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America’s Best Destinations for Fall Foliage

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Chris Osburn
Written by Chris Osburn

Bust out your favorite wooly sweater, grab a cup of cocoa and get ready to take in one of nature’s most spectacular shows. Yep, it’s already autumn. Are you looking forward to experiencing this most vibrant of a season? Then you’ll love this list of where to go see the most colorful display of fall foliage.

Colorado

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John Denver referred to Aspen as a “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise” and those words ring true to anyone who’s seen this resort town in the fall. But that’s just one of the many places to see the mountains turn from green to gold. Best beauty spots include Rocky Mountain National Park and the San Juan Skyway.

Maine

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With its rugged coastline, gazillion lakes, mighty mountains and old growth hardwood, Maine is the wildest and most rustic of New England states. Moosehead Lake, the mountain town of Bethel and Portland are but a few of the most scenic areas to see peak fall foliage, which usually comes a little earlier in Maine than the rest of the country given how far north it is.

Massachusetts

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The Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts are the biggest mountains even in the general region but come the fall and many admirers will tell you these mountains yield some of the most dramatic autumn displays.

Michigan

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Great Lakes and great fall foliage! If you like scenic drives and small town charm, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is an especially ideal destination for an autumn tour along its shoreline. And with nearly 20 million acres of forests there are plenty more seasonal sights to behold across the entire state.

Montana

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An unbelievably panoramic vista of majestic mountains with a fiery and vibrant foreground of forest is the vision that awaits autumn visitors to Big Sky Country’s Glacier National Park.

New Hampshire

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New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest is home to Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. It’s also home to one of the awe-inspiring shows on earth come the fall when a more apt name might be the Crimson and Gold Mountain National Forest.

North Carolina

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The most definite stop for any leaf spotter heading to North Carolina is the popular Great Smoky Mountains National Park (which is split between the Tar Heel State and its neighbor, Tennessee). With five entrances to the park within driving distance, the town of Asheville serves as an excellent gateway to seeing one of the East Coast’s most gorgeous stretches of untouched mountain woodlands. Quirky and inviting, Asheville makes a great base for visitors more keen for creature comforts when they commune with nature.

Tennessee

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The other Smoky Mountain state, Tennessee, has the hokey resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for family-friendly entertainment mixed with fall festivities. But across this largely rural swath of the South – from its mountainous east all the way to Memphis and the Mississippi River to the west – there’s plenty of gorgeous fall foliage to see.

Vermont

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The Green Mountain State is usually aptly named, but come the end of September through most of October, when the maples appear to be set ablaze, it’s definitely more orange and red than green. The Green Mountain Byway, the ski town of Stowe, and lots of little hideaway communities throughout Vermont are a delight to experience any time of the year…but they’re most memorable in the fall.

Virginia

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Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s longest linear park, through Virginia’s Shenadoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains is a fall feast for the eyes. That goes for hiking, climbing, kayaking or just relaxing almost anywhere in this historic state.

West Virginia

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The first entry in this post referenced some John Denver lyrics, and so will the last: “West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home country roads”. They call West Virginia the Mountain State for good reason. The state is located entirely within the Appalachian region with high elevations, deep valleys and plenty of space for outdoor enthusiasts seeking fall foliage along its many country roads.

Have a favorite fall destination for seeing spectacular foliage not on this list? Tell us about it in the comments!

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About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.

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