19 Best USA Destinations to Visit This Fall
From scenic drives with brilliant fall foliage to apple harvest festivals, here are the best United States destinations to visit this fall.
With its cooler weather and fewer crowds, autumn is a great season for a road trip or a weekend getaway.
Cozy up in a wooden cabin, hit the hiking trails or do some apple pie tasting at these great US destinations to visit this fall. Get off the beaten path to experience some small town charm and breathtaking leaf peeping.
Get inspired with this list of the best us fall destinations as chosen by seasoned travelers and road trip experts!
1. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a stunning scenic highway that takes you past the awesome beauty of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Shenandoah National Park.
The parkway rolls across Northern Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, and covers an astounding 469 miles. And these landscapes bursts with vibrant colors in the fall.
Visit in late October for the most vibrant fall foliage. Stop at scenic viewpoints like Raven’s Roost Overlook and Thunder Ridge Overlook and enjoy stellar views dotted with incredible foliage.
The cool weather makes for some comfortable, refreshing hiking and there are many great local trails.
Start at the Rough Ridge Trail for one of the region’s best hikes. The trail can be found at milepost 302.8, where there’s also a beautiful overlook. Do a quick one-mile hike along the Tanawha Trail network and you’ll be rewarded with stellar views and colorful fall leaves.
Head to the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain at milepost 305.1 and access the Daniel Boone Scout Trail from there.
Stop for lunch in Linville at the Little Deer Cafe, a casual eatery that serves up exceptional portobello melts and a great grilled cheese.
Then hike to Linville Falls At Milepost 316.4 for a last look at the breathtaking scenery.
End your Blue Ridge Parkway drive in Asheville, a great place to rest with lots of great hotels. Enjoy a beer on the patio at New Belgium Brewing. And stay at the Hotel Indigo Asheville Downtown for a central location and chic rooms with lovely views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
– contributed by Victoria of Southern Trippers
2. Hocking Hills, Ohio
This incredible state park has hiking trails that lead to breathtaking spots like Cedar Falls and Old Man’s Cave that really come alive with colors in the fall.
Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio has more than 25 miles of trails. And this natural oasis is a must-see in autumn when the trees in Hocking State Forest take on vibrant hues of yellow, red and orange.
Visit in late October to see the best foliage and do some leaf-peeping along the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway. It’s one of the best things to do in Hocking Hills.
This gorgeous byway curls around the Ohio River for 452 miles – and you can make the entire epic trip or just do a section.
Book a scenic fall train ride for an unforgettable adventure or do some horseback riding through this natural wonderland.
Enjoy $4-dollar glasses of wine during happy hour on Thursdays at Rockside Wine and Vineyards then grab some delicious bbq at Millstone BBQ. And stop by on a Saturday evening for some live music and a fun crowd.
For a cozy stay, book a room at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. This fabulous 3-star bed and breakfast features cozy log cabins and delicious pancake breakfasts.
– contributed by Linda of Midwest Explored
3. Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
(photos: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0, michael_borland, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Soak up the brisk fall weather and see some beautiful foliage colors at Shawnee National Forest, a vast forest that covers much of southern Illinois.
Fall is an incredible season to visit because of the unique local festivals and leaf spotting hikes.
Head to the Flyway Fungi Festival to immerse yourself in Shawnee culture and learn about the region’s different mushrooms and how to forage for them. This family-friendly festival is held during the second weekend of October at Camp Manitowa. And it includes hiking, ethical foraging workshops and a fungal feast. The festival is definitely one of the best things to do at Shawnee National Forest for friends and families.
Take an autumnal hike around Shawnee to see the gorgeous colorful trees that come alive with brilliant foliage. The Garden of the Gods recreation area is one of the best spots to see the changing colors. As you hike along the rock formations and up on to the bluffs, you’ll see the breathtaking fall colors amid vast views of the forest.
And it’s easy to find a nice secluded cabin in the area because of its remote location. Spend the weekend at this chic and cozy micro cabin for waterfront views near some great hiking and wineries. For dinner, head to El Ranchito Restaurant for great Mexican food and cocktails.
– contributed by Jessica of Unearth the Voyage
4. White Mountains, New Hampshire
From foliage hiking and scenic drives to cozy restaurants and charming small towns, the White Mountains have everything you need for a memorable fall getaway.
Head to Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park, a 2-mile trail that takes you to through two beautiful covered bridges. The park meanders through a natural granite chasm surrounded by waterfalls. And there are several overlooks on the trail with sweeping mountain views set ablaze with fall colors.
Hike the scenic Artist Bluff trail in Franconia and stop at a viewpoint with a bird’s eye view of Echo Lake and its fall colors. This view is especially breathtaking at sunset.
And don’t miss the region’s quaint small towns.
Littleton has one of the best Main Streets in the country – and it’s packed with wonderful small shops and Americana charm. It’s also home to Schilling Beer Company, a great spot for a scenic lunch right on the river.
If you’re planning a festive Halloween getaway, don’t miss Littleton’s Gathering of the Jack-O-Lanterns, where hundreds of carved lit pumpkins set the river aglow. This lively local event includes food trucks, bonfires and haunted walking tours.
Stay at the luxury Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods for tempting restaurants, a golf course and spa.
– contributed by Samantha of New England Wanderlust
5. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
From the final leaves changing colors to the spectacular November snowfall, autumn at Bryce Canyon National Park offers some endless – and very underrated – wonders that are just as spectacular as its more crowded neighbors.
Visit from mid-September to early October for prime leaf season. Bryce Canyon in November is also a real wonder because it marks the start of the park’s low season. And less crowds means more space to explore hidden gems.
Some fall colors are still be in full force in the lower parts of the canyon through November. Depending on the day, you can also get some snowfall and add snowshoeing to your itinerary.
The national park’s famed 8-mile scenic drive is a must-see. Explore the park’s best views from the warmth and comfort of your car with several pull-out lots that let you take in all the beauty from accessible viewpoints.
Hike the Navajo Loop Trail for a moderate route through some spectacular scenery. Or head to the Mossy Cave trail for an easier hike that leads you to a waterfall.
Stop for lunch – and spend the night – at Bryce Canyon Pines, one of the region’s best restaurants that’s known for its apple pie. There’s also camping, RV, motel, standard and cottage room options available – all just a few minutes outside the national park.
– contributed by Alyssa of An Apple a Plane
6. Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is a charming autumn destination in the quaint Midwest that offers gorgeous fall foliage, apple picking and vibrant local festivals.
Start your visit with a day of apple picking – there are some gorgeous apple orchards across Door County where you can bite into fresh apples and indulge in apple cider doughnuts and homemade apple sauce.
Head to the Pumpkin Patch Festival for some outdoors family fun. This local event includes carnival rides, arts and crafts vendors, tempting local food and a visiting storyteller and magician that’s especially popular with kids.
There’s also