10 Most Beautiful Places to See Fall Foliage in 2022

Plan a weekend escape or an extended getaway to see autumn’s peak foliage

There might be a lot of people out there who are not ready for summer to end but it’s not all bad news. It’s time for sweater weather, hot apple cider, and best of all, seeing the leaves change from the lush greens of summer to the bright golds, oranges, and reds of autumn so we’ve rounded up the best places to see fall foliage around the country.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next few months, each state will experience its unique view of fall. While many people associate watching the leaves change with weekend getaways to the Northeast, there are plenty of places to see the stunning seasonal views throughout the country. Classic leafy views in New Hampshire and Vermont are always a great go-to but you can also find amazing leaf-changing action in states like Virginia and Georgia.

Oak, ash, maple, and hickory trees transform before your very eyes all over the United States. And every landscape looks like a perfect postcard.

Nature lovers can revel in some wonderful scenery and even better activities throughout the fall in national parks and state parks. As the weather gets colder, leaf peepers can enjoy places like the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, and the White Mountains even more.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The crisp fall winds are already starting to blow, so it’s no wonder people are itching to get in their cars for some scenic driving. Luckily, peak leaf-peeping season is coming sooner than you might think.

Related article: The Best National Parks for Fall Foliage—and When to Visit Them for Peak Leaf-Peeping

Perhaps it’s time to start packing the binoculars, strapping on the hiking boots, and firing up the Instagram feeds for some autumn adventures.

White Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Mountains of New Hampshire

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are probably the Granite State’s most famous spot for viewing fall foliage—for good reason. The scenic drive along the Kancamagus Highway is among the country’s most gorgeous areas for admiring blankets of bright orange, golden yellow, and fiery red leaves in autumn.

Whitehall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whitehall, New York

With stunning views from land and water, you will definitely need your camera when you visit Whitehall. Located just outside of the Adirondacks, Whitehall sits on the southern end of Lake Champlain. Its strategic location on the New York-Vermont border allowed the town to become the “birthplace of the US Navy”. Take a trip up to The Skene Manor, affectionately known as “Whitehall’s Castle on the Mountain.” This symbol of turn-of-the-century wealth overlooks the harbor and offers additional views of the region that can be missed at lower elevations.

Bibb Graves Bridge at Wetumpka © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetumpka, Alabama

The name, Wetumpka, is a Creek Indian word meaning “rumbling waters” describing the sound of the nearby Coosa River. The Coosa River flows through the middle of the city dividing the historic business district from its residential counterpart. Bibb Graves Bridge, a focal point of the City was built in 1937. Proceed across the Bridge to the largely residential west side and discover a number of historic and beautiful homes and churches within a five-block area mainly on Tuskeena Street. On the largely historic business district east side, the Wind Creek Casino overlooks the beautiful Coosa River.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

This winding road covers almost 470 miles to connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. While you drive, you’ll pass split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows, and scenic overlooks. Stop along the way at the numerous hiking trails in either a national park or visit a local farm to grab some autumnal produce.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga, New York

Fall foliage in Saratoga County is a spectacular sight to see as the trees come alive with vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. This season is the ideal time of year to take a relaxing drive down country roads and to impressive overlooks and colorful forests.

Related article: Plan Your Autumn Getaway around Fall Foliage

Saratoga National Historical Park has public hiking trails and a Driving Tour Road that will take you to unique historic sites and scenic overlooks with wide-sweeping views of the fall foliage.

Blue Ridge Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charlottesville, Virginia

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, Charlottesville offers spectacular scenery that’s perfect for viewing fall’s vivid hues. Mid-to-late October is when you’ll usually see the most dazzling red, orange, and yellow leaves but the colors can linger into early November depending on the weather. Some of the best viewing spots with scenic overlooks are along the neighboring Blue Ridge Parkway and the connecting Skyline Drive in nearby Shenandoah National Park.

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots in the Smoky Mountains National Park and it’s not hard to see why. Visitors can explore hiking trails, historic sites, and an auto tour. During the fall season, Cades Cove comes alive with gorgeous colors and becomes an even more magical place to visit. But be aware that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper, especially on weekends. Late October into November is when the gorgeous fall foliage can best be seen in Cades Cove. Be sure to bring your camera when you visit—there are plenty of picture-perfect opportunities throughout Cades Cove!

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway climbs up Parowan Canyon’s white, gold, red, and yellow rock pillars and cliffs traveling between its two town anchors, Parowan and Panguitch. As you travel this rolling route through varying elevations, note the distinctive combination of colorful scenery and ancient history. For a relaxed afternoon, go fishing in Panguitch Lake from which the byway gets half of its name.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you continue along your way, a section of the route brushes the top of Cedar Breaks National Monument, an amphitheater canyon eroded out of the western edge of the Markagaunt Plateau. Dixie National Forest is home to Brian Head Peak, which reaches 11,315 feet and gives the byway the other half of its namesake.

Related article: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Southern Willamette near Medford © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Willamette Valley of Oregon

Fall colors in the Southern Willamette Valley are a special kind of show when the leaves of maples, magnolias, and oaks turn vivid shades of yellow and red, contrasting against Oregon’s signature evergreens. Use Eugene or Medford as a home base—both are home to quirky shops, restaurants, and stays. Enjoy the foliage with a climb up Spencer Butte, just a quick trip from downtown Eugene, or on a drive to explore the 20 covered bridges in Lane County. Better yet, pay a visit to one of the valley’s wineries—the vines also turn when the weather cools.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience Jacksonville, dubbed “One of America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns” by Frommers.

A short drive from Medford, life slows a pace or two in quaint, historic Jville. Steeped in history, the entire town is designated a National Historic Landmark. Explore the roots of the area from the days of the 1850s gold rush to now through a variety of historical tour options including a self-guided walking tour as well as trolley, haunted history tours, walking tours, and more! A quintessential western town, you’ll find yourself enthralled in how things used to be!

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Worth Pondering…

I love the fall season. I love all the reds, gold, and browns, the slight chill in the air, and watching the geese fly south in a V.

10 Top Places to See Fall Foliage in 2022

Love leaf-peeping?

Summer’s end signals the last days of warm weather in most areas. But it also means the return of fall’s dazzling colors in full display as trees begin to turn for the season. You can plan entire trips around leaf peeping whether it’s heading to a national park for unimpeded foliage or planning a drive to take in the dazzling orange, red, and yellow hues that dominate the landscape.

And while the pastime is popular enough to drive crowds to well-known viewing destinations, there are still plenty of under-the-radar options fbluor getting your fix. Read on to see which secret places in the U.S. are the best to see fall foliage.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

While Shenandoah National Park is only a 75-mile drive from America’s capital, it’s a world away from the Washington, D.C. metropolis. The Virginia national park is filled with over 100 expansive miles of countryside. And as autumn approaches, the foliage across the landscape turns into stunning red, orange, and yellow hues. The best time to see the stunning sight is from September through October. This national park also has a fall color webcam that shows the changing leaves virtually on a week-to-week basis through the peak of the season.

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

One of my favorite places in Green Mountain State is the town of Stowe. If you’re driving to Stowe from I-89 you will exit off the Interstate and pass through Waterbury and Waterbury Center. Don’t miss Ben & Jerry’s along the way. A little further up the road in Waterbury Center is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. You should plan a stop at Cold Hollow for some fresh apple cider and freshly made delicious cider donuts.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe’s Main Street features several small stores, restaurants, and of course the subject of many scenic photos and artwork—the Stowe Community Church.

Make a trip up the Mountain Road to the Trapp Family Lodge, a unique mountain resort featuring Austrian-inspired architecture and European-style accommodations. The Lodge offers stunning mountain views along with activities for every season.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokees and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The leaves begin changing color as early as late September in the higher elevations and continue through mid-November in lower elevations. The dogwoods, poplars, and sourwoods are some of the first to transform. The red oaks, hickories, and white oaks change later and often hold their leaves until late fall. 

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg, Texas

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is aglow with gold, green, auburn, and scarlet shades come autumn. Peruse the local boutiques lining Main Street before attending seasonal festivals such as the 42nd Annual Oktoberfest from September 30-October 2, 2022, or the 32nd Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest on October 22. For prime gold, red, green, and copper maple leaf-viewing, visit Lost Maples State Natural Area, about an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Fredericksburg. After soaking in the scenery, kick back at one of the Hill Country’s RV parks and campgrounds.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston, Massachusetts

Not all fall foliage escapes require getting out into nature—leaf peepers can also head to Boston for a city getaway. The city experiences its peak foliage throughout October with its best colors appearing around Halloween. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to where they can see the changing seasons including Boston Common, Back Bay Fens, and tree-lined neighborhoods like the North End and Beacon Hill.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Fish Lake Scenic Byway (SR-25) bookends Fishlake National Forest, an often-missed oasis featuring three mountain ranges broken up by desert canyons. Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, scenic drives, trails, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing. Fish Lake, Utah’s largest natural mountain lake lies in a down-faulted valley (technically known as a graben) at an elevation of 8,843 feet. The 5.5-mile-long lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state attracting as many as 7,000 visitors on summer weekends.

Wolfeboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lakes Region of New Hampshire

If you’re looking for a fall RV vacation destination that might have slightly fewer visitors in September and October, consider the Lakes Region. This area in the central part of the state is home to Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest body of water. Here you’ll also find scenic Squam Lakes where On Golden Pond was filmed. Whether you’re driving around the lakes, strolling through small towns like Meredith or Wolfeboro, seeking out covered bridges, taking a scenic boat cruise, or hiking in the area’s mountains, you’ll likely be able to enjoy pretty changing leaves.

Heritage Driving Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heritage Driving Tour, Indiana

The 90-mile Heritage Trail Driving Tour winds through Amish Country taking you down rural highways, country lanes, and charming main streets. Stop in Shipshewana to stroll the shop-lined streets where you’ll find handcrafted items, baked goods, and the Midwest’s largest flea market. Enjoy a delightful Amish meal at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury or Amish Acres in Nappanee.

Ocean Drive, Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newport, Rhode Island

There’s no wrong time to visit Newport. But perhaps the best time is those magical few weeks at the end of October when the leaves change colors and the Newport Mansions put on their spookiest Halloween shows. While visiting, drive down Ocean Drive, a glorious coastal stretch that will leave you in awe.

Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia

When you think of places to see fall foliage, New England destinations probably come to mind but southern parts of the country have colors that are just as beautiful. A road trip through Georgia’s the Blue Ridge Mountains offers stunning foliage without the cold weather you’d find up north.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start at the Russell Brasstown Scenic Byway in the northern part of the state which takes you through the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Chattahoochee River. Stop in Helen, a mountain town modeled after a quaint Bavarian village, and at Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in Georgia and the ultimate foliage viewing vantage point.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make a pit stop in Clayto, an old mountain town with antique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Take a hike in the nearby Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest or visit wineries and vineyards in Georgia Wine Country. Then head east to the Tallulah Gorge State Park where you can explore a 1,000-foot chasm carved over millions of years by the Tallulah River.

Worth Pondering…

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.

—Emily Brontë, Fall, Leaves, Fall

Here’s Where to See Fall Foliage for the Ultimate Leaf Peeping Road Trip

This view and a pumpkin spice latte are all I need

One of the most magical things about the fall season is watching the leaves turn into gorgeous golden hues of red, orange, and yellow. It’s as if the whole landscape is welcoming you into the coziest time of year calling you to sip on a warm pumpkin spice latte as you breathe in the crisp autumn air.

Taking a road trip down the scenic route to a charming town is the best way to experience the lush foliage from mid-September through November and there are so many leaf-peeping places to see before the leaves fall to the ground for good. Keep scrolling to uncover gem destinations and the best places to see fall foliage in 2022.

Toad tripping in Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you love scaling a mountain hike to catch an epic view of the landscape, driving down a scenic highway, or simply chilling on a quiet bench under the bright leaves, it’s important to plan your fall foliage tour with perfect timing for catching all the colors. These special leaf peeping spots in the U.S. start turning orange at different times in the season depending on their location like elevation and latitude. It’s ideal to anticipate an October road trip through the leaves where you can stop at an apple orchard or pumpkin patch along the way as Halloween creeps up.

Fall is here, so throw on your flannel, dust off your hiking boots, and start planning your outdoor excursions before the frigid cold blows in for winter.

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

Nestled at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, Stowe is one of the most picturesque villages in New England. It’s also one of the best places to view the annual fall spectacle with colors changing from mid-September through the end of October.

