7 Incredible Places Across the United States in Peak Fall Foliage Right Now

Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park, Montana

Written by Colby Maxwell

Updated: May 12, 2023

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Fall is one of the best times of the year! There are so many things to do and the holiday season is just around the corner. As everyone knows, one of the best things about fall is the changing of the leaves. The United States is a big place, and the leaves don’t change at the exact same time. Generally, a higher elevation or a more northerly location is the best way to see the fall foliage first, and this year is no different. Today, we are going to explore seven incredible places across the United States in peak fall foliage right now. Let’s get started!

Southern Blue Ridge Mountains

You can’t really talk about the leaves changing color without talking about the Blue Ridge Mountains! The Blue Ridge region is quite large and extends along the western border of North Carolina. This Blue Ridge belongs to the largest mountain chain in the eastern United States, known as the Appalachian Mountains. Although the rest of North Carolina still hasn’t fully begun to change, the higher elevation and cooler temperatures along the Blue Ridge Mountains force the foliage to change much earlier. If you plan on heading up to the Blue Ridge Mountains this fall, make sure you do it before November, otherwise, it will be past peak. One of the best ways to experience the most that the region has to offer is to take a scenic trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. People from all around the world travel along the Parkway during the fall in order to see the sweeping views and magnificent colors.

Bass Lake North Carolina

The parking area for Bass Lake is about a mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC.

Shenandoah Valley

Slightly to the north of the Southern Blue Ridge Range is the Shenandoah and Shenandoah Valley region. Located in along the western border of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley is among the most beautiful places to travel this fall. Within the Shenandoah Valley is Shenandoah National Park, a perfect place to see the changing foliage. Geographically, the area is quite similar to the Blue Ridge Mountains and is technically part of the range, although most locals refer to it as the Shenandoah region (or just the Shenandoah). The Skyline Drive is probably the best route to take through Virginia in order to see sweeping views of the region.

Shenandoah National Park - Skyline Drive

Enjoy fall foliage in all its splendor without leaving your car during your drive through Shenandoah National Park.

Allegheny Mountains

Continuing our journey north, we enter West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Mountains are a range included within the greater Appalachian chain and span the eastern border of West Virginia, a bit of western Virginia, and a portion of Pennsylvania. The best time to view “peak” colors are in the early part of October, but they are still plenty vibrant and worth the visit for anyone nearby. The Allegheny National Forest and the Pine Creek Gorge are great places to see the changing leaves.

Dramatic rocky overlook in the Allegheny National Forest with brilliant fall foliage

The Allegheny National Forest is one of the best places to view spectacular autumn colors.


The Adirondacks aren’t as well known as the Blue Ridges or even the Shenandoah Valley, but it also technically belongs to the same geographic region as the two more southerly ranges. Located in upstate New York, this group of mountains is part of the Appalachians and is about 5,000 square miles in a roughly circular dome. Since this region is pretty cold and more northerly, the best time to go this year is through October. Any later and you risk missing the most vibrant portions of the foliage change. Common viewing spots include Lake Placid, Lake George, and Route 86.

Aerial view of the Adirondack Mountains with brilliant fall foliage

Because the Adirondack Mountains are further north than some of the locations on our list, you may miss out on fall foliage if you visit later than October.

Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains are a vast and beautiful range that extends from northern Arizona all the way to Canada. Since the region is so big, the exact timing of the leaves will vary, but early October is ideal for the most northern reaches, while the more southern regions are best saved for late October into November. Some of the best places to see the leaves change in the Rockies include Fern and Cub Lakes, Glacier Gorge, Trail Ridge Road, Kebler Pass, and Alberta Falls. The Rockies are famous for their distinct yellow fall foliage, which is caused by the high number of aspen trees throughout the range.

Aspen tree leaves at the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado.

Aspen leaves shimmer like gold along the Million Dollar Highway in the Colorado.

Great Lakes Region

The Great Lakes Region is quite large, which is a good thing for people wanting to see colors! If you live in the northern part of the Midwest, the Great Lakes are a great place to view the color change. Each lake has its own microclimate, with Lake Superior being the coldest and most northerly. Early October is ideal for the most northern portions of the Great Lakes Region, especially the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the coastline of Lake Superior. If you missed it, there are still plenty of regions around lower Michigan, northern Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Truthfully, most of the coastline along any of the lakes is a perfectly fine place to check out the leaves changing.

This stunning patchwork of autumnal colors is in Lake Superior National Forest.

New England

New England may be one of the most famous and beautiful fall destinations in the entire world. In the United States, New England is among the first regions to begin peaking, although its worth seeing all the way to November. Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are famous for their massive deciduous forests, which are the ideal type of tree for color changes. Famous places to see the leaves change in New England include the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Woodstock in Vermont, and Bar Harbor in Maine.

Autumn in Vermont

In the fall, Vermont is ablaze with color.

Upper Western United States

Although there isn’t “technically” a name for this region, the “upper western United States” seems to do the trick. This region includes northern Idaho, the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. Each state is quite different but still has its fair share of mountainous regions and beautiful forests. It is important to note that most of these states have massive regions of rolling plains. In Montana, the western portion of the state is within the Rocky Mountains while the eastern portion is mostly grasslands, for example. Notable foliage viewing spots include Glacier National Park in Montana, the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in North Dakota, Palisades State Park in South Dakota, and the Selkirk Loop in Idaho.

Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park, Montana

Fiery fall colors at Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park, Montana

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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