The 15 Best Places to See Fall Foliage for an Unforgettable Leaf Peeping Vacation

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
September 8, 2021

When sweater weather hits and everything needs a dash of pumpkin spice, you know fall has officially arrived. And in regions with the perfect blend of cooling temperatures and leafy trees, autumn announces itself with a vibrant shift from fresh greens to splashes of red, orange, yellow, and purple. 

It’s a breathtaking cycle that attracts flocks of leaf-peepers to the most colorful corners of the country. From secluded mountain peaks to sprawling city parks, we’ve picked the best places to see fall foliage in 15 tree-studded states. Follow our guide to discover scenic drives, outdoor activities, key stops, and places to stay in four distinct regions so you can catch the colors at their brightest.

Best Places for Leaf Peeping in New England

A barn nestled in a valley with sweeping fall foliage views in Vermont

As the maple leaves ignite at summer’s end, the northeast transforms into the epitome of autumn. These gorgeous states feel straight out of a storybook, offering everything from quaint towns peppered with historic buildings to local farms where you can pick your own produce.

1. Vermont 

As the nation’s leading producer of maple syrup, Vermont’s forests offer delicious benefits along with their world-renowned foliage. 

📅 When to go: Mid-September for northern Vermont; mid-October for southern

📍 Towns to visit: Stowe, Bennington, Plymouth, Woodstock

🍁 Things to do: Ride the forested zipline or gondola at Mount Mansfield; hike or bike the Mount Peg Trail System; stroll the Eshqua Bog Natural Area boardwalk.

🚗 Must-do drive: Scenic Route 100 Byway is Vermont’s “Main Street.” Its winding route through the wooded Green Mountains is a leaf peeping paradise, and there are plenty of breweries, farms, and towns to stop at along the way.

🏠 Where to stay: This picture-perfect mountain cabin in Bridgewater is the ideal group getaway — it sleeps up to 15, has a relaxing hot tub, and is close to downtown Woodstock!  

2. New Hampshire

Wear your favorite flannel in the White Mountains while seeing double the trees reflected in mirror-clear lakes.

📅 When to go: Late September for northern Vermont; mid-October for southern 

📍 Towns to visit: North Conway, Franconia, Sugar Hill

🍁 Things to do: Admire the woods from the Conway Scenic Railroad; take an autumn ATV tour along the interconnected trails of Ride the Wilds.

🚗 Must-do drive: The Kancamagus Highway cuts through the White Mountain National Forest, offering views of the Swift River, waterfalls, and Rocky Gorge tucked away in the trees.

🏠 Where to stay: This secluded Conway cabin combines rustic accents with a luxurious home theater room, outdoor fireplace, and forest-side hot tub.

3. Massachusetts

Take a trip back in time to historic small towns, breathe in the bay air, and get lost in the jaw-dropping landscapes.

📅 When to go: Early- to mid-October

📍 Towns to visit: Cape Cod, Lenox, Great Barrington, Concord

🍁 Things to do: Enjoy the fruits of the local trees at Berkshire Grown harvest markets; soak in the famous scenery of author Henry David Thoreau’s home at Walden Woods.

🚗 Must-do drive: The Mohawk Trail follows a former Native American trade route through the Berkshire Mountains between the dense Hudson and Connecticut River valleys.

🏠 Where to stay: Look out across Lake Buel from the deck of this romantic cottage, then head out to explore nearby Great Barrington or hike a part of  the Appalachian Trail. 

Best Places for Leaf Peeping on the East Coast

Road in Massachusetts winding through the woods with colorful fall foliage

Even though New England has earned its reputation as one of the best places to see fall foliage, its nearby neighbors offer equally gorgeous views. Covered in diverse terrain and never too far from metropolitan hubs, these states will have you seeing red (and orange, and yellow) come fall.

4. New York

Sugar maples are the New York State tree, so you can expect a dynamic display of colors from Long Island all the way to Upstate. 

📅 When to go: Tail-end of September through October

📍 Towns to visit: Catskill, Canandaigua, Margaretville, Hudson

🍁 Things to do: Walk the The Hudson River School Art Trail that inspired landscape painters like Thomas Cole; take the Fall Sky Ride to the top of Bristol Mountain for views of the Finger Lakes; experience Adirondack fall foliage on a rafting tour through the Hudson River Gorge.

🚗 Must-do drive: New York State Route 42 has been deemed “The Notch” because of the way it cuts into the dense forests of the Catskill Mountains.

🏠 Where to stay: Gather friends and family to share 125 private acres of the Catskill Mountains in this rare retreat. Spend your days roaming the landscape, soaking in the views from the wraparound porch, or exploring nearby Margaretville.

5. Pennsylvania

Welcoming you to “Pursue Your Happiness,” Pennsylvania’s historic sites and heritage trails present its storied past in a colorful shroud of changing leaves.

📅 When to go: Early October for northern Pennsylvania; mid- to late-October for southern

📍 Towns to visit: Stroudsburg, Tobyhanna, New Hope, Wellsboro

🍁 Things to do: See fall colors from new heights while skydiving in the Poconos Mountains (or explore the same region on two feet); drive through every covered bridge on a scenic drive around town.

