One of the best things about fall color. And what better place to see it than in the state and national parks. If you are wondering where to see the fall foliage, this post is here to inspire your next trip. Here are the some of the best places to see fall foliage in the US.
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The Best Places To See Fall Colors In USA National And State Parks
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
The Colorado fall foliage is legendary – and one of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado is Rocky Mountain National Park. With mountains covered in forests ablaze with color, and dozens of lakes forming prefect mirror-like reflections, the scenery here will take your breath away.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park?
The aspens at the highest altitudes start turning yellow in late August. By mid-September, a large part of the part glows with golden aspens.
The best time to see the fall color in the Estes Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park is late September to early October.
Read More: Rocky Mountain National Park Guide
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You will also see some of the best fall colors in USA parks in the Smokies. The fall foliage season is quite long, as the color starts at the high altitudes and then makes it way slowly down the mountains.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Great Smoky Mountain National Park?
The color show starts in mid-September at the highest altitudes when the birch and beech trees turn yellow. As it heads into early- to mid-October, lower elevations above 4,000 feet around Clingman’s Dome and the Blueridge Parkway start to change color. Then from mid-October to early November, the lower areas in the park, with maples and hickories, are ablaze with reds, oranges and golds.
Read More: Great Smoky Mountain National Park Guide
3. Acadia National Park
The north east coast fall foliage is perhaps the most famous in the whole country, and Acadia National Park is the jewel in the east coast’s crown. The park is truly breathtaking when the trees put on their annual autumn show.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Acadia National Park?
The best fall foliage in Acadia is typically the middle week in October, though the color starts to change at the beginning of October.
Read More: Acadia National Park Guide
4. Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah has some of the best fall foliage in USA. The Virginia hills are covered in heavy forests that turn gorgeous fall colors.
One of the best ways to enjoy the fall foliage is to drive the famous Skyline Drive. With 75 stunning viewpoints to stop off at along the way, the 105-mile drive is one of the most scenic drives in the US.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Shenandoah National Park?
The high elevation foliage starts to turn at the beginning of October, peaking at the lower- and mid-levels around the third week in October.
5. White Mountains National Forest
White Mountains National Forest is one of the best places to see fall foliage in New England. The higher elevations mostly have evergreens, but the lower elevations put on a real show. There is a huge forested area ablaze with bright fall color.
A popular way to experience the fall foliage is to drive the scenic Kancamagus Highway and soak in the beauty of the tree-lined Swift River.
Another way to enjoy the fall color is to take a scenic train ride. The Conway Scenic Railroad and the 3-hour round trip to the top of Mount Washington on the Cog Railway are both awesome ways to take in the scenery.
There are also plenty of great hikes in the forest, including the easy 50-minute hike up Black Cap Mountain.
When is the best time to see the fall color in White Mountains National Forest?
The color peaks in the White Mountains between late September and mid-October.
6. Ozark National Forest
The Ozark Mountains area is another best place to see fall colors. There are actually two peaks in the mountains. A “False Peak” and the “True Peak”
When is the best time to see the fall color in Ozark National Forest?
The False Peak is at the beginning of October. Random trees change color, and the intensity and variety of color of these trees is the best at this time. However, although the variety and intensity of color is at its peak, it is only some of the trees.
The True Peak is when all the trees have changed color. The color is not as intense or varied, but it makes up for it in the sheer volume of color. This is when you see whole mountain sides bathed in fall color. This typically happens in the last week of October and the first week of November.
7. Groton State Forest
Vermont is well known as the best state for fall foliage. And one of the best places to see New England fall foliage is Groton State Forest. In a wide valley between the Green Mountains and the Connecticut River Valley to the east, Groton State Forest includes seven state parks.
A popular place for a panoramic view of the fall-colored forest is Owls Head Mountain.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Groton State Forest?
The color typically peaks late September to early October.
8. Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls is worth visiting not just for the waterfalls – it is also one of the best places for fall foliage. In addition to Goat Island, Niagara Falls State Park (the oldest state park in the US) is a great place to enjoy the color and see the specular falls with gorgeous autumnal color in the foreground or behind them.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Niagara Falls State Park?
Lake Eyrie’s warm water creates a unique microclimate around the falls, so the fall foliage usually peaks about three week later than the rest of the area. The best color is usually mid- to late-October.
9. Minnewaska State Park
Minnewaska State Park is one of the best places to see fall color in the northeast. The centerpiece of the park is Minnewaska Lake, and there are colorful trees all around the lake.
However, it is other trails to overlooks over the wooded Hudson Valley where you will see huge swathes of forest glowing with gold, red and orange color. If you walk around the lake clockwise, about 1/3 of the way around the lake, take a short side spur trail to a view of some of the most stunning fall scenery you will ever see.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Minnewaska State Park?
The peak fall color in Minnewaska State Park is typically the middle two weeks in October.
10. Denali National Park
Denali may seem an unlikely choice for the best fall foliage in US national parks but the scrub taiga that covers much of the park turns a gorgeous rusty red, while the aspen and poplars near the park entrance glow golden yellow.
When is the best time to see the fall color in Denali National Park?
This is Alaska, so the fall color happens earlier than in southern parks. The higher elevation tundra starts to change color in mid- to late-August. The lower-level taiga and trees are aglow in early September.
Enjoy leaf peeping!
Get more national parks inspiration:
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Fall
- The 12 Best US National Parks
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Winter
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Spring
- The Best US National Parks to Visit in Summer
- Best Lodges in US National Parks
- Most Scenic Drives in US National Parks
- Best Beaches in US National Parks
Do you have a favorite best place for fall colors? I’d love to know where it is. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know.
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James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.
He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.
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