Warm sweaters, crisp air, the scent of wood smoke on the breeze—what’s not to love about fall? If we had to pick our favorite thing, though, it would have to be the trees bursting into incredible shades of gold and red.
Watching the colors change is a cherished tradition in New England and beyond, to the point that it even has its own name: leaf peeping. Here are nine of this year’s best places to see fall foliage in states from coast to coast.
Featured Vacasa home: Green Mountain Manor
Tucked into a densely wooded valley, Stowe is the quintessential New England town in many ways. It has a tiny population, a picturesque main street, and a white church steeple rising against the hills. Above all, it lays claim to a stunning display of Vermont fall foliage. It feels like every inch of town explodes into exquisite yellows and golds during peak leaf peeping season.
Featured Vacasa home: Plum Island Perfection
Perched on the Merrimack River at the very northeastern tip of Massachusetts, Newburyport is home to Maudslay State Park, a 19th-century estate that has since been converted into a 483-acre park. Maudslay’s stone bridges and walking trails are beautiful any time of year, but peak season is unquestionably autumn, when the meadows and gardens transform into a patchwork quilt of yellows, oranges, and reds. The park doubles as a bald eagle sanctuary, so keep an eye open and you might spot one of these majestic birds among the fall leaves.
Featured Vacasa home: 6 Central
Let’s be honest: Camden doesn’t need to be any prettier. A coastal town whose harbor is perennially dotted with the white curves of sailboats, Camden is blue-skied in the summer and snow-dusted in the winter. But then there’s fall, when the dense wall of maple trees surrounding the town erupts into a blazing shade of red, resulting in some of the best Maine leaf peeping you’re likely to find. You can enjoy the colors from anywhere in town, but the best view is from the nearby summit of Mt. Battie, which offers a sweeping panorama of the town and harbor below.
Featured Vacasa home: Good Time Pine
The Deep Creek Lake area is home to Maryland’s tallest free-standing waterfall (Swallow Falls) and its largest lake (Deep Creek Lake). On top of that, the oaks and hickory trees that blanket the area put on one of the state’s most stunning shows of autumn foliage. Visit Oakland in early October for its annual Autumn Glory Festival, or hike along the banks of Deep Creek Lake to see the colors reflected in its mirror-like waters.
Featured Vacasa home: At Last Cabin
Of all the towns on this list, Ellijay might take the prize for most autumnal. The self-proclaimed “Apple Capital of Georgia,” this charming town is home to the Georgia Apple Festival, a celebration of all things red and delicious held each October. Sip a mug of freshly pressed hot cider, go for a hay ride through the fields, or pick your own apples right from the trees as the leaves change around you. If there’s a better distillation of all things fall, we haven’t found it.
Featured Vacasa home: Misty Mountain
Colors right out of an oil painting, rolling hills fading into the distance, and the cold mountain air against your face: it’s autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains. With more than 100 different types of trees—including sugar maple, scarlet oak, and American beech—it’s no accident that this 800-square-mile park boasts one of the most vibrant expanses of color in the country. Plus, fall foliage is more vibrant at higher elevations, giving the Smokies an extra advantage. Take the Gatlinburg Sky Lift to the top of Crockett Mountain for a jaw-dropping 360-degree view.
Featured Vacasa home: Mountain Valley Hideaway
Leaf peeping is traditionally associated with New England, but there are plenty of other places to watch the colors change if you can’t make it out to the East Coast this fall. Try Aspen, whose magnificent combination of snow-capped mountains and brilliant colors gives New England a run for its money! From hiking to biking to scenic drives—not to mention some of the most sought-after skiing in the country—this popular mountain town is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to combine their leaf peeping with exhilarating outdoor recreation.
Featured Vacasa home: Idaho Club Lodge Home
Nestled between Schweitzer Mountain and Lake Pend Oreille—the fifth-deepest lake in the United States—Sandpoint has beautiful foliage. Perhaps even more notable is the town’s placement on the Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile scenic drive that circles through Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia. With the Cabinet Mountains rising imposingly in the distance, and yellow and orange foliage thrown into sharp relief against dark evergreens, this breathtaking route is one of the best ways to experience autumn in the Northwest.
Featured Vacasa home: River Song Country Chateau
Oregon is, in many ways, a microcosm of the rest of the country, combining forests, deserts, mountains, and beaches into one spectacularly beautiful state. One of the state’s gems is Hood River, a picturesque town in the Columbia River Gorge that lies 60 miles east of Portland. Beautiful hikes through rolling hills? Check. Local farms flooded with crisp apples and pears? Check. A lively harvest festival with music, pumpkin carving, and art vendors? Check, check, and check. Bundle up against the chill, breathe in the smell of leaves, and let the colors of an Oregon fall sweep you away.