10 Best Fall Color Forest Views in the US and Canada

Here are ten of the most beautiful areas for Autumn and Fall foliage color viewing in the United States and Canada. They represent great color views within a reasonable distance for most North Americans to visit. They all have grand reputations as a "must-see" fall display. They all are located near National Forests and Parks.

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The Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire

Autumn color and snow at foot of a mountain

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

This byway in the White Mountain National Forest is also called the White Mountains Trail. The drive takes about 3 hours and goes through two of the White Mountains' famous notches (known as passes or gaps in other parts of the country). 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. This is a very heavily used route during the fall viewing season.

Viewing Dates: Early viewing begins the second week in September at higher elevations. The fall viewing season usually peaks the first and second weeks in October.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch

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The Green Mountains, Vermont

Brightly colored leaves along a road in the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The state of Vermont could be considered Mecca for serious leaf viewers in the eastern United States and Canada. Vermont is small enough that you are within two hours of most of the leaf viewing to be had there.

The often crowded but beautiful Green Mountain National Forest follows central Vermont north from the Massachusetts border for 100 miles, all the way to Appalachian Gap. It is generally the nexus for most leaf viewing in that state.​

Vermont's Route 100 splits the state in half as it wobbles from southwest to northeast, tip to tail. It is approximately 140 miles long, from Wilmington in the south to Stowe in the north. As mentioned, you will see a lot of people during the foliage season. This area is easily accessible to millions and can make the most popular routes feel a bit cramped.

Viewing Dates: Viewing in the north begins the second week in September at higher elevations. The fall viewing season usually peaks and rides the wave south the first and second weeks in October.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch

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The Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway in peak autumn colors, North Carolina

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. There are more native species of hardwood trees to be seen here than anywhere else in North America and probably on planet earth.

Dogwood, sourwood, and blackgum turn deep red in late September and are the first to be seen. Yellow-poplar and hickories turn bright yellow, red maples add their brilliant reds while sassafras explodes in orange. Oaks finally end the season with their browns and reds. Add southern Appalachian conifers including Virginia pine, white pine, hemlock, spruce and fir and you have a fantastic green backdrop.

Viewing Dates: Good viewing in higher elevations begins the first week in October. The fall viewing season usually peaks the third week in October and rides the wave south through the first of November.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory

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Chautauqua and Allegheny Country, Pennsylvania and New York

View of the Allegheny Mountains from Mt. Ararat

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The Chautauqua-Allegheny region is a total delight for leaf viewing and located in extreme Western New York and Pennsylvania. One can't avoid splitting the two states to include both Lake Chautauqua and Allegany State Park in New York with the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.

This area between Buffalo, New York, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is all but forgotten by travelers during fall. Maybe not anymore.

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 was designated a National Scenic Byway in 1990 with fantastic views of the Kinzua Dam and the Allegheny Reservoir.

Just to the north and in New York state is the Allegany State Park (note change of spelling). This state park is the largest in New York with major hikes to enjoy. The entire area, Chautauqua Lake to Allegany State Park has great leaf viewing.

Viewing Dates: Good viewing usually begins the last week in September in the higher elevations. The fall viewing season usually peaks the second week in October.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory

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The Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, Canada

Mont Tremblant Village in autumn

Ken Gillespie / Getty Images

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

Tremblant Resort is just an hour and a half north of Montreal. You take the autoroute 15 North to Sainte-Agathe. After Sainte-Agathe, the 15 North merges with 117. Continue on the 117 North past Saint-Jovite. Take exit 119 (Montée Ryan) to Chemin Duplessis and just follow the signs.

Just north of Montreal is Mont-Tremblant National Park, home of Mont Tremblant and a mountain some say is the most beautiful in eastern North America. Fall is extra special in the Laurentian Mountains where leaves are celebrated every year during the last week in September at Tremblant's Symphonie des Couleurs.

Viewing Dates: Good viewing usually begins the last week in September in the higher elevations. The fall viewing season usually peaks the second week in October.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch

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Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests, Upper Michigan

Trees and waterway in autumn


A 409-mile-long strip of land called the Upper Peninsula is surrounded by lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. It is a majestic leaf country in the fall. The Ottawa National Forest is located in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan and offers some of the most spectacular fall colors available in the nation. Golden aspens and tamarack mix with northern hardwoods to ensure unlimited opportunities for enjoying fall color.

A favorite drive along the Black River near Bessemer, MI., sometimes called the "jewel of the forest," is now a National Scenic Byway. Part of that byway is Ottawa Forest Service Road 2200. You also want to visit nearby Porcupine Mountain Wilderness.

The Hiawatha National Forest is located in Michigan’s central and eastern Upper Peninsula. The leaf season starts a little later here and a Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore visit is recommended during the autumn color change.

Viewing Dates: Early viewing begins in mid-September in the Ottawa NF. The Hiawatha NF fall viewing season is usually a little later and peaks the first and second weeks in October.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch, aspen

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Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri

Mark Twain National Forest with fall foliage

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Overview: The Mark Twain National Forest lies mostly within the Ozark Plateau. These forested mountains, called the Ozarks, are the United States' oldest mountains. 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 in the fall and get an experience 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. These two beautiful rivers should be included as part of your fall viewing.

Viewing Dates: Early viewing begins in mid-October in most of the Mark Twain National Forest. The fall viewing peaks the last week in October and wanes through early November.

Trees of Show: Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory

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Independence Pass and Leadville, Colorado

Parkway with golden fall foliage

Nivek Neslo / Getty Images

The San Isabel National Forest displays the best aspen viewing in North America. In the shadow of Mt. Elbert, Colorado's tallest mountain, you will find 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. Leadville is located in quaking aspen country and promoted as the highest incorporated city in the continental United States. This mining town is also home to the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad, a must-see touring train that climbs to the Continental Divide through thick stands of aspen.

Just south of Leadville is the lake country and State Highway 82 that takes you to Independence Pass. The highway is a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway and maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Though it is ​a paved road, the road can be narrow and winding and difficult to travel in poor weather. Still, it can give you the best aspen viewing in the United States.

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 of Show: Aspen

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"Lost Maples" of Texas

Jumping Spider on a fall leaf

Rolf Nussbaumer / Getty Images

Lost Maples State Natural Area covers more than 2,000 scenic acres in Bandera and Real Counties, north of Vanderpool, Texas on the Sabinal River. The park was acquired by purchase from private owners in 1974 and the site was opened to the public for the fall leaf season in 1979. The annual visitation is approximately 200,000 visitors, many of the visitors are there during leaf season.

This park was picked as much for its uniqueness as for its beauty. Just north and west of San Antonio, the "Lost Maples" park 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. It features a large, isolated stand of the rare Uvalde Bigtooth Maple, whose fall foliage can be spectacular.

Texas A&M reports that the "Bigtooth maple is one of the most attractive and interesting Texas trees" and that the "mature trees have beautiful red and yellow fall color."

Viewing Dates: Generally, the foliage changes the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November.

Trees of Show: Uvalde Bigtooth Maple

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The Forests of the Pacific Northwest

Fall colors in an aerial view of Cape Horn

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 and is a part of the 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 contrast to the dark green conifers and the Gorge's basalt cliffs and 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 best time to visit the Gorge for foliage color change is the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November.

Trees of Show: Big-leaf maple, cottonwood and Oregon ash