Related article: Plan Your Autumn Getaway around Fall Foliage

Vermont is 76 percent forested with the largest concentration of sugar maples in the U.S. so there are typically vibrant displays of red, orange, and yellow leaves across the state. One of the prettiest drives to see the foliage is along Smugglers’ Notch pass through the Green Mountains in Smugglers’ Notch State Park.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re planning for several days of leaf-peeping activities, reserve a room at the Austrian-inspired Trapp Family Lodge. Then, go horseback riding, rent a canoe or hop on the Gondola SkyRide to the summit of Mount Mansfield for unparalleled views of the surrounding scenery. Back in town, check out local breweries including The Alchemist and von Trapp Brewing Bierhall.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

With towering forest giants, exciting hiking trails, and scenic water bodies, Bernheim Forest is a great place for nature lovers. During fall, the forest transforms into a magical wonderland making the natural attractions even more interesting and appealing. With leaves turning yellow and orange and running on the forest floor, hiking is a pleasant and scenic experience. The Canopy tree walk is one of the best places to witness the scenery of this forest as it places one at the height of up to 75 feet above the forest floor.

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fall is one of the most picturesque times to visit what’s known as “The Scenic City.” Chattanooga is situated along the Tennessee River between the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau providing plenty of options to view the splendor of colorful forests. Peak season usually in early November features trees showcasing brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows.

Nearby hiking trails offer some of the best close-up views such as Rainbow Lake Trail on nearby Signal Mountain. For panoramic vistas overlooking the Tennessee Valley ride the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. You can even book a sightseeing riverboat cruise along the Tennessee River on The Southern Belle.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holmes County, Ohio

Set in Ohio’s Amish Country, Homes County erupts with golden and amber hues cast off of oaks, maples, and buckeyes come autumn. Take in the changing landscape at Mohican Valley where you can hike, bike, camp, and boat, or check out the Holmes County Park District. Another way to take in the brilliant colors: Cruise along the area’s scenic backroads. Breaks from leaf-peeping can include filling up seasonal pastries, pies, and other goods.

Related article: Fantastic Fall Foliage…and Where to Find It

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Set in New Hampshire’s the White Mountains, Bretton Woods is one of the top destinations in the state to view fall foliage. Leaf season typically peaks in late September to early October. This is when the most vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds will paint the landscape across the mountains.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To enjoy the spectacle for several days, make reservations at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. This historic property sits at the base of the highest peaks in the Northeast where you’ll have a front-row seat to see the show. During your stay dash through the treetops on a zipline canopy tour, enjoy a scenic horse-drawn carriage ride, or take a thrilling trip on the Mount Washington Cog Mountain Railway. You can also take in the sights from high in the sky on a gondola ride and have lunch at the top of the mountain. Back on the ground, book a signature spa treatment and relax with expansive views of the Presidential Range, Crawford Notch, and Mount Washington from the therapy rooms.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian, California

A trip to Southern California doesn’t necessarily have to be all about palm trees and the beach. Inland areas of the state also have an autumnal charm of their very own especially in the mountain town of Julian.

Julian is famous for its delicious fresh-baked apple pies as well as orchards where you can pick your apples. Anywhere you step in this town, you are surrounded by the beautiful hues of fall even if you decide to just enjoy them from the window of a cute log cabin cafe.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Most commonly known for the famed Civil War battle, Gettysburg has a rich history best experienced in the fall. Wait until October for cooler temperatures and spectacular views of leaves bursting with a carnival of color.

Related article: 12 of the Best State Parks for Fall Camping

Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Apple country, The National Apple Harvest Festival celebrates the fall season with beautiful handmade crafts, delicious food, and jam-packed entertainment. The Festival has something for everyone with special attractions ranging from steam engine displays, live music, antique cars, orchard tours, pony rides, tastings, and craftsman demonstrations. The Apple Harvest Festival is during the first two weekends in October (October 1-2; 8-9, 2002)

Pennsylvania Apple Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooler temps, cozy blankets, sweet s’mores, campfires, and more! Fall is one of the best times to enjoy camping with family and friends. Plan your fall adventure now!

Worth Pondering…

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.

―Lauren DeStefano, Wither

The Best National Parks for Fall Foliage—and When to Visit Them for Peak Leaf-Peeping

The dog days of summer have us dreaming of crisp autumn air, leaf peeping, and camping in America’s national parks

Every year across the national parks, the leaves shift from their familiar green into a rainbow of warm colors. With this change of seasons also come fewer crowds and cooler temps as the kids shuffle back to school and winter creeps closer. It’s one of the best times to visit most national parks—some truly stand out during the autumnal season. 

What better place to witness the changing of the seasons than at your favorite National Park?

