Fall is not just about pumpkin spice…especially since that basically shows up in the summer now. If you live anywhere other than where I live (Florida), fall brings cooler temperatures and an abundance of nature’s artwork in hundreds of shades of red, yellow, and orange (among other rarities). While I’ve personally visited a few places on this list, I have to admit, writing this really made me want to travel to all of the others. Here are 25 Best Places For Fall Colors That Are Remarkably Breathtaking.
Forest of Dean - Gloucestershre, England
Formerly a royal hunting ground, parts of this forest are home to over two hundred varieties of trees. The Oak, Larch, and Beech trees turn from a golden color to a russet red depending on species and time of year. Try not to get in the way of the introduced wild boar, which have been living and breeding in the forest since 2006.
Moosehead Lake – Greeneville, Maine
Maine’s largest lake is also surrounded by spectacular fall foliage. There are many points of interest along a near 75 mile stretch, but the Attean Overlook gives an extraordinary view of the Moose River Valley and its abundant fall shades that visibly stretch all the way into Canada
Takachiho Gorge – Miyazaki, Japan
The Japanese have a term for the changing colors that accompany the fall months: Koyo (紅葉). Much like the cherry blossoms in spring, the Koyo season is organized and widely celebrated. There are a huge variety of great places to see Autumn color in Japan, but one of the best might very well be Takachiho Gorge. The landscape there is spectacular. The sides of the rock walls go from vertical and smooth to horizontal and jagged and present a natural timeline of the region’s geology. Meanwhile, the waterways and cliffs are surrounded by shades of every autumn color from evergreen, to red, to yellow making this an experience of a lifetime!
Grand Traverse Bay – Traverse City, Michigan
In the fall, the maple and oak trees along Grand Traverse Bay contrast incredibly against evergreen pine, spruce, and fir trees. Inspiration Point gives an exceptional view of Lake Michigan among the fall colors. An added bonus (with a short scenic drive) is the nearby Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which was originally built in the 19th century.
Northeast Kingdom - Lyndonville, Vermont
Vermont is known as the mecca for serious leaf viewers in the Eastern United States. Late September and early October are the absolute best times to explore the Northeast Kingdom, near the border of Quebec, Canada. For the best view in the area, make your way to Hazen’s Notch state park. The mountain’s elevation change combined with gorgeous canopies (that you will drive under on the way) make for a beautiful journey to match the destination.
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Newfound Gap, Smoky Mountains – Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America. There’s nowhere better to see the incredible variety of changing leaves than from the “top of Ole Smoky” itself at Newfound Gap. From there, and the roads that loop around the area, you’ll find birch, beech, cherry, maple, and mountain ash trees all giving off distinct hues and combining in chorus of autumn colors. When you get hungry, stop by the nearby Pancake Pantry for a stack of fresh, locally sourced country pancakes.
Monticello Wine Trail – Charlottesville, Virginia
Also in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but further north, you’ll find the Monticello Wine Trail a short drive out of Charlottesville, VA. Combine the gorgeous fall mountain views with the added beauty of vineyards from thirty different wineries, and this visit can’t possibly disappoint you. It’s a special treat for Dave Matthews Band fans as they got their start in Charlottesville, and the Blenheim winery is owned by Dave Matthews himself.
Hraunfossar Waterfalls - Husafell, Iceland
Fortunately, Iceland is not always a land of ice. In fact, they have four distinct seasons. Most people know they also have an abundance of gorgeous waterfalls. When you combine the gorgeous, lave-rock made Hraunfossar (meaning, literally “Lava Falls”) with the fall season, you have pure, unadulterated, scenery magic. Several sections of the very wide series of falls carve their way through the landscape, dividing up hues of red, yellow, and orange.
Whiteface Mountain – Lake Placid, New York State
Contrary to popular belief, New York City is not the only notable place in New York. In fact, those who bother to explore the rest of the state will be well rewarded with beautiful scenery in the largest natural wilderness region in the Eastern United States. Book a stay at the Lake Placid Lodge in October to experience the annual Flaming Leaves Festival. (Yes, it’s so good they have a festival.) Then, take the Whiteface Mountain gondola ride for a bird’s-eye view of nature’s majesty.
Bukhansan Mountain – Seoul, Korea
A national park that is literally attached to, and surrounded by Seoul, Bukhansan National Park is so popular that the South Korean government had to encourage local citizens to take various sabbaticals from visiting. The many available hiking trails take you through stunning autumn forests, past mountainside temples draped in the many colors of fall, and to fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, national forest, and the sprawling city beyond.
Keep reading to see what other places outside the US made this list!
West Elk Loop – Gunnison, Colorado
Colorado has amazing scenery to begin with, but the Gunnison-Crested Butte area takes it up a notch for the fall season. This area is home to the United States’ largest and most impressive aspen grove, which delivers every color from honey yellow to crimson red. The West Elk Loop also runs along the north rim of the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, which exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America.
Neuschwanstein Castle - Bavaria, Germany
The fairy tale castle that all fairy tales strive to imitate would be extremely embarrassed if it didn’t have amazing scenery in any season. Fortunately, it most definitely does not disappoint. During the fall months, the forests surrounding Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany go from green to garnet red, making this the obvious choice to have inspired the castle shown in Sleeping Beauty.
The Driftless Area – Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Sumac, maple, oak, and hickory trees combine to bring the hillsides and river valleys alive in the autumn season of The Driftless Region. Mineral Point is the start and end point of a gorgeous loop that combines intense foliage, spellbinding countryside, and historic points of interest along the way. Cheese lovers (such as myself) are in for a special treat at the nearby Carr Valley Cheese in Sauk City.
