Crisp, clean air, panoramic views and miles of forests bursting with bright colors - these are all reasons why fall is the best time to explore places with phenomenal mixtures of yellow, red, orange and green. The incredible hues of the season peak between September and October all across the U.S., and we scoped out the very best places in each state boasting awe-inspiring fall foliage.
Alabama: DeSoto Falls
DeSoto State Park in Alabama is lush with vibrant poplar, dogwood, maple and hickory - but that's not the only attraction here. Fall is an incredible time to ogle changing leaves as well as wildflower blooms and berries. Take it all in while overlooking the 104-foot waterfall on the West Fork of Little River. You can even go swimming at the bottom (weather permitting).
Alaska: Denali National Park
Autumn in Alaska is short and sweet. The average temperature in September is about 57 degrees, and when October rolls around, it drops drastically and usually starts snowing. Catch this subarctic wilderness at its prime when vegetation at Denali National Park evolves into shades of yellow, red and orange, and grizzly bears get ready to hibernate.
Arizona: White Mountains
On the eastern border of Arizona near New Mexico are the White Mountains, peppered with pine, fir, oak and aspen trees. Leaf peepers can hike or bike 30 interconnecting trail loops though parks around the area: Fools Hollow Lake, Woodland Lake Park, Big Springs Environmental Study Area and Billy Creek. If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of some wildlife. The White Mountains are home to elk, bears, mountain lions, antelope, deer, turkeys and more.
Arkansas: Ozark National Forest
Ozark National Forest in northwestern Arkansas sees peak fall foliage at the end of September and early October. The rugged mountain landscape exhibits 1.2 million acres bursting with color from blackgum, sweetgum, hickory, sassafras, maple, sycamore, flowering dogwood and oak trees that are surrounded by rushing streams, waterfalls, rock formations and enchanting caves.
California: Napa Valley
California is beloved for its sunny skies and sandy beaches you have to see to believe, but the Golden State has stunning fall views too. Maple, oak and sweetgum debut brilliant gold and ruby hues throughout Napa Valley, but autumn beauty in wine country isn't limited to trees only. Head to any of the area's many vineyards to witness painted grape leaves and any fruit left on the vines. Oh yeah, and to try some of the country's best wine too.
Colorado: Kebler Pass
Some of Colorado's most beautiful fall colors are best seen driving scenic routes. Kebler Pass (between Paonia and Crested Butte) features one of the largest aspen groves in the world. As the days grow colder, it blankets the surrounding peaks in sunshine-yellow as far as the eye can see - 50 miles out on a clear day. The high mountain drive at 10,000 feet of elevation is just 30 miles long one way and typically takes under two hours to complete.
Connecticut: Talcott Mountain State Park
Hike just over a mile up Talcott Mountain to the Heublein Tower for 360-degree views of the charming Connecticut landscape. Those with sharp eyesight can see an estimated 1,200 square miles of sweeping red, orange and yellow. Hikers might lock eyes with bald eagles, woodpeckers or turkey vultures.
Delaware: Brandywine Valley
Drive the Brandywine Valley Byway to see the best fall foliage Delaware has to offer. The 12-mile route runs through rolling hills from downtown Wilmington to the Pennsylvania state line. Witness a kaleidoscope of Instagram-worthy autumn colors, and don't be afraid to stop along the way at the historic estates, museums and gardens.
Florida: Falling Waters State Park
Unfortunately, much of Florida's beautiful foliage was destroyed by Hurricane Michael in 2018. One of the best leaf peeping spots, Torreya State Park, was hit hard, and this fall, it is only able to offer 3 miles of hiking trails while it recovers from the devastation. Falling Waters State Park in Chipley fared a little bit better and has most of its trails available for autumn. While it offers colorful changing leaves, the main attraction may be Florida's highest waterfall and Falling Waters Sink, a 20-foot-wide sinkhole that drops 73 feet. Remember to also keep your eyes peeled for fox squirrels. The foliage up Interstate 10 to the park can be pretty great too.
Georgia: Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia is one of the most popular canyons in the southeastern United States. Hikers can journey down multiple trails along the rim, leading to several overlooks with cascading waterfall views. You might even catch professional whitewater rafters braving the rapids below.
Hawaii: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
The weather in Hawaii is a dream year-round, so unfortunately you won't be seeing traditional fall foliage in the Aloha State . Instead, head to the Big Island's Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens in Papaikou to see more than 2,000 species of tropical plants in the 40-acre rainforest preserve. And if you really want to experience the magic of the season, watch the leaves change on the mainland from any of these webcam streams.
Idaho: Sherman Peak
At an astonishing 9,682 feet, Sherman Peak is the tallest mountain in Idaho's Bear River Range (about 12 miles south of Soda Springs). Having said that, it's still an easy hike for outdoor lovers looking to go leaf peeping. Use Eightmile Creek Road to access a trail that'll take you to the top. In all, it's just a 3.5-mile trek.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
Just 90 miles southwest of Chicago, Illinois, Starved Rock State Park is the perfect day (or weekend) trip for adventurers looking to escape the city. The 2,630 acres feature 13 miles of trails leading to sandstone canyons and bluffs. Take the staircase up Starved Rock for an incredible bird's eye view of the Illinois River and surrounding autumn colors.
Indiana: Brown County State Park
Brown is Indiana's largest state park, and it's nicknamed "Little Smokies" because while it's not quite as big, it resembles Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains. Twenty miles of tree-lined roads and vistas overlooking 16,000 acres of forest make Brown a top spot for fall foliage leaf peeping.
Iowa: Kepler State Park
Kepler State Park in Iowa is prime territory for hiking. Take in dramatic maple, hickory, black walnut and basswood trees on 6 miles of trails along the Cedar River and through the forest. Visitors are likely to encounter wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and bald eagles.
Kansas: Glacial Hills Scenic Byway
Go for a sweet Kansas drive on the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway for immaculate views of vibrant yellow and orange fall foliage and pink Sioux quartzite boulders. The 63-mile route starts in Leavenworth and ends in White Cloud, and along the way is Atchison, the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.
Courtesy of Kansas Tourism
Kentucky: Lake Cumberland State Resort Park
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park in Kentucky offers gorgeous panoramic views of the 65,530-acre lake and surrounding forest lush with beech, oak and hickory trees. Soak it all in from a boat or any of the many one-way and loop hiking trails.
Courtesy of Kentucky Department of Parks
Louisiana: Chemin-A-Haut State Park
Chemin-A-Haut State Park in Bistrop, Louisiana, is perfect for people craving an unequaled fall experience. While there are traditional walking trails here, visitors can also experience the awe-inspiring views from a boat in Bayou Bartholomew, which, at 359 miles, is the longest bayou in the world.
Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks
Maine: Baxter State Park
Baxter State Park is home to Maine's highest mountain, Mount Katahdin, at 5,270 feet. Hikers can enjoy more than 200 miles of trails boasting marvelous views of New England and, should they stay, campers can sleep under the stars at one of the park's 10 campgrounds. This park of colossal splendor is one of the absolute best places to take in the wonders of fall.
Maryland: Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is located in Frederick County, Maryland, closest to Barnesville. It's home to oak, black gum, poplar, black birch and hemlock trees, many different types of wildflowers and exciting wildlife like white-tailed deer, eastern cottontails and red foxes. While the peak isn't the tallest in the world (it's just 800 feet tall), the trails offer close-up views of the forest, and at the summit (reachable by foot or car), you can see the surrounding farmland.
Massachusetts: Pioneer Valley
The festive fall scenery is beautiful from below, but the sights are best seen from a hot air balloon above the gorgeous Pioneer Valley, the portion of the Connecticut River Valley that crosses over into Massachusetts. As you float quietly above, you can see the Bay State's Berkshire Hills as well as the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. More adventurous explorers can even fly above the trees on a zip line adventure.
Michigan: Upper Peninsula
The Upper Peninsula is an underrated adventure destination. This natural wonderland in northern Michigan has 1,700 miles of shoreline on three Great Lakes, and that's just the beginning of its outdoor offerings. About 90% of the area is covered in forest. Join a fall color tour to experience breathtaking vistas, country roads and walks on the lakeshore.
Minnesota: Lake Superior
Take the North Shore All-American Scenic Drive through small towns and seven state parks from Duluth, Minnesota, to Grand Portage (the last stop before Canada). The drive offers striking views of changing maples, birch and aspen lining beautiful Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the U.S.
Mississippi: Natchez Trace
The Natchez Trace was a 444-mile footpath used for centuries by Native Americans, European settlers, soldiers and slave traders. Commemorated as the Natchez Trace Parkway, it is now a scenic two-lane road from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. The parkway follows the original footpath - most of which is unspoiled today - so you can take in the sights from outside your vehicle too.
