Bucket List September 07, 2021
The 20 Best Places To See The Most Beautiful Fall Foliage Across America
Autumn is in the air, and we’re here for it. Whether you’re in Vermont, which is all autumn colors, crisp temperatures, and picture-perfect apple orchards, or sunny SoCal, where you’ll find Californians donning denim shorts and flannel shirts while traipsing around farmers markets and Golden State pumpkin patches, fall is a magical time of year in America. And just as the U.S. is comprised of 50 incredibly diverse and wholly unique states, so too is the fall season and scenery around the country equally varied. But no matter where you live, if it’s fall foliage you’re pining for, you’ll find it all across the country.
Over the next several weeks, each state will experience its own unique version of fall. While the Northeast is most commonly associated with vibrant fall foliage, there are still plenty of places to enjoy stunning seasonal views across the country. Today we’re sharing 20 of the best places to see the most beautiful fall foliage across America, and we invite you to come and revel in the resplendence of this colorful, seasonal splendor.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
June Lake - California
Each fall, the Sierra Mountains are alight in fall colors. True to its name, the Golden State's preferred autumnal hues are golds and yellows, with bright oranges and coppers rounding out the California color story. Some of Northern California's best fall foliage is hiding in the Eastern Sierras. As fall arrives, this region begins a breathtaking transformation that rivals any New England fall scene. June Lake is perhaps the prettiest place to take in fall foliage in California; this lovely lake is one of the state's best-kept secrets, and
hiking in this region during the autumn
is the best way to soak up this glorious seasonal naturescape.
Hood River Valley - Oregon
Hood River Valley, Oregon 97031, USA
The Pacific Northwest is positively perfect in the fall, when autumnal colors and crisp temperatures transform the stunning landscape. In Oregon, the Hood River Valley is a lush, fertile region that's one of the most beautiful in the PNW; in the fall, this area positively shines. The rolling hills of Oregon Wine Country and the Hood River Fruit Loop, juxtaposed with the snow-capped and sublime Mount Hood, create a scene that you'll want to pull over to really enjoy. Our advice? Climb aboard the
Mount Hood Railroad
for a scenic ride that lets you sit back and soak up the views.
Jackson - Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming, is a picturesque place all year long, but fall brings a sublime sense of beauty to the area. In Jackson's Grand Teton National Park, you'll also get a glimpse of snow-capped mountains and wildlife traversing fresh lakes and forests, for a nature scene that's unlike any other in the country. The National Park Service recommends traveling to the park beginning in the third week of September, where the aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees all turn vibrant shades of red and yellow. The
hiking in this park
is already unrivaled; but during the fall, there's no place more beautiful.
Black Hills - South Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA
The Black Hills of South Dakota is one of America's most criminally underrated treasures. This is area is already naturally stunning, but during the fall, it positively dazzles. Not only does the prairie landscape turn the most beautiful shades of gold, copper, bronze, and sienna, but the wildlife viewing in this season is spectacular. This is mating season for South Dakota's elk, deer, and wild bison -- and you'll see them out
in places such as
Custer State Park
, where each fall, brilliant gold leaves glitter against a backdrop of granite peaks, rolling hills, and grazing wildlife. It's a visual fall foliage feast that you can only find in South Dakota.
Logan Canyon - Utah
Logan Canyon, Logan, UT 84321, USA
Utah is known for its postcard-perfect winters, but fall is an equally resplendent season in the Beehive State. While there are many places to catch fall colors in Utah,
is arguably the best. During autumn, the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway offers a view of spectacular vistas that seem to radiate the gold, amber, and copper hues of the harvest. The canyon is full of aspens, which burst out in vibrant colors as the weather cools. The many evergreens in the canyon provide a dark green contrast to the rich autumn colors, making for a swoon-worthy nature scene that will necessitate pulling over the car to stop and enjoy.
Maroon Bells - Colorado
Maroon Bells, Colorado 81654, USA
One of the
most beautiful places in the country
, Maroon Bells is the ultimate nature postcard: a startlingly blue lake, abundant meadows, and two 14,000-foot peaks. The peaks reflect perfectly in the pristine waters for a panorama that's absolutely flawless. The iconic twin peaks are located within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of Colorado's White River National Forest. In the autumn, when the leaves begin to change, Maroon Bells transforms into a visual symphony of deep, rich colors that will make you weak in the knees.