🚗 Must-do drive: Thanks to its unmatched views of the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania’s Route 6 was named “one of America’s most scenic drives” by National Geographic and connects 400 miles of small towns and wondrous sights.

🏠 Where to stay: Bring the whole family (including the pup!) to this kid- and pet-friendly cabin on Pocono Lake, complete with community perks like a clubhouse, beach access, and tennis courts.

6. Maryland

Head west from the crab-catching capital of Chesapeake Bay to discover a rainbow of fall colors in the lush nearby forests.

📅 When to go: Early- to mid-October

📍 Towns to visit: Oakland, Ocean City, Anapolis

🍁 Things to do: Time your trip for the annual Autumn Glory Festival in mid-October, a five-day celebration of the changing leaves that includes craft markets, fall foliage driving tours, and a parade. 

🚗 Must-do drive: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal follows the Potomac River through the state and gives you the opportunity to admire the scenery from your car, a boat, or canoe.

🏠 Where to stay: Escape to your private piece of the forest at this cozy lodge just outside Oakland. Whether you wander through two acres of woods or venture to four state parks, all are within 10 minutes of your rental.

Best Places for Leaf Peeping in the Midwest 

View of Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota, surrounded by water and fall foliage

Before winter covers the trees in notorious amounts of snow, the abundant wooded lands of the Midwest offer a bounty of places to see fall foliage. Autumn begins a bit earlier in these states, so plan ahead before the season snowballs into freezing temperatures.

7. Michigan

With over half of the state being covered in trees, you won’t have to look far to find breathtaking fall foliage here. 

📅 When to go: Mid-September to early October in the Upper Peninsula; late September to late October for the Lower Peninsula

📍 Towns to visit: St. Ignace, Traverse City, Port Huron

🍁 Things to do: Awe in the majesty of woods and water at Tahquamenon Falls; hop in a hot air balloon to soak in the sunrise over the leaves; drink in the apple orchards at local cider mills.

🚗 Must-do drive: M-25 whisks you along Michigan’s “thumb” coast for a tour of resort towns, scenic overlooks, beaches, and forested parks.

🏠 Where to stay: Step out onto the dock of this cozy cottage in Traverse City to admire the panoramic views across from your own private beach. With room for six, it’s a getaway worth sharing.

8. Wisconsin

From the deep woods of the north to the rolling hills of the Driftless south, Wisconsin’s diverse landscape offers a mishmash of leaf-peeping opportunities. 

📅 When to go: Early- to mid-October

📍 Towns to visit: Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Dells, Mercer

🍁 Things to do: Summit the limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment for amazing tree-to-shore views; hike the tree-covered hills of Devil’s Lake National Park; visit the majestic Northwoods in time to see the loons migrate south. 

🚗 Must-do drive: Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway hugs the southern shoreline of Lake Superior and the Bayfield Peninsula, known for its apple festival.

🏠 Where to stay: Tucked away in a grove of trees, this spacious Wisconsin Dells home has accommodations for 13 guests. Fix yourself a drink at the wet bar and bask in the surrounding trees from the comfort of the fire pit and screened porch.

9. Minnesota

Make your way through forested trails and winding waterways to hit all of the best places to see fall foliage in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

📅 When to go: Mid-September for northern Minnesota; mid-October for southern

📍 Towns to visit: Brainerd, Grand Marais, Ely

🍁 Things to do: Marvel at the brilliant paper birches and aspens of the Lake Superior Forest; explore hundreds of miles of the Paul Bunyan Trail on foot, bike, and ATV; see the clear waters of Lake Superior pop against the colorful forest from the top of the Sawtooth Mountains.

🚗 Must-do drive: Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway meanders along the Minnesota River through six vibrant state parks and a variety of historic sites. 

🏠 Where to stay: Live your best lake life at this sunny and open cabin just north of Brainerd. With colorful scenery and a shared dock, it has everything you need for a weekend on the water with your favorite fishing buddies.

Best Places for Leaf Peeping in the West 

Alberta Falls in Estes Park, Colorado during the fall season

Across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, the autumn landscape is aglow with golden aspens. Whether you’re most comfortable holding a walking stick or a glass of Cabernet, these states of the wooded West provide a leaf-filled backdrop to your favorite activities.

10. Washington

Hidden gems await within Pacific Coast beaches, sage-covered hills, and of course, colorful trees.

📅 When to go: Mid-September to mid-October

📍 Towns to visit: Seattle, Bellingham, Oyster Dome

🍁 Things to do: Explore the gorgeously curated botanical gardens and parks of Seattle; discover relics of the logging industry in the old growth of Snoqualmie National Forest; peer down from scenic viewpoints of the San Juans and Skagit flats.

🚗 Must-do drive: Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway brings you between the tree line of the Chuckanut Mountains and the white sand of the bay.

🏠 Where to stay: This remodeled A-frame cabin will make you feel like you’re in a fairytale. Nestled into the magical woods outside Olympic National Forest, the lofted home with room for four even features its own tiny treehouse! (If that home isn’t quite the right fit, you can also explore more A-frame cabins near you.)

