The Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the U.S.

From national and state parks to small towns, these destinations are the best places to see autumn foliage.

With the glowing golds of aspens and hickories, the burnt orange of sumac, and the vermilions and plums of oaks and maples, the turning of the leaves every autumn is one of nature’s most spectacular displays. Fortunately, if you live in the United States, you won’t have to travel too far afield to find a spectacular show of fall foliage—thanks to the numerous national parks, state parks, and scenic drives around the country. Whether you’re on the hunt for a classic leaf-peeping experience in New England, or prefer your fall foliage paired with a glass of California pinot, here are some of the best places in the United States to see fall colors.

The Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the U.S.

Groves of aspen in Rocky Mountain National Park glow yellow and orange in the fall.

Photo by Shutterstock/haveseen

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

When to see fall foliage: Late September

Spanning both sides of the continental divide, Rocky Mountain National Park glows with quaking aspens, their gold and copper canopies contrasting elegantly with their silvery trunks. Aspens thrive at elevations between 7,000 and 9,500 feet, so head to the lush valleys of Hollowell Park, Beaver Meadows, and Glacier Gorge, which are also home to pumpkin-orange cottonwoods. Nothing tops the hiking trail to Gem Lake, along which dense groves of aspen pop out against the red rock formations of Lumpy Ridge.

Fall is also rutting season for the park’s elk herds, which migrate down from the high peaks as the temperature drops; look for them along Bear Lake Road and in the Colorado River Valley on the west side. Don’t miss a photo op at Grand Lake, just outside the park boundary, with its deep green waters thickly haloed by fiery orange aspen.

Where to stay

Immerse yourself in nature at the rustic Taharaa Mountain Lodge, which is at the foot of Lily Mountain and only seven minutes from the park by car.

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Sequoia National Park isn’t all evergreen; in the autumn months, the park’s dogwoods turn orange and crimson.

Photo by Sara Edwards/Shutterstock

Sequoia National Park, California

When to see fall foliage: Mid- to late September

While the granite peaks and waterfalls of its northern neighbor Yosemite National Park may get all the press, the more dramatic fall colors can be found in Sequoia National Park. The area’s namesake evergreens don’t change color; instead, they provide contrast for the burnt orange and crimson blossoms that pop up on red dogwoods throughout most sections of the park.

Underneath the canopy of towering sequoias, fallen fern fronds blanket the forest floor with a bright lemon yellow. At lower elevations (in the park’s foothills), blue oaks turn garnet and amber as if to spite their name. In the southern Mineral King Valley—one of the park’s least crowded areas, and perhaps its best-kept secret—warm hues of aspen, cottonwood, and thimbleberry glow almost iridescent, framing the granitic basin of the glacial valley at 7,500 feet.

Where to stay

The long-standing Silver City Mountain Resort, which has 16 available cabins, offers guests a peaceful retreat among the sequoias and an on-site restaurant (don’t miss a slice of one of its housemade pies).

Sonoma wine country, California

Peak fall foliage: Mid- to late October

Late August through October marks harvest season in Sonoma wine country, when grapes for the region’s world-famous wines are picked and winemakers begin to barrel the year’s vintages. As the grapevines are picked, their leaves begin to change, resulting in a brilliant display of sunset-hued vineyards against a backdrop of Douglas fir and redwood trees.

But it’s not just the scenery that makes Sonoma County vineyards worth visiting in the fall—it’s also a festive time. With the busiest few weeks of the year behind them, many wineries will celebrate their hard work with harvest dinners (some exclusive to wine club members, some open to the public) and by adding new vintages to their tasting lists.

Where to stay

Base yourself in historic Healdsburg, a small town in the heart of several wine growing regions (such as the Dry Creek and Russian River AVAs). Choose from Montage Healdsburg, an ultra-luxurious resort on a quiet property outside of town, the Madrona, a historic mansion turned hotel that was remodeled in 2022, or Harmon House, a stylish property with two pools and a rooftop bar right off of the town’s main plaza.

Talkeetna, Alaska

When to see fall foliage: Late August to early September

Early fall is a quieter, brilliant time to check out this laid-back mountain town, which has a colorful history as an outpost beloved by gold-miners, trappers, and homesteaders. (The Talkeetna Historical Society Museum is a good place to start.) For a closer look at a rambling old homestead, sign up for an ATV tour with Alaska Wilderness Adventurer. Guide Dennis DeVore leads you five miles up the road to a homestead his family built in 1959.