Lost Maples State Park - Texas
Lost Maples State Natural Area, 37221 RM 187, Vanderpool, TX 78885, USA
Lost Maples State Park in Texas might just be one of the best places to see fall foliage in America. Located on the banks of the scenic Sabinal River among the rolling, tree-covered hills of the Lone State State, Lost Maples is a spectacular showcase of the beauty of Texas Hill Country. Limestone bluffs and canyons, rolling grasslands, and dense woodlands can be seen and explored throughout the year; however, in the fall, the beauty is almost unreal. In October and November, the park's Bigtooth maples are ablaze in bold gold, scarlet, and pumpkin hues, making it a hotspot for fall foliage enthusiasts. As such, plan a trip during the week, so you can soak up the
sublime seasonal beauty
of Lost Maples sans crowds.
Eureka Springs - Arkansas
The Natural State is home to unrivaled scenic beauty; in the autumn, the Ozarks are ablaze in a veritable kaleidoscope of color. Nestled in the Arkansas Ozarks, Eureka Springs is as pretty as a postcard in the fall, when the landscape shines in golds and oranges, which pop against the bold blue of the beautiful Buffalo National River. Perfect for a
day trip or weekend getaway
, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, definitely deserves a place on your fall foliage bucket list.
Cloudland Canyon - Georgia
Cloudland Canyon Disc Golf, Georgia 30738, USA
Well-known for its abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, Cloudland Canyon is a must-visit in the Peach State in the fall. Because it's during this time of year when the eponymous canyon is alight in autumn color. Hikers at Cloudland Canyon’s vantage point from the western edge of Lookout Mountain are rewarded with spectacular views of the canyon and its surrounding woodlands, for a seasonal scene that rivals anything found in the Northeast. You'll feel as though you're truly
in the clouds
, looking out at the stunning landscape of this southern state.
Pere Marquette State Park - Wisconsin and Illinois
Pere Marquette State Park, 13112, Visitor, Center Ln, Grafton, IL 62037, USA
Pere Marquette State Park spans 8,050 acres in Southern Illinois at the convergence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. This is a naturally stunning region of the Midwest; especially so during the fall. If you love amazing autumn foliage and bustling wildlife, there's no better place than Pere Marquette State Park. In the fall, bald eagles soar across bright blue skies, above bold, rolling hills painted red, orange, and gold. The best way to experience this splendor is the old-fashioned way: on foot, along one of the park's
12 miles of marked trails
Traverse City - Michigan
Traverse City is a gem of a place in northern Michigan. Due to its coastal locale, temperatures remain comfortably cool in the autumn, creating a kaleidoscope of fall colors that pop against the big, blue,
sky. This lakeside destination offers some of the most incredible vistas for fall foliage in the Midwest; the perfect backdrop for
going apple or pumpkin picking
at one of the state's numerous orchards. Of course, if you're looking for an immersive autumnal adventure in Michigan, head to
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
. The 27-mile-long Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a delightful way to enjoy the weather and take in the stunning scenery.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, USA
One of Ohio's best-kept secrets, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a place of immense natural beauty and splendor. Ohio's only national park is located just a short drive from Akron and Cleveland, but it feels like an entire world unto itself. In the fall, Cuyahoga's sugar maples and oak trees paint its trails in bright red and orange hues, rewarding hikers with a dazzling display of color. If you're up for a more intense trek, the Brandywine Gorge Trail is one of the best places to soak up the park's natural beauty; hike up to the 65-foot Brandywine Falls to see panoramic views of fall foliage in all directions. Of course, if you want a more leisurely fall foliage experience, hop aboard the
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
for a scenic ride through the park that will render you speechless.
