Best Fall Foliage Travel Destinations in North America

By | Senior Writer
Last Updated: September 29, 2023

Best Places to Travel for Fall Foliage This Year

It’s fall foliage time! That coveted time of year when colors burst in every seasonal shade: the muted reds, the burnt oranges, the sepia browns, and the golden yellow hues that seem to perfectly pair with the incoming cooler weather.

There are many destinations in North America to enjoy the changing tones of the leaves, but some reign high above others, especially when you factor in fall favorite pastimes like pumpkin or apple picking, cider tastings, wine flights, and harvest events. So grab your pumpkin spice latte, cozy sweater, and plaid scarf, and head to these top destinations in North America to admire fall foliage.

Hudson Valley, New York

Autumn Scenery in New York's Hudson Valley
The region’s lush landscapes transform into a vibrant range of reds, oranges, and golds, reflecting in the calm waters of the Hudson River. Explore historic estates, enjoy local harvest festivals, and lose yourself in the tranquil beauty of a Hudson Valley fall.

Upstate New York is a fan favorite for those looking for swathes of trees changing colors as summer heat turns to fall breeze. One of the best spots to admire the leaves is Harriman State Park, home to more than 30 lakes and reservoirs and over 200 miles of hiking trails.

From Hudson River cruises to the nearby Catskills Mountains, the Hudson Valley is an easy way to enjoy the fall foliage, even if you’re based in the nearby concrete jungle of New York City. From Harriman, head further north to visit the Jenkins-Lueken Orchards, where visitors can pick apples in a large orchard home to more than 500 trees.

RELATED: Hudson Valley Wine Trail Itinerary: Best Wineries & Hotels

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

This northern region of Michigan is a dream for anyone that wants to enjoy the colors of autumn. From Hiawatha National Forest to the scenic Brockway Mountain Drive, this area provides endless wooded landscapes along the shores of various Great Lakes.

The region is also perfect for wine lovers. Our favorite spot to sip at is the Mackinaw Trail Winery, where you can taste a silky Pinot Noir and take in the vines backed with trees featuring fiery orange and mustard leaves.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Fall Foliage along a winding road in the Colorado Rockies
As autumn descends on Colorado, the mountainsides are set ablaze with bright red hues, creating a dramatic contrast with the rugged peaks.

For a more undulating fall foliage adventure, head to the Colorado Rockies, where leaf peepers are rewarded with ochre-toned Aspens backed with snow-capped peaks when driving across routes like Trail Ridge Road and the Kebler Pass.

Visitors should consider the nearby town of Estes as a base, home to a full calendar of fall events, like the Pumpkins & Pilsner Festival on Saturday, October 7th, 2023, and the Rocky Mountain Craft Spirits Festival on October 21, 2023, among others.

Central Vermont

Vermont during the fall season
Explore covered bridges, hike along scenic trails, and enjoy local farm-to-table delicacies. Central Vermont’s fall is a timeless and enchanting experience that captures the essence of New England.

Vermont has always been a coveted destination in autumn — 75 percent of the state is covered in forest, complete with the highest concentration of maple trees in the country. Although you can visit pretty much anywhere in the state, we recommend heading to Coolidge State Forest, home to several thousand acres of trees. 

After a day of leaf peeping, sample some of that famed Vermont cheese at Spring Brook Farm, or visit On the Edge Farm for sustainably grown pumpkins.

RELATED: Fall Wine & Music Pairings: Autumn Sounds of Somms Playlist

Southwest Montana

Yellowstone and Great Glacier National Park get all the fame when talking about Montana’s natural wonders, but the Southwest area of the state, home to Bitterroot Valley, Mountains, and National Forest, is a more underrated spot to take in the state’s changing autumnal flora.

Snowcapped ridges and canary-hued trees line the Bitterroot River in fall, which is also peak fly fishing season. Slightly further north near Missoula, visitors can experience the organic pumpkin patch at Turner Farms 406.

The Ozarks, Arkansas

Thanks to its location further south than many of the other destinations on the list, the crimson-colored foliage in the Ozarks can continue on through November. Pig Trail is one of the most scenic driving routes, as well as the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway, both of which pass through the dense Boston Mountains area of the Ozarks National Forest.

Don’t miss the Ozarks Fall FarmFest on Oct. 6, 7, & 8, 2023, for some family-friendly fun and seasonal food and drinks.

Eastern Maryland

Lake scenery during the fall in Maryland
Explore charming waterfront towns, enjoy fresh seafood, and take leisurely drives through scenic byways. Eastern Maryland’s fall is a tranquil retreat for the senses.

Best for visitors that want to enjoy autumn colors outside of the car, the Tuckahoe State Park features more than 20 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, as well as plenty of lake areas for canoe or kayak adventures.

