10 Cities for Spectacular Fall Colors

Discover destinations where you can't help but fall for brilliant autumn leaves

 

When it comes to fall foliage, the New England region tends to get all the glory. However, it’s not the only area of the country where "leaf peepers" can witness autumn colors in all their splendor. Here are 10 cities across the U.S. where you'll find multi-hued fall landscapes prime for exploration.

Leavenworth, Washington

When the air turns crisp, the Evergreen State starts to glow with gorgeous reds and golds. Fall colors appear in the quaint German-themed mountain town of Leavenworth from late September through early October. Start your leaf hunt in downtown at Waterfront Park’s Blackbird Island, where you’ll spot brilliant red maples along the trails by the Wenatchee River banks. Then drive up to Lake Wenatchee to explore nearly 500 acres dotted with a rainbow of fall colors.

Troutdale, Oregon

Troutdale (just east of Portland), places you within minutes of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, where you'll find 90 waterfalls—most of them accessable via a quick hike through misty forests—just waiting to be explored. This spectacular National Scenic Area offers the highest concentration of waterfalls in the country. And when orange and golden hues of autumn appear in late September, a trip to any one of them makes for a truly magical experience. If you have several hours to spare, take the Gorge Waterfalls Tour by Wildwood Adventures to see some of the very best the area has to offer.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

From the autumn décor adorning adorable downtown shops to the Smoky Mountain overlooks, Gatlinburg is an idyllic autumn destination. The Smoky Mountains start smoldering with fall colors beginning as soon as late September, and leaves peak in mid-October or early November. Find yellow birch, red and russet oaks, and purple-red dogwood on spectacular display with a drive up Clingsman Dome Road, admire the leaves from the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle or take the scenic loop up to Cades Cove.

Denver, Colorado

The Denver area boasts one of the longest-running autumn colors seasons in the country. From late September to mid-October, find golden aspen groves in the higher elevation areas of Golden Gate Canyon State Park or Georgetown, both just a short drive from Denver. From early October through mid-November, Denver proper is awash with autumn hues—leaf spot while wandering through the city’s hundreds of parks or cycling down the 40-mile, tree-lined Cherry Creek Bike Trail.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

There’s no shortage of fall color activities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Take a river cruise or rent a canoe or kayak to row down the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, which are lined with fiery leaves come September and October. Or, drive up one of the scenic byways for dramatically-hued views, including Minnehaha Parkway and the River Road along the Mississippi. The three-mile trail through the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is also a must-see. Home to the widest varieties of trees in Minnesota, the arboretum pops with color throughout the season. It also features an Apple House, where you can taste several crispy-sweet varieties of the fall fruit.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh promises a magnificent fall display each October. Downtown, you’ll find amber, red and orange foliage photo ops at Point State Park. Riverview Park and Frick Park also burst with golden and fiery hues. Be sure to make the hour-and-a-half drive down to Ohiopyle State Park via the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway to experience one of the area’s most stunning shows of autumn color.

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Just an hour from downtown Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is an enchanting fall wonderland of orchards, country roads, quaint shops, festivals and wineries. Here, you can stroll down the 21-mile shoreline path that winds through the historical estates of the Wrigleys, the Schwinns and other business tycoons—the grand gardens become even more magnificent as the leaves turn scarlet and yellow. Zip-line over the trees for a bird’s eye view of fall colors or take a leaf-spotting tour on the water via a lake cruise.

Flagstaff, Arizona

The state best known for saguaros and scorching summers is also a striking backdrop for autumn hues. In late September and early October, head to Flagstaff and hike one of the many trails—including the incomperable Aspen Loop Trail near Snowbowl—through the caramel and amber-dotted San Francisco Peaks. Try the Inner Basin Trail for a dreamlike journey through a golden forest, or head to Wilson Meadow to catch a glimpse of the wildlife and wildflowers against the bright yellow aspen backdrop. To stay up-to-date on the changing leaves, check out the handy Flagstaff LEAF-ometer to see color ranges for different regions near town.

Boston, Massachusetts

Visitors from around the world use Boston as a starting point for exploring all of New England's fall spectacles. But this historic town is still king of autumn, so why not stick to the city limits for your unforgettable fall experience? One of the best ways to do this is by bike via Urban AdvenTours, offering rentals for a little exploration on your own, or an expertly guided trip through the fall foliage. And if you're in town around Halloween, check out the local vendors and the giant pumpkins from local farmers on display at the Boston Public Market—now offering outdoor "Pop-Up" market stands for you to browse.

Roanoke, Virginia

Head up Mill Mountain to stand beneath the largest freestanding, man-made star in the world and prepare to be awed by the sweeping views of the Roanoake Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains painted in glorious autumn colors. By the middle of October, the entire valley is prime for leaf peeping. Or, what better way to soak up the beauty of this fall wonderland than with a road trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway—one of America's favorite drives? Stop by any of the dozens of orchards in the area to pick fresh, crisp apples right from the trees. And be sure to spend some time exploring the historic town of Salem, the oldest settlement in Virginia, just next door.

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