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11 Spectacular Fall Destinations in the U.S.

When it comes to picking the best fall destinations in the U.S., there really is only one major requirement – the foliage! Autumn is easily one of the most beautiful seasons to travel through this country. Many places burst into bright shades of reds, oranges, and yellows and road trips feel like you’re driving through a postcard.

Since I grew up in New Hampshire, I’ve been absolutely spoiled by glorious autumn seasons. There’s nothing like that first day of crisp air and cooler temperatures after the dog days of August start to get to you. All of a sudden, you want to spend your weekends out in nature, soaking up the brilliance of colors and taking in vistas that look like real life paintings.

I’ve had my fair share of traveling around the country during peak foliage season, so here are my picks for the best places to visit this fall. I promise they’re not all in New England!

11 Best Fall Destinations in the U.S.

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

When it comes to national parks, nowhere shines quite like Acadia National Park once autumn hits. Year round it’s one of the best things to do in coastal Maine but this is especially true once October hits. Covering nearly 50,000 acres, it combines the best of New England’s autumn colors and coastal views.

Be sure to make your way up to the tallest point in the park at Cadillac Mountain and pay a visit to Bass Harbor Lighthouse, one of my favorite lighthouses for fall. When you want to relax a bit, stop by Jordan Pond House for some popovers and tea.

See more in our “Coastal Maine” episode

2. The Berkshires, MA & CT

Only a two-hour drive from Boston in western Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut, The Berkshires is one of the best places to find fall foliage in the U.S. Spend your weekend driving around to the kind of charming small towns Hallmark movies are made of and enjoy the miles and miles of color.

The best thing to do here, of course, is to get outside. Not only are there plenty of hiking trails (the best is up Mount Greylock), but you can also go canoeing, kayaking, and even zip lining. Stay in locally owned inns and bed and breakfasts while dining at a number of farm-to-table restaurants. If you can, plan to visit during one of the big autumn festivals or parades.

Blue Ridge Parkway - best fall destinations in the u.s.

3. Blue Ridge Parkway, VA & NC

When it comes to scenic drives in America, the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville is easily one of the best to experience between the months of October and November. At 469 miles long, it connects Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is just mile after mile of postcard-worthy beauty.

I recommend planning a weekend or more in Asheville and spending the morning driving along the parkway. While driving, pop into the Folk Art Center where you can shop around for some local artisan-made good before stopping off at the various lookouts.

See more in our “Asheville” episode

Fallingwater, PA

4. Fallingwater, PA

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the greatest American architects and was a key figure during the twentieth century. He was a pioneer of organic architecture and believed buildings should be built in harmony with both humanity and the surrounding environment.

Nowhere is this best seen than Fallingwater in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region. Wright designed this house in 1935 for the Kaufmann family, who wanted a weekend nature retreat from bustling Pittsburgh.

The Kaufmanns donated the house to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the 1960s and today you can visit and see Wright’s genius in person. While it’s a beautiful visit no matter what time of year, you can truly appreciate Wright’s architectural philosophy best when autumn is at its peak.

best fall destinations in the u.s.

5. Finger Lakes Region of New York

Upstate New York is easily one of the best places for fall foliage and the Finger Lakes offers both the views and the wine. The whole region home to over a hundred world class wineries and mixed in are some of the coolest small towns and incredibly unique sights.

Check out the fun things to do in Genessee River Valley and stay over at Glen Iris Inn, located in the breathtaking Letchworth State Park. You also don’t want to miss learning about everything related to glass in Corning before you drive out to the different towns around the region.

As you drive around, you’ll find opportunity after opportunity to stop off to enjoy the changing colors while enjoying a glass of wine. A particular favorite id Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery on Keuka Lake.

See more in our “Genessee River Valley” and “Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes” episodes

6. Grand Teton National Park, WY

I have yet to meet someone who’s been to Grand Teton National Park and been anything but absolutely gobsmacked by its sheer beauty. This park, which is well over 300,000 acres and includes the 40-mile Teton Range and should be on any travel bucket list no matter the theme.

It especially comes to life in fall when the surrounding trees explode in bright marigolds and burnt oranges while the mountains, often snowcapped, offer a resplendent backdrop. Choose a trail ripe for leaf peeping and then spend a relaxing night in nearby Jackson Hole. I’m particular to Rustic Inn.