Northern Arizona

This state’s vast desert landscape may not bring images of fall foliage to mind, but northern Arizona’s pines are actually intermixed with a number of deciduous tree species. Seeing the colorful leaves backed by reddish mountains and rocky mesas makes for a unique way to experience the season.

Nearby, we suggest taking a wine tour in Sedona or stopping at the Oak Creek Canyon Apple Co. to pick up a bottle of apple cider vinegar.

RELATED: 10 Top Destinations to Explore in Arizona

Chicago, IL

The third most populated city in the US has more than just skyscrapers. City dwellers or those looking for a more urban autumn adventure can still enjoy the changing seasonal colors at parks near and around the heart of the city, such as the Morten Arboretum, Winnemac Park, and Promontory Point, which also has stunning lake and skyline views, too.

RELATED: 7 Best Wine Bars to Stop at When Visiting Chicago

Northern California

Napa Valley vineyard in autumn
Explore world-renowned vineyards, savor exquisite wines, and take in the picturesque landscape that makes Napa in the fall an unforgettable experience.

Wine lovers should head to Napa Valley at any time of year, but autumn is an especially inviting season, thanks to its robust harvest season. Start the day off by walking around Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where the redwoods won’t change color, but many other deciduous trees will.

Follow up your nature visit with the obvious: wine tasting. Although there are a number of harvest festivals and events in the area, our top pick this year is the Cabernet Classic on November 3 – 5, 2023, in honor of the region’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon wine variety.

RELATED: See Our Comprehensive List of Wine Grape Varieties

North Georgia

North Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest actually forms part of the Appalachian Trail and is home to two different forests — that makes for a lot of leaves changing color over wooded, rolling hills. Nearby, the Tallulah Gorge State Park has one of the most magnificent canyons in the eastern US, as well as biking and hiking trails.

Nearby, head to the town of Helen, for its 53rd edition of Oktoberfest, which runs daily from September 7 through October 29.

RELATED: Guide to Hiking and Wine Tasting in North Georgia

Southeastern Maine

Although Acadia National Park has a number of conifer species, there are plenty of deciduous varieties, too. The Beehive Loop Trail (for hikers) and Cadillac Mountain (for drivers — make sure to get a road vehicle reservation first) are idyllic spots to admire the plethora of changing leaf hues.

Afterward, hit up Maine’s Wine Trail, which features more than 25 different wineries. Our favorite is Bartlett Main Estate Winery and Distillery. The oldest winery in Maine, those who love spirits can also taste the brand’s Rusticator Rum.

Banff, Canada

Banff, Canada lake view during the fall season
Whether hiking, wildlife watching, or simply taking in the view, autumn in Banff is a visual feast not to be missed.

Banff is a stunning destination to visit year-round, thanks to its famed Lake Louise, a turquoise gem flanked by the Canadian Rockies. But leaf lookers should visit Banff in late September to early October to enjoy the yellow tones of the Larch conifer trees. Moraine Lake is another iconic spot to admire the seasonal shades of this magnificent Canadian destination.

Skip the wine and cider in Banff — instead, follow the area’s hot cocoa trail, a number of distilleries, cafes, and restaurants that offer piping-hot cups of chocolatey goodness.

Bend, Oregon

Although this particular area of Oregon has many pine tree species, there are plenty of deciduous trees if you know just where to look. Dillion Falls National Forest offers fall foliage along the rushing rapids of the Deschutes River. For a stroll, wander through the city’s 900-acre Shevlin Park, and hop in the car to drive through the western side of McKenzie Pass.

Bend has a number of tasting rooms to sip wine, but just a short drive from Bend, Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards in Terrebonne is well worth a visit, especially on the weekends when there’s live music.

RELATED: The Complete Willamette Valley Oregon Travel Itinerary

Taos, New Mexico

Autumn colors near Taos, New Mexico
Autumn in Taos, New Mexico. Witness the stunning transformation of the landscape as the leaves turn vibrant shades of gold, orange, and red. Explore the natural beauty on foot or by bike, and immerse yourself in a season that reflects the area’s rich artistic tradition.

The southwestern United States isn’t particularly known for fall foliage, but here at Winetraveler, we love discovering something a little different. Taos has a number of Aspen trees that turn muted golden color each autumn. Catch them along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and the Sunspot Scenic Byway, as well as Highway 64.

Time your trip to catch the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally from Friday, October 27, 2023
to Sunday, October 29, 2023, where the vibrant hot air balloons fly high over the changing autumn foliage.

Winetraveler Tip: Consider visiting Vivác Winery or any of the other 50 wineries across the state of New Mexico. It’s steadily becoming a more well-known wine region for both its beauty and the quality of wine being produced.

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