As the weather cools and the calendar moves into autumn, Mother Nature dons her finest in a splendid display of vibrant fall colors. Some destinations look their very best at this colorful time of year and are worth a visit just to see the show.
From the colorful forests of Vermont to the alpine wonders of Aspen, Colorado, here are our favorite places to view the fall colors, as well as suggestions on where to stay along the way.
Where Are the Best Places to See the Fall Colors?
So get ready to hit the road on an autumn journey you won’t forget. Here’s where to see some of the best fall colors in America.
Vermont in the Fall
Vermont is synonymous with beautiful autumn fall colors. Its charming small towns and winding roads are surrounded by maple, beech and birch trees that put on a grand display during peak foliage season, which runs from mid-September through the first two to three weeks in October. While almost anywhere in Vermont offers fall colors, the 11-mile Green Mountain Byway between Waterbury and Stowe is a highlight.
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina & Tennessee
As one of the most popular national parks in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a good bet for seeing rich autumn foliage. Filled with hickories, scarlet oaks, maple and sweetgum trees, there’s a scenic view around every corner. The colors start here in early October and run through November. Great Smoky Mountains National Park spans from North Carolina to Tennessee, with more than 800 miles to explore. Stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to combine a little sightseeing and good food with your journey.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The colors in the Columbia River Gorge have a different look. Twisted pines stand alongside big-leaf maples and Oregon ash to create a look that’s truly unique.
The 80-mile gorge in the Cascade Mountains runs between southern Washington and northern Oregon. Along with gorgeous scenery, the area offers plenty of other adventure, from hiking to rafting. The fall foliage season runs from mid-September to mid-October.
In a town named after a tree, you can bet that the fall colors in this part of Colorado are amazing. As aspen trees turn, they range from gold to rich reds, and one forest can be a multi-colored spectacle which changes daily. Aspen start to change in early September and depending on the weather, can extend through mid-October.
Hike to the Maroon Bells for one of Colorado’s iconic images – a mountain lake encircled by tall peaks that are covered in autumn majesty. The small town of Aspen is also an iconic Colorado experience. You’ll find celebrities out enjoying the mountain air with everyone else. Check out Top 10 Things to Do in Aspen
Read our Colorado Travel Guide
Adirondacks, New York
Red maple, sugar maple, yellow birch and quaking aspen are just a few of the hardwoods that cover the Adirondack Mountains in New York. The region has one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country, so you can take your time watching the autumn colors travel from peak to valley.
Travel in the Adirondacks is year-round. The season here starts with the turning of the red maples toward the end of August and runs through mid-October. Enjoy the forest up close by hiking the famed Adirondack High Peaks or picnic alongside one of the area’s pristine lakes.
Bar Harbor, Maine
We love this little coastal village for its seafaring ways. It’s home to a thriving lobster industry, as well as several Maine Windjammers, which offer sailing cruises on historic tall ships. But Bar Harbor is also a good base to see the vibrant fall colors of Maine.
Spend the day exploring the Acadia Byway, where you’ll see photo-worthy views of Maine’s wild coastline, as well as rich fall colors in Acadia National Park. Go hiking on Mount Desert Island or hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The leaves start to change in September, but peak season is usually mid-October.