Great Buffalo River Area, Ozark Mountains – Jasper, Arkansas
Spectacular hard wood forests lie to both the east and west of Jasper, Arkansas. Because of the elevation variety, this area of the Ozarks provides a variety of stunning shades from light yellow, to deep red beginning in early September and showing all the way through November. Nearby, you can float a small boat 10 miles along the Upper Buffalo National River framed by 500-foot-high bluffs and dense flame-tipped oak forests.
Fragrant Hills – Beijing, China
The Fragrant Hills are an imperial garden in the northwest area of Beijing that has been kept since the 12th century. During the autumn months, the Smoke trees drape the mountains in brilliant blankets of fiery red leaves. Thousands of tourists visit the gardens during the fall months to witness the gorgeous event, and the park has cable cars to allow you to take in the breathtaking scenery.
Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park actually has cabins you can stay in with amazing views of emerging fall colors. Anywhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains will give you an impressive array of turning hardwood trees, but this particular stretch is one of the top ten scenic mountain drives in the US.
Summer Garden – St. Petersburg, Russia
Though called the “Summer Garden,” most agree that the beautiful city park comes alive in the fall. Nestled in the already alluring St. Petersburg, Russia, the Summer Garden canopy turns a vibrant hue of yellow-gold in the autumn months, which provides a stunning backdrop for the already-impressive marble statues displayed throughout the garden. For added beauty, the Fontanka River walkway winds under the golden trees with benches that allow you to appreciate the surrounding majesty.
Arcadia National Park – Portland, Maine
The craggy peninsulas of coastal Maine are a picturesque mixture of seaside mansions, lighthouses, and striking foliage. The Arcadia National Park has a 5½ mile hiking trail called the Sargent Mountain Loop where you’ll find exceptional views and fall colors on full display. Since you’re in the area, you’ll probably want head of to Cape Elizabeth for world-famous lobster rolls.
Hoh Rainforest - Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
My home state of Washington is not where you would expect to find fall colors. (The vast majority of trees are evergreen.) However, head out to the Olympic Peninsula and to the northern part of the Hoh Rainforest to find Sitka spruces in orange and gold contrasting with the evergreen. Don’t be surprised if you come across the native Sea Otter, Elk, or Cranes during your visit, and head up to Hurricane Ridge for some gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountains.
Gaspésie Peninsula - Quebec, Canada
The Canadian northeast is easily as popular among local leaf-viewers as the United States northeast is to Americans and with good reason. Mountains bordered by the enormous St. Lawrence river on one side and the northern Atlantic on the other are covered in all manner of fall foliage. Though you can’t go wrong anywhere on this minimally populated peninsula, your best views will probably come from Gaspésie National Park on the north side of the map, along with the nearby Mount Saint Pierre. Just watch for moose.
Carson National Forest – Taos, New Mexico
The southwest United States isn’t exactly the first place people think of when it comes to fall colors (unless you mean… tan…?) But it turns out the area around the historic town of Taos, New Mexico is home to some rare color combinations. Heading up to Eagle Nest nets you views of nearby Wheeler Peak (elevation over 13000 feet), but also treats the savvy autumn connoisseur to aspens, cottonwoods, and cinquefoil which, at their peak, turn golden/orange, brilliant red, and purple respectively. A truly unique and beautiful fall landscape!
Bran Castle – Transylvania, Romania
Dracula’s castle might be a den of evil that once housed the legendary vampire count, but you have to admit, as far as location goes, that man had some serious taste. Bran Castle sits atop a smoky hill in the middle of an unforgettable fall landscape. Greens, pure chocolate browns, and vibrant oranges make for an impressive Halloween color scheme that you can see stretching for miles in any direction. If you’re the superstitious type, you may want to leave before the sun goes down… just in case.
Mount Mitchell State Park – Burnsville, North Carolina
As the highest point east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell stands at 6,684 feet above sea level giving you amazing views any time of year. After spending time on the observation deck, take a drive on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway for miles of nearly unending fall colors.
Conway Summit, Lundy Canyon – Lee Vining, California
The Eastern Sierras in California represent a prime area for viewing aspens turning yellow, and then orange, along with crimson red cottonwoods and willows in a steady golden color. Combine that with already picturesque mountains and an abundance of crystal clear lakes, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more breathtaking scene. After optimal fall color viewing through Conway Summit to Lundy Canyon (including a magnificent waterfall), check out the nearby, unrestored ghost town (the West’s largest), Bodie, in the Basin Range.
If you enjoy the fall, check out these 25 Peaceful and Stunning Fall Pictures That You’ll Enjoy This Season.
Momijidani Park – Miyajima, Japan
Miyajima, and more specifically Momijidani Park, is a destination unto itself. As one of the top three scenic spots in Japan and a world heritage site, the island of the gods boasts a number of amazing sites for its visitors. When “Koyo” season arrives, the island comes alive with every fall shade imaginable. After visiting the various shrines (all of which are engulfed with various fall colors), the best view comes from the summit view station of Mount Misen. From there, you have a commanding view of the various forests leading all the way back to the ocean. For the full effect, take the cable car back down the mountain on a clear day.
Photos: 25. Eric Soons via geographic.org.uk, 24. Dana Moos via Flickr, 18. Reykholt via commons.wikimedia, 17. Lake Placid Region via Flickr, 16. Republic of Korea via Flickr, 15. Jesse Varner via Flickr, 14. Bbb via commons.wikimedia, 12. Buffalo Outdoor Center via Flickr, 11. Love Beijing via pinterest (fair use), 10. Nicolas Raymond via Flickr, 9. Pavlikhin via commons.wikimedia, 7. Bogdan Migulski via Flickr, 6. lucettedelaborie via commons.wikimedia, 4. Huffer via en.wikipedia, 3. Tsimmons via commons.wikipedia, 2. Pacheco via Flickr