Missouri: Katy Trail State Park
Katy Trail State Park is home to one of the country's longest rail-trails. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad used to travel the 240-mile pathway between Clinton and Machens, but now it's used solely for walking, biking, horseback riding and more. While the area is dazzling year-round, autumn is simply sensational.
Montana: Glacier National Park
Fall is a fantastic time to go camping at Glacier National Park in Montana. Reservations are taken until Labor Day, and after that, everything is based on a first come, first serve basis (though the campgrounds rarely reach maximum capacity). With 734 miles to explore, there's no shortage of options for hiking trails lined with multicolored trees leading to waterfalls, glaciers and lakes. You might even see mountain goats, moose, elk, deer or bears.
Nebraska: Ponca State Park
Ponca State Park is just two hours north of Omaha, Nebraska. It offers more than 20 miles of forested hiking and biking trails (some easy, others challenging) and sweeping views of the Missouri River. Come for the day or stay for the night in a tent, cabin or RV. You don't want to miss nature in all her glory.
Courtesy of Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Nevada: Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway
The Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway is a two-lane, 12-mile drive that takes you 8,800 feet up through the Ruby Mountains in Nevada. On the way to the top, stop at the Lamoille Glacier Overlook to see two 11,000-foot-tall peaks carved out by glaciers more than 250,000 years prior.
New Hampshire: Rocky Gorge and Falls Pond
There's no shortage of gorgeous fall scenery in New Hampshire, but one of the very best (and most accessible) spots to see it is Rocky Gorge and Falls Pond. The beginner level, mile-long loop trail provides up close and personal views of the rushing river rapids and cascades. The picturesque trees in this area are part of the 800,000-acre White Mountains National Forest.
New Jersey: Wyanokie High Point
Wyanokie High Point in Norvin Green State Forest offers one of the best views in all of New Jersey. The terrain is a little rugged, but the juice is worth the squeeze. Take a short or long trail to the summit for spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including the Wanaque Reservoir and New Jersey Highlands. You can even see New York City on a clear day.
Courtesy of New Jersey State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites
New Mexico: Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
For magical views of the Carson National Forest, take the appropriately named Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, a loop of more than 80 miles around the highest mountain in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak. The drive starts and ends in the gorgeous small town of Taos. If you check out this place at the end of October, you'll get to see a sky full of hot air balloons floating over the technicolor mountaintops of New Mexico.
New York: Hunter Mountain
You can't go wrong spending fall in the Catskills. Take a scenic ride in the six-passenger chairlift 3,200 feet up to the top of Hunter Mountain for unforgettable views of the vibrant New York landscape. On a clear day, you can even see the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont.
North Carolina: Linn Cove Viaduct Road
This seven-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina hugs the face of Grandfather Mountain. The intricate bridge is internationally recognized as an engineering marvel that's as impressive as the colors that surround it. Stop to enjoy walking trails and the Instagram-worthy Blue Ridge Mountains landscape.
North Dakota: Pembina Gorge
In northern North Dakota near Walhalla lies Pembina Gorge. Ogle at the Pembina River rushing through red, orange and yellow trees that make up 12,500 acres of multifaceted forestland. Take it all in from every which way by traveling more than 30 miles of trails via foot, bike, horse or ATV.
Courtesy of North Dakota tourism
Ohio: Hocking Hills State Park
This spectacular state park in Ohio is treasured for its variety of recreational opportunities in superb natural scenery. The 2,356-acre park has towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded valleys to appeal to hikers and naturalists.
Oklahoma: Beavers Bend State Park
Located in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River, this popular park is a real gem in the fall. You'll pass through forests of pine and hardwood trees and see gorgeous scenery all around.
Oregon: Mount Hood Scenic Loop
The Mount Hood Scenic Loop in Oregon is a mashup of the Mount Hood Scenic Byway and the Historic Columbia River Highway. This 146-mile drive boasts jaw-dropping views of the Columbia River Gorge and beautiful Cascade Mountain Range.
Pennsylvania: Lake Nockamixon
This reservoir in southeastern Pennsylvania is a prime location for breathtaking boat rides, and the surrounding 5,286-acre Nockamixon State Park is perfect for picturesque hiking, biking and horseback riding on more than 50 miles of trails.
Rhode Island: Roger Williams Park
Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island is home to eight winding roads, 10 lakes, a zoo, Japanese and botanical gardens, and over 5,000 dazzling trees. To get the full effect of fall, visit during the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular when the walkways and trails are lined with carved pumpkins.
