15 States in the U.S. Perfect for a Colorful Weekend of “Leaf Peeping”

woman holding autumn leaves

Who wouldn’t want to capture the trees changing color, the crunch of dry leaves underfoot, and a pumpkin-spiced latte in hand? 

“Leaf peeping” is an informal term to describe the activity of visiting areas to see the fall foliage, and these 15 states in the U.S. are perfect for this kind of activity. 

1. Vermont

vermont autumn

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The native sugar maples in Vermont play a significant role in why hundreds of visitors worldwide visit this state in the fall. The trees turn the state red, orange, and gold, particularly between early September and mid-October. If you are an avid “leaf peeper,” check out Vermont’s Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains, and the Northeast Kingdom for some of the most beautiful fall scenery.

2. Michigan

university of michigan

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Michigan boasts a natural beauty with its Great Lakes, Porcupine Mountains, and Lake of the Clouds. Believe it or not, the state gets even more incredible in the fall as the leaves change color. You can go on a leisurely road trip to see the fall sights, visit a local apple orchard for that cozy autumn feeling, or celebrate the changing seasons at Michigan’s Fall Festival.

3. New York

central park autumn nyc

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There are so many ways to enjoy the fall season in New York. You can take a boat tour, a train ride, or a cable car to experience the fall foliage or walk around the small towns marveling at the glorious autumn colors. There are even websites you can sign up on that send you weekly fall foliage reports so you know exactly where to go to get the best experience.

4. New Hampshire

new hampshire autumn white mountains

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For the best leaf peeping experience in New Hampshire, drive the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains between Lincoln and North Conway. The Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch state parks have some of the most beautiful fall scenes. You might spot moose in the Great North Woods, and the Lakes Region offers magnificent photo opportunities.

5. North Carolina

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North Carolina is one of the best states to visit during autumn. The state is set ablaze by the gold, orange, and red leaves that appear between September and November. Blue Ridge Parkway has one of the most beautiful spots for experiencing the glory of fall.

6. Colorado

colorado autumn dallas divide

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The best time for leaf peepers to visit Colorado is between late September and early October for prime fall foliage viewing. Places with higher elevations often peak earlier than those with lower elevations. Some of the best places to see Colorado’s autumn colors are the Rocky Mountain National Park, Kebler Pass, the Million Dollar Highway, and the Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

7. Oregon

autumn oregon

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Oregon peaks in mid-October, when the leaves have completely changed colors, and the cities and towns come alive with those shades of fall. Oregon’s daytime temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities like picnics and hikes between the fall foliage while the evenings start to feel a little brisk (so pack some extra layers).

8. Massachusetts

boston park autumn

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Amid the majestic peaks and river valleys, the trees of Massachusetts begin to change bright and vivid colors during the autumn months. Like Vermont, the sugar maple trees steal the spotlight for their colorful effects on the state. In the fall, their apple-picking events and fall festivals make Massachusetts a destination you want to take advantage of. 

9. Pennsylvania

independence hall pa

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Drive along the Longhouse National Scenic Byway in Allegheny National Forest, hike Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pine Creek Gorge, or walk the skywalk in Kinzua Bridge State Park to experience the best fall in Pennsylvania. Leaf peepers will adore the different ways to explore the fall foliage throughout the state. 

10. Maine

maine autumn

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Maine is a popular summer destination due to its spectacular landscape and cool climate. However, many people underestimate Maine as an autumn destination. As the leaves turn the state into an autumn wonderland, the locals host fantastic festivals and fairs like the Harvest Festivals, Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta, and Cumberland County Fair. 

11. Utah

autumn utah

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Fall changes the landscape of Utah’s canyons and mountains. Although the towns and cities experience a mild fall makeover, you must drive into the mountains for a spectacular autumn experience. Leaf peepers frequent some of Utah’s back roads as the trees display their striking, colorful leaves.

12. Washington

Washington, USA: Fall colors at Paradise area at Mount Rainier National Park

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Visit Washington’s Mount Rainer National Park, Rinehart Riverfront Park, Yakimas River Canyon, and Leavenworth for a genuinely magical autumnal display. These glorious natural areas are made even more magnificent by the changing seasons, the takeover of red, yellow, and orange leaves, and the crisp fall air. 

13. Arizona

flagstaff autumn

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Hike, bike, picnic, or drive through Arizona’s wilderness for an immersive leaf-peeping experience. Because of its desert landscape and high temperatures, Arizona’s fall foliage can start as early as mid-September and remain visible as late as December. The aspens turn Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks gold, and the colored trees reflect in the lakes by the White Mountains. 

14. Virginia

george washington national park virginia

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Virginia explodes in a kaleidoscope of fall colors every year, and its mountains, scenic byways, and vast woodlands make it a prime location for leaf peepers. The best time to visit is mid to late October for the best autumn scenes. 

15. Connecticut

connecticut autumn

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Connecticut has New England’s most extended fall foliage season, displaying its golds, reds, and oranges from October to November. The state has beautiful scenic areas like Fairfield County, the Northwest Hills, and the region north of the Mystic. What makes Connecticut an ideal fall destination are the festive harvest season events and wine tastings at the vineyards. 

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Hilton Playa del Carmen

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Where indicated, some images courtesy of Depositphotos.com.

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Jordy Johnson

Jordy gave up her home base to travel South Africa and experience more of her country. From that decision, she’s landed work as a travel writer for a magazine that showcases southern Africa and has grown her Instagram travel page, WeTheWests. She enjoys showing locals and foreigners all the beautiful and unique places and experiences South Africa and the rest of the world have to offer.

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