Each year, the colors of fall drive leaf-peepers to make their annual pilgrimage to capture and walk among beautiful maple, aspen, hickory, birch, and beech trees, to name a few. And while New England may be the best-known region for fall hues, there are small towns all over the U.S. that showcase their autumn finery year after year.
Stowe is a tiny town with a big reputation — not only for its ski slopes that tempt powder hounds but also for its abundance of sugar maples that turn orange and red in the autumn. With the colors peaking between early September and late October, Stowe makes it easy to hike, bike, or drive through the expanse of fall foliage. If you time it right, you can attend the annual Trapp Family Lodge Oktoberfest, which usually takes place in mid-September.
Fall is a thing to be feted in Oakland, which helps host the area’s annual Autumn Glory Festival . Oakland’s picturesque downtown sits just south of Swallow Falls State Park, home to crashing waterfalls and plenty of hiking trails where you can walk beneath a canopy of fall colors.
Snowmass Village, Colorado
Just west of Aspen lies the unbelievably beautiful town of Snowmass Village. Sitting at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the village is known for its year-round recreation and ubiquitous aspen trees, which make a stunning shift from fluttering green to bright yellow and orange with hints of red. To get out among the colors, spend the day on the Crater Lake trail, which takes you past two beautiful high-alpine lakes.
Woodstock, New York
Woodstock may be best known for its 1969 music festival, but the town is also a perfect jumping-off point for fall adventures in the Catskills. Explore the hiking trails within the 700,000-acre Catskill Park, discover art against a backdrop of fall foliage at the Opus 40 sculpture park, or seek out the most epic views from the Shawangunk Mountains.
Taos, New Mexico
New Mexico might not be the first place you think of when it comes to fall colors but the tiny town in the high desert offers visitors just that, in addition to its historic adobe buildings and a rich Native American heritage. When the temperature begins to cool and the leaves start to shift, hop in your car and take on the 84-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, which circles the highest peak in New Mexico and delivers a stunning array of fall foliage.
Franconia, New Hampshire
Nestled in the White Mountains, Franconia offers an idyllic base for fall foliage adventures in New England. Drive along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway or head to Franconia Notch State Park, which boasts a few famous fall foliage hikes, including the Artists Bluff trail. Those looking to appreciate the colors from new heights can ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway to a 4,080-foot summit.
Known as the “gateway to the Smoky Mountains,” this eastern Tennessee town has numerous vantage points where you can marvel at the changing leaves. Among them are the Gatlinburg SkyPark — home to North America’s longest pedestrian cable bridge — and the aerial tram to Ober Mountain. Downtown, the Anakeesta theme park offers an observation tower with 360-degree views of the treetops and the annual Bear-Varian Fall Festival featuring carved pumpkins, craft beer, and Halloween-themed programming.
Banner Elk, North Carolina
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the North Carolina High Country, Banner Elk brims with leaf-gazing opportunities. The town’s colorful crown jewel is Grandfather Mountain State Park, where the region’s first hints of fall hues tend to appear. Explore 12 miles of trails or take in the treetop views from the Mile High Swinging Bridge, which spans an 80-foot chasm and sits at an elevation of around 5,300 feet.
You might not have heard of Nashville, Indiana — and that’s what makes it so great — but this under-the-radar town shines in the fall. Every year, between late September and early November, the leaves make their colorful transformation. While in town, visit Brown County State Park, home to nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads and a network of hiking and biking trails.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Once a mining town, Jim Thorpe is now a haven for outdoor enthusiasts — especially in the fall, when the Pocono Mountains show off their best colors. Admire the fall foliage from the walking paths in Kemmerer Park, or visit the 6,000-acre Lehigh Gorge State Park for additional terrain. Those looking for a more relaxing adventure will find it along the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which offers a narrated train ride past picturesque scenery.
Lake Placid, New York
It would be impossible to curate a list of autumnal destinations without including Lake Placid, a lakeside village in the Adirondack Mountains. Start your journey on the Olympic Trail scenic byway, which passes through town and is lined with maple, birch, aspen, oak, and beech trees that welcome visitors with a pop of color. After a proper introduction to the area, hop on the gondola at Whiteface Mountain for a bird’s-eye view of the colors, or rent a kayak and see the yellows, oranges, and reds from the water. Fall foliage in Lake Placid tends to peak between late September and the first couple weeks of October.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
West Virginia has some gorgeous fall foliage, and one of the best places to enjoy it is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which spans about 3,500 acres. The town of Harpers Ferry, which sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, serves as a convenient base for those eager to access the park’s 22 miles of hiking trails. And with the downtown district offering delightful bed-and-breakfasts and delicious dining, you can cap off each day with Southern hospitality.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is as prized for its quaint streets and waterfront location as it is for its access to Acadia National Park. It’s also one of the nation’s top leaf-peeping destinations. Every fall, between mid-September and early October, the foliage makes its colorful transition, drawing people from all over the U.S. You can hike Cadillac Mountain, visit the Cranberry Islands, or walk the Shore Path from the town pier among the stunning flora.
Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s Door County has no shortage of beautiful lakeside towns, but Fish Creek stands out in the fall thanks to its vibrant shopping scene and easy access to the 3,776-acre Peninsula State Park. While there are lots of hiking trails to take in the red, gold, and yellow leaves, don’t miss the Eagle Tower observation deck — accessible by stairs or a ramp that winds through the forest — which offers views of the tree-lined coast.
Munising is a spectacular destination all year round, thanks to its eye-catching sandstone cliffs that tower over Lake Superior. To see the views, you’ll want to visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but the colorful cliffs are arguably the most stunning in the fall when the shoreline is covered in reds, oranges, and yellows. Walk one of the lakeshore’s many trails, take a boat to Grand Island, or hike to Munising Falls for a blast of cool water paired with vibrant colors.
Mystic lives up to its enchanting name with idyllic bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants housed in historical buildings, and dazzling fall foliage. A great way to take in the colors is on a scenic drive along the Mystic River or a hike in the nearby Pachaug State Forest. After all the leaf-peeping, cap off the day with some apple cider (and cider-flavored donuts) at B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill.
Port Townsend, Washington
Port Townsend seems to have it all: a waterfront location on the Olympic Peninsula near Olympic National Park, distant white-capped mountains, and, of course, stunning fall foliage. Walk along the bay, venture to Fort Worden Historical State Park, or make your way to the iconic Point Wilson Lighthouse and enjoy the vibrant fall colors along the way.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Built into the mountainside, the town of Eureka Springs is one of the best places to witness the legendary fall colors of the Ozarks. The Leatherwood Lake Trail and King’s River Overlook are a couple of popular nearby trails. But for a truly breathtaking panorama of the Ozark National Forest, there’s no better spot than Whitaker Point (aka Hawksbill Crag), one of the most photographed viewpoints in Arkansas.
Lenox is one of those beautiful East Coast towns with quaint inns and rolling hills that pulls out all the stops come autumn. Nestled in the Berkshires, Lenox is the place to be when the leaves begin their annual shift. Visit the pond and trail system in the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary or hike in the nearby Kennedy Park and watch as the fall colors seem to change in front of your eyes.