Looking for fall travel inspiration and ideas? Check out this post to see the best fall foliage destinations to travel to in October. Combine fall foliage viewing with harvest-themed festivals, apple pickings, and pumpkin pies to make the most of fall festivities in October.
October is one of the best months to see fall foliage around the country. There are bursts of colors in almost every state and some areas are so beautiful that they could take your breath away. A variety of trees from aspens, sugar maples, red maples, dogwoods, birches, and beech turn color and look spectacular. We love bundling up the kids and ourselves in the car in October and going leaf-peeping. Here is where you need to head in October to find the most vibrant fall foliage; we have tried to cover a variety of destinations across the country so hopefully you find something near you!
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
We drove the glorious Blue Ridge Parkway in October and were delighted to see the vivid fall colors at every turn. The parkway starts in Virginia and passes through North Carolina before ending in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains – that means you have over 450 miles of scenic beauty and autumn foliage. There are also many scenic overlooks where you can stop and take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains as well as towns where you can sample wines, pies, jams, and jellies. Many hiking trails are also located along the Blue Ridge Parkway if you want to go deeper into the woods.
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Located along the mountains in western Massachusetts, the Berkshires is one of the most popular fall destinations. There are many things to do in the region including road tripping among the scattered towns, outdoor activities like hiking and camping, and cultural attractions like art institutes, galleries, restaurants serving farm-to-table cuisine, as well as antique stores. The best time to see the fall colors in the Berkshires region is through the month of October with the most vibrant colors around mid-October. Road trips are the best way to experience the dramatic fall colors. Drive along Route 41 between Richmond and West Stockbridge to see the colors along open fields, farms, and woods. Another great option is Route 183 that stretches between Lenox and Stockbridge and has stunning fall color on both sides of the road. Other scenic routes include Mohawk Trail near Route 2 with its famous Hairpin Turn and observation point, Route 7 along with the college town of Williamstown, and Route 8 that goes up Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts.
Door County, Wisconsin
For folks in the Midwest, things can’t get better than Door County. Wisconsin’s Door County has everything from golden yellow and deep red foliage, apple picking, lighthouses, blue waters of Lake Michigan, and the famous fish boils. Door County also has many romantic bread and breakfasts though we prefer camping by the lakeside in one of Door County’s 5 state parks. Among the many lighthouses along the shoreline, the Cana Island lighthouse is the most charming one. We would recommend visiting between 10 am to 5 pm throughout October so that you can climb up the winding staircase and see the surrounding fall colors from the top. As you can tell, Door County was our favorite fall gateway while we lived in Chicago.
White Mountain, New Hampshire
To experience spectacular fall foliage, venture out to the White Mountains. This mountain range covers areas of New Hampshire as well as western Maine. October is by far the best month to see the fall colors in the White Mountains.
The 60-mile long Kancamagus highway is the key to exploring the White Mountain region. This route is also famous as one of the best fall foliage road trips in the country. Kancamagus Highway or scenic New Hampshire Route 112 offers panoramic views of the White Mountains, the Swift River and many waterfalls including the famous Sabbaday Falls and the Lower Falls. There are many hiking trails going through the White Mountain National forest. For bikers, the cycling route of the Bear Notch Loop is particularly beautiful in Fall. If you prefer to sit back and relax instead of driving, then enjoy the fall colors with Conway Scenic Railroad or the Cog Railway which goes to the top of Mount Washington.
There are many outdoor activities that you can enjoy in the White Mountain region in fall including North Conway’s Moose Safari and a dog sledding tour – yes, in fall without the snow! If you get tired, then there’s always shopping – independent stores, boutiques, and antique stores are located in the surrounding New England villages. Most of these villages including Jackson host fall fairs with hayrides and corn mazes as well as spooky attractions for older children.
Bar Harbor, Maine
The charming cliffside town of Bar Harbor is located near Acadia National Park and provides an excellent base for exploring the area. Early to mid-October is the best time to visit Bar Harbor for fall foliage viewing. Aside from Acadia National Park’s 155 miles of trails, many local trails also open up for visitors during Fall. Maples, White Oaks, and Ash trees provide vivid fall colors ranging from yellow, orange, and red to purple – a perfect backdrop for the ‘gram! Be on top of your leaf-peeping game with Maine’s official foliage tracker. Bar Harbor and Acadia both host many events and festivals during autumn including Acadia Oktoberfest, Acadia Night Sky Festival, and Bar Harbor’s Annual Fine Arts Festival, making it a perfect time to visit. Bar Harbor also has plenty of B&Bs, hotels, cottages, and campgrounds to enjoy your stay.
