If you can somehow swing it with the kids heading back to school, autumn is an amazing time to travel for a number of reasons. To start, the summer heat starts to melt away, leaving much more comfortable temperatures for sightseeing and dining outdoors. Add in the beauty of the trees changing colors and already gorgeous places become spectacular destinations! And on top of all that that- autumn is shoulder season in many locations which means cheaper prices AND smaller crowds. If you’re ready for an adventure, check out these amazing autumn destinations in the US!
Amazing Autumn Destinations in the US
Burlington, set along the shores of Lake Champlain, is Vermont’s largest city. In town, you’ll find Church Street Marketplace to be a great place to hang out with it’s many restaurants, shops, and breweries. The University of Vermont’s campus is beautiful at this time of year, plus the nearby Shelburne Orchards is ranked as one of the best apple orchards in the US! To find even more beautiful colors, go for a drive on the Mad River Byway up to the Sugarbush Ski Resort for sweeping views of northern Vermont.
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Featured in our article on scenic fall foliage road trips in the US, the Kancamagus Highway winds through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and is one of the most beautiful scenic autumn drives in the US. The White Mountains are in central New Hampshire, stretching from the Vermont border all the way to the Maine border. Being this far north, the colors tend to change a bit earlier here- with peak color usually taking place in the middle of September into the first week of October. Lincoln and Conway are both quaint little towns that make a good base camp for exploring the White Mountains during the fall!
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
The Berkshires are located in western Massachusetts. With beautiful winding roads that sweep through the mountain peeks and many quaint little New England villages, the Berkshires are a perfect autumn destination. Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway is a beautiful 35 mile drive through brilliant fall colors and you’ll find incredible views of the entire area from Bash-Bish Falls State Park and Mt. Greylock. You can follow the Cider Trail during Cider Days in early November, stopping at any of the 16 distilleries in the area or canoe down the Housatonic River for a unique view of the changing colors.
New York City, New York
New York city maintains a special kind of magic all year round, but autumn is hands-down our favorite season in the city. The baking hot days of summer soften into perfectly cool, crisp air. And while the rest of the destinations on our list are surrounded by nature, you’d be surprised how many beautiful trees there are that turn colors right in the heart of the city! Take a stroll through Central Park, walk the High Line, explore beautiful Brooklyn, or simple walk through different neighborhoods to see the bright reds, oranges and yellows of fall set against the backdrop of the city.
Traverse City, Michigan
The northwestern corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula is another destination that is gorgeous all year round- but these cozy little beach towns truly light up when the colors change in autumn. Traverse City sits on the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan which makes a stunning backdrop for the fiery colors of fall. Downtown Traverse City is known for great dining and shopping, there are enough wineries in the area to complete a small wine tour, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore is nothing short of spectacular in the fall!
Door County, Wisconsin
Like northern Michigan, Wisconsin is another one of the Midwest’s best autumn destinations. In Door County, you can drive down Highway 57 along Lake Michigan for spectacular fall colors as well as picturesque lighthouses and apple orchards where you can pick your own apples and sip fresh apple cider. The contrast of the colored leaves against the sparkling blues of the lake make this location a hidden gem for leaf-peepers from all over the country.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina is a great place to explore in the fall! Asheville itself is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains which are known for putting on spectacular displays of color. The foodie scene in Asheville makes it a popular travel destination year round- plus there are lots of local breweries to enjoy! Asheville is a short drive from Great Smokey Mountains National Park which makes for a great leaf-peeping day trip, or you can drive up the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway to see more dazzling autumn colors.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
The Ozark Mountains are a lesser known autumn destination, but don’t pass up the chance to visit here when the leaves turn colors! Lake of the Ozarks hits peak color in mid to late October but can last into early November. With over 1,150 miles of shoreline- the colors surrounded the water make for amazing leaf-peeping. Get out on the water in a kayak for a unique perspective!
Most people only think of Colorado as a winter destination, but those majestic mountains aren’t just great for skiing. They also turn a dazzling array of colors in the fall and you can’t go wrong with any of Colorado’s mountain towns for an amazing autumn getaway. Driving from Denver to Aspen you’ll cross Independence Pass, the highest paved pass in North America at over 12,000 feet. The views from this high up are nothing short of breathtaking! With jagged mountain peaks rising high into the blue skies, the striking contrast of the reds, oranges, and yellows of the changing trees will make for a mountain vacation you’ll never forget!
Taos, New Mexico
One of the best places to experience the colors of autumn in the American southwest is Taos, New Mexico. Featured in our 14 Most Beautiful Fall Foliage Road Trips article, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway loop that starts and ends in Taos is an amazing scenic drive winding through the bright yellows and deep oranges of the aspen trees and the fiery reds of the cottonwoods. Along the loop, stop in Red River to enjoy one of their fall festivals. This area is well known for it’s many art galleries and you’ll see this autumn backdrop reflected in many of the art pieces throughout town this time of year. There’s also plenty of wildlife sightings, including eagles, black bears and elk!
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is best known as a summer or winter destination. In the summer, tourists flock to the crystal clear turquoise waters of this alpine lake to cool off from the summer heat. In the winter, Tahoe becomes a cozy ski town that attracts winter sports enthusiasts from all over the country. Autumn is the shoulder season in Lake Tahoe- and between the cheaper prices, smaller crowds, and beautiful fall colors- it’s surprising that more people don’t have this on their list of amazing autumn destinations!
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
One of the country’s first byways designed for scenic drives, the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway stretches for 70 miles along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Starting in Portland, this drive offers incredible views of Mt. Hood, majestic waterfalls, and fantastic hiking. Many leaf-peepers also go waterfall hopping along this route, stopping to enjoy the colorful beauty that surrounds the many waterfalls. You can also follow the Hood River “Fruit Loop,” a 35-mile scenic drive that winds through local farms, orchards, produce stands, wineries, and breweries for a variety of eats and treats.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park offers a truly unique autumn experience. With so many different ecosystems in one park- you can experience the changes of color in a sub-alpine forest, a temperate rain forest, and along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Take a hike up on Hurricane Ridge to rise high above the trees where you can look down on the glorious colors. Hike through the Hoh Rain Forest on the Hall of Mosses trail to see how the deciduous tress change colors among the rich greens of the rain forest. As for wildlife, autumn is the elk rut season and salmon spawning season- so keep your eyes peeled for these unique experiences as well! The Quinault and Hoh River Valleys at dusk are the best places to spot elk this time of year, and the Sol Duc River overlook is a great place to see the salmon jumping.