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Fall is here: The best places to see the leaves change this year

Aug. 29, 2022
7 min read
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Editor's Note

This post has been updated with new information.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with new information.


It’s official: Fall is here, and if you want to see the leaves turn color, you need to plan your leaf-peeping trip now.

According to many reports, fall foliage will be severely impacted by drought conditions across many regions, meaning you may need to travel further to see the most vivid seasonal hues.

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According to Blue Ridge Mountain Life (a tourism site for the region), the two key variables to bear in mind when planning a leaf-peeping adventure are timing and elevation. "Leaves begin changing color at higher elevations, and the color change works its way down in elevation."


Each fall season, a number of forecast tools aim to predict the arrival of fall foliage using data points such as historical precipitation and temperature data, forecasts, leaf peak trends, observations and model outputs from previous years.

Of course, foretelling fall foliage is always tricky alchemy, and we know the tool can’t guarantee exactly where and when foliage will peak — especially when unusual weather patterns occur. Still, travelers can use it as a guide to plan their trips, just keeping in mind that the foliage may be a few weeks behind the prediction map.

Related: TPG’s safe travel guide: How to minimize risk on your next vacation

Where to see fall foliage this year

As early as late September, leaves can begin to change their color in northwest Colorado, Wyoming and Montana in September, with the cottonwood and aspen trees in Grand Teton National Park turning to gold. It's also prime time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, when the mountains were filled with the bugles of the annual elk rut. But travelers may still be able to see late fall foliage in southern Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan and parts of Utah.

Utah’s national parks — including Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon — may be best known for their sandstone cliffs and gravity-defying arches, but they’re also great places to enjoy the fall foliage this time of year. Plus, the autumnal light illuminates the red rocks spectacularly.

For travelers on the East Coast, the leaves in many of the most popular leaf-peeping states of New England begin to turn late September, though may not have reached their peak splendor.

In Maine, fall foliage begins in the north at the end of September and slowly progresses south through late October. Maine’s Acadia National Park is a great place to visit during this time of year — in addition to stunning foliage, you could also see the sunrise as it first hits the U.S. from the 1,530-foot summit of Cadillac Mountain. Vermont and New Hampshire are also great destinations for hiking and leaf-peeping followed by apple picking and snacking on cider donuts.

The area surrounding Portland, Oregon, is renowned for its incredible scenery, and much of Oregon’s wild landscapes explode with bursts of color at every turn throughout the month of October and into November. Take a steamboat ride and admire the changing leaves from the river, or get in your car and drive the Columbia River Highway — a stretch of interstate designed specifically for its incredible vistas.

October is also an excellent time to explore the Berkshires, a mountainous region in Western Massachusetts between New York City and Boston.

Related: 9 of the best national parks to visit in the fall

October is also one of the best times of year to see the fall foliage while hiking in the Adirondack Mountains of New York state, and travelers now have more time to do so thanks to the unusually warm weather.

By late October, travelers will want to turn their sights toward the Midatlantic states and the Southeast.

The area where the Smoky Mountains are located is one of the most beautiful regions of the country, and the eponymous national park is where you want to be this time of year. For the best views, head to the observation deck at the peak of Clingman’s Dome, or consider one of the iconic scenic drives in the area instead, such as Cade’s Cove Loop Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Foothills Parkway.

By the time November arrives, much of the country is usually past its peak, according to the prediction map. However, there are still pockets of the U.S. showcasing beautiful foliage throughout the month, and travelers can look forward to seeing splashes of color much later in the season in some destinations than is typical.

Consider Kansas and parts of Missouri for example, such as a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. The maple, oak, hickory and ash trees along the 1,150 miles of shoreline will be reimagined in painterly hues in November — though the American smoke tree, which can become an almost electric shade of pink, tends to peak much earlier.

Alternatively, take a scenic drive through the country roads that wind through the rugged forests of the Ozark Mountains for even more imposing views.

Travelers can also head to the southern edges of Arizona and New Mexico for late-season fall foliage, which should peak in November. And it is possible to see fall foliage in the American South, too, from Texas to Florida.

In the southwestern corner of Texas, Big Bend is home to the nation’s largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Desert. November is a great month to camp, hike and backpack. Check out the Chimneys Trail, which winds through a rock formation in the desert, and the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, which snakes along the Rio Grande River.

Another great place to see fall foliage in Texas in November is the Guadalupe Mountains, where bigtooth maple trees erupt in a riot of color across the McKittrick and Pine Canyons.

Or if you want to go a little farther south, consider a trip to the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. The area has more than 600,000 acres of woodland, and most of the state could be at its peak in November (along with central Florida).

Bottom line

In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this is shaping up to be another major year for trips to national and state parks and scenic road trips across the country.

Though the fall foliage map can’t make any guarantees, it’s a smart way to determine where and when you should plan your fall foliage trips this year. Just remember to stay apprised of state and county regulations, prioritize your health and safety no matter where in the country you plan to travel and be flexible with your plans, especially with seasonal delays in the arrival of fall foliage.

It’s also never been more important to protect your investment in travel, so consider purchasing travel insurance and stick to flexible fares and rates that will allow you to cancel or rebook without penalty.

Additional reporting by Clint Henderson and Melanie Lieberman.

Featured image by GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases