The fall season is synonymous with pumpkin picking, thigh high boots, flannel shirts, and of course — changing leaves. From the mountain maples in North Carolina to the stunning Spruce-fir trees that shade the Great Smoky Mountains, there’s nothing better than witnessing this fall foliage up close. And unsurprisingly, this year, more than ever, getting away to do so sounds like paradise.
For foliage lovers who want to know where to go to see fall in all its glory, here are a few top destinations to visit this year. And the best part about it? With so many fantastic destinations across the United States, you may not have to go very far!
The Finger Lakes, NY
By traversing the eleven-lake region from east (Syracuse) to west (Rochester), travelers can find plenty of spots to see the foliage in the Finger Lakes including hot air balloon rides over the beautiful Letchworth State Park. The region also offers a diverse range of harvest activities and quirky fall festivals along with more than 150 world class vineyards, cideries, breweries and distilleries, farm-to-table culinary treats, historic sites, quaint villages and locally-inspired spa pampering.
Chesnee, South Carolina
South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains offer a spectacular display of fall foliage, and what better autumnal outdoor activity is there than pumpkin picking? Located in the town of Chesnee in upstate South Carolina is Strawberry Hill U.S.A., the retail portion of Cooley Farms, a family operation that offers 1,000 acres of everyone’s favorite gourd. From peaches to blackberries and strawberries, the farm grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, and squash ... including pumpkins! Pumpkin season here starts in mid-September and lasts through October, with a variety of pumpkin sizes, shapes and colors for the whole family to choose from. Guests can also enjoy an array of fall harvest activities, including festive hayrides and an action-packed corn maze (the largest in the county) that’s full of twists and turns for a fun adventure.
Mt Washington Valley, NH
Mt Washington Valley and the White Mountains are a popular fall vacation choice for good reason. Mother Nature simply never disappoints with her harvest hues painting a patina across the mountains. There are so many ways to peep a leaf in Mt Washington Valley, and that’s reason enough to come. Add in special fall festivals, family fun, foliage and fairs throughout the Valley and it’s no wonder this is such a popular vacation destination. With more than 150 lodging properties in the Valley, there’s always room for fall visitors, but it gets harder and harder to find availability the closer you get to peak foliage.
Nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains is Branson, Missouri, one of America’s greatest family destinations. It offers breathtaking views of fall foliage from mid-September through November. Not only can visitors soak up the rich colors of autumn through curated fall driving and walking tours that the local tourism office, Explore Branson, has developed, but guests can also enjoy the celebratory spirit of autumn at one of America’s most beloved and top-rated theme parks, Silver Dollar City. With a host of added health measures in place, the park will welcome visitors for its annual Harvest Festival, slotted for September 23 through October 31. This year’s festival features specialty “Craft Days” and more than 10,000 carved pumpkins throughout “Pumpkins In The City.”
Catskill Mountains, NY
The Catskills have become one of the longest and breathtaking foliage seasons in the country. From late September through mid-November, travelers from all over the world can refer to the weekly map to plan their New York State fall getaway and the best places to see the changing hues of the season. Whether it's spending a weekend harvest sampling, exploring world-class museums, hiking scenic trails, or touring local communities, there is no better way to experience fall than a visit to New York State.
Blue Ridge Mountains, NC
With fall in full swing, the state of North Carolina has lots to offer from college town restaurants for the foodies to must-visit military towns in honor of Veteran's Day to can’t-miss ways to see fall foliage for the adventurous traveler. Get outside and hike to experience Linville Falls — just about a 20-minute drive from Grandfather Mountain lies a beautiful spot for fall colors. This breathtaking waterfall drops a dramatic 90 feet from the top to Linville Gorge below and is considered one of the most photographed waterfalls in North Carolina. Or soar through the canopy and zipline through The Gorge, where you can experience fall colors from above. North Carolina has more than 20 tours, with The Gorge being the steepest and fastest zipline in the continental United States.
Looking Glass Waterfall at Blue Ridge Mountain.
Greenville, South Carolina
From mid-October through mid-November, Greenville, South Carolina — located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains — puts on a stunning show for foliage seekers. With countless ways to enjoy the outdoors from a 22+ mile novice-friendly bike trail to nearby State Parks and hiking trails, visitors can even see the foliage from the treetops on zipline tours. Greenville's proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains means endless ways to explore the outdoors on foot, by bike or by boat. For the best foliage views, hike through to Caesar's Head State Park for stunning views of South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia or plan for a breathtaking sunrise at the Fred W. Symmes Chapel- and see why it's nicknamed "Pretty Place" for its spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Few regions are as breathtaking year-round as the Colorado Mountains. The mountains are an ideal vacation spot for those seeking crisp fall weather, picturesque foliage, and fresh mountain air. While Aspen is most often regarded as a winter ski destination, there is The St. Regis Aspen will give you a one-of-a-kind look at some of the country’s most incredible landscapes, as well as a variety of music, art, and food festivals in this popular mountain town.
Nestled in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg provides the ultimate immersion into the great outdoors and all of its spectacular fall foliage. A perfect self-care retreat, you’ll love taking in all of the fresh mountain air, and becoming one with nature. Once a fairly well-kept secret, the Smoky Mountain fall colors also now bring waves of visitors to the Gatlinburg and Asheville areas, mostly in October.
Stowe is the quintessential New England fall getaway that you’ve always dreamed of. Though most people make the trek to Vermont in the winter season for skiing and snowboarding, the small town also lays claim to a stunning display of Vermont fall foliage. From early September to later October, it feels like every inch of town explodes into exquisite yellows and golds during peak leaf peeping season.