20 best places to spot fall foliage in America

Photogenic doesn’t begin to describe these top leaf-peeping destinations across the country.

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Best places for fall foliage
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Best places for fall foliage

Whitefish, Montana

Big Sky Country is undeniably captivating. And Whitefish certainly fits into that category. The “secret season” brings clear skies, sunshine, and an abundance of captivating colors. Aspen and tamarack (also known as larch) trees turn a golden yellow in early October. Whether you prefer canoeing or cycling, there’s no shortage of activities. Afterward, get some rest at The Garden Wall Inn. Speaking of, these are the most charming B&Bs in every state.

Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid is among the most idyllic spots in America. So it should come as no surprise that this upstate retreat lands on our list. Lakes, mountains, and unspoiled forests contribute to the postcard-worthy panorama. Come fall, the deciduous trees are in all their glory. Drive along the 170-mile Olympic Byway in early October to catch a glimpse of oaks, sugar maples, and birch

Gatlinburg, Tennessee 

Situated on the doorstep of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg impresses with its mix of high-altitude attractions and awe-inspiring scenic splendor. Mother Nature puts on a sensational show that lasts from early October to mid-November. For unsurpassed views, venture to the Space Needle, a 407-foot-tall observation tower. Here are 15 cozy cabins for a last-minute weekend getaway.

Stowe, Vermont

With its unmistakable mix of fantastic foliage, New England charm, and outdoor adventure, Stowe is the ultimate fall escape. After a day of exploration, warm up with a cup of spiced cider before hunkering down at a cozy inn. Pro tip: Prime time to see the leaves change is the tail end of September. You can always call Vermont’s Seasonal Hotline just to confirm.

Washington, Connecticut

New England is synonymous with the seasonal shift. Washington, in northwest Connecticut, is as picturesque a place as any. Go in late September through early October when the landscape is cloaked in scarlet, gold, and auburn. Historic architecture and rural pastimes up the postcard-worthy appeal. Make a weekend of it and book a room at Mayflower Grace Inn & Spa, which ranks among the 50 incredible places you can actually spend the night.

Calistoga, California

This laid-back town in wine country is prized for its hot springs, mud baths, and vineyards. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy vino tasting and leaf peeping. Start the day with a trek through the redwoods, maples, and black oaks at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. After an afternoon of sipping world-class Chardonnay, bed down at Calistoga Ranch.

Bristol, Rhode Island

Newport may get the glory but Bristol stands apart with its historic architecture, relaxed ambiance, and seasonal festivals. Foliage chasers will find plenty to love at Blithewold Gardens and Colt State Park. Take a break from gawking at the gorgeous landscape to meander through the quaint downtown area.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Most people associate Kennebunkport with lobster shacks, ocean vistas, and pristine shores. But summer isn’t the only time to visit. This seaside stunner is also fabulous come fall. Crimson and gold treetops in arrive in mid-October. Temps in the 50s only enhance the experience. During your stay, stop by the Seashore Trolley Museum.

Oakland, Maryland

Maryland is more than just crab boils. Oakland delights leafage fans with vibrant shades of copper, vermilion, and gold. Plan a jaunt to Swallow Falls State Park for a close-up look at towering ancient hemlocks and pine. Bonus: the 53-foot cascade is will take your breath away. Find out cozy inns to book during peak fall foliage season.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Trade snow-covered slopes for kaleidoscopic peaks and head to Breckenridge in the fall. You’ll be rewarded with golden aspens as far as the eye can see. And the panoramas are particularly exceptional from Boreas Pass Road. For beer lovers, Breckenridge hosts one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the region.

Fish Creek, Wisconsin

Seeking a weekend away to unwind? Fish Creek charms travelers with its colorful foliage, farmers markets, and autumnal activities. Highlights include Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Alexander Noble House Museum, and the tree-lined trails in Peninsula State Park, where you can discover a dazzling array of cedar, white ash, and sugar maples.

Fayetteville, West Virginia 

Did you know approximately 78 percent of West Virginia’s total land is forested? By mid-October, Fayetteville is awash in harvest hues. There are numerous trails plus a cute shopping district and terrific restaurants. Of course, no fall trip to this gem is complete without a scenic ride over the New River Gorge Bridge. Don’t miss the best road trips to see stunning fall foliage.

Lenox, Massachusetts

Travelers around the globe flock to Lenox for its blend of heritage and natural beauty. Starting in late September, the landscape is ablaze with red, yellow, and green. Appreciate the outdoor surrounds at Kennedy Park and Mount Greylock State Reservation. There’s also plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Clayton, Georgia 

Between the kids going back to school and getting into the swing of things, it can be hard to get away in September. Good news: Clayton is a scenery-packed getaway until late October. Don’t miss Chattahoochee National Forest. Wondering where to stay? Consider a quaint bed and breakfast or cottage rental.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Brilliant fall tones are pretty much guaranteed in Portsmouth. Beyond that, the pedestrian-friendly downtown is lined with indie boutiques and excellent eateries. Strawbery Banke Museum depicts life as it was centuries ago. Seeking a foliage fix? Set your sights on Prescott Park. Nab a grassy knoll and appreciate the splendid surroundings.

Hood River, Oregon

From beaches to craggy peaks, Oregon has it all. Set an hour east of Portland, in the Columbia River Gorge, this Pacific Northwest destination is a mecca of apple orchards, farms stands, and hiking routes. Add to that recreation and the arrival of crimson maples in mid-October, and it’s clear why folks flock here in the autumn. Check out this map that tells you when peak fall foliage will arrive in your area.

 Park City, Utah 

This famous ski destination has a lot to offer before the first snowfall. Mountains cascade in a spectrum of colors. You can admire the majesty of the native trees—canyon maples, quaking aspen, scrub oak, and black hawthorn—either by foot, bike, or car. Another reason to plan your trip in the off-season? Reasonable rates at lux lodgings such as Waldorf Astoria Park City.

Galena, Illinois

Before the bitterness of winter strikes, Galena delivers crisp temps and the finest foliage in the Midwest. For a totally unique perspective, board the ski lift to the summit of Chestnut Mountain Resort or opt for zip lining excursion 75 feet in the air. While you’re there, carve out time to revel in quintessential autumnal pursuits including pumpkin picking.

Cherokee, North Carolina

The promise of lush landscapes, outdoorsy fun, and Native American culture lure travelers to Cherokee. On the itinerary? Take your pick of fly fishing, tubing, bird watching, or kayaking. For optimal vegetation viewing, visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn about the deep roots of the Cherokee people at Oconaluftee Indian Village. Don’t miss these national parks that look even more stunning in the fall.

Jasper, Arkansas

With the backdrop of the Ozark Mountains, this tiny town is big on scenic beauty. Between mid-October and early November, Jasper beckons travelers with its intense shades of jade, burnt orange, and carnelian. Make a point to drive through the Arkansas Grand Canyon, where foliage is on full display. Triple Falls also warrants a stop. Next, check out even more stunning pictures of fall across America.

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