On a clear day, Denali—the tallest mountain in North America—is visible, but be sure to make time for the national park proper: By September, aspen and balsam poplar trees at the entrance are a brilliant yellow, and scrub vegetation (also known as the taiga) turns rust colored in cooler months, making for an impressive vista. For a look at fall colors from above, splurge on a stay at Sheldon Chalet, which is a 40-minute helicopter ride from Talkeetna—and where you can wake surrounded by the park itself.

Where to stay

The family-owned Denali Fireside Cabins & Suites is a quiet resort with log cabins tucked away in the trees, yet is within walking distance to town.

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Glacier National Park is known for a particular deciduous pine that turns bright yellow in fall.

Photo by Jacob W. Frank for Glacier NPS/Flickr

Glacier National Park, Montana

When to see fall foliage: Mid- to late September

Another national park with a variety of deciduous trees, Glacier National Park is awash with color for several weeks between mid-September and mid-October. The park is particularly famous for its western larch, a deciduous pine, which bursts into brilliant yellows before losing its needles.

To see the larches, drive Highway 2 on the southwest side of the park or hike any of the trails around Lake McDonald. Higher up, Montana’s mountainsides flame with the hues of a Tiffany lamp; see them from Ptarmigan Pass or the Going-to-the-Sun Road (which is less crowded during fall than it is in peak summer months). If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try seeing the leaves on a rafting trip down the Flathead River.

Where to stay

Book a stay inside the park with a room at the Swiss-styled Lake McDonald Lodge & Cabins. Built 1913–14, it occupies the scenic shore of the largest lake in Glacier National Park—and the views of it are stunning.

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The Upper Falls of the state park

Photo by Shutterstock

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to early October

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, on the Upper Peninsula, is best known for its Upper Falls: As one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, it spans more than 200 feet and has a drop of over 50 feet. Downstream, you can find Lower Falls, which consists of five smaller waterfalls pooling around an island. Although hikers descend in summer to traverse the nearly 40 miles of trails, the park is resplendent in fall. Across its 46,000 acres, trees in practically all shades of yellow, orange, and red frame the dramatic vistas.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to early October

The crown jewel of Lake Superior’s North Shore, this 1,340-person town is the ultimate fall cornucopia—overflowing with delicious things to eat, see, and buy, and do. The lung-busting hike to Devil’s Kettle Falls at Judge C.R. Magney State Park will take you the better part of a morning, but the payoff is a mysterious “waterfall to nowhere.”

At Grand Portage State Park, just shy of the Canadian border, you’ll find the highest waterfall (70 feet) in Minnesota—only this one is far easier to reach. Another must: Make the 30-mile drive out to Poplar Haus, a rustic restaurant, lodge, and craft liquor store off the scenic Gunflint Trail, which winds through the colorful Lake Superior National Forest.

Where to stay

The Lakeside East Bay Suites offers clean and comfortable rooms just steps from the town center and—added bonus—is dog friendly.

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Get out on the water to catch some of the best views of Acadia National Park.

Photo by Doug Lemke/Shutterstock

Acadia National Park, Maine

When to see fall foliage: Early to late October

In autumn, the thickly forested peaks that slope down to the Atlantic in Acadia National Park are a colorful contrast to the blue sea. Some of the most photogenic views of the park’s craggy coastline can only be appreciated from a boat, but you won’t see its blueberry bushes turn lipstick red or the sumac flame scarlet unless you hike one of the park’s more than 100 trails.

The area’s best view is from the Blue Hill Overlook atop Cadillac Mountain—which at 1,529 feet is the tallest peak on the East Coast—and it’s worth the seven-mile round-trip hike for a look. Toward the base of the mountain (just off Park Loop Road), the 187-acre Jordan Pond provides a wash of color against two rounded hills known as the Bubbles, which offer a spectacular view of a multi-hued treeline in the backdrop. For a truly classic fall color experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park and listen to the hooves clop over fallen leaves.

Where to stay

Sure, you could book a hotel in nearby Bar Harbor. But if you prefer to spend your entire weekend out in the wild, book a luxurious, glamping-style tent at Under Canvas Acadia, where guests can sleep and make s’mores en plein aire, all without forgoing any creature comforts (such as a comfortable bed, clean showers, or wood-burning fireplaces).