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These 12 national parks offer spectacular fall foliage viewing. Find out the best times to visit below and as always don’t forget to follow “leave no trace” principles when visiting wild places. 

Stop by any of these locations across the United States—starting from early September through November—to see golden, sweeping views.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the summer gradually transitions to fall, the beauty that comes with the new season includes everything from crisp temperatures to changing leaves. The latter is always a sight to see each year as lush green trees get tints of red, orange, and yellow all around. Even though this transformation happens nearly at the same time every autumn it never gets old—especially when you visit new spots to take in all of the fall foliage. If you’re in search of different views outside of those around your neighborhood taking a trip to the most scenic national parks across America is your next best bet.

Related article: Plan Your Autumn Getaway around Fall Foliage

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

When the leaves change, visitors come in droves to Skyline Drive which runs 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s the Blue Ridge Mountains. This national scenic byway offers numerous stops to take in the foliage but it can be slow going on weekends. If you can visit on a weekday when you can enjoy popular lookout points such as Hemlock Springs Overlook and Range View Overlook with fewer crowds. Enjoy a self-guided driving tour, go on a nature hike or sign up for a horseback ride to enjoy the spectacular fall colors.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Shenandoah National Park is only a 75-mile drive from America’s capital, it’s a world away from the Washington, D.C. metropolis. As autumn approaches, the foliage across the landscape turns into stunning red, orange, and yellow hues. The best time to see the stunning sight is from September through October. This national park also has a fall color webcam that shows the changing leaves virtually on a week-to-week basis through the peak of the season.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The fall colors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are incredible as the red maples, yellow birch, and flowering dogwoods begin to change hues in October and November. Take in the views from Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. On your way down, take a few steps and strike a pose in front of the iconic Appalachian Trail sign. Most visitors explore the park by car so you won’t be alone if you opt to drive to scenic lookout points. The 11-mile Cades Cove Loop is especially popular among motorists.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mid-October to early November is the best timeframe to pay a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see fall foliage. Embedded in the Appalachian Mountains across North Carolina and Tennessee, the array of over 100 tree species—such as sugar maple, scarlet oak, and sweetgum—change from green to yellow, orange, red, and even purple hues. The best views of the 4,000 miles of foliage are from mid-to lower elevations as this is where the leaves reach their peak. 

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Aside from paddling through Cedar Creek during the autumn in central South Carolina, you can find peak fall foliage from the end of October until early November at Congaree National Park. This region is filled with yellow hues during the mild season (it’s usually around 70 degrees on average during that time of year).

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take time to explore Congaree National Park in South Carolina in autumn when there are fewer insects and the weather is ideal for outdoor activities such as bird-watching, canoeing, and kayaking. Hike the 2.4-mile Boardwalk Loop Trail which is a great way to get to know the park. Pick up a self-guided brochure or join a ranger-led walk. More adventurous types may want to hike the 11-mile Kingsnake Trail which takes parkgoers through some of the more remote parts of the park.

Related article: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Starting in late September, the leaf colors will begin changing to orange-like hues until around the end of October at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. The best colors, though, appear in early October every year.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah

Fall is an incredible time to visit Zion National Park. As temperatures cool, it’s the perfect time for a hiking adventure. Also, the crowds are much smaller compared to summer and the park looks stunning as beautiful red, yellow, and orange leaves add so much color to its rugged desert landscape.

Fall colors make their way to Zion in late October and early November and November temperatures often range from the 30s to the 50s—so pack plenty of layers. Also, remember that as visitors disperse for the winter, Zion’s shuttle buses begin running a little less frequently and for fewer hours each day.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though the climate in Zion National Park is arid, many trees thrive in the park. Evergreen white pines, ponderosa pines, and Douglas fir are mixed with golden aspens, crimson maples, copper oaks, and yellow cottonwoods. During the fall months, red and gold accents brighten the desert landscapes creating numerous opportunities for nature photographers.

