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5 Great Places in the U.S. to See Fall Foliage

New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, California, Montana

5 Great Places in the U.S. to See Fall Foliage

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  • States:
    New Hampshire
    Virginia
    North Carolina
    New Mexico
    California
    Montana

Canopies of red, orange and yellow leaves ripple across the United States in the fall.

New England lures leaf peepers with Colonial-era towns and sun-dappled country roads. In the Southeast, trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains lead into colorful forests teeming with wildlife. Mountain roads curve past aspen groves in the Southwest, while big peaks and bigger skies act as backdrops for the forests of the Eastern Sierras in California. From the road or the trail, here are five fantastic spots to admire fall foliage.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Peak colors: late September through mid-October

The Appalachian Trail links eight overnight huts in the White Mountains, perched dramatically above leafy hardwood trees shimmering yellow, gold, orange and red against the mountain backdrop. The Conway Scenic Railroad chugs into this bright kaleidoscope from North Conway, a friendly mountain town 235 kilometers north of Boston, Massachusetts.

From North Conway, road trippers can climb high into the mountains on the Kancamagus Highway and take in the sights at one of its many roadside stops. Don’t miss the view from the back porch of the grand Omni Mount Washington Resort, site of the Bretton Woods economic conference after World War II. The cloud-snagging Mount Washington is a color-splashed beauty.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

White Mountains, New Hampshire
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Debbe Hill/Conway Scenic Railroad

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Peak colors: mid-October

You won’t find any stoplights on this drive, which sweeps across the vibrant Blue Ridge Mountains. Part of the National Park System, this 750-kilometer thoroughfare links Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The Parkway’s northern entrance is 222 kilometers southwest of Washington, D.C.

Scenic overlooks, picnic areas, campgrounds and a handful of lodges dot the route. The summit of Sharp Top at the Peaks of Otter offers hikers with views of Virginia’s mountain foliage. In North Carolina, marvel at the three-tiered falls at Linville Gorge, or tiptoe across the swinging bridge atop Grandfather Mountain.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
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Sarah Hauser/Virginia Tourism Corporation

Enchanted Circle Byway, New Mexico

Peak colors: late September to mid-October

The sun illuminates the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with crisp clarity in northern New Mexico. From the 137-kilometer Enchanted Circle Byway you can view a surprising collision of red oaks, yellow cottonwoods and green pines with swaths of golden-leaved Aspen trees.

The gateway city of Taos is a magnet for artists and adventurers alike. From Taos, the byway parallels Río Grande del Norte National Monument and its graceful suspension bridge. Mountain trails abound in this area, which is great for both boots and bikes. Looping back to Taos, detour to Pilar and New Mexico Highway 570 to drive past yellow cottonwood trees along the Río Grande.

Enchanted Circle Byway, New Mexico

Enchanted Circle Byway, New Mexico
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Eastern Sierras, California

Peak colors: mid-September through mid-October

Mother Nature’s raw beauty is on display in the Eastern Sierras, where deep-blue lakes, glacier-carved canyons, jagged peaks and wild geologic formations beckon for a closer look. Stretching more than 300 kilometers, the Sierra Nevada Mountains brim with golden Aspens and yellow cottonwoods that add bursts of autumn color.

The Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway runs beside the eastern base of the Sierras on United States Highway 395, east of Yosemite National Park. For foliage updates, visit California Fall Color.

Eastern Sierras, California

Eastern Sierras, California
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Mike Baird/Flickr

Glacier National Park, Montana

Peak colors: mid-September through mid-October

Sprawling across remote northern Montana, Glacier National Park is quiet and reflective from early October to mid-November, with deserted trails, crowd-free campgrounds and shuttered lodges.  

Look for yellow Aspens flanked by snowy backdrops. Green pines and firs hold course through the season. As autumn begins to wane rust-orange colors appear. Foraging wildlife, prepping for winter, roams the park while the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which closes in mid- to late October, overlooks the scene.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana
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