11. California

In a state that’s big enough to be split into 12 distinct regions, fabulous fall colors can be spotted near coasts, valleys, mountains, lakes, and just about every other kind of natural feature. 

📅 When to go: Mid-October for high elevations; late October for lower elevations

📍 Towns to visit: Lake Tahoe, Napa, Mammoth Lakes

🍁 Things to do: Celebrate the Alpine Aspen Festival in Hope Valley; watch the grape leaves change hue while tasting their harvest in a renowned wine country.

🚗 Must-do drive: State Route 89 connects Lake Tahoe to June Lake with mountain views, national forests, and glimmering waters along the way.

🏠 Where to stay: Stunning Sierra Nevada views greet you from all directions in this mountainside yurt. Zen vibes meet modern convenience in the heart of the Eldorado National Forest, where hikes, lakes, and resort towns await in all directions of this South Lake Tahoe stay.

12. Colorado

Before wintertime skiers hit the slopes, head to high elevations and soak in the perfect combination of mountain majesty and exquisite fall foliage.

📅 When to go: Mid-September to early October

📍 Towns to visit: Aspen, Estes Park, Steamboat Springs

🍁 Things to do: Play among the aspens at the Lost Forest rope course; hike high-elevation trails at the massive Rocky Mountain National Park; spot tree-dwelling creatures at the North Star Nature Preserve.

🚗 Must-do drive: San Juan Skyway winds through popular mountain towns while providing stunning views of massive aspen groves.

🏠 Where to stay: Unleash your inner mountaineer in this homey log cabin found 15 miles outside of Aspen. Listen to the rushing creek from your porch swing or take your fishing pole to the nearby Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Rivers to catch some dinner.

Best Places for Leaf Peeping in the South

Views of fall foliage and the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

You may not think of The South as one of the best places to see fall foliage, but as the sweltering summer heat makes way for the milder fall, their trees change shades as brilliantly as anywhere else (though it does happen a bit later in the season). Bonus: since it may not be top-of-mind for most tree tourists, you’ll have more space and peace to enjoy the sights for yourself.

13. North Carolina

Discover small towns with gorgeous hikes, delicious food, and inspiring art nestled into the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains.

📅 When to go: Mid-October to early November

📍 Towns to visit: Asheville, Bryson City, Highlands

🍁 Things to do: Marvel at over 100 tree species in the Blue Ridge Mountains; take the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on a scenic tour; enjoy music, quilting, food, and fun at the annual Harvest Festival the third weekend in October.

🚗 Must-do drive: Blue Ridge Parkway rambles through the mountainside, with spectacular views of Linville Gorge and Mount Mitchell. With an intentionally slower speed limit, you’ll have extra time to spot every little leaf.

🏠 Where to stay: You don’t even need to step outside to take in the spectacle of the Smoky Mountains from every corner of this romantic Bryson City hideaway. Breathe in the mountain air from the screened-in porch and discover a new detail in the surrounding forests every time you look out the window.

14. Georgia

Even miles from the coastline, Georgia’s wildlife is never too far from the water. Dip your feet in a lake, hear the roar of a waterfall, and watch the reflections of the leaves.

📅 When to go: Early- to mid-November

📍 Towns to visit: Dahlonega, Blue Ridge, Tallulah Falls

🍁 Things to do: Saddle up at a local ranch for a horseback tour of the Appalachian Trail; try your hand at geocaching in the Blue Ridge Mountains; hear the roar of Tallulah Gorge’s six waterfalls echo through the forest. 

🚗 Must-do drive: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is wrapped in the gorgeous vistas of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

🏠 Where to stay: Head to the hills just south of Blue Ridge to the privacy of this open-concept cabin. Spend your time on the wraparound porch, soaking in the mountain views and the hot tub jets.

15. Tennessee

After visiting the leaf-filled mountains that inspired Dolly Parton in her youth, you’ll be singing about their beauty to everyone you know.

📅 When to go: Late October to late November

📍 Towns to visit: Gatlinburg, Franklin, Chattanooga

🍁 Things to do: Take a fall color cruise across the Tennessee River Gorge on the Southern Belle Riverboat, complete with live narration.

🚗 Must-do drive: Cherohala Skyway takes you on a “ride above the clouds” through the Cherokee National Forest.

🏠 Where to stay: This secluded Smoky Mountain A-frame is ready for your family adventure. With access to community amenities like tennis courts, a pool, game room, and playground, there’s plenty to do just around the corner or a few miles away in Gatlinburg.

Rest Easy While Catching the Changing Colors

After chasing the fleeting fall hues, you’ll want to arrive at a home that’s as vibrant as those autumn leaves. That’s why every stay on our site is backed by our Rest Easy Promise that your vacation rental will always be safe, clean, and ready for you and your family.

If you want to create a bucket-list itinerary for every season of the year, be sure to check out our other travel blogs that are sure to spark your wanderlust. From the best places to stargaze and must-see roadside attractions to tiny houses worth visiting and dreamy desert vacations, there’s a full spectrum of incredible getaways waiting to dazzle you.

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