Blue Ridge Mountains - North Carolina and Virginia
Linn Cove Viaduct, North Carolina 28646, USA
Located in the eastern U.S., the Blue Ridge Mountains are a portion of the Appalachian range that spans from Pennsylvania to Georgia. While the entire range is lovely, the stretch through North Carolina and Virginia is positively perfect; and in fact,
both states' portions
of the Appalachians have been named among U.S. News & World Report's 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World. One only needs to venture out along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the autumn to understand the true splendor of the landscape. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, with plenty of places to stop and soak up the local color... literally and figuratively! This beautiful byway in North Carolina and Virginia is one of the best and most scenic road trips in the U.S. -- especially in the fall.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - North Carolina and Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, United States
Every year more than 12 million tourists venture their way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it the most-visited national park in the U.S. The park is known for the beauty of its ancient mountain range, as well as the expansive diversity of both wildlife and plant life throughout the park. In the
, the rolling hills and valleys seem to glow with the colors of fall: green and gold, orange and red, yellow and bronze. The best time to see fall foliage in Tennessee is from mid-October to early November -- and sometimes even later in higher elevations, so put this destination on your list for a late-season fall foliage infusion!
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park - Kentucky
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 7351 Hwy 90, Corbin, KY 40701, USA
In terms of the Kentucky State Parks, Cumberland Falls reigns supreme. It's 1,657 acres of pure Bluegrass beauty, offering visitors an extraordinary experience that's full of surprises. Its crown jewel is, of course, the eponymous Cumberland Falls, a 68-foot waterfall that's known as the "Niagara of the South."
is a magnificent natural wonder that radiates beauty in the fall, when the glorious cascades pop against the vibrant orange, gold, and copper tree-lined canyons of this superlative state park.
The Poconos - Pennsylvania
Lake Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania, USA
The Pocono Mountains region in Pennsylvania is resplendent: 2,400 square feet of stunning scenery stretched around gently winding roads that were
for fall foliage chasers. Route 507 around
makes for an especially dreamy autumn day trip; the leaves in the region begin to turn in mid-September and peak in October. The pristine lake spans 5,700 acres and is 13 miles long; during the fall, its 52 miles of shoreline surrounds the lake with color, seeming to set the lake ablaze with scarlet, orange, and golden hues.
The Berkshires - Massachusetts
The Berkshires, Sandisfield, MA 01245, USA
There's nothing quite like fall in New England. While New Hampshire and Vermont tend to steal the spotlight, the Berkshires of Massachusetts are a charming alternative that offer equally awe-inspiring autumnal views. For a total
experience, pay a visit to one of the many little locales in the region, like the artsy town of
. Come and enjoy a fall weekend in this winsome town in the Berkshires, and prepare to be totally charmed by the entire experience.
White Mountain National Forest - New Hampshire
White Mountain National Forest, Livermore, NH 03812, USA
New Hampshire is pure magic in the fall, and the best way to enjoy it is along the 34-mile Kancamagus Highway. This
cuts an east-west channel through the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire and is especially (and understandably) popular during the fall. In fact, the highway is a designated American Scenic Byway and was recognized by Travel + Leisure as one of the most scenic drives you can take in America. Along the route, you'll pass through old covered bridges, past wondrous waterfalls, and venture high into the White Mountains, with several lookout points along the way that provide million-dollar views of this incredible New England naturescape.
Adirondack Mountains - New York
Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA
Surrounded by unbelievable landscapes, the Adirondacks in New York are one of the most naturally beautiful regions of the country. There is simply so much to see in this magnificent, mountainous region, that it's best to climb aboard the
Adirondack Scenic Railroad
and allow yourself to be immersed in the stunning scenery. This 50-mile ride from Utica to Thendera is a picture-perfect day trip that allows passengers to revel in the resplendence of the Adirondacks; and during the fall, when the landscape is alight in fall color, it's a wholly wondrous experience that's sure to satisfy all fall foliage admirers.
Biddeford - Maine
In terms of fall foliage in America, Maine wins. Because it's in the Pine Tree State where brilliant orange hues begin popping up across mountainsides as early as September, lingering well into October and early November. Autumn is also prime fishing season for lobster boats off the coast of Maine, and there really is nothing better than enjoying fresh-caught lobster on a crisp fall day in Maine. In Biddeford, a small beachfront community 40 minutes from Portland, the colors of fall paint the town in warm, golden hues that reflect beautifully off the water. If it's a small-town, postcard-perfect kind of fall experience you're seeking, you'll find it in
The changing of the seasons is such a magical time. As the days grow shorter and cooler, make the most of each waking moment by seeking out your (literal) local colors. The golds, yellows, reds, and oranges that paint the landscape of the country each autumn is nothing short of magical, and absolutely worth slowing down to experience and enjoy.
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