Kati and I love the fall. The cool crisp air. The leaves changing colors. And the chance to pull those sweaters out of the closet. Unfortunately, we live in southwest Florida but travel up to our land in the mountains of North Carolina to experience the autumn weather. Both of us grew up in areas where fall was special. Me in Pennsylvania and Kati in Germany.
Whenever you think of fall, wherever you are, leaves changes come to mind. Fall foliage has become the staple of classic fall imagery. No matter where you are, you’ll experience some form of leaves changing. But certain places in the United States are more spectacular than others. No matter how many times you see leaves change, it always brings joy and warrants a picture.
We’ve broken down some of the best places to see leaves changing colors around the United States. The good news is you can experience leaves changing anywhere in the United States, not just New England and there’s plenty of options no matter where you live. Here’s our list of places to experience spectacular foliage. From West to East and North to South, we’ve covered places across the United States to experience the beauty of leaves changing colors.
Franconia Notch, New Hampshire
It’s hard to mention fall foliage without mentioning any state within New England. The foliage in New England attracts thousands every year and rightfully so. New Hampshire not only has one of the best arrays of colors and leaves in New England, with New Hampshire you can experience the foliage in various settings. Whether it’s by the ocean, the lake, or mountains, you see splashes of colors, in all-natural settings in New Hampshire.
Driving up 93 North to Franconia Notch, it’s probably some of the best views of fall foliage. You can ride the train that runs through the various shades of orange, yellow, red, brown, and green. And take pictures by the Gorge. There’s even a train that runs through the mountains and looks picturesque against the foliage. Franconia notch allows you to experience foliage with a mountainous backdrop with creeks and rivers.
The foliage in New Hampshire lasts from mid-September to mid-October.
We love Stowe. The quaintness. The mountains. And a must-see on your travels. It’s hard to talk about foliage and not mention another New England state. Another spot for fall colors to add to the list is Stowe, Vermont, and similar to New Hampshire, you can see remarkable foliage throughout the state. Stowe is specifically wonderful for foliage. Some claim Stowe to be the “Fall’s Color Capital” of the US, with respect to leaf changing. Vermont has beautiful birch, maple, and beech trees, giving a variety of leaf shapes, as well as colors in all shades. You can expect an array of leaves, similar to New Hampshire from September to October. The colors begin to change in the second week of September and peak in the second week of October.
North Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia
A long stretch on the Blue Ride Highway will give you an unbelievable view of fall leaves – crossing through several states. This long stretch of highway, 469 miles, offers various views for a splendid road trip. You can see fall colors from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and it stretches all the way to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. With up to 6,000 ft in elevation, you see endless trees and foliage and impressive views. You can experience vibrant fall colors, such as yellows, reds and oranges, on the winding roads all the way to the Smoky Mountains. Between North Carolina and Virginia, there are lots of diverse scenery to capture beautiful scenes of fall colors.
This would be a perfect fall road trip and offer several stops and small towns to visit along the way. Leaves begin to change in early September to mid-October.
Honestly, Arkansas is one of those states that gets overlooked when considering scenic states and we believe is underrated for the sheer beauty of the state. We have camped and the state parks in Arkansas are incredible. People often forget the varying landscapes of Arkansas. Known as, “The Natural State” you can experience mountains, springs, national and state parks, and coastal plains. One of our favorite places to experience fall foliage in Arkansas in the Ozarks. You can see various trees and with the mountains, it’s hard to pass up.
What’s interesting about Arkansas’ foliage is that it has 3 different stages of foliage within the state. Arkansas foliage is the latest on our list with respect to leaves changing, it can extend all the way out to mid-November. The top third of Arkansas, where you find the Ozarks, changes in mid-October. The middle third begins to change in late October and the bottom third begins to change in early November. Arkansas is perfect to see fall colors because its window for foliage extends longer than most states.
Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, Utah
There’s a reason people refer to Utah as, “be-UTAH-ful” because, with every turn, Utah is breathtaking. It’s hard to not stop every few miles to take pictures. Utah has impressive mountain ranges and diverse topography, its a perfect state for those that appreciate the outdoors and love hiking. All of these reasons make it a perfect place to check out fall colors.
