While summer tends to be the peak time for travel, one of my favorite times to travel is in the fall, especially in the USA. Between the refreshing, crisp air, and the fire-colored leaves, USA fall trips are simply spectacular.
Fall in the USA runs from September to November, and the leaves typically change at some point during this three-month period. Depending on the location and altitude of each fall foliage spot, the leaves could change anywhere from a warm yellow to a brilliant red before fading into an earthy brown within the span of just a week or two.
To make sure you’ll get to see the bright autumn colors during your USA fall trips, keep an eye on the fall foliage trackers that many locations provide.
In This Post:
12 of the Best Autumn Trips for Fall Foliage
From the gorgeous changing leaves in quaint Colorado towns to the crowded and lively New York City, here are 12 of the best fall vacations in the USA.
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
Since the northeastern region of the country is known as the place for the best USA fall trips, we’ll start off with the most northeastern location of all: Acadia National Park in Maine.
Due to its ideal location, the bright, warm colors of autumn can literally be found everywhere in Acadia National Park. You won’t have to search for them, because they will be present long before you even enter the park’s boundaries. But if you’d like a place to start your fall foliage hunt, try the peak of Cadillac Mountain.
2. Montpelier, Vermont
It’s well-known that Vermont is the place to go to see fall foliage, so why not visit Montpelier, the capital of the state?
While the city itself is dotted with hundreds of brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves, you can see even more lovely autumn colors on a few scenic drives – and Montpelier is the perfect home base.
One great autumn drive runs from Montpelier to the Northeast Kingdom. Or, as an alternative, you can also make your way Montpelier and through the famous Appalachian Gap.
3. Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina
North Carolina is filled with stunning USA fall trips, including Brevah and the Pisgah Forest, Linville Falls, and Banner Elk. But one North Carolina destination beats out all the others: Grandfather Mountain.
Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Mountain Range, which means that you can see the fall colors of all of the other mountains from it! Plus, you can also peer at all of the fall leaves from the dozens of hiking trails lining the mountain and the noteworthy, swinging mile-high bridge.
4. Stowe, Vermont
Vermont has already firmly established its name as one of the best places for USA fall trips, so it’s only fair that this tiny state gets two destinations on this list of the best fall trips in the USA.
Stowe, Vermont’s appeal basically revolves around autumn. Everyone who comes to this adorable town for their USA fall trips comes for the fall foliage.
And Stowe has made sure that everyone who comes to visit has their pick of how to experience the beautiful, warm colors. While you can hike and drive through the leaves, you can also road bike, mountain bike, kayak, and even take a guided tour!
5. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
When people think about planning their fall trips in the USA, the Pacific Northwest rarely crosses their minds, which is truly a shame. While just about all of the best USA fall trips feature the colorful autumn leaves, the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon features these beautiful leaves alongside stunning waterfalls!
The most popular waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge is Multnomah Falls, but there are many others that are worth a visit, including Elowah Falls, Starvation Creek Falls, and Triple Falls. Now, imagine these waterfalls bordered by the warm red and orange hues of fall. Bottom line: it’s an absolutely breathtaking landscape that you won’t want to miss.
6. New York City, New York
New York City, New York is the only big city on this list of the best USA fall trips, and that is solely due to the many parks dotting the famed city.
Central Park is by far the biggest and most popular park to visit in New York City for some of those coveted fall colors. So bundle up, grab a partner, and walk down the lit pathways while gazing up at the lovely leaves. If you’d prefer an alternative to Central Park, you can also go to Alley Pond Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park to do some leaf-peeping.
7. Glacier National Park, Montana
In a way that’s similar to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the best USA fall trips, because it features the fall leaves with other awe-inspiring natural features.
Glacier National Park is home to amazing waterfalls and towering mountain peaks. When paired with the warm leaves of autumn, all of these aspects of nature are brought to an even more beautiful level. To get a glimpse of these beautiful fall landscapes, take a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina
National parks have littered this list of the best USA fall trips, and for good reason. Places like Glacier National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park have some of the most amazing autumn colors in the country.
And the colors that paint Great Smoky Mountains National Park are on par with – or potentially even greater than – both of those.
Situated in Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers a lot of land. In other words, there are tons of places to satiate your annual leaf-peeping needs. And, because the park has such a variation in altitude, the colors can last up to three weeks, rather than the typical just one or two.
As for where to see the brilliant warm leaves, Cades Cove, the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook, the Appalachian Trail, and Clingman’s Dome are all fantastic options.
9. The Catskills, New York
The Catskills in New York often tops the list of the best USA fall trips. In a way that’s similar to Stowe, Vermont, the Catskills have made sure that visitors can experience autumn colors in every possible way.
In addition to the typical options to hike, bike, or drive through the fiery leaves, the Catskills also offer more unique options. Rather than seeing the leaves from the ground, you can soar above the colorful leaves with New York Zipline Canopy Tours.
Or you can hop aboard the Delaware & Ulster Railroad and enjoy the view from the comfort of a cozy railcar.
10. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Most people think that New England is the only place in the country that is worth a fall trip. That is simply not the case, one of the best USA fall trips is found in the peaks of Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park.
While Rocky Mountain National Park is breathtakingly beautiful all year round, it fully embraces the warm-hued beauty of fall as well.
While the leaves don’t turn red or orange as they do further north, the golden hue of the leaves perfectly balances with the white snowcapped mountains, green evergreens, and teal lakes that dot the landscape.
There are many hikes within this national park that provide you with amazing views of the seasonal leaves, you can also enjoy the view from the comfort of your own car on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway or the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway.
11. Ozark National Forest, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas & Kansas
At 1.2 million acres, Ozark National Forest, also known as Ozarks, covers a huge chunk of the American South and Midwest. This also means that this national forest is home to hundreds of thousands of trees that shed their bright green color for brilliant redness each fall.
Just about everyone agrees that the best place to see autumn leaves in Ozark National Forest is Hawksbill Crag. This rock point peers out over thousands of bright red and orange leaves each fall, giving you an unparalleled view of the autumn beauty in the area.
If you’d like to add a drive to your time in Ozark National Forest, consider driving along the Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 or the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop.
12. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Situated just over an hour outside of Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park is filled with people venturing out of the nation’s capital city at all times of the year. That said, Shenandoah National Park is particularly stunning in the fall, making it one of the best USA fall trips.
While you can, of course, explore the brilliant colors of the fall leaves with a hike or two in this national park, the most popular way to do a little leaf peeping is by cruising along Skyline Drive.
At 105 miles long, Skyline Drive is filled with not only fall colors but also wild birds and dozens of scenic overlooks. And, as an added bonus, you’re shielded from the chilly wind that typically accompanies the warm colors of fall.
What are your favorite USA fall trips? Let me know in the comments below!
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.