Lambertville, New Jersey

When to see fall foliage: Mid- to late October

Visiting Lambertville (population: 3,797) is like getting two sweet towns in one, as it sits across the Delaware River from the equally charming New Hope, Pennsylvania (population: 2,527). To immerse yourself in nature, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park is five minutes from Lambertville on the Jersey side; here you can canoe, picnic, bicycle, hike, horseback ride, or fish for perch and pickerel.

On the New Hope side of the river, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is flush with colorful fall foliage. In October, the beech trees, black oaks, and maples turn yellow, red, and purple; come November, you can see wild senna, witch hazel, and juniper berries on Eastern red cedars.

Where to stay

Less than an hour’s drive away, Lambertville is an easy day trip while visiting Philadelphia. But if you prefer to spend the night, book a room at Lambertville House, which has 26 quaint guest rooms in a historic building that dates back to the 1800s.

Leonard Harrison State Park, Pennsylvania

When to see fall foliage: Late September to early October

The 585-acre Leonard Harrison State Park sits smack on the east rim of Pine Creek Gorge, known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, which is 800 feet deep and nearly 4,000 feet across. Take the Turkey Trail Path one mile to the bottom of Pine Creek Gorge, which is especially stunning in fall when hardwood trees turn yellow, orange, red, and purple.

Where to stay

Among the nearest lodging to the Pine Creek Gorge, Rough Cut Lodge offers a number of cabins and suites that are—despite the lodge’s name—clean and spacious.

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View of the White Mountains from Franconia Notch State Park.

Photo by haveseen/Shutterstock

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to mid-October

In the midst of White Mountain National Forest, along eight miles of I-93, are all the activities you could dream of, packed into one state park: Echo Lake at the northern end of the park; a two-mile, waterfall-dotted walk through Flume Gorge at the southern end; and a hike along the Appalachian Trail in between. Conveniently, the park is a short jaunt north off of the epic Kancamagus Highway, a scenic byway that curves 56 miles through dense foliage.

Where to stay

Lafayette Place Campground is the most central camping site for the park. If you prefer a freshly made bed, check into the charming Sugar Hill Inn, whose on-site restaurant, spa services, and cozy stone fireplaces will pamper guests after a long day outdoors.

Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Vermont

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to mid-October

One of four state parks located within Mount Mansfield State Forest, Smugglers’ Notch State Park is named for the narrow pass in the Green Mountains where Vermonters used to smuggle liquor from Canada during Prohibition. A mere 13 minutes by car from the town of Stowe—known as “Fall’s Color Capital”—the park is popular in all seasons, but it comes most alive in fall, when the trees turn all shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Where to stay

Decor touches like aspen tree wallpaper, deer motifs, and indoor fireplaces give the centrally located Field Guide Lodge a cozy, escape-to-the-woods atmosphere. And if you’re not ready to go indoors, worry not—the property has outdoor firepits and a hot tub to gather around (or in) after the sun goes down.

Manchester, Vermont

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to mid-October

Manchester, a 2,444-person town hugged by southern Vermont’s Taconic and Green mountains, shines most in fall. Sign up for a Vermont Fall Foliage Tour with Backroad Discovery: These three-hour guided tours run from the end of September through the end of October and include visits to an abandoned marble quarry, local farms and artist studios, a working alpaca plantation, and ye olde general stores, depending on where the leaves are looking their splashiest.

For DIY travelers cobbling together their own hamlet-hopping itinerary, be sure to build in stops at some famous covered bridges: The 117-foot Chiselville Bridge, spanning Roaring Branch brook in Sunderland, and the oft-painted, 166-year-old Bridge at the Green in West Arlington, are not to be missed.

Where to stay

Book a stay at the 21-room, family-run Inn at Manchester, which is located on a peaceful, grassy, four-acre property with views of the nearby forests, or just down the road at centrally located, four-star Kimpton Taconic Hotel (don’t miss out on a meal at its restaurant, the Copper Grouse, which serves fresh, American fare like smash burgers and wedge salads).

