For the best views of these colors, hike the Maple Loop Pass trail, which will lead you up unto a mountain ridge, past countless of larches and autumnal wildflowers, to a view of the countless mountain peaks surrounding you. Alternatively, the Blue Lake trail ends at a stunning alpine lake, surrounded on all sides by larches, sitting in the shadow of a glaciated mountain.
Visiting the North Cascades in fall is a popular weekend trip for Seattlites and others that live in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s best to show up to the trails early to enjoy the spectacular foliage in peace.
Winthrop is a good home base to consider. The Sun Mountain Lodge is an excellent place to stay, with a cozy outdoor hot tub to take in the surrounding mountain views.
Acadia National Park Maine
Suggested by Jenifer from The Evolista
Acadia National Park is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States. The park is located on Mount Desert Island in Maine and is home to Cadillac Mountain. The best time to see fall foliage in Acadia is in the first half of October when the leaves are at their peak.
There are many ways to enjoy the autumn colors in Acadia, including driving the 27-mile park loop road, biking on the 45 miles of carriage roads, exploring the coast by kayak, or hiking one of the many trails including the Cadillac Mountain Hike! Don’t forget to pack your hiking essentials.
One of the highlights of a visit to Acadia is having popovers and afternoon tea at Jordan Pond House. This iconic restaurant is located on a scenic pond and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a free shuttle throughout the park called the Island Express that has a stop at Jordan Pond.
To get to Acadia National Park, fly into Bangor, Maine, or Portland, Maine and rent a car. The drive to Bar Harbor takes 1 hour from Bangor and 3 hours from Portland. The Inn on Mount Desert is a nice place to stay that’s 5 minutes walking distance from Downtown Bar Harbor restaurants and shops.
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to enjoy the fall colors that has plenty of great activities, be sure to add Acadia National Park to your list.
Suggested by Marissa from Sunset Chasing Blonde travel blog
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the beautiful town of Aspen, Colorado is a must-see destination for anyone interested in seeing some of the best fall foliage in the USA. The beautiful crisp yellow leaves against the mountains make for an unforgettable experience.
For peak foliage, you’ll want to plan your trip to Aspen around mid-September to early October. This is when the leaves are at their most vibrant and the weather is still pleasant, with temperatures averaging in the 60s during the day.
If you’re dreaming of a picturesque village town with a mountain backdrop, you’ll adore Aspen. You’ll find a wide range of delicious foods, drinks, and plenty of shops to linger through. You can explore the town on foot, or even take the scenic Silver Queen Gondola ride up Aspen Mountain for incredible views.
Aspen also offers several great hiking trails for leaf peepers. A few favorites include the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness (a popular spot!), Hunter Creek Valley Trail, and the Four Pass Loop.
The downtown area of Aspen is extremely walkable, but you may want to consider renting a car if you’re planning on doing any day trips or hikes in the area. There is also a free shuttle in town that can easily get you around.
Plan for at least a weekend in Aspen which will give you plenty of time to explore the town. And if you’re looking for a cozy place to stay in Aspen, check out The Little Nell or Hotel Jerome.
If you love fall foliage and beautiful mountain scenery, Aspen is the perfect spot for you. You can book a flight directly into the Aspen airport or book a more budget-friendly flight to Denver. And if you have extra time, don’t forget to explore the beautiful city of Denver if you’re flying out from the Denver Airport!
Chugach State Park Alaska
Suggested by Lina From Bucket List Places
Alaska is a magical place full of a variety of landscapes, climates, and wildlife. While Alaska might not come to mind for fall colors, it is quite incredible.
While different parts of Alaska start to change colors at different times, one of the best places for fall foliage in Alaska is the Chugach State Park. This generally happens around mid-September.
Located on the outskirts of Anchorage and spanning 495,204 acres, the forest here is filled with a variety of deciduous trees that turn incredible yellows and oranges, including aspens and birch trees. What makes Chugach State Park especially appealing is its easy access from Anchorage airport. Some parts of the park are located only 15 minutes away by car.
With its location up north, the fall time also brings the chances of seeing Northern Lights in Alaska. Hiking is very popular in the national park and will give you the best chances of seeing the fall colors at their finest. Other options include Kayaking at Eklutna Lake or mountain biking the various trails throughout the park system.