Adirondacks, New York
The Adirondacks Mountains have some of the best fall foliage and leaf-peeping in the country. The bright shades of red, yellow, and orange turn the Adirondacks mountains into a gorgeous landscape. The colors peak in October, making it a perfect time to visit the region.
To enjoy the scenery of the Adirondacks, go on fall hikes to the top of the mountains or drive along scenic routes. Relax by the lake or go canoeing or kayaking to see the fall views from the water. Or better, enjoy the fall colors from above by going on hot air balloon rides in the Lake George region. The Adirondack Balloon Festival is also a great time to see colorful balloons in the sky.
For those interested in fall/harvest events, there are many apple picking, corn mazes, and pumpkin picking activities in the Adirondacks. Outdoor enthusiasts will love camping, biking, hiking, and spotting wildlife. Wine tours are also popular with visitors.
The Catskills, New York
After Adirondacks, the Catskill Mountains are a favorite fall destination for many travelers. Located in southeast New York, the Catskills are a part of the Appalachian Mountain ranges. The Catskills’ fall foliage peaks around early-to-mid October as the leaves turn color to vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. To enjoy the fall colors, you can go hike the trails in the woods or drive around to find out scenic lookouts. The best thing about the Catskills is that they are located just two hours north of NYC and are the perfect fall getaway for city dwellers.
There are many things to do in the Catskill mountains in the fall. Catskills Park preserves most of the Catskills mountains as a nature reserve and has amazing views of the Hudson River and its surrounding mountains. Hike up the Slide Mountain peak to enjoy the gorgeous views of fall foliage. Hunter Mountain has zip lines, chairlifts, and many hiking trails. Another must are the famous Kaaterskill Falls. For those interested in history, Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Hudson River School of Arts Trail are a must-visit. Both the sites pay homage to the English-American landscape artist, Thomas Cole, who loved the Catskills and moved there to live in the wilderness.
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
The Green Mountain Byway or Route 100 is known as the most scenic byway in Vermont. Passing through the enchanting towns of Waterbury and Stowe – and sandwiched between two mountain ranges – the route is the ultimate fall road trip. Along the way, you will find historic homes, mountain lakes, state parks, farmlands, waterfalls, and photogenic meadows and grasslands. Sugar maples are abundant in the area painting the mountains in red, orange, and gold come fall.
Some of the must-stops along the route include President Calvin Coolidge Historic Site, Waterbury Reservoir, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Green Mountain Sugar House, the Vermont Country Store in Weston, and of course the famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. There are also a few mills and covered bridges along the route. Other fun activities in fall along the byway include apple picking, pumpkin picking, exploring the Vermont cheese trail, and visiting sugarhouses and breweries. You will also be able to spot deer and other wildlife along with cows and calves in the fields.
Gatlinburg & Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the premier leaf-peeping destinations in the country. Gatlinburg, nearby Pigeon Forge, as well as the Smokies all have great fall foliage and many fall-themed events for visitors. Gatlinburg has everything from lodgings, restaurants, shopping, attractions, and even theme parks while the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has some of the best fall colors in the country.
The fall colors last for a long time and are varied due to the variety of trees found in the area. Trees like yellow birch, beech, and maple at the mountain peaks start changing colors as early in the month while the middle and the lower elevation are most colorful towards October end. Drive around the scenic roads including Newfound Gap Road, Rich Mountain Road, and Clingmans Dome Road to experience the fall colors. Hike a waterfall or two or photograph an old log cabin amidst fall colors.
Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas also offer several outdoor activities in the fall season like elk viewing, hayrides, apple picking, visiting candy kitchens, and fall festivals and are the perfect fall destinations for couples and families.
The Poconos Mountains or simply the Poconos are located in northeastern Pennsylvania and are a popular fall destination for locals. The Poconos region spans an area of 2,400 square miles and has a large variety of deciduous trees, plants, and shrubs – making it spectacular in the fall. Because of its size, the area is said to have 3 different peaks and a much wider fall foliage season. You can check the current fall foliage status here. Road tripping on scenic drives is one of our favorite ways to see the fall colors in the Poconos.
