fall colors Shenandoah national park

Five of the best places for fall colors 2024

The eastern seaboard gets a lot of love for its ridiculous fall colors – and rightfully so. However, some of the best places for fall colors are on the western side of North America. If you’re curious about where to see fall foliage, below are locations I’ve physically been to and can also attest to their beauty during fall. I hope you enjoy some of these best places for fall colors in 2023.

All You Need to Know About Where to See Fall Foliage in the USA

Where and when is the best place to see fall foliage?

This will sound cheesy, but the best place to see fall colors is whatever is most accessible to you. If there are no cost constraints, I’d recommend going to the Northeast and enjoying the fall colors in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

The array of colors, plus vibrancy, puts a lot of the other places to shame.

As for when is the best time to go, you’ll want to monitor different trackers, but a good rule of thumb for the Northeast is the second week of September the leaves can start changing. However, it depends on rainfall and temperatures, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.

Banff National Park Larch valley Canadian Rockies

Which state has the most beautiful fall foliage?

This one is hard, but I’m going to say, New Hampshire. While I haven’t been personally, from the photos I’ve seen, they look unlike any other state. It’s incredibly beautiful up there and is a bucket list moment for any adventurer. The hard part is the best places for fall colors come and go so fast that it is hard to plan a trip and get it right unless you book last minute.

Best Places to see fall foliage in October?

October is a good month to chase fall colors because there are so numerous around the country.

In early October, you’ll still have the Northeast showing off, plus more southern states are beginning to turn as well. Plus, this is when the west coast colors begin to show, especially in Washington State and the higher mountainous areas. This is not an exhaustive list, as it could go on for pages.

Seven Destinations to See Fall Colors in October

  1. Eastern slopes of the Washington Cascades
  2. San Juan Mountains of Colorado
  3. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
  4. Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  5. The Catskills in New York
  6. The Ozarks of Arkansas
  7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park Virginia

Will there be fall foliage in November?

By November, the best places for fall colors have dwindled. The locations in the northeast are definitely done, so we need to move south and likely west. I would not expect late November to have many colors, but in early November, you might have some luck.

Where to see fall foliage in November

  • Sedona, Mt. Lemmon, and Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Southern Utah, like Zion National Park and Kanab
  • Eastern Sierras such as Bishop and Mammoth Lakes
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada (at the lower levels)
  • Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas/Oklahoma

How long can we expect the colors to last?

Fall colors usually last two to four weeks, with prime colors lasting 7-14 days. The colors can vary depending on temperature, location, and weather conditions.

When do the fall colors and leaves start changing in 2023?

Leaves should start changing in the northern parts of the country in mid-September. In Banff National Park, for instance, they begin to see their larches turn in September. This is also because they’re at a higher altitude and the colder weather appears before other spots.

The 5 Best Places for Fall Colors 2023 (plus some more ideas!)

The Candian Rockies

banff canadian rockies best places for fall colors Where to see fall foliage on the

There are few places in the world like the Canadian Rockies. The hikes and scenery with larches and snowy peaks make it one of the best places for fall colors. But be warned, fall in the Canadian Rockies can be short, swift, and cold if the weather turns. The last time visiting, I was snowed on in the morning, had a beautiful sunny day, and was then snowed on in the evening. So, be prepared for anything, and make sure to stay warm! However, the fall colors in Banff are so dreamy, you’ll never want to leave.

The best places to see fall colors in 2023: Larch Valley, Tent Ridge Horseshoe, Floe Lake, Healy Pass, and Rockbound Lake

The Washington Cascades

best places for west coast fall colors washington cascades Where to see fall foliage on the

Jagged mountain peaks and stunning colors make Washington another of the best places for fall colors. Depending on your area and elevation, fall colors may come in yellow from the larch trees or deep reds from bushes on the ground. It’s truly magnificent and brings so much awe and joy.

Best places to see them: Chain Lakes Loop, The Enchantments, Methow Valley, Maple Pass, Lake Ingalls, Mt. Rainer, the Eastern side of the Cascades (in general), and Seattle Arboretum

Sedona, Arizona

sedona arizona best places for fall colors

Many people think of Red Rock Country when they think of Sedona – and rightfully so. The Sedona red rock is some of the most majestic in America. However, it’s also one of the southwest’s best places for fall colors. While it is a madhouse and a bit crazy on the weekends, the hikes are accessible for most skill levels.

Best places to see fall colors 2023: West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, Huckaby Trail, Casner Canyon Trail, Crescent Moon Ranch

Flagstaff, Arizona

snowbowl fall colors arizona west coast fall colors Where to see fall foliage on the

I bet you didn’t expect TWO Arizona locations, but here we are. There are not too many people who understand how beautiful fall is up in Flagstaff! For where it is situated, it’s hands down one of the best places for west coast fall colors thanks to accessibility and lack of fanfare versus the rest of these.

Best places to see fall foliage: Snowbowl Ski Resort, The Arboretum, Lockett Meadow Inner Basin

Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park Virginia best places for fall colors

The only one not on the western side of the United States, my trip here in 2021 left me stunned at its beauty and diverse fall colors. Spanning hundreds of miles north to south in the Smokey Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is the perfect place to get away without too many crowds (at least when I experienced it). I showcased some of my favorite views from Skyline Drive.

Best places to see them: Dark Hallow Falls, Hawksbill Summit, White Oak Canyon, Doyles River Falls, Old Rag Mountain

Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra/Sierra Nevada Mountains

Yosemite best places for west coast fall colors Where to see fall foliage on the

Fall colors pop in September and October from Yosemite National Park to Bishop and all along the Eastern Sierras. It’s truly a mesmerizing place to experience in the fall.

Best places to see them: Anywhere in Yosemite Valley, Bishop area, Convict Lake, Intake Lake, Bishop Lake Canyon, plus tons more.

Where to see fall foliage in September or October?

Now, I haven’t been to these locations, but these are fan favorites and come highly recommended. I know you’ll have your mind blown by these fall colors in 2023.

Where to see fall foliage on the East Coast:

  • Acadia National Park: Maine
  • Green Mountains: Vermont
  • White Mountains: New Hampshire
  • New York
  • The Berkshires: Massachusetts

Where to see fall foliage in the Midwest:

  • Upper Penninsula and Marquette: Michigan
  • Brown County State Park: Indiana
  • Shawnee National Forest: Illinois
  • Door County: Wisconsin

Where to see fall foliage in the South

  • Shenandoah National Park: Virginia
  • Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia and North Carolina
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Tennessee and NC
  • Ozark National Forest: Arkansas
  • Natchez Trace Parkway: Mississippi, Alabama, and Tenessee

Where to see fall foliage on the West Coast

  • San Juan Mountains: Colorado
  • Grand Teton National Park: Wyoming
  • Many parts of Utah
  • Columbia River Gorge: Oregon/Washington
  • Lake Tahoe: California/Nevada
  • Zion National Park & Cedar Breaks National Monument: Utah

Book your trip to see the best fall foliage in America

Think you’ve settled on a destination? Book your entire trip – flight, hotel, and rental car in one fell swoop right here.

This takes the hassle out of your life and gets you focused on the trip ahead!

Thanks for reading and enjoying photos from the best places for West Coast fall colors. I hope you find some joy and awe in your adventures!

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.


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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside