If you live in the northern half of the United States, you’ll probably know and love the annual transformation of the landscape into a vivid tapestry of red, gold, burnt orange, and yellow. But which states are the very best places to witness this breathtaking change? This article lists the 17 states that offer the most beautiful and colorful fall foliage in all of America.
NYC Parks boasts, “In the fall, New York City parks and street trees show off a spectacular show of autumn colors as the trees change from summer green to fiery reds, yellows, and purples.” The Adirondack and Catskill Mountains are particularly spectacular in the fall, as is the small town of Lake Placid, whose mirror-like lake reflects the backdrop of amber and gold hills.
The timing of Maine’s leaf color change can be as early as late August in the north or as late as Halloween at its southern tip. Acadia National Park, with its rugged coastline and forested mountains, is a particularly beautiful place to visit in the fall—the park’s Cadillac Mountain offers sunrise vistas that are enhanced by the golden glow of fall.
New Hampshire’s fall displays are a magnet for ‘leaf peepers,’ and the Visit NH website even gives foliage reports with advice on where and when to experience the most vivid colors and scenic displays. They recommend the White Mountains, the Great North Woods, and the area around Dartmouth for the best experiences.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in particular, is a hidden gem for witnessing fall colors. Click on Detroit states that the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a great place to visit in autumn, offering rugged, wild landscapes with dense forests that reliably turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red.
No list on the topic would be complete without Vermont—the quintessential state for experiencing fall colors. Visit Vermont says the fiery reds and oranges come from the famous sugar maple trees. Some of the best locations to witness the color show include Stowe, a picturesque village, and nearby Underhill State Park, where hiking trails meander through colorful forests.
Despite being well-known for its evergreen trees (pines that don’t change color like deciduous trees), Colorado’s aspen trees still put on an impressive show. The spectacle is especially beautiful in places like Maroon Bells near Aspen, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the historic town of Telluride, nestled in a box canyon surrounded by high, wooded peaks.
ABC 11 reports, “Peak color in North Carolina varies. In the mountains, it’ll start around mid-October in the very upper elevations. And then, as we move through the very end of October and into the very start of November, we’ll see them in peak color all the way down the coast.” The Blue Ridge Parkway offers one of the longest, prettiest fall foliage drives in the U.S.
If you like road trips, you might also want to check out Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive—a 105-mile-long road replete with stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are cloaked in autumn colors during the fall months. The small town of Charlottesville is also worth a look, as its vineyards look spectacular in the fall.
Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is famous for its dramatic waterfalls and windy hilltops, which become even more magical when dressed in reds and oranges. The historic Columbia River Highway also offers multiple opportunities for photography, while the town of Hood River boasts wineries and orchards that look breathtaking in autumn colors.
As with other states on the list, Pennsylvania’s state website has foliage reports advising leaf peepers when and where to visit for the most breathtaking burst of fall color. The Pocono Mountains are a firm favorite, with dense forests that turn vibrant hues throughout October and early November.
Door County, sticking out into Lake Michigan, is Wisconsin’s go-to spot for the best fall foliage experience. The peninsula’s 300 miles of shoreline is dotted with lighthouses and quaint villages, all against a spectacular backdrop of riotous autumn leaves. Check out the winding roads through Peninsula State Park for some of the best views.
Western Massachusetts is especially idyllic in the fall, with the Berkshires being the most popular destination for leaf peepers and tourists seeking colorful vistas. The area offers scenes of burnt gold and yellow leaves amid softly rolling hills and quaint towns like Stockbridge and Lenox.
The north shore along Lake Superior transforms into a canvas of reds, oranges, and yellows in the autumn months, attracting photographers and nature lovers. Start in the small city of Duluth and take a scenic drive up Highway 61, stopping at places like Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park for stunning views en route.
Well known for its wild and sweeping landscape at any time of the year, Montana is especially stunning when dressed in red and gold. Locations such as Glacier National Park and Flathead Valley offer views of the state’s famous golden larch trees contrasted against distant snow-capped mountain peaks.
Despite its more southerly location, TN.gov reports, “Every fall, Tennessee’s landscapes burst into life with vivid greens, fiery reds, warming oranges, and bright yellows.” You’ll need to stick to higher altitudes, for example, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the state’s northern border with North Carolina.
The Litchfield Hills region of Connecticut offers a classic fall foliage experience, with picturesque agricultural land and farmhouses nestled amid vibrant leaves and rolling hills. The town of Kent is famed as one of the best fall foliage towns in New England, with nearby state parks like Macedonia Brook also offering a kaleidoscope of autumn colors.
With a rugged landscape and a variety of tree species, Ozark National Forest offers a multitude of fall colors and a wild setting. We recommend scenic drives through the Boston Mountains or a trip to the historic town of Eureka Springs—its charming Victorian architecture and steep, winding streets look particularly idyllic against the fiery shades.
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