10 Best Fall Color Forest Views in the US and Canada

View from above the Allegheny National Forest covered in a lush forest of trees in full fall colors of red, gold, orange, yellow, and green under a blue sky
With more than half a million acres of hardwood forests, the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania bursts with color in the fall.

Zrfphoto / Getty Images

Amazing views of fall foliage aren’t limited to the forests of New England. There are many magnificent leaf-viewing areas throughout North America—places with grand reputations for having "must-see" fall displays. 

Most of the regions with the most incredible color views are within a reasonable distance for North Americans to visit. As an added bonus, they are often located within or near national forests and parks.

Here are 10 of the most beautiful areas for viewing fall foliage in the United States and Canada.

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Kancamagus Scenic Byway (New Hampshire)

A lush forest of colorful trees in shades of red, gold, orange, and green along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway with the White Mountains in the distance under a blue sky with white clouds

Amy Sparwasser / Getty Images

This byway in the White Mountain National Forest goes through two of the White Mountains' famous notches (also called gaps or passes) and takes about two to three hours to complete.

In addition to lush forests, there are beautiful views of mountains and tall cliffs, including the famed Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch. The Kancamagus Scenic Byway passes through the heart of the White Mountains.

  • Viewing Dates: The second week in September at higher elevations; usually peaks the first and second weeks in October.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch.
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Green Mountains (Vermont)

Brightly colored trees in shades of red, gold, orange, and green among green ground cover along a dirt road in the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The state of Vermont is said to have some of the finest leaf viewing in the eastern United States. The often crowded but beautiful Green Mountain National Forest follows central Vermont north from the Massachusetts border for 100 miles, all the way to the Appalachian Gap. Vermont's Route 100 splits the state in half as it wobbles from southwest to northeast. It is approximately 140 miles long, from Wilmington in the south to Stowe in the north, and is generally the nexus for most leaf viewing in the state.​

The Long Trail, a 273-mile hiking trail, runs through the Green Mountains in Vermont from the southern end of the state north to the Quebec border. Day hikes along the trail are the perfect way to experience the fall colors.

  • Viewing Dates: The second week in September at higher elevations in the north; usually peaks and rides the wave south the first and second weeks in October.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch.
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Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina and Virginia)

Scenic Blue Ridge Parkway with forest on both sides of the road in peak autumn colors, with mountains in the distance and a pink sunset

Pierre Leclerc Photography / Getty Images

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile scenic parkway operated by the National Park Service. This limited access road runs through the southern Appalachian Mountains from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border to its terminus in the Pisgah National Forest.

People flock to this Blue Ridge Mountain leaf show because of its elevated views of the wooded mountains and valleys that are the Southern Highlands. The region is rich with native species of hardwood trees at different elevations.

The first trees to turn deep red in the region are dogwood, sourwood, and black gum in late September. Yellow-poplar and hickories turn bright yellow, red maples add their brilliant reds while sassafras explodes in orange. Oaks end the season with their browns and reds. Add Virginia pine, white pine, hemlock, spruce, and fir, and you have a fantastic green backdrop.

  • Viewing Dates: The first week in October in the higher elevations; usually peaks the third week in October. Fall color continues south through early November.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory.
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Chautauqua-Allegheny Region (Pennsylvania and New York)

A walking path in Allegany State Park covered in fall leaves surrounded by tall trees in bright shades of red, yellow, orange, and green

Redtea / Getty Images

Located in western New York and Pennsylvania, the Chautauqua-Allegheny region is perfect for leaf viewing. The area, which is between Buffalo, New York, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers incredibly colorful views.

The oak, cherry, yellow poplar, ash, and maple trees of the Allegheny National Forest are perfectly displayed via the Longhouse Scenic Byway. This 29-mile route, with fantastic views of the Kinzua Dam and the Allegheny Reservoir, was designated a National Scenic Byway in 1990.

Just to the north in New York state is Allegany State Park (note change of spelling). This state park is the largest in New York with over 65,000 acres of forests, mountains, lakes, and streams.

  • Viewing Dates: The last week in September in the higher elevations; usually peaks the second week in October.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory.
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Laurentian Mountains (Quebec)

Mont Tremblant Village, a small village with blue, red, and green roofs set in a dense forest of trees in shades of orange, red, gold, yellow, and green

Ken Gillespie / Getty Images

Along with Quebec's provincial tree—the yellow birch—this region provides color primarily from the deciduous sugar maple and American beech. You can also expect a mixture of conifer green to be included among the reds, golds, and oranges.

Just north of Montreal is Mont-Tremblant National Park, home of Mont Tremblant, a mountain in the Laurentian mountain range that some consider the most beautiful in eastern North America. Fall is extra special in the Laurentian Mountains where leaves are celebrated every year from the last week of September through early October at Tremblant's Symphonie des Couleurs. The colorful trees can be enjoyed from the mountain's walking and biking trails or from the water in a canoe or kayak.

