Capturing the Beauty of Autumn: Best Foliage Destinations from Acadia National Park to Vancouver
Experience the breathtaking beauty of nature's vibrant colors as we take you on a journey through the world's best autumn foliage destinations. From the picturesque landscapes of Acadia National Park in Maine to the stunning valleys of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, this article unveils an array of enchanting locations that will leave you spellbound. Get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of fall as we explore these captivating destinations and unravel their hidden wonders. So grab your camera and embrace the allure of nature's palette, as we uncover the most captivating sites for capturing the spirit of autumn.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Venture up north and enjoy a refreshing fall day of hiking in Acadia National Park. Not only does it offer breathtaking views of Maine's coastline, but it also showcases a vibrant assortment of autumn foliage in an array of colors.
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Allegheny National Forest
Best viewing time: late September or early October
Allegheny National ForestAllegheny National Forest is filled with deciduous trees displaying a wide array of warm reds, lively yellows, and deep oranges during autumn. Take a leisurely drive through the colorful forest or choose from a variety of hiking and biking trails to explore the foliage up close.
For the best views: Hop on the Longhouse National Scenic Byway, a 36-mile loop through the heart of Allegheny National Forest, for picturesque vistas.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Fall colors are enchanting, but the temperatures can be less enjoyable. That's why if you prefer the comfort of your climate-controlled SUV, there's no better place in America for fall foliage than Shenandoah National Park. It's home to the renowned 105-mile Skyline Drive, where you'll be surrounded by a canopy of red, orange, yellow, and green. Head towards the park's eastern border and you'll find another famous drive: the Blue Ridge Parkway, which climbs thousands of feet in elevation from its start in central Virginia to its end in Cherokee National Forest. Typically, leaves in higher elevations will change color first—typically in mid-September—and the lower elevations will transition as the season progresses.
Who says fall foliage is exclusive to the East Coast? | Ajay Thakur/500px Prime/Getty Images
Zion National Park Utah
If you visit Zion in the fall, you’ll witness a scene that is truly one-of-a-kind: vermillion maples and yellow cottonwoods accentuating the striking red rock desert. The park’s deciduous forests hug the creeks and rivers, and trails like the Emerald Pools Trail offer immersive journeys through Zion’s autumn wonders.
Zion’s color-changing process varies depending on the park's elevation—higher elevations reach their peak in mid-October, while lower elevations retain their colorful foliage until the middle of November.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Alaska might be considered a distant destination for fall foliage in the continental US, but by September, the crowds of senior tourists have disappeared, allowing you to enjoy the brilliant fall colors of America's North in solitude. A drive through the park not only showcases the vibrant hues set against Denali—the highest point in North America—it also provides an opportunity to see moose, bears, and elk in their natural habitat, which is even more beautiful during the changing of leaves. Fall arrives earlier in these parts, so plan your leaf pilgrimage no later than early October.
Pennsylvania's version of the Grand Canyon is a paradise for leaf peepers. | FLICKR/KINGLEAR55
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
America's most visited national park offers more than just Old West-themed photos in Gatlinburg. Summer hikes and winter skiing aren't the only reasons to visit; the best time to explore this park is in the fall, particularly from mid-October through early November, when the Great Smoky Mountains transform into a sea of orange, yellow, and red. One of the best ways to experience this spectacle is by hiking to Looking Glass Falls. Plan your trip with the Smokies' Fall Foliage Prediction Map.
Heart Lake in the Adirondacks is the Instagram-worthy moment you've been seeking. | Patricia Thomas/Shutterstock
Valley Forge National Historical Park
3,500 acres of rolling hills...
Once the headquarters of General George Washington’s Revolutionary Army, this beautifully serene park offers jogging and biking trails and 3,500 acres of rolling hills adorned with the vibrant colors of autumn—just a little over 20 miles from Center City.
Read More In 1776, George Washington and his troops turned the tide of the American Revolution by crossing the Delaware River at what is now Washington Crossing Historic Park. Besides its rich historical significance, the park is also renowned for its wonderful outdoor trails and wildlife habitat. Conveniently located just a 40-minute drive from Center City, it offers an easier commute than the one made by Washington and his troops.
Read More Experience the beauty of autumn and savor the scents of fall in Wissahickon Valley Park, one of Philadelphia's natural gems. Located near Chestnut Hill and Germantown, this 1,800-acre wooded area features the picturesque Wissahickon Creek, over 50 miles of hiking and walking trails, and Forbidden Drive, a wide road closed to cars that runs alongside the creek and intersects with several stunning trails throughout the park.
