America’s Best Lesser Traveled Places to See Fall Leaves

When the words “changing leaves” come to mind, most people in the United States think of a quaint town in Connecticut or Massachusetts framed by red, gold, and orange leaves. If you love fall but are unable to take a road trip to the East Coast—never fear. There are countless off the beaten path places across America for fall enthusiasts to admire autumn leaves that are every bit as vibrant as New England’s celebrated fall colors.


American Fork Canyon, Utah

The Alpine Loop is a 20-mile drive that offers motorists a breathtaking view of Utah’s American Fork Canyon. Starting in mid-September, the Alpine Loop is covered in a blanket of soft gold and vibrant orange leaves. Motorists can pull over and hike up to Timpanogos Cave National Monument or take a break at the posh Sundance Resort which was founded by legendary actor Robert Redford. In addition to colorful fall leaves, lucky motorists may spot a herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep seemingly defying gravity in the distance.


Portland, Oregon

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to venture to a small town to see bold fall colors. Every autumn, the Portland Japanese Garden steadily transforms into a cornucopia of orange and red leaves. Traditional Japanese gardens are designed to accentuate and celebrate seasonal changes. If your heart explodes with joy every fall, the Portland Japanese Garden is the ideal place to admire one of nature’s most colorful seasons. The bright orange koi fish swimming in the Portland Japanese Garden’s serene ponds match some of the garden’s most vibrant fall leaves.


Door County, Wisconsin

Door County is home to row after row of picturesque orchards, a family-owned farm market that sells fresh apples, and winding roads lined with maple and oak trees that turn red and orange every fall. Door County gives motorists the opportunity to see stunning fall colors while journeying through American’s heartland. Door Country visitors can tour the Cana Island Light Station which is on the shores of Lake Michigan. Travelers are invited to climb to the top of the light station’s 89-foot tower for a panoramic view of Wisconsin’s bright fall colors. The Cana Island Light Station offers free hayrides to all visitors. Nothing says fall quite like taking a hayride beneath trees that are shedding their orange, red, and gold leaves.


Dahlonega, Georgia

Dahlonega, Georgia is a fall paradise. The fall foliage in Dahlonega is so spectacular that the town hosts several fall festivals so that locals and visitors can celebrate the season to the fullest. Fall enthusiasts can’t get enough of the brilliant fall colors in Dahlonega’s waterfall-lined forests. The Gold Rush Days Festival—which celebrates fall colors and a gold rush which occurred in Dahlonega in the 1800s—traditionally takes place in October and features food, music, and face painting. Dahlonega is home to several wineries that host special tours and tastings which coincide with the changing of the leaves.


Loudonville, Ohio

A great many people think of sprawling cities like Cleveland or Cincinnati as soon as they hear the word “Ohio.” Lovers of the Buckeye State will happily tell you that Ohio is home to countless beautiful natural spaces. Mohican State Park features a wide river and miles of hiking trails which give visitors the chance to explore dense forests. Every fall, Mohican State Park features gold and red leaves punctuated by stately evergreens. Mohican State Park allows adventurous visitors to explore the park on horseback. Fall festivals such as Oktoberfest and the Loudonville Free Street Fair always help visitors and locals get into the autumnal spirit.


Boston Mountains, Arkansas

A scenic byway named after a creature that wallows in the mud may not sound like a prime place to see fall leaves, but names can be deceiving, The Pig Trail Scenic Byway—located in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas—features a lush canopy of trees that create a fluttering ceiling of vibrant fall leaves. Chances are you won’t see any pigs by the side of the road, but you may see some avid Arkansas Razorbacks fans headed to Fayetteville to see their beloved football team play.


Star Valley, Wyoming

Wyoming‘s Star Valley Scenic Byway takes visitors on an 80-mile journey from the Idaho state line, all the way to the glorious Grand Teton mountain range. Every fall, the canyons that surround rural Star Valley explode with color. Motorists can soak in stunning fall colors as they cruise past charming small towns like Afton and Thayne. The Star Valley Scenic Byway features plenty of spots for visitors to pull over, snap photos, and enjoy the magnificent autumnal colors that stretch as far as the eye can see. Eagle-eyed visitors may even spot a majestic elk standing tall.


Lexington, Kentucky

If you’re a Halloween lover, an ornate cemetery is one of the best places to enjoy fiery fall colors. Kentucky’s Lexington Cemetery was founded to help families who lost loved ones to a virulent cholera epidemic find a suitable resting place for their nearest and dearest. Lexington Cemetery features historical tombs which date back to 1849 and finely manicured gardens that are blanketed in gold, red, and orange leaves every fall. Visitors can spend hours walking the grounds speculating about the fates of those who are buried in graves which are obscured by a fresh pile of golden leaves.


Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Photo by Sam/Flickr

Blowing Rock is one of the most iconic spots in the state of North Carolina. Blowing Rock is a distinctive cliff that offers a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every fall, Blowing Rock offers an unobstructed view of the region’s most vivid fall colors. Blowing Rock also holds the distinction of having an unusual air current that gently lifts light objects into the air. Blowing Rock is the ideal place to view blowing fall leaves that appear as though they are suspended in midair by otherworldly magic.

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