  • Viewing Dates: The last week in September in the higher elevations; usually peaks the second week in October.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch.
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Upper Peninsula (Michigan)

Lush forest of trees in gold, orange, red, and green autumn colors in Hiawatha National Forest along the Pictured Rocks National Seashore under a blue sky

Ali Majdfar / Getty Images

In the northern portion of the state, the Upper Peninsula—which is surrounded by lakes Michigan, Superior, and Huron and filled with forests—becomes flooded with color in the fall. The Ottawa National Forest in the western Upper Peninsula offers some of the most spectacular fall colors in the nation. Golden aspens and tamarack mix with the forest’s northern hardwoods, many of which can be enjoyed from the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway. 

Michigan's largest state park, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, features thousands of acres of old-growth forest as well as hiking trails and campgrounds. In the central and eastern Upper Peninsula, the nearly 900,000-acre Hiawatha National Forest—which borders three of the Great Lakes—offers miles of shoreline fall color. Just north of Hiawatha, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore brings vibrant color to the Lake Superior shoreline.

  • Viewing Dates: Mid-September in the Ottawa National Forest. The Hiawatha National Forest fall viewing season starts in late September and peaks the first and second weeks in October.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch, aspen.
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Mark Twain National Forest (Missouri)

Forest of lush trees in fall color above a small pond at the North Fork Recreation Area in Mark Twain National Forest

US Forest Service, Eastern Region / Flickr / Public Domain

The Mark Twain National Forest encompasses 1.5 million acres and lies mostly within the Ozark Plateau. The rainbow of fall color here is dominated by the oaks, sweetgum, and sugar maple. Lower areas feature sycamore, Ozark witch hazel, elm, and other bottomland hardwood trees.

The Ozarks' spring-fed rivers are popular canoe trip destinations. You can paddle these rivers in the fall and experience views not normally seen by motorized leaf viewers. Ozark National Scenic Riverways was created by an Act of Congress on August 24, 1964, to protect 134 miles of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers in the Ozark Highlands of southeastern Missouri.

  • Viewing Dates: Early viewing begins in mid-October, peaks the last week in October, and wanes through early November.
  • Trees You'll See: Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory.
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Independence Pass and Leadville (Colorado)

Autumn view of a dense colorful aspen grove in a valley at base of steep peaks of Sawatch Range. Twin Lakes, Leadville, Colorado with blue sky and white clouds above the mountain peaks

SeanXu / Getty Images

The San Isabel National Forest, located in the shadow of Mt. Elbert, Colorado's tallest mountain, has some of the largest stands of aspen anywhere and a railroad to get you to them.

Leadville, Colorado, is headquarters to the U.S. Forest Service's San Isabel's Ranger District. Located in quaking aspen country, Leadville is promoted as the highest incorporated city in the continental United States. This mining town is also home to the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad, a touring train that climbs to the Continental Divide through thick stands of aspen.

Just south of Leadville is State Highway 82. It takes you to Independence Pass, a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway with magnificent views of the aspens.

  • Viewing Dates: Early viewing begins in September in most of the San Isabel National Forest. The fall viewing peaks in early October and wanes through the end of the month.
  • Trees You'll See: Aspen.
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Lost Maples State Natural Area (Texas)

Crystal Clear Pool surrounded by several large boulders on Sabinal River with a lush forest of trees in bright fall foliage above at Lost Maples State Park, Texas

Richard McMillin / Getty Images

Just northwest of San Antonio, Lost Maples State Natural Area covers more than 2,000 acres along the Sabinal River. The park—acquired by purchase from private owners in 1974—was first opened to the public for the fall leaf season in 1979. Approximately 100,000 visitors make a day trip or overnight visit to Lost Maples, many during leaf season.

Lost Maples is an outstanding example of Edwards Plateau flora and fauna. It has an uncommon mix of rugged limestone canyons, springs, plateau grasslands, forested slopes, and clear streams. The park may be best known for its large, isolated stand of the rare Uvalde bigtooth maple, which has spectacular fall foliage.

  • Viewing Dates: The last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November.
  • Trees You'll See: Uvalde bigtooth maple, red oak, elm.
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Forests of the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon)

Aerial view of Cape Horn with a forest of trees in shades of gold, green, and orange surrounding a small patch of green grass adjacent to the Columbia River under a bright blue sky on a sunny day

Craig Tuttle / Getty Images

The western side of the Cascades mountain range offers the best foliage display in the Pacific Northwest. One of the most beautiful areas is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, just east of Portland, Oregon. In November 1986, Congress recognized the unique beauty of the Gorge by making it the nation's first National Scenic Area.

A grand autumn view in the gorge is shared by the states of Washington and Oregon, it is a part of the Mt. Hood National Forest and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Hardwood tree species that cast the colorful show are big-leaf maple, cottonwood, and Oregon ash. They are in striking contrast to the dark green conifers and the gorge's basalt cliffs, and they make the brilliant yellow leaves of maple trees stand out with the red, yellow, and orange hues of smaller shrubs like vine maple.​

  • Viewing Dates: The last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November.
  • Trees You'll See: Big-leaf maple, cottonwood, and Oregon ash.