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Memorial Lake State Park
Best viewing time: early October
Memorial Lake State Park is surrounded by vibrant fall foliage on its 230-acre grounds. Located at the base of Blue Mountain in East Hanover Township, this park features the stunning Memorial Lake, an 85-acre lake with two boat launching ramps and a courtesy dock for sailing, boating, and paddle boarding.
For the best views: Enjoy pops of colorful leaves while walking the 2.3-mile loop around the perimeter of Memorial Lake. If you're a water enthusiast, consider bringing a paddle board or boat for a tranquil afternoon on the water.
Tyler State Park
Capture fall beauty on the trail...
Take in the magnificent fall scenery at Tyler State Park, where over 1,700 acres of parkland encompass what was once farmland. Located 33 miles from Center City in Newtown, nature enthusiasts can hike, bike, and horseback ride on miles of trails surrounded by changing trees.
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Marsh Creek State Park
Inviting fall excursions of all kinds...
The 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake in Chester County's Marsh Creek State Park is a popular destination for boaters. However, the surrounding forests, fields, and wetlands are also brimming with wonderful trails that are perfect for enjoying the fall foliage. The park is approximately 40 miles from Center City.
Read More — Photo by Reflections by Ruth, courtesy of Visit Bucks County As the leaves turn crimson and gold, residents and visitors of Bucks County can't resist the allure of fall foliage at Nockamixon State Park. With more than 1,450 acres and four public launching areas, Lake Nockamixon—the largest lake in southeastern Pennsylvania—is a popular spot for boating and a variety of outdoor activities.
Read More You can bet on witnessing a vibrant fall show in Pennypack Park, which covers more than 1,600 acres of woodlands, meadows, wetlands, and fields in the northeast section of Philadelphia. Named after the Lenni Lenape word for "slow-moving water," this sprawling city park boasts many miles of paved and unpaved trails that are ideal for hiking, biking, running, and horseback riding.
read more — Photo courtesy Ridley Creek State Park Just a few miles from downtown Media in Delaware County, Ridley Creek State Park offers a creek stocked for trout fishing and trails that are perfect for autumnal exploration. Embark on a hike through miles of stunning views, waterfalls, and a plethora of vibrant fall colors.
Read More Meaning "Deer Bone Creek" in Lenape, Tohickon Creek in Bucks County's Tohickon Valley Park offers a well-maintained environment that is great for fishing, rafting, and rock climbing. Be sure to visit High Rocks, where 200 feet of shale rises above the creek, providing a magnificent scenic outlook encompassing miles of fall foliage.
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More than 2,000 acres of natural beauty...
Soak in the beauty of the season at Fairmount Park, a 2,050-acre gem scattered throughout the city that offers approximately 30 miles of designated trails, 43 sculptures, two performing arts centers, the Philadelphia Zoo, Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center, historic mansions, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, renowned museums, and incredible foliage.
Read More — Courtesy French Creek State Park Located approximately an hour's drive from Center City, Hopewell Lake at French Creek State Park in Chester County is famous for its fall scenery, but the park's 35-plus miles of trails also make it an ideal destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.
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Delaware Canal State Park
Experience a Scenic 60-Mile Trail...
— Photo by Reflections by Ruth, courtesy of Visit Bucks County Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of fall as you stroll along the historic towpath, stretching 60 miles from Easton to Bristol, Pennsylvania. This picturesque path was once used by mule teams to transport cargo-laden boats along the canal. Today, it serves as a popular spot for exercise and recreational activities.
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Discover the Beauty of Fall in the Country's Oldest Garden...
— Photo courtesy Bartram's Garden Take a leisurely stroll through the country's first garden, a National Historic Landmark covering 50 acres. Located along the Schuylkill River Trail in southwest Philadelphia, Bartram's Garden offers a stunning display of autumn blooms and vibrant foliage.
Read More Immerse yourself in the world of the Wyeth family's artistic legacy at the picturesque Brandywine Museum of Art. Located along the Brandywine River, this museum showcases the stunning landscapes that inspired Andrew Wyeth's renowned paintings.
Read More Explore the tranquil wetlands of John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite spot among birders and nature enthusiasts. This serene refuge offers a glimpse of rare bird species and a picturesque setting to embrace the changing seasons.
Read More Immerse yourself in nature at Mill Grove, the former home of American naturalist John James Audubon. With 175 acres of trails, woods, and history, the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove is a haven for bird and leaf enthusiasts alike.
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Experience the Beauty of Susquehanna
Best Time to Visit: Early October
Starrucca Viaduct | Credit: Discover NEPALocated near the D&H RailTrail, the Starrucca Viaduct is a remarkable stone-arch bridge that stands as one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Featuring 17 arches and towering at nearly 100 feet, this local landmark offers an unparalleled view of the changing fall foliage.
