K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Fall just wouldn’t be the same without pumpkin patches, the aroma of cinnamon and fresh-baked apple pies, and, of course, colorful foliage. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to experience some of the country’s best leaf peeping, you’ll have a wealth of fun fall towns to choose from. These small towns, in particular, are some of the best in the U.S. when it comes to autumn displays while offering plenty of other charms too.
One of Oregon’s most charming towns, Silverton is nestled in the Willamette Valley. This region is famous for its pinot noir production, and it also offers a stunning array of fall foliage. In nearby Silver Falls State Park, you’ll see countless cascades framed by the brilliant colors of autumn. There’s more to be found in the 80-acre Oregon Garden, which features over 20 specialty gardens, a 40-year-old signature oak tree, wetlands, and water features. And as Portland is an easy jaunt from here, you might also visit the Portland Japanese Garden with its famous Japanese maples that show off their vibrant red-orange hues during the season.
Saranac Lake is a scenic village and a lake in the Adirondacks. It’s actually centered around Lake Flower, while Lower Saranac Lake is a short distance from the village. There are miles and miles of hiking trails, from the Bloomingdale Bog Trail to the Baker Mountain Trail for taking in the glorious colors that range from subtle pops of yellow to fire engine red and blazing orange. In addition to leaf-peeping, there are farmers’ markets to browse with all sorts of fresh seasonal produce, works of art, and more. There are plenty of galleries and shops to explore downtown, along with delicious eats at local restaurants.
Many say Vermont is home to some of New England’s best fall colors, and Stowe exemplifies that. This picturesque town looks like a postcard, with pretty church steeples and covered bridges. With a backdrop of autumn leaves, it’s even more impressive from late September through much of October. Visitors can also join in the festivities at the Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival hosted at Stoweflake Mountain Resort, complete with a chili cookout, trebuchet contest, live music, and activities for the kids.
A stunning stop on Maine’s coast, Camden is a seaside village that offers something for everyone. In Camden, you’ll be immersed in fall foliage with scenic drives and miles of trails that showcase the gorgeous color. Some come complete with lake or ocean views as well, like the Maiden’s Cliff trail in Camden Hills State Park. It includes a view of the tree-filled islands in Lake Megunticook that provide a dazzling array of colors from late September through October. If you drive up Camden Hills Auto Road, you can take in a vista of the ocean and the trees from Mount Battie. Or, hitch a ride on the Fall Foliage Chair Lift at the Camden Snow Bowl that will bring you up Ragged Mountain throughout the month of October.
Located just minutes from New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the country’s newest national park, Fayetteville is surrounded by mountains that will be blanketed with fall foliage in autumn. Named one of America’s Coolest Towns, it’s a popular spot for hikers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers. Look forward to taking part in outdoor adventures like treks on the Long Point and Endless Wall trails with multiple viewpoints of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge before taking advantage of the myriad of shopping and dining opportunities in town.
Named for its many sugar maples, Sugar Hill is an obvious choice for viewing spectacular fall foliage. A tiny community with a population of only around 500, it overlooks the White Mountain National Forest with the scenery so picturesque it’s hard to believe it’s real. It makes an ideal base for touring covered bridges highlighted by autumn’s hues as well as embarking on one of the most popular fall foliage drives in the country, the Kancamagus Highway, which traverses the heart of the White Mountains. Or you might ride the gondola up Loon Mountain and hike through Franconia Notch State Park, arguably at its best during the peak of the season.
Egg Harbor is nestled among nature preserves, farmland, and verdant orchards in one of the best fall foliage destinations in the Midwest, with some of the most amazing routes showcasing the brilliant colors, including Egg Harbor to Ephraim along WI-42. In town, the foliage-lined main street hosts boutiques, galleries, bakeries, and restaurants that offer everything from casual bites to fine dining with craft cocktails. Peak colors usually arrive in early to mid-October, and you’ll find quintessential “autumn” things to do, like apple picking. One of the year’s largest festivals takes place over the second week of October, the Egg Harbor Pumpkin Patch Festival, with arts and crafts vendors, fall food favorites, carnival rides, live music, and more.
Located at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, surrounded by forest and edged by the blue expanse of Lake Superior, Copper Harbor is a fantastic fall destination. In autumn, this top-rated lake town is a kaleidoscope of color with mixed woodlands that feature a variety of deciduous trees and many coniferous species. When driving into town along US-41, the “Tree Tunnel” will be at its most impressive all year. There are lots of opportunities for hiking and mountain biking among the color, including trails that lead to waterfalls. While it’s never guaranteed, the leaves started to transform around late September, peaking in mid-October.
The streets of the tiny town of Silverton are lined with historic buildings housing restaurants, saloons, shops, and hotels and are surrounded by the jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains. Covering the slopes are oaks and aspens that, come October, will be showcasing their brilliant colors. Enjoy some of the best with a drive on the 25-mile-long stretch of US 550 known as the Million Dollar Highway, living up to its name with million-dollar views that are most dazzling in autumn. Add to the experience by riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
An abundance of color can be found within easy reach of the town of Linville, renowned as an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. That includes the highest peak in the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains, Grandfather Mountain. Due to its height, it’s one of the first peaks to show fall colors. It also has a vast array of trees and plants growing at various elevations, which means you’ll see all of the different hues, from deep purple and blood red to vibrant orange and bright yellow. Linville Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of North Carolina,” is a stunning wilderness with more brilliant shades that can be marveled at from Wiseman’s View.
Logan is the gateway to Hocking Hills State Park, one of Ohio’s crown jewels, known for its dramatic gorges, cascading waterfalls, and spectacular autumn display. Visitors can enjoy some of the best fall colors along the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, which showcases Hocking State Forest deep into the hills, passing Hocking Hills State Park. It’s worth a stop; in fact, there are so many trails to enjoy that you might want to consider an overnight stay. If you only have time for one, the Conkles Hollow Rim Trail is optimal for fall foliage. There are also opportunities for viewing from a different vantage point, including hot-air balloon rides and whizzing across a zipline.
Stockbridge sits in the heart of one of the most famous destinations in the world for fall foliage, the Berkshires. One of the most charming towns in Massachusetts, its streets are lined with antique shops and museums, including the Norman Rockwell Museum, with the town the birthplace of the 20th-century author, illustrator, and painter. The surrounding scenic countryside is ideal for hiking and biking, or you can take a drive along the winding roads that will be framed with golds, reds and the occasional pop of deep scarlet. Stockbridge Bowl, or Lake Mahkeenac, offers some of the most magnificent displays of color against the backdrop of the water.
The Bavarian town of Leavenworth, tucked along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range, not only offers the chance to experience a bit of Bavarian in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s one of the best destinations in the state for fall color. Several autumn foliage routes start here, including Highway 2, which travels over the mountains with vivid-yellow trees reflected in Lake Wenatchee, just north of town. Or head south on Highway 97 to view the forests of Blewett Pass, covered with brilliant red huckleberry bushes, aspens, and cottonwoods. The color begins to appear in late September, reaching its peak during the first two weeks of October.
The historic mountain town of Ketchum is one of the most breathtaking in the country, and fall is one of the best times to visit, with the colors of autumn absolutely stunning. It begins at the northern end of the Wood River Valley and, over several weeks, spreads down to Bellevue and Bald Mountain, Sun Valley’s ski mountain. The mountain is one of the best places to gain elevation and view the magnificent trees throughout Ketchum. They’ll be at their best in early October and ideally enjoyed with the 1.8-mile hike to the scenic overlook that provides a bird’s-eye view of the Big Wood River and the town.
Offering some of the leaf-peeping in the Connecticut Berkshires, Kent’s winding roads will be lined with red, gold, and scarlet hues with serene landscapes that include meadows, farms, lakes, and a backdrop of mountain summits. One of the top spots for viewing is Macedonia Brook State Park, which hosts the Cobble Mountain Trail, popular with hikers who seek out vantage points for taking in incredible views above valleys that will be blanketed in color. Kent Falls State Park is well worth a visit too, with 200-foot-high waterfalls and gorgeous color, while the town itself is known for its antiques, art galleries, and outstanding eateries.