When & Where to Find Peak Fall Foliage in America
From the east coast to the west, the burnt hues of changing fall foliage light up the landscapes providing scenic panoramas unlike any other time of year. If you can swing it, traveling during these months is as visually stunning as it gets – from sweeping, vistas of rust, wine and golden colored leaves to the familiar scent of late night bonfires, wrap yourself in a cable knit sweater and set out for a stroll, hike or leisurely Sunday drive. Whether you park yourself at a local U-pick pumpkin patch or sample savory wines during harvest, autumn in the northern U.S. provides plenty of options for the picking – and we’re not only talking about apples.
To view a map detailing the peak times for fall color in all of the U.S., visit this link for weather.com.
Here, we’ve compiled some of our favorite places for fall’s fabulous finds and prime “peak” leaf-peeper spottings.
When: The last week of September to the third week of October
Where: Leaves first change in the extreme north, then in the western mountains and central valleys, finally in the eastern, coastal and southern locations.
Why: With 17 million acres of forest and 76 tree species, it’s not hard to come by lovely fall colors here. Hop onto one of Maine’s nine state and national scenic byways, like Route 17 in Byron or State Route 11 that follows Fish River, for amazing window views. For a slower ride, hitch a spot on Maine Eastern Railroad where some of the best views can be found along the state’s famous rocky coast. More: visitmaine.com
When: Mid September to mid October
Where: Begin in the northeast and progress to the central region
Why: The combination of crisp autumn air, white clapboarded villages, and grand color makes Vermont a must-see for folks worldwide. What better way to experience the rush of fall beauty from an aerial perspective? Book a hot air balloon ride and you’ll do just that, garnering stunning views of the harvest colors at soaring heights, where the air is still and quiet and perfect for calm, autumn reflections.
When: The first three weeks of October
Where: North and Northwest parts of the state
Why: Cruise the Litchfield Hills region for carefree drives that provide of plenty of stops for inquisitive visitors. From hometown playhouses and contemporary museums to wineries, shopping and the nation’s only national Park Service property devoted to art – Weir Farm, you’ll be blown away by the beauty of this colonial gem.More: northwestconnecticut.com or litchfieldhills.com
When: Early to late October
Where: Entire state
Why: Whether you’re in the mood for pumpkin picking at the Chesterfield Berry Farm a pint at AmRhein Wien Cellar’s Oktoberfest, Virginia’s got you covered for fall festivities and fun. From the state’s eastern shores to the Appalachian Mountains, colors are abound on Virginia’s infamous highways: Blue Ride Parkway and Skyline Drive. More: fallinvirginia.org
When: The last two weeks of September to the first week of November, depending on region
Where: The Adirondacks, Catskills, Finger Lakes and Chautaugua
Why: Quaint B&Bs provide the perfect setting for kicking back and soaking up the season’s beauty. Reds, oranges and deep gold canopies provide picturesque backdrops against fabled regions like The Adirondacks and Finger Lakes. Head to the Point Au Roche Lodge on Lake Champlain for brisk canoeing, kayaking or boating, or situate yourself on a 300-foot bluff at Ecce Bed and Breakfast overlooking the Delaware River, and offering frequent spotting of bald eagles. More: iloveny.com/fall or visitlakegeorge.com
When: Second week in October
Where: Central and Northern Ohio
Why: Hike or bike through charming small towns and stop at antique shops along one of Ohio’s finest Rails-to-Trails paths. If the dates match, stop in for one of the state’s fall festivals including Mansfield’s Ohio Heritage Day, Fall Color Walk, Night House Tours and Hay Rides or Hearthside Cooking to keep you toasty in the crisp fall chill.More: mansfieldtourism.com
When: Late September to Early October for the northern regions, mid October for central areas
Where: Entire state, especially northern areas
Why: Look no farther than Michigan for the optimum in splashing fall colors. From deep ruby reds to glittering golds, the leaves provide a magnificent backdrop along the crystal blue shores of the Great Lakes. Around every bend you’ll find local U-pick orchards, pumpkin patches, cider mills, autumn festivals and even haunted houses that are sure to put you in the perfect fall mood. Consider Traverse City, a tiny, quaint town located on Lake Michigan’s Traverse Bay – you’ll find eclectic boutique shops, a vast array of local wineries and a vibrant atmosphere to complement the changing of seasons. More: michigan.org or mytraversecity.com
When: Early September to Early November
Where: Thoughout Central state
Why: Find some wheels, no matter if it’s motorcycle of car, and head north along the Cranberry Highway, where motorists pass crimson cranberry marshes flooded over with the tart juicy jewels. Stop for a guided tour if the urge strikes you, or check out local vendors for palette-pleasers like cranberry sundaes, muffins and cheesecake. Who could resist?
More: travelwisconsin.com or cranberryhighway.com
When: September through October, depending on elevation.
Where: Aspen, as well as the entire state, offers brilliant yellow-gold leaves.
Why: Technically not a northern state, Colorado's high altitudes make for prime leaf viewing, and we just had to include it in our round-up. As if the fall scenery weren’t enough of a bribe, autumn in Aspen is considered off-season for travelers – meaning big discounts for you. The gorgeous mountains provide the perfect location for leaf peeping, or taking off on a paraglide. Aspen Expeditions’ tandem guides will take you to the top of Aspen Mountain for what’s sure to be the biggest adrenaline rush you’ve ever gotten from changing leaves. More: aspenchamber.org