For the best view: To capture the stunning vista of the viaduct against a backdrop of fall colors, head to Luciana Park. This small area, located near Depot St and parallel to St. John's Cemetery, provides an excellent vantage point.
Explore 650 Acres of Vibrant Autumn Colors...
— Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia Discover the breathtaking natural beauty of Tyler Arboretum, a sanctuary for tree lovers in the Philadelphia region dating back to the days of William Penn. Spanning over 650 acres in Delaware County, this scenic landscape bursts with vibrant autumn colors.
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Encounter Native Plants in a Serene Setting...
More than a mile of paved walkways meander through the woods of Jenkins Arboretum, offering visitors of all ages the perfect opportunity to admire the fall foliage. This majestic botanical garden also provides maps for self-guided tours of the property and the nearby conservation woodlands.
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Immerse Yourself in a Spectacular Fall Experience...
Be captivated by the stunning beauty of Longwood Gardens, one of the top destinations in the region to witness the vibrant colors of autumn. Spanning over 1,000 acres in the heart of the scenic Brandywine Valley, this botanical paradise showcases lush gardens, woodlands, and meadows that will delight any horticulture enthusiast. Each fall, Longwood Gardens hosts special programs that showcase the season's breathtaking blooms.
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Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts
DenisTangneyJr//Getty ImagesVenture to the picturesque small towns and charming cities of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts, for a mesmerizing display of vibrant red, gold, and orange foliage. Climbing Mount Sugarloaf is a popular activity in the area, offering breathtaking views of the colorful leaves.
Heritage Rail Trail
Explore the Scenic Beauty of York County
Best Time to Visit: Early October
Immerse yourself in the stunning views along the Heritage Rail Trail in York County. Whether you choose to walk, hike, bike, or even take a train ride, this trail offers a unique opportunity to admire the changing colors of the season.
For the best views: Embark on a ride on the Northern Central Railroad, which has been in operation since 1838. Sit back, relax, and let the conductor guide you to the best foliage views while sharing stories of the railroad's history.
Kinzua Bridge State Park
Best Time to Visit: Early to Mid October
Kinzua Bridge State Park is home to the impressive Kinzua Viaduct, which was once the world's highest and longest railroad bridge standing at 301 feet tall and spanning 2,053 feet. For the best views of the Kinzua Creek Valley splashed with fall colors, head to the skywalk or the glass-bottom viewing area.
For the best views: The skywalk offers superb views of the Kinzua Creek Valley year-round. However, during the fall, the valley becomes a picturesque sight as it is adorned with vibrant foliage.
Door County, Wisconsin
Door County has earned a reputation as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest." It offers lighthouses, peaceful beaches, and beautiful fall foliage, just like you would find in the Northeast. Stay in Fish Creek or Ephraim and enjoy some cherry wine at Door Peninsula & Distillery before embarking on a foliage tour. Explore Peninsula State Park through hikes and kayaking. Don't miss the amazing Newport National Park, which is not only an autumnal paradise during the day but also a designated Dark Sky Park at night. And be sure to capture the Cana Island Lighthouse in all its scenic glory amidst the foliage.
Scenery worth leaving the continental US for. | gary yim/Shutterstock
If you love the outdoors, fall is the perfect time to visit the Pacific Northwest for hiking, climbing, and camping. Multnomah Falls, located outside Portland on the border of Washington and Oregon, is a picturesque waterfall that shouldn't be missed.
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Park City, Utah
While you may have visited Park City in winter, it's also worth seeing its fall-covered mountains before ski season starts.
Cherokee, North Carolina
This charming town is a gateway to the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway. Take your time exploring the parkway as well as immersing yourself in the rich Native American culture of Cherokee itself.
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Sleepy Hollow, New York
Looking for a spooky Halloween experience? Sleepy Hollow is the perfect destination. Located just an hour's drive north of New York City, it offers stunning foliage and an eerie atmosphere. For a similar October setting, consider visiting Salem, Massachusetts, or the Berkshires.
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Allegheny National Forest
Best viewing time: late September or early October
Allegheny National ForestAllegheny National Forest is filled with deciduous trees showcasing warm reds, vibrant yellows, and deep oranges in autumn. Take a leisurely drive or choose from a variety of hiking and biking trails to fully appreciate the foliage.
For the best views: Hop on the Longhouse National Scenic Byway, a 36-mile loop through the core of Allegheny National Forest, to enjoy postcard-worthy vistas.
Stowe is a renowned destination for autumn lovers. This picturesque town in Vermont offers spectacular displays of reds, oranges, and yellows. With its mountain roads and hikes, you'll have access to stunning views from Vermont's Green Mountains. Stay in a cabin or go camping amidst New England's gorgeous forests and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Stowe's fall foliage season generally lasts from early September through late October, with the colors peaking in the middle of that period. You can follow the color progression on various scenic drives in the area using Stowe's Foliage Finder.
