Fall Foliage Destinations: 10 Best Places to Go Leaf Peeping (and When!)

(Photo: David Hernandez)

It’s that time of year, folks. The kids are back in school, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are available at Starbucks, and you have to grab a light jacket before you go outside.

It’s fall. And the most significant part of this time of year is watching the leaves turn bright hues of orange, gold, and crimson.

Everyone has their favorite spot to go leaf peeping. New England is famous for its fall foliage, including the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire which is often referred to as one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the country. But if you’re like us, you love the beautiful forests filled with rainbow-colored leaves wherever you are. From east to west, north and south, we’ve prepared a timeline for when and where to watch the leaves turn around the U.S. 

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The changing leaves in Aspen (Photo: Alex Berger/Flickr)

Aspen, Colorado

Peak: Late September

Aspen is known for its beautiful mountain views and world-class skiing. But before the snow falls, head to this city to watch the leaves change.  Aspen is named after the aspen tree, whose leaves turns a beautiful and bright golden color starting in late September. For the best views, visit the Maroon Bells, hike around Cathedral Lake, or take a scenic drive along Castle Creek Road.

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View from Coopers Rock at Coopers Rock State Forest (Photo: Jamie/Flickr)

Coopers Rock State Forest, West Virginia

Peak: Late September

Home to 12,713 acres of woodland, Coopers Rock State Forest is the perfect place to do a little leaf peeping. Hike or bike on various paths up to the main overlook, which provides a stunning panoramic view of the Cheat River Gorge and surrounding foliage. Check West Virginia’s weekly fall foliage report for updates on predicted fall color peak times.

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Running through the autumn leaves in Acadia National Park (Photo: Brent Danley/Flickr)

Acadia National Park, Maine

Peak: Early October

Maine’s autumn leaves attract leaf peepers from all around the world. Join the party at Acadia National Park, where there are thousands of acres of colorful foliage during peak. For a smaller crowd, head over to Grafton Notch State Park, located between Newry and Upton, Maine. Starting on Sept. 10, you can check Maine’s official fall foliage chart to track the gradual change of leaf colors around the state.  

Related: Weekender: A Perfect Day on the Maine Coast

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Equinox Pond in Manchester, Vermont (Photo: Ben Saren/Flickr)

Manchester, Vermont

Peak: Early October

You won’t have to look too hard to find changing leaves in Vermont. The state is bursting with red maple, mountain ash, and large-toothed aspen that provide splashes of color everywhere you look. We suggest hopping in a car and driving from town to town, taking in the colors and crisp mountain air along the way. Manchester and Middlebury are both great towns in which to get your leaf-peeping fix. Before you head up there, check out this map, which tracks fall foliage in the state.

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Door County woods and trail (Photo: Thinkstock)

Door County, Wisconsin

Peak: Mid-October

Before winter attacks with its polar vortex, head up to Door County, Wisconsin, to see the fall frondescence. Drive or bike along County Road 42, where you’ll enjoy scarlet and gold leaves in the silence of the country. Even better, charter a boat and observe the brilliant colors by boat. There are several water tours, including Shoreline Charters, which will show you the Door County Peninsula and Great Lakes lighthouses. Follow along as Door County tracks the fall colors on their foliage report. 

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Corvallis River Walk in Willamette Valley (Photo: Sally/Flickr)

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Peak: Mid-October

The countryside in Oregon is beautiful year round, but fall really is the belle of the ball. Located in northwest Oregon, the Willamette Valley is home to the state’s major cities, including Salem, Eugene, and Portland. The area is packed with scenic drives designed to showcase nature at its finest. Driving along the McKenzie-Santiam Pass is a favorite among locals because it provides scenic views of the forest and rock lava formations. The Cottage Grove Covered Bridge tour is also a great way to observe all the beauty that Oregon has to offer. 

Check out Oregon’s Fall Foliage Instagram page for beautiful pictures of the changing leaves. 

Related: Thursday Night: Portland

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Golden leaves at Big Bear Lake in Southern California (Photo: OaklandNative/Flickr)

Big Bear Lake, California

Peak: Late October

You may think that leaf peeping is an East Coast event, but California has some beautiful foliage that rivals some of New England’s best. Spend the day at Big Bear Lake in Southern California, which boasts amber, gold, and scarlet leaves throughout November. The best views are from the hiking trails on the northern side of the lake. And with colors so bright and vibrant, you’ll swear you’re in Maine. 

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Buffalo River in autumn (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Ozarks, Missouri

Peak: Late October

If you like your colorful leaves with a side of crisp air mountain air and lake views, then the Ozarks are the perfect place for you. Glade Top Trail is 23 miles long and has scenic views that reach the Springfield plateau and St. Francois Mountains. Hike, relax, and enjoy lunch at the Caney Mountain Picnic Area. 

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One of Central Park’s many bridges (Photo: Thinkstock)

Central Park, New York

Peak: Late October

Upstate New York is beaming with beautiful places to ogle at fall leaves, such as the Catskills and Adirondacks. But for us, there’s nothing quite like Central Park in the fall. Stroll through Strawberry Fields before heading to the Mall, which gives the quintessential view of Central Park, with yellow American elm trees providing a colorful canopy. Strolling around the reservoir on a chilly fall day is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a big park, so glance at this foliage map before you go, to help identify trees and locations. 

Related: Smaller Crowds, Cheaper Fares: The Five Best Fall Cruises

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Falls on West Ridge Trail in Amicalola Falls Park (Photo: Georgia State Parks)

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

Peak: Early November

Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find Amicalola Falls State Park — a top destination for leaf peepers in the South. Home to the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall, the park offers breathtaking views of Mother Nature’s beauty. Follow Creek Trail to the reflection pool, and enjoy the autumn leaves along the way. 

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