During the fall, Utah has a range of auburn colors, sprinkling around the mountains with splashes of rusty colored trees, giving it a harvest feel. Utah might not have a wide range of colors with leaves, but it’s the colors blended into an already scenic state is why we had to add Utah to our list of “must-sees” for fall colors. Similar to New Hampshire, the endless nature throughout Utah makes for perfect views of foliage. Off the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, you can see the terrain of Cache Valley and the trees wrapped around the exquisite Bear Lake.
Utah is also perfect if you love the outdoors.
Most people think of Aspen for skiing and snowboarding, few consider it for a great place to see fall foliage but it’s definitely worth the trip. The colors of the trees aren’t as diverse as some of the places previously mentioned, but don’t minimize its beauty. In Aspen, the leaves change to various shades of gold and yellow, while having evergreens and mountains mixed in. It’s also a quieter time for Aspen, leaving it perfect for a weekend getaway.
Unfortunately, the color change is much shorter in Aspen than in other places. Its peak is about two weeks from mid-September to the end of the month.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
You can continue out West and still find incredible places for fall colors. One of these places in Oregon. Oregon is under-rated when it comes to scenery, and even more so when you consider the foliage. What makes this area perfect for fall colors is the backdrop in which you’ll see them. Oregon also has a variety of trees: big-leaf maples, firs, pines, cottonwoods, and ash trees – very different from what you would experience in New England. The splashes of colors vary in shape thanks to the diversity of trees. Aside from that, seeing these colors against the beautiful mountains of Oregon and the river that runs through, you can’t ask for a better experience for foliage. Lots of people head to this area to experience these views while hiking through the mountains.
Similar to other places mentioned, the season of leaves changing begins mid-September to mid-October, giving you a month’s worth of picture-worthy views.
California might be primarily known for its perfect weather, but not everyone considers it for foliage. But California is enormous with lots of variation of topography with impressive landscapes, giving it another perfect backdrop for fall colors. Since California is a big state, we figured we’d highlight a few areas of the state to check out:
The Vineyards – Another feature of California is its endless vineyards, which you can see all throughout the state of California. Along with the vines, you see splashes of rubies and oranges when the leaves change. The vineyards complement the leaves perfectly. Napa is probably the most famous area for vineyards in Northern California, but there are vineyards all over the state, and they all look exceptional with fall colors. Best part? You can enjoy the best wine in the country while experiencing the beautiful Californian fall. You can expect the colors to change from mid-September to mid-October.
Lakes – California may be known for its beaches but it has some breathtaking lakes. Even better, when the fall colors set in. In the Southern part of California, you have several exquisite lakes surrounding the Los Angeles area, Silver Lake being one of them. Silver Lake is picturesque with mountainous backdrops with trees in front. Similar to places like Aspen, they change to golden shades, complimenting the blue lake. June Lake and Convict Lake gets you closer to notable places like Mammoth, which is already known for its scenery, but the color changes highlight the views. Lastly, and most famously of California’s lakes, is Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is known for its tall green pines but this area is sprinkled with bursts of golden leaves, making it another lake to consider in California’s autumn season.
Yosemite National Park – How could we not bring up Yosemite National Park? It’s arguably one of the most favored national parks in the United States, attracting thousands every year. This park is already known for incredible outdoor excursions and wildlife, most people flock in the spring and summer months, but it often gets overlooked in the fall. We think its probably the best time to go. Everything quiets down and you can take the time to appreciate how the trees accent this beautiful national park.
All the places in California have a standard time frame for leaves changing. While they vary within the state, you can expect it to last from mid-September to mid-October.
Fall foliage is by far the best way to experience fall in the United States. And one final tip to help find foliage, lots of states have some type of foliage tracker online. California even has one and you can see what stage of color change is happening, in case you want to appropriately plan your trip around the leaves. It can be a useful tool. We hope this article helps with your future travels. Luckily you don’t just have to be in the Northeast, there are lots of places, and just a few mentioned in this article, to get your foliage fix.