While there are a number of options for places to stay near Anchorage, the most beautiful option to really maximize the fall foliage and having the chance to see the Northern lights is Loft in the Clouds. This property sits on the foothills of Chugach State Park on top of a mountain with incredible views of the state park, the Knik inlet and has a roof deck with 360-degree views of the surrounding forest.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Suggested by Lisa From Planning Away
The Salt Lake City valley is a beautiful place to see fall colors in the USA. Salt Lake City is surrounded by mountains. This makes Fall one of the best times to visit Salt Lake City. Besides incredible fall foliage, there are so many things to do in Utah in the Fall.
Once you arrive at Salt Lake City International airport you will need to rent a car. The best way to see the fall colors is by taking a scenic drive into the mountains. You can enjoy scenic views from the car along with dozens of hiking trails.
The third week of September is generally the peak season for viewing the leaves in the mountains and canyons. The two most popular scenic drives for fall colors in Utah are the Alpine Loop and Guardsman Pass. Both are incredible! On weekends, it is not uncommon to be bumper to bumper during the peak fall season.
A great hiking trail to check out is Bloods Trail near the Guardsman Pass and Stewart Falls. If you want an amazing and intense hike, hiking to the top of Timpanogos will give you fantastic views of the beautiful leaves.
If you are looking for a great place to stay, Sundance Ski Resort Cottages are nestled in a beautiful area near the Alpine Loop. You can also stay in Park City at Montage Deer Valley or the Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley. These luxury hotels have lower prices in the fall as it is the low season.
Suggested by Chelsey From Chelsey Explores
Jackson, Wyoming, often referred to as Jackson Hole, is an underrated fall destination to see fall leaves in peak season.
The peak season to see fall foliage is around the third week of September and lasts until early October. Oxbow Bend, Fall Creek Road, or over Togwotee Pass are some notable viewpoints for colorful panoramics.
The great thing about Jackson in particular is its location. It is basically in the middle of nowhere so those who make their way there didn’t just happen upon it. There’s a lot to love with fewer crowds and crisp mountain air.
Temps hover around 70 degrees in September and start to drastically cool down, ranging in the 50s in October and the 40s in November.
The best way to get to Jackson is by plane or a stop on a road trip. Impressive enough for a city with a population of just 10,000 people there is actually an airport right in the middle of the town and you can fly in from most major airports (usually with 1 stop) but you will pay more than a larger airport.
The closest major airports are Bozeman, Salt Lake City, and Boise but after landing you will still need to drive between 4-6 hours. To properly explore the city and surrounding areas you would need a car to get around to the best sights.
Some must-do things to add to your Jackson Hole itinerary are to rent an e-bike and ride it from Jackson to Teton Village on the Grand Loop Trail, hike one of many nearby National Park trails, shop in the rustic town, or visit Jackson Hole Winery for a tasting (reservation recommended).
A cozy affordable accommodation in town is the Antler Inn and if you want something more luxurious, Rustic Inn Creekside has plenty of amenities. Make sure to book these many months in advance, especially if visiting during peak season because rates will skyrocket!
North of Jackson Hole is Yellowstone National Park which will also have excellent fall foilage and even the elk rut. See the best things to do in Yellowstone here.
USA Fall Foliage Travel Tips
Now that you know some of the best places to see fall foliage in the USA, here are some additional tips before planning your vacation.
- If you are planning to visit any of the National Parks, consider getting the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. You can get this pass online or at your local REI. The pass is $80 for entry to all National Parks for the year. If you don’t plan to visit any other National Parks this fall, look at the specific national parks website to get your ticket ahead of time.
- Bring layers. Most of these fall destinations are in the mountains at high elevations. It is even possible it can snow during your visit.
- Book in advance. Believe it or not, fall is a very popular time to travel for those seeking fall foliage. You will find the most popular destinations run out of rooms quickly. I’ve linked some of the best places to stay at each fall getaway above!
- Start your days early. Because fall leaf-peeping is so popular – especially now with people taking more road trips, it is best to try and beat the crowds.
- If you don’t like crowds, try taking your USA fall vacation during the week. It can make a huge difference.
- If you plan on doing hikes, use the Alltrails app – which is free.
- Be respectful of these fall destinations. Don’t leave trash, keep safe distances from wildlife, and follow the rules!
- Have fun and enjoy some of the best fall foliage the USA has to offer!
Fall Foliage in the USA: Wrap-up
This covers some of the best places to see fall colors in the USA! I hope you have the best time discovering the best autumn colors the United States has to offer! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!
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