To get the big picture of the fall in Zion, take the easy one-mile Canyon Overlook Trail east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The views of Zion Canyon from far above will take your breath away. A one-hour trail is perfect for families and those who are not ready for long strenuous hikes.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas

At Big Bend National Park visitation peaks in the fall and winter months when the weather makes for more pleasant conditions along the more than 200 miles of hiking trails. A birder’s paradise, Big Bend is home to more than 450 bird species and is an ideal place to catch a glimpse of birds migrating south. Drive along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive which winds through the Chihuahuan Desert and offers great vantage points of interesting rock formations as well as park highlights such as Mule Ears Viewpoint and Santa Elena Canyon.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Back in the West, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a park where you might not expect fall colors. This quiet northern California park has pockets of cottonwood, oaks, and sagebrush which together create a vivid palette. Crystal clear Manzanita Lake is one area of the park with bright colors in addition to the ubiquitous evergreens. Even if you don’t time it right for the fall colors, you’ll still enjoy an iconic view of Lassen Peak.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Because the park has several high elevation areas, autumn arrives early. Your best chance of seeing brilliant foliage is in September and October. As the season progresses, be prepared for temporary road or trail closures due to snow at higher altitudes. Don’t be disappointed if you see snow instead of fall colors, though. And don’t miss the geothermal areas of Sulphur Works and Bumpass Hell Trail which are beautiful in a different way.

Related article: Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

The country’s newest national park, the 7,000-acre New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia can be visited any time of year—but it stands apart in the fall. Anglers catch fish such as walleye and bass in the New River and rock climbers can be seen ascending the more than 1,400 routes established on the park’s sandstone cliffs.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October is a particularly popular time to visit. It’s also when the annual Bridge Day event takes place (in 2022, on October 15) and thousands of visitors congregate to walk across the New River Gorge Bridge and watch BASE jumpers and rappellers descend over the side of the bridge.

And, of course, visitors who head to the New in the fall will be rewarded with stunning fall foliage which arrives first in the mountains and works its way down into the valleys throughout the season.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah

In addition to glimpses of changing leaves, the temperatures in Arches National Park are much more tolerable with highs in the 70s in October (compared to daily highs in the 90s from June through August). If you’re hoping to capture some amazing photographs, the autumnal light cast on the red rocks is spectacular—and you’re also more likely to see wildlife if you’re camping in the park.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan for hiking, biking, backpacking, or camping and be sure to check out the Fiery Furnace, a unique sandstone formation that offers incredible views at sunrise and sunset. The Devils Garden Trail is one of the most popular points of interest in the park exposing viewers to a wide range of arches.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The downside of being one of the most notable national parks is that things stay pretty crowded. The Grand Canyon’s 3 million annual visitors swarm the more popular South Rim for hikes, mule rides, and unnerving selfies throughout the summer—yes, even despite the heat. But after road trip season screeches to a halt, this natural wonder gets a lot more accessible.

September through November sees lower crowd levels and cooler, comfier temps that hit that sweet spot between sweater weather and shorts season. You’ll be able to ride your mule in peace and get a photo of the mile-deep canyon without worrying you might accidentally get bumped off the edge.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

South Dakota’s Badlands is the only national park in the country where you can get psychedelic desert colors at sunrise and the deep, burnished gold of autumn grasses in the afternoon. Hike the quiet trails like the hands-on Notch Trail which weaves through a canyon and up a wooden ladder before culminating in a sweeping prairie vista.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive through the park and you’ll also see otherworldly rock formations, their pink and yellow striations bathed in the warm autumn light, streaks of bright foliage in the backdrop. Or, if you’re up to it, take advantage of the vastly reduced post-summer car traffic and hit the roads by bike.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

One of America’s newer national parks is a place of weather extremes with occasional freezing temperatures in the winter, scorching forecasts in the summer, and wind-swept afternoons in the spring—all of which sounds fine and dandy until you’re rinsing your eyes of gypsum crystals or sweating like a hog. Fall in White Sands National Park is where it’s at: The cottonwood trees are changing color, the crowds have thinned, and the comfortable dry warmth of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin makes it easy to hike through snow-white sand for hours on end or rent a sand sled from the visitor center and embrace your inner child as you careen down the dunes.

Related article: Fantastic Fall Foliage…and Where to Find It

Bottom line

It’s hard to go wrong with a trip to a national park during the fall. After all, September, October, and November are the best times to get out and enjoy the crisp, autumnal air before winter blankets the countryside with snow. Whether you’re seeking lower temperatures and smaller crowds or you’re purely in pursuit of peak foliage, pack your jacket, bring the camera, and get ready to have an unforgettable trip.

Worth Pondering…

National parks are sacred and cherished places—our greatest personal and national treasures. It’s a gift to spend a year adventuring and capturing incredible images and stories in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

—Jonathan Irish, photographer