South Carolina: Campbell's Covered Bridge
This firetruck red structure is the only remaining covered bridge in all of South Carolina. The 38-foot long, 12-foot wide pine building spans Beaverdam Creek. Visitors can hang out in the surrounding park around Campbell's Covered Bridge, take a dip in the creek, have a picnic or snap pictures of this iconic, photographer-favorite spot.
South Dakota: Black Hills
Despite the name, the Black Hills of South Dakota are quilted in brilliant red, gold and orange colors in the fall. See the canyons, go hiking to streams and even swim in one of the azure lakes. RV camping is a popular adventure here, and many campground sites open up to views of lakes. The Black Hills region is also home to majestic Mount Rushmore.
Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers 244,000 acres of land in Tennessee and 276,000 acres of North Carolina. Visitors to the Volunteer State can expect marvelous hues for about seven weeks here, and the best color is at higher elevations, where the climate compares to New England. Part of what makes the Smokies so magnificent is the diversity of trees. There are more than 100 species in total.
Texas: Garner State Park
Garner State Park in Concan is the most popular state park in Texas for overnight camping. The 2.9-mile Frio River snakes through 1,774 acres of dramatic terrain that can be enjoyed via 16 miles of hiking trails ranging in difficulty. Take Old Baldy Trail to the summit for scenic views of rolling hills. The climb is short (about a half mile), but steep - and totally worth it.
Utah: Alpine Scenic Loop Byway
This 20-mile drive follows Utah Highway 92 up American Fork Canyon, through Uinta National Forest and into Provo Canyon on U.S. 189. Along the way, travelers will experience natural marvels, including canyons in the Wasatch Range, Mount Timpanogos and other gorgeous glacier-carved peaks. To get the full fall treatment, follow the signs to must-see Cascade Springs. Visitors can take the quarter-mile boardwalk to sparkling natural pools and waterfalls.
Vermont: Long Trail
This gnarly trail, known as Vermont's "footpath in the wilderness," is quintessentially New England. It covers 270 miles of rugged terrain, high peaks, ponds, streams and lush valleys. Built between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail is one of the oldest long-distance hiking trails in the country. It follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from Canada to the Massachusetts-Vermont state line. No bikers or horseback riders are allowed.
Virginia: Skyline Drive
When Virginia's vibrant hues make their debut, the best place to see them is along the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, which runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains. With 500 miles of hiking opportunities and 75 separate outlooks, there's no shortage of incredible fall foliage viewing here. You may even spot a black bear, raccoon, woodchuck or white-tailed deer.
Washington: Mount Rainier National Park
Although it's known as the Evergreen State, Washington is alive with color in autumn. Mount Rainier, just southeast of Seattle, is both an active volcano and the highest mountain in the state. Hike the Skyline Trail Loop 5.5 miles round-trip to see cascading waterfalls, grand glaciers, stone-carved staircases and a brilliant mix of vibrant trees and shrubs.
Washington DC: National Mall
It can sometimes be hard to see fall foliage in large cities, but America's capital is plentiful with color when sweater weather rolls around. The National Mall has flawless fall foliage that can be seen from virtually anywhere including the Lincoln Memorial, the reflecting pool or the Washington Monument.
West Virginia: Blackwater Canyon Trail
If you're looking to be at one with nature in West Virginia, visit the Blackwater Canyon Trail in the Monongahela National Forest. The 10.2-mile-long path curves along Blackwater River from Thomas to Hendricks, past a former railroad depot, roundhouse and machine shop. Blackwater Canyon Trail is open to walkers and bikers.
Wikimedia Commons/ ForestWander licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 US
Wisconsin: Peninsula State Park
Door County is famous for its fall foliage displays, and some of Wisconsin's greatest colors can be found in Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek. There are 20 miles of hiking trails in total including Eagle Trail, which features a close-up of the Niagara Escarpment. If you don't want to walk, take Skyline Road to new heights and stunning views of Green Bay.
Wyoming: Oxbow Bend
Oxbow Bend is one of the most popular spots in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Wildlife in the area abounds with moose, otters, black bears and the occasional grizzly. Monumental Mount Moran towers in the near distance, and on calm mornings, golden aspens reflect off the glassy Snake River. The scenery is a photographer's dream and the aforementioned set-up is one of the most photographed nature shots in history. You're likely familiar with the area because it's stunning and it's in the vicinity of world-famous Jackson Hole, but what you might not know is that similar beauty exists at the most underrated national parks in America too.
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