Vacay Like a Local – America’s Fall Foliage Trips
As Fall seeps its way into one of the hottest summers on record, classic leaf color destinations such as New England can seem like an obvious choice for a fall getaway. While Vermont has been the traditional choices for viewing, there are a wealth of options across the USA.
From Michigan to Utah, here’s VacayMyWay’s list of the top locations worth a fall leaf drive, including a few of our newest vacation rental properties to round out your stay.
1. San Juan Islands, Washington
One of the lesser-known autumn escapes, the San Juan Islands just off the coast of Northern Washington has a robust mix of big leaf maples and oak trees sure to delight any fall leaf chaser. Quaint Roche Harbor offers cobblestone streets outlined in colorful leaves and plenty of trails above the harbor for pictureline views.
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2. Rogers, Arkansas
Deep in the heart of the Midwest, a charming little town called Rogers is the ideal retreat. Just a 2-hour drive from Kansas City, Tulsa or Springfield, with robust pops of orange, red and yellow colors in the fall season. From Hobbs State Park with over 12,000 acres to explore, to nearby Beaver Lake with stunning shoreline colors. Even downtown Rogers is brimming with shops and restaurants, and plenty of historic neighborhoods near the downtown area worth exploring.
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3. Mammoth Lakes, California
Fall in just about any mountain town is a glorious time of year, and the Eastern Sierra region is laced with some of the finest fall color viewing. Deciduous trees in the mountains tend to grow close to water sources, so tree-lined lakes and creeks are best for viewing. The higher the elevation, the sooner the leaves will start to turn, so planning your mid to late-September getaway is perfect timing.
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4. Cincinnati, Ohio
The Cincinnati region is home to some of the Midwest’s prettiest spots during autumn, with early to mid-October as prime color time. Many of the parks in and around the city boast stunning fall colors. Here’s a full directory of Cincinnati parks to make the most of your visit. https://cincinnatiusa.com/article/9-spots-fall-colors
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5. Gilmanton, New Hampshire
While you really can’t go wrong with visiting New England for fall colors, New Hampshire is a bit more under the radar with plenty of leaf-changing delights. The White Mountains along route 112, is known by locals as “The Kank” as it cuts an east-west channel through the 800,000-acre park. The views are so breathtaking, you’ll want to stop at every pull off to soak it all in.
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6. Willamette Valley, Oregon
(From SW Portland to Eugene) Where robust reds pop against the Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pines of Oregon, the Willamette Valley has no shortage of fall leaves. Peak season is mid-October, and can start as early as mid-September, while lingering into early November. From aspen trees to maples and oak, you’ll even find some cottonwood trees along streams or rivers. Best places for leaf hunting – check out the following areas:
- Columbia River Gorge 30-minutes east of Portland
- Mount Hood Loop 1-hour east of Portland
- Portland Japanese Garden
- Hoyt Arboretum in Portland
- Peavy Arboretum in Corvallis
- Mount Pisgah Arboretum in Eugene
- Dorris Ranch in Springfield
- Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon Coast
7. Alpine Loop, Utah
One of Utah’s most spectacular scenic drives, this 20-mile stunning mountain cruise on highway 92 meanders you through American Fork Canyon in the Wasatch mountains, and around the majestic Mt. Timpanogos. Starting just outside of Provo and ending in Alpine, you’ll wander past Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort for an excellent meal stop. Only open from May to late October and for vehicles 30-feet long or less, the vast majority of aspen trees showcase their golden hues against the pine trees.
8. Aspen, Colorado
Continuing on our aspen leaf kick, you know when a world-famous destination is named after a tree, it must be both extraordinary and an ideal fall leaf destination. However the golden aspen season is pretty short. Mid-September to the second week of October is your best viewing time frame. Bonus: Sept/Oct are the shoulder season, so most vacation rentals and restaurants are much easier to find availability.
9. Indianapolis, Indiana
Many of the city’s parks are famous for their bold fall colors, and a plethora of urban trails make it all incredibly accessible by foot or on wheels. Eagle Creek Park offers a fantastic zipline through the vibrant colors and canoeing along the White River is a lovely way to immerse yourself in the beauty of fall. Mid to Late September through the end of November are all great times to visit, with peak colors around mid-October.
10. Enchanted Circle, New Mexico (Taos)
This brilliant 83-mile loop is by far the most popular in the state, flaunting bright gold aspen leaves and a unique southwest perspective on autumn color. As you wind past Wheeler Peak, the highest in New Mexico at 13,161’, you’ll also have the option to stop at the Red River Fish Hatchery with free self-guided tours. Stopping in Questa is another great option, as this artsy town full of woodworkers, stained glass artisans, sculptors and tinsmiths all collaborate at the local cooperative.
11. Upper Peninsula, Michigan
With peak season the last week of September and first two weeks of October, this northern destination has its fair share of vibrant fall colors.
- Kitchitikipi, or “Big Spring” in Palms Brook State Park is a must see on your driving tour, with a large viewing platform allowing you to float out over the spring and take in the colors.
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park offers over 50,000 acres of undeveloped woodland and incredible fall hikes. The color of the falls is an incredible backdrop against the fall foliage.
- Fayette Historic State Park, a historic ghost town surrounded by fall colors and interesting history. Be sure to take the short hike to the overlook for an excellent view of the town, Snailshell Harbor and surrounding lime bluffs.
- Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers a fantastic website for planning your fall tour based on miles.
For additional resources, consult this Fall Foliage Prediction Map before planning your next trip.