In hues of amber, crimson, and ochre, fall conjures up cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice, and fabulous fall foliage Predicting the best time to see the leaves change is tricky, but many states offer foliage trackers to help travelers time their trips. Looking at past peak periods can also help predict the best time to take a scenic trip.
Falling temperatures and less daylight cause color change, but precisely when changes from year to year. Colorful fall foliage is most abundant in the Eastern United States with the color changing starting as early as mid-September in the North and as late as November in the South.
Whether you choose to leaf peep by train, automobile, or on foot, the colorful hues set in these majestic surroundings are sure to be a highlight of your fall fun.
One of Pennsylvania’s most scenic spots is even more breathtaking in late September. Each autumn, over 70,000 acres of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in the Pocono Mountains turns bright red, yellow and orange with autumn leaves. Popular area trails include Mount Minsi and Mount Tammany, but stop pretty much anywhere along the Delaware River Gorge for unreal views.
Peak Foliage at the Delaware Water Gap: Mid-September to Mid-October
Straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, the US’s most-visited national park is famous for its fall foliage. The best time to see the colorful autumn leaves in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is typically in the last two weeks of October.
Peak Foliage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Mid-October to Early November
With the most maple trees in the United States, Vermont is a beautiful spot for leaf peeping. Drive along Smugglers Notch mountain pass, which separates Mount Mansfield from Spruce Peak and the Sterling Range in Northern Vermont, for Instagram-worthy photos. Come for the leaves, stay for Vermont’s famous fall festival: the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival in Stowe.
Peak Foliage at Smugglers Notch: Early September to Mid-October
Grand Teton National Park in Northwestern Wyoming is beautiful anytime of year, but particularly so in September when the leaves of the aspen, cottonwood, and willow trees turn yellow, orange, and red.
Peak Foliage in Grand Teton National Park: Early September to Mid-October
Alabama is filled with awesome autumn foliage beginning in mid-October, but one of the most popular ways to leaf peep is along the Circle of Colors Trail: a scenic drive across the state that passes through Oak Mountain State Park, Noccalula Falls, and Cheaha State Park.
Peak Foliage on the Circle of Colors Trail: Late October to Early November
Beginning in late October, the leaves in Arkansas begin to transform into an autumn wonderland. Drive Scenic Byway 7, which begins in the South and travels through four geographic regions, including the West Gulf Coastal Plain, the Ouachita Mountains, the Arkansas River Valley, and the Ozark Mountains to see fall foliage. Drivers can confirm conditions via the state’s fall foliage reports.
Peak Foliage in Ozark National Forest: Late October to Early November
A fall hike in Aspen promises the crunch of colorful fall leaves underfoot. Cathedral Lake Trail in Central Colorado affords amazing views that include an alpine valley, meadows, waterfalls, and alpine lake on the way to the top 11,000+ feet up. It’s a strenuous 5.6-mile hike round trip, so experience recommended.
Peak Foliage in Aspen, Colorado: Late September to Early October
The Blue Ridge Mountains are majestic when awash in red and gold. Leaves typically begin changing in late October. Ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, a 26-mile journey through the Appalachian foothills of Northern Georgia, for some of the most awesome autumn views. For regular fall foliage updates, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources offers a Leaf Watch.
Peak Foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains: Late October to Mid-November
Take in the beauty of fall at Acadia National Park: the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline. Whether driving the 27 miles of roads or trekking the 158 miles of hiking trails, consult Maine fall foliage reports to time your visit. Peak season typically occurs in October.
Peak Foliage in Acadia National Park: Mid-October
Locals get so excited about fall foliage in Oakland, Maryland, a small town in Western Maryland, that there’s even an annual celebration in October. The five-day Autumn Glory Festival includes fall foliage driving tours, turkey dinners, and a parade. In addition to having one of the best fall festivals in the US, the state also runs a fall foliage hotline: 800-LEAVES-1.
Peak Foliage in Maryland: Early October to Mid-October
Beginning in mid-September, the sugar maple, birch, and oak trees in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula turn red, orange, and gold. The spectacle is best viewed via a drive along the 9.5-mile Brockway Mountain Drive. Before setting out, consult Pure Michigan’s Fall Color Map.
Peak Foliage in the UP, Michigan: Late September to Mid-October
Glacier National Park offers two chances to admire fall foliage: in mid- to late September in the western side of the park at lower elevations when the cottonwood and aspen trees turn golden and in mid-October in the mountains on the western side of the park where the tamarack, a deciduous conifer, turn to gold.
Peak Foliage in Glacier National Park: Mid-September
Some of the best views of New England’s iconic fall foliage can be seen from an old fashioned train in New Hampshire. Admire the leaves aboard a 19th-century, coal-fired steam engine called The Cog. AKA, the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world. Sit back and relax as it ascends Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern US.
Peak Foliage in New Hampshire: Mid-September to Mid-October
One of the best places to view fall foliage is Nickerson State Park, where the Cape Cod Rail Trail begins. The paved 25.5-mile road passes through six towns and provides plenty of leaf peeping opportunities, typically in October.
Peak Foliage in Cape Cod: Mid-September to Late October