North Adams, Massachusetts

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to mid-October

A small city in the Berkshires near the Vermont state line, North Adams is home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), a 19th-century factory mill complex turned modern center for world-class art. But given the lush fall foliage, you will want to spend most of your time outdoors: Head to nearby Mount Greylock for hiking trails that lead to the highest point in Massachusetts. The summit, which you can also reach by car, features a 12,500-acre preserve, plus the 1930s Bascom Lodge for lunch, drinks, and even overnights.

The paved, 11.2-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, meanwhile, follows the path of an old train line from Lanesborough to North Adams, providing views of the mountains, the Cheshire Reservoir, and the Hoosic River. There’s also the Cascades Trail, which makes for a fairly gentle walk close to picturesque downtown North Adams—with the payoff of a refreshing waterfall.

Where to stay

Check into Tourists, which was opened in 2018 by John Stirratt—the bassist with the Chicago alt rock group Wilco—as a contemporary, rustic-chic hotel with a bar and comfort-food joint, the Airport Rooms.

New River Gorge _ Fall Foliage _ West Virginia Tourism _ Quentin Murphy

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely, scenic drive or embark on an outdoor adventure among the fall foliage in New River Gorge.

Photo by Quentin Murphy

New River Gorge, West Virginia

Peak fall foliage: Mid-October

The United States’ newest national park, designated in 2020, New River Gorge is best explored in the fall, when the region’s typically hot and muggy summers begin to give way to cooler temperatures, and the poplars, aspens, and cottonwood trees start to turn orange.

Although you could spend a full day leisurely driving the scenic backroads that weave in and out of the park, outdoorsy travelers won’t want to miss one of the more active ways to explore—whether it be whitewater rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or hiking. For guided tours and gear rentals, ACE Adventure Resort is an excellent option for climbing, rafting, or kayaking. Arrowhead Bike Farm specializes in mountain bike rentals and has a knowledgeable staff who can recommend trails for any level.

>> Read our full guide to visiting the New River Gorge.

Where to stay

Adventures on the Gorge doesn’t just specialize in white-water rafting and outdoor excursions—it also has a variety of cabins and camping options on its park-adjacent property. For a stay in town, opt for Lafayette Flats in nearby Fayetteville, a collection of vacation apartments in a recently renovated, stone building that has stood at the center of town for more than 100 years.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

When to see fall foliage: Mid-September to mid-November

For three days every October, Shenandoah National Park offers one of the more creative ways to celebrate the season: the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival (which will be held October 14–16 in 2022). Nature’s dazzling show starts earlier than that, however, in the high mountains around Swift Run Gap and Lewis Mountain; toward the end of September, Virginia creeper twines wine red and maples begin to flame throughout the area near Upper Pocosin in the national park.

The best—and most popular—driving route for leaf viewing is along the Skyline Drive Scenic Byway, which has no fewer than 75 scenic overlooks along its 105 miles. Bacon Hollow and Stony Man Overlook are among the best spots from which to take in the buttery yellow hickories, chili pepper–red oaks, and maples in every shade.

Where to stay

Shenandoah is a doable day trip from the Washington, D.C. area, but if you prefer to spend the night, book a room at the Oakhurst Inn, a companionable cluster of buildings from the 1920s located east of the end of the Skyline Scenic Drive Byway.

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With over 100 species of trees, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts an impressive variety of autumn color.

Photo by Model/Shutterstock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

When to see fall foliage: Mid-October to early November

With more than 100 species of trees, most of them deciduous, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an impressive variety of fall color—and one of the longest fall foliage seasons as well. Yellow birches, beeches, and hobblebushes show flashes of color as early as mid-September in higher elevations—like those along the Sugarland Mountain and Appalachian Trails—and autumn wildflowers like coreopsis, goldenrods, asters, and black-eyed Susans add layers of other colors.

But the most spectacular show comes in October, with the deep plum and garnet hues of the hickories, sweet gums, and red and sugar maples. To get away from the crush of fall color fans at popular spots like Cades Cove, head east to drive the Roaring Fork nature loop and walk along little-visited Big Creek, or take in the sweeping panoramas from Balsam Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway on the park’s southeastern edge.

Where to stay

Check into Blackberry Farm, a family-run hotel, restaurant, and farm on 4,200 secluded acres at the foot of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. While the rooms are well-appointed, the food is the star here: don’t miss out on a meal at its James Beard Award–winning restaurant, the Barn.

This article was originally published in 2020; it was updated on August 23, 2022, to include current information.

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