Hessian Lake, Bear Mountain State Park

7. Hudson Valley, NY

With such close proximity to New York City, Hudson Valley will always be my top pick for a city escape especially in fall. The whole region surrounds the Hudson River and spans over 7,000 miles, which means it’s full of charming towns, scenic walks, and incredible small businesses.

For those looking for the perfect day trip, you can rent a car and stick to one of the counties closer to the city. Millerton in Dutchess County is a great option as the Harlem Valley Rail Trail will let you walk outside for leaf peeping and then in town there are fun stops like Oakhurst Diner or Harney and Sons’. While in the county you could also go to Millbrook Vineyards for wine tasting and McEnroe Farm for apple picking.

If you want to make it an even longer trip, you can opt for a relaxing river cruise to take you up and down the valley.

See more in our “Hudson Valley/Dutchess County” episode.

best fall destinations in the u.s.

8. Stowe, VT

Stowe is one of the most charming small towns in America for good reason. You can guarantee a magical visit no matter what time of year but by far the most breathtaking has to be autumn. A huge photographer favorite, Stowe is absolutely ablaze with bright reds, oranges, and yellows and looks like the most perfect New England painting.

Stay at any one of the mountain resorts like Trapp Family Lodge (yes, that Trapp family from The Sound of Music) and spend your days strolling along Stowe Recreation Path or driving out to different pumpkin patches and rustic farms nearby. Don’t forget to stop at Smugglers’ Notch for a truly epic view.

9. Telluride, CO

Situated in a box canyon in southwestern Colorado, Telluride is one of my top picks for a mountain escape. Originally founded as a mining town, these days it’s home to beautiful resorts that allow visitors to enjoy the surrounding nature all year long.

While winter is popular for skiing and summer is for festivals, autumn is especially unique here because of the many aspen trees that grow all around. Instead of a mix of bright colors, you’ll get shades of gold and yellow spread throughout, making it feel like Midas himself has touched the land. Kayak around Alta Lakes; hike to Bridal Veil Falls; wander around Mountain Village, and take the free gondola up for sunset to make the most of this fall visit.

For another fantastic place to visit in Colorado, check out our “Colorado Springs” episode

best fall destinations in the u.s.

10. White Mountain National Forest, NH

Considering New Hampshire is my home state, you could say I’m quite biased towards its nature and scenery – especially once the weather cools and leaves begin to turn. The main place to visit when you come here is White Mountain National Forestand the best way to see it is by driving along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, also known as “the Kanc.”

This byway goes through the forest and offers up 34.5 miles of incredible views as far as the eye can see. Be sure to stop off to snap a photo or even go on a short walk or hike to enjoy White Mountain even more.

See more in our “Lakes & Mountains of New Hampshire” episode

11. Willamette Valley, OR

When it comes to the best fall destinations in the U.S., Willamette Valley may be one of the more underrated options. While Oregon is known for its incredible nature, one of its “hidden” gems is this 150-mile long valley filled with over 700 wineries. The valley runs through the middle of the state, from Portland to Eugene and surrounds Willamette River.

The best way to enjoy Willamette during peak foliage is to mix in some hiking with wine tasting. There are a number of great spots like the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Pup Creek Falls, and Alsea Falls Recreation Site and they all, of course, have at least one winery nearby to relax at.

See more in our “Oregon Family RV Trip” episode

As you can see no matter where you’re at, you’re probably in fairly close proximity to some of the best fall destinations in the U.S. Whether it’s escaping to a mountain, valley, or forest, I hope you’re planning at least one getaway this season!

Best fall destinations in the us

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. As usual the central states were overlooked! Visit the breathtaking North Shore of Minnesota!

  2. Are any of these less crowded than others? Crowds are a big deterrent for us and it seems like they are impossible to escape these days.

  3. Samantha, one of the prettiest places for fall color can be found in Nevada City, CA. It is part of the historic gold country ( The Motherlode) found in northeastern California. Just a little over an hour drive from Lake Tahoe and situated approximately 1/2 way between Sacramento and Reno, NV. Nevada City is a Victorian town dating back to the CA gold rush (1859). The mine owners who moved from the eastern part of the U.S. brought many trees from that area. There remain some wooden sidewalks in the town and it is lit with gas lights. Contact the NC Chamber of Commerce for more information. BTW, Nevada in Spanish means “snowy” and the founding fathers added city when the state of NV decided to use Nevada for its state name well after the establishment of Nevada City. Sister city Grass Valley is home to the Empire Mine, largest gold mine west of the Mississippi, and now a state park.

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