The Poconos also have many fall-themed activities and events happening throughout the season. Take the kids on a hayride or apple or pumpkin picking. Couples will enjoy touring a vineyard or going on a romantic fall foliage train ride. To see the fall colors from the water go kayaking or on boat cruises. The region also has many hiking, biking, and horseback trails to enjoy the crisp fall air and beautiful mountain scenery.
Taos, New Mexico
Located in northern New Mexico, Taos is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The 84-miles long Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway Loop begins and ends in Taos and is a great way to enjoy the area’s fall foliage, which peaks mid-October. The leaves start changing colors in September and continues well into November, ensuring you see some fall foliage whenever you go. The highlight is the many aspens, which turn a vibrant shade of gold.
The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway passes through mountains, valleys, highlands, and national forests and gives you the best views of the fall colors. Many lookout points located along the byway are perfect for 360 panoramic views. Other popular fall activities in the area include hiking, camping, elk watching between Bob-Cat Pass and Eagle Nest Lake, visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the mining ghost town of Elizabethtown. While in Taos, don’t forget to check the ancient settlement of Taos Pueblo, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
While I lived in Arkansas, the Ozark Mountains were one of my favorite places to go for a fall foliage road trip. During the peak, which occurs 2nd to 3rd week of October, the entire hillside and forest look flaming yellow and red. The Scenic 7 Byway, which connects Russellville to Jasper, winds up through the mountains and has lots of fall color. Another favorite is the Pig Trail Scenic Byway – this road has hairpin curves and is a delight to drive, especially in the fall. Other great ways to enjoy the foliage include the Whittaker Point hike and camping at Mount Magazine State Park. Eureka Springs in Northwest Arkansas makes a delightful, romantic base to explore the fall foliage in the Ozarks.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden, New York
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was founded in 1910 and since then, has been one of the most popular destinations to visit in fall in New York. The 52-acre botanical garden has as many as 16 gardens and is a treat for leaf-peepers. Katsura trees, scarlet oaks, cherry trees, ginkgos, black tupelos, sumacs, Japanese maples, and cut leaf Maples turn the gardens in vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple. The views in the Japanese Garden are really pretty and just perfect for a special date night or frolicking with the kids. The Bonsai Garden has miniature trees in fall glory while the Herb Garden has pumpkins, squashes, apples, corn, and other harvests.
Cape Cod & Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha’s Vineyard is the country’s most iconic summer destination and famous for its sandy beaches and relaxed vacations. However, Martha’s Vineyard and the surrounding Cape Cod area are also wonderful to visit in the fall. The fall colors peak in late October and paint farms, forests, marshes, bogs, and even the beaches in vivid streaks of yellow, orange, and red. Apart from fall foliage viewing.
Martha’s Vineyard has many cultural attractions, including museums, historic exhibits, lighthouses, and charming towns that help in understanding the history of the region. Visitors can enjoy wines from around the world and delicious food prepared by local chefs in the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival. Or you can pack up lunch and enjoy a picnic on the island.
Many first-class golf courses like Dennis Highlands, Falmouth Country Club, and Mink Meadows are great to enjoy a game in the fall. There are many hiking trails along the beaches, in the woods, and around the marshes to enjoy the outdoors. Fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, and bicycle trails are just some of the other activities to enjoy the fall on Cape Cod and the Vineyard.
Napa Valley, California
For those on the West Coast, Napa Valley in California state is one of the best places to visit in the fall. Not only do trees including maples, black oaks, and sugar gums change color mid-October but even ferns and grapevines follow them. Napa’s green vineyards start turning copper, red, and gold in the fall – a beautiful sight!
Of course, no visit to Napa can be complete without some wine tasting. You can choose among several renowned wineries for a romantic wine tasting experience amidst the beautiful fall colors. Fall is also the harvesting season for the wineries and often, you may be able to get an in-depth tour of the winemaking process.
For outdoor fun, visit Napa Valley State Park and hike the trails along Ritchey Creeks and Coyote Peak to enjoy the cool fall air. Go on a hot-air balloon ride to see the fall scenery from above. Napa Valley also hosts many other seasonal activities including grape stomping, Napa Valley Film festival, Halloween parties, winery tours, Thanksgiving dinners, spa days, vineyard picnics, concerts, and the popular Schramsberg Crush Camp where participants get to help in the wine-making process.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best places to see fall foliage in October. Which of these fall destinations do you plan to visit this year? Did we skip any of your favorites? Tell us in the comments.