Don't fall! Shenandoah National Park in autumn © Joel Mulbah & Alyssa Gilbert / Virginia Tourism Corporation
Iconic Sites for Fall Photos
— Photo by Visit Philadelphia The Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia is lined with trees that create a canopy of red, orange, and yellow during the autumn months. Along this famous street, you'll find world-renowned museums such as the Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, the Rodin Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For the perfect tree-lined shot of City Hall, climb to the top of the Rocky Steps.
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West Virginia is an unsung but incredibly beautiful destination for fall foliage. With its forests covering the undulating terrain, the state offers a leaf peeping experience that rivals even the most famous fall destinations. Experience the colors merging with waterfalls and craggy peaks in the Potomac Highlands, enjoy views of crimson and tangerine tree tops along the New River, or hike into the multi-hued hollows of the Hatfield McCoy Mountains.
Leaves start changing in late September, with peak colors appearing in mid-October. You can check a live leaf map provided by West Virginia tourism to track the color changes as they happen.
In fall, Grand Teton National Park offers incredible color contrasts ©Shutterstock/Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photography
New York City
Victoria Neer//Getty Images
If you prefer to stay in the city, you can still enjoy stunning foliage in Central Park. The changing colors of the trees against the backdrop of skyscrapers create a truly awe-inspiring sight.
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Chuckanut Drive, Washington
Located north of Seattle, Chuckanut Drive in Washington offers a mesmerizing display of colors during the fall season. The twisting roads of State Route 11 provide numerous opportunities to capture the vivid oranges and yellows against the backdrop of dense pine forests. Visit Larrabee State Park for breathtaking views and make a pit stop at Taylor Shellfish Farms for fresh crab before continuing your drive through farmland, water, and mountains, all within a kaleidoscopic tunnel of trees.
See the leaves change from 5,000 feet up. | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
The Ozarks, known for its mesmerizing fall foliage, covers parts of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma with a thick blanket of trees dotted with serene lakes. When autumn arrives, the colors in the Ozarks become even more surreal. Take a drive along the incredibly scenic Talimena, a 54-mile route that is considered the most picturesque drive in two states.
Head north from Seattle along the winding roads of State Route 11. | Cascade Creatives/Shutterstock
Getty ImagesIf you've ever wanted to immerse yourself in a real-life fairy tale, this is the place to be. And the best part? You'll find plenty of beer, pretzels, and black forest cake.
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Sienna is a senior editor at Hearst. She resides in California with her husband and two young children.
Hadley Mendelsohn is the co-host and executive producer of the podcast Dark House. When she's not busy writing about interiors, you can find her exploring vintage stores, reading, researching ghost stories, or clumsily searching for her misplaced glasses. She covers a wide range of topics, including interior design, travel, entertainment, beauty, social issues, relationships, fashion, food, and on special occasions, witches, ghosts, and other Halloween-themed subjects. Her work has also been featured in MyDomaine, Who What Wear, Man Repeller, Matches Fashion, Byrdie, and more.
Kate McGregor is the SEO Editor at House Beautiful. She has contributed to publications such as ELLE Decor, Domino, and Architectural Digest’s Clever, covering a wide range of topics including curated decor round-ups, shopping guides, and insights into the lives of inspiring creatives.
Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway, Arkansas
This 35-mile route passes through the Boston Mountain Range of the Ozarks in Arkansas. It takes you through two national forests (Ozark and Ouachita), along the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail, and up to Buffalo National River, the country's first national river. This scenic byway offers a delightful blend of twists and turns through the picturesque countryside, providing a stunning display of autumn foliage.
Like other destinations in this region, the Ozarks start showcasing their fall colors in late September or early October, reaching their peak in late October and early November.
This article was originally published in August 2019 and updated in September 2023.
Getty ImagesWhile Vancouver is renowned for its beaches and parks, it also offers breathtaking views of fall foliage for those who enjoy scenic walks.
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As the leaves begin to change and the air becomes crisp, autumn enthusiasts are eagerly seeking out the best destinations to witness nature's vibrant display. From the stunning landscapes of Acadia National Park and Allegheny National Forest to the historic charm of Valley Forge National Historical Park and Sleepy Hollow, New York, the options are seemingly endless. Whether you choose to explore the picturesque landscapes of Vermont or venture across the pond to Bavaria, Germany, these iconic sites for fall photos are sure to leave you breathless. So grab your camera and prepare to capture the beauty of autumn in all its glory, because this season is not one to be missed.
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