Turning over new leaves: The best places in the U.S. to view fall colors

These spots are paradise for leaf peepers

What better way to turn over the leaf of a new season then seeing changing leaves!

Fall is the best time of year to view colors, and we have put together the ultimate guide for where you’ll find the most spectacular sights to satisfy the so-called “leaf peeper” in all of us.

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Northeast states

There is no shortage of places for leaf peepers to visit in the northeast corner of the U.S.

Best spots:

  • Green Mountain Highway in Vermont
  • Central Park in New York City
  • The Catskills in New York
  • Talbot Mountain State Park in Connecticut
  • Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts
  • Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire
  • Acadia National Park in Maine
  • Rodgers Williams Park in Rhode Island

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Bring a hoodie and perhaps a parka because it will be chilly, but the sights of these colors will make it worth having to wear extra clothing.

Best spots:

  • Porcupine Mountains Wildnerness State Park, especially the chair lift rides for $7
  • Tahquamenon Falls
  • Pictured Rocks
  • Mackinac Island (in between Lower and Upper Peninsulas)
  • Marquette Mountain with chairlift rides for $7
  • Cut River Bridge, Naubinway​​​​​​

  • Tunnel of Trees, Haymeadow Creek (not to be confused with the Lower Peninsula's Tunnel of Trees in Cross Village)

Washington, D.C.

If you are more of a city person and don’t like making treks into the middle of nowhere to view colors, then the nation’s capital is a good option. The changing colors of leaves with some of the nation’s prominent landmarks in the background is never a bad sight.

Best spots:

  • National Mall
  • U.S. National Arboretum
  • Meridian Hill Park
  • Washington Monument

The Ozarks

This region stretches through four states -- Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, so there are plenty of good viewing points.

Best spots:

  • Boston Mountain Range, Arkansas
  • St. Francois Mountains, Missouri
  • Glade Top Trail near Ava, Missouri
  • Ouachita National Forest, Oklahoma and Arkansas
  • Cliff Drive Scenic Byway, Kansas

Blue Ridge Parkway

Just like the Ozarks, this stretch of road goes across multiple states. Anyone can stop and visit mountainous spots in North Carolina and Virginia. Or, you just simply enjoy the jaw-dropping views from the road as you are driving the 470-mile stretch.

Best spots:

  • Mt. Pisgah in Asheville, North Carolina (6,000 feet)
  • Hanging Rock at Potts Mountain, North Carolina
  • Cahas Knob Overlook in Callaway, Virginia
  • McAfee Knob in Catawba, Virginia
  • Purgatory Mountain Overlook near Buchanan, Virginia
  • Mill Mountain Overlook in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Roanoke Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Peaks of Otter, Virginia

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Hooray for Dollywood! OK, that’s not how the famous song goes, but that can definitely apply for fall color enthusiasts who embark on Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or any other spot located within the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Best spots:

  • Clingman's Dome at Great Smokey Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg
  • Chimney Tops Trail
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Dollywood
  • Newfound Gap Road

Mendocino National Forest, California

What’s better for leaf peepers than viewing fall colors? Doing so in the lush wine country of Northern California. There are a lot of great combinations that exist, such as peanut butter and chocolate, but wine and viewing fall colors sounds awesome as well.

Best spots:

  • Pine Mountain Lookout
  • Red Bluff Recreation Area

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

Located 100 miles east of Portland, this region is a paradise for not only leaf peepers, but waterfall enthusiasts who can view an 80-mile stretch of canyon along the Columbia River. For those who love both fall colors and waterfalls? Then there is no better place to be.

Best spots:

  • Table Mountain and the Bridge of Gods
  • Mt. Hood Scenic Loop
  • Angel's Rest Lookout
  • Beacon Rock Trail

Glacier National Park, Montana

Located in the northwest part of Montana not far from south from Alberta, this is a long way to travel, but feel free to dream a little. The big perk to viewing the usual fall colors in this spot is that you get a bonus color: white from the snow-capped mountains in the background.

Best spots:

  • Grinnell Glacier
  • Virginia Falls
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road

Denali National Park, Alaska

OK, this is probably too long of a distance to travel, but there's nothing wrong with pretending you are there! Not only can you see 6 million acres full of fall foliage, but you can get tours of wildlife (bears, moose, caribou, etc.), and see Mt. McKinley. It might be a ways away, but if you can handle colder weather and the trip, it will be worth it.

Best spots:

  • Mt. Healy Overlook Trail
  • Savage Alpine Trail
  • Horseshoe Lake Trail

All photos are copyright Getty Images, and all maps are from Google Maps. This story was first published in 2018. It has since been updated.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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