Peak foliage season varies by region and by year, depending on the weather so it’s best to check with local sources before you go. Many top destinations to view fall’s splendor have leaf and foliage reports, maps, and trackers so you can follow the local predictions and current conditions—and arrive just in time for the best of the season.
Some of these destinations will be familiar while others are lesser-known locales where you can capture and embrace fall’s beauty. So, pack your jacket and grab your camera for one of nature’s most spectacular spectacles.
As you might expect from the destination that acts as the gateway to the expansive Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg isn’t short on views or things to do—an aerial cable car, a ski resort, and a 407-foot observation tower with park views, to name a few.
The autumn season is well celebrated during the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival which runs from mid-September to late November encompassing the full spectrum of colors including the peak in mid-to late October.
Stowe is a tiny town with a big reputation—not only for its ski slopes which tempt powder hounds year after year but also for its abundance of sugar maples that come alive in the autumn. With the colors peaking between early September and late October, Stowe makes it easy to hike, bike, or drive through the expanse of fall foliage. If you time it right, you may be able to make the annual Trapp Family Lodge Oktoberfest (September 17, 2022).
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Nestled in the heart of Indiana’s Amish Country, Shipshewana is a great place to learn about Amish communities and enjoy fun fall activities. Take a buggy ride with Buggy Lane Tours for a look at the Amish experience while enjoying the beautiful autumn colors or walk the Pumpkinvine Trail, known for its brilliant foliage. The Shipshewana Swap Meets offer locally grown pumpkins, gourds, and more.
Kentucky’s second-oldest city, Bardstown was first settled in 1780. Nearly 200 buildings in the historic downtown district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places including a 1779 stagecoach stop that today is the Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest bourbon bar in the world.
Since the 18th century, bourbon has been central to Bardstown, home of the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival (September 16-18, 2022). In fact, along with Covington and Frankfort, Bardstown is part of a collaboration called Come Find Bourbon. These quaint towns offer some of the most respected bourbon distilleries in the world as well as restaurants, pubs, diners, boutique hotels, and of course, distillery tours and tastings. Fall weather is mild in this part of Kentucky, but if evenings get a bit brisk, there’s always a glass of bourbon to take away the chill.
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On the Rappahannock River on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, Urbanna (population 442 as of the 2020 census) is about an hour outside of Richmond making it an easy destination for a last-minute fall getaway. When it comes to charm, it doesn’t get much better than historic Urbanna which is home to seven buildings that have been in continuous use since the Colonial period. This tiny tidewater town is notably home to a fall oyster festival (65th annual, November 4-5, 2022) which attracts about 75,000 visitors a year.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
New Hampshire is notably at the forefront of any leaf-peeping conversation and if you want to experience it with a touch of luxury why not head to the Omni Mount Washington, an elegant hideaway in dreamy Bretton Woods? Dating back to 1902, guests came here by train from New York and Boston and then explored the gorgeous surroundings by horse and carriage. Several presidents have stayed here as did Thomas Edison
In addition to the foliage, there are zip lines and a golf course to keep you occupied. And if you should happen to get here after the leaves fall, don’t sweat it, as the Omni is a top ski resort as well!
Nestled in the north Georgia Mountains, Blairsville (population 652) is just a short drive from one of Georgia’s most notable landmarks, Brasstown Bald. Within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, the Brasstown Bald Recreation Area & Visitor Center is the highest point in Georgia rising 4,784 feet above sea level. It’s an ideal place to take in the stunning fall colors of the mountains around Blairsville. And on a clear day, Brasstown Bald visitors can even get a glimpse of the downtown Atlanta skyline more than 100 miles away.
The small Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg located between San Antonio and Austin dates back to 1846 when it was founded by German immigrants. Its German roots are still present today and mix well with the Texas culture. That’s why fall is a great time to visit and experience this heritage at Oktoberfest (42nd annual, September 30-October, 2022). For history buffs, there is the National Museum of the Pacific War, the only museum of its kind in the continental U.S., and Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic National Site. Another park, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, is known for its giant pink granite dome.
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Mount Dora, Florida
One of the most popular small towns in Florida, Mount Dora is beloved for its 19th-century clapboard houses, antique shops, and outdoor cafes that line its historic district. Offering the best of both worlds, you can go shopping for valuable collectibles at Renninger’s Antique Center & Farmer’s Flea Market before soaking up the scenic natural setting around Lake Dora. Go on a fishing excursion, sample local cuisine in the gourmet restaurants, or relax with a glass of vino at The Cellar Door winery.
Fort Langley, British Columbia
This little town in British Columbia seriously looks like it was plucked right out of a Hallmark movie. There are so many small shops to explore and in the fall, you can expect to see pumpkins and other autumn decorations scattered everywhere.
The Fort Langley National Historic Site is home to the Hudson Bay Company’s fur trading post, still standing over 150 years later as a reminder of Langley’s proud heritage. Come watch as costumed interpreters demonstrate the pioneer way of life, where Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders mingled with California gold prospectors, and hear Indigenous interpreters tell century-old tales, feel the blast of the musket fire, and pan for gold dust dreams.
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Located along the Fraser River, Fort Langley features a variety of museums, shops, restaurants, art galleries, parks, trails, and iconic yellow Community Hall which is featured in many TV & Films.
As long as autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas, and colors enough to paint the beautiful things I see.
—Vincent Van Gogh, letter to Theo van Gogh