Chasing Fall Foliage: Best U.S. Destinations for Autumn Leaves

As summer gives way to autumn, the United States transforms into a vibrant canvas of reds, oranges, and yellows. The breathtaking beauty of fall foliage is a sight to behold, and many travelers eagerly chase the changing colors. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the best U.S. destinations for experiencing the magic of autumn leaves and provide you with picturesque routes to savor this natural spectacle.

#1. Vermont’s Route 100

Destination: Vermont

Why Visit: Vermont is synonymous with stunning fall foliage, and Route 100 is the crown jewel of leaf-peeping routes. This scenic highway meanders through quaint villages, rolling hills, and pristine forests.

Best Time to Visit: Late September to mid-October

Highlights: Explore charming towns like Stowe and Waterbury and stop at local cider mills to savor fresh apple cider and warm donuts.

#2. The Blue Ridge Parkway

Destination: North Carolina and Virginia

Why Visit: The Blue Ridge Parkway offers one of the longest and most picturesque drives through the Appalachian Mountains. The vibrant colors of the deciduous forests are simply mesmerizing.

Best Time to Visit: Early to mid-October

Highlights: Don’t miss Mabry Mill, one of the most photographed spots along the parkway, and explore the hiking trails that lead to breathtaking overlooks.

#3. Acadia National Park

Destination: Maine

Why Visit: Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island is a fall paradise. The park’s diverse landscapes, from rugged coastlines to granite peaks, are adorned with autumnal colors.

Best Time to Visit: Late September to early October

Highlights: Hike or drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for sunrise, bike the scenic carriage roads, and enjoy lobster feasts in nearby Bar Harbor.

#4. Aspen, Colorado

Destination: Colorado

Why Visit: Aspen is famous for its groves of shimmering aspen trees, which turn a brilliant gold in the fall. The contrast between the golden leaves and the evergreen forests is a sight to behold.

Best Time to Visit: Late September to early October

Highlights: Take a scenic drive along Independence Pass, hike the Maroon Bells, and explore the charming town of Aspen with its boutique shops and cozy cafes.

#5. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Destination: Tennessee and North Carolina

Why Visit: The Great Smoky Mountains are home to one of the most diverse displays of fall foliage in the United States. The park’s vast forests burst into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Best Time to Visit: Mid-October to early November

Highlights: Drive the Cades Cove Loop Road, hike to Clingmans Dome for panoramic views, and attend ranger-led programs to learn about the park’s biodiversity.

#6. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Destination: New Mexico

Why Visit: The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway takes you through the picturesque Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Witness the golden aspens and the contrasting blue skies for a truly enchanting experience.

Best Time to Visit: Late September to early October

Highlights: Stop at the art-centric town of Taos, visit the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and enjoy traditional New Mexican cuisine in Red River.

#7. The Columbia River Gorge

Destination: Oregon and Washington

Why Visit: The Columbia River Gorge is a prime spot for viewing fall colors in the Pacific Northwest. The combination of deciduous trees, waterfalls, and the Columbia River makes for a stunning landscape.

Best Time to Visit: Late October to early November

Highlights: Hike to Multnomah Falls, explore the charming town of Hood River, and embark on scenic drives along the historic highway.

#8. The Catskills, New York

Destination: New York

Why Visit: The Catskill Mountains in upstate New York offer a serene escape from the city. The forests are adorned with rich hues of red and orange, creating a picturesque autumn setting.

Best Time to Visit: Late September to early October

Highlights: Hike to Kaaterskill Falls, take a scenic ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad, and visit local cideries.

#9. The Ozark Mountains

Destination: Arkansas and Missouri

Why Visit: The Ozarks are a hidden gem for fall foliage. The rugged terrain and clear lakes create a stunning backdrop for the changing leaves.

Best Time to Visit: Mid-October to early November

Highlights: Explore the Ozark National Forest, go kayaking on the Buffalo National River, and visit the charming town of Eureka Springs.

#10. The Lakes Region, New Hampshire

Destination: New Hampshire

Why Visit: New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, known for its pristine lakes and rolling hills, is a fantastic destination for autumn leaf-peeping. The reflections of colorful foliage in the lakes are breathtaking.

Best Time to Visit: Late September to early October

Highlights: Cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee, hike the Belknap Range, and enjoy a scenic drive around Squam Lake.


These picturesque destinations and routes offer some of the best opportunities to witness the vibrant colors of autumn foliage in the United States. Whether you prefer scenic drives, hiking adventures, or simply basking in the beauty of nature, these fall destinations are sure to provide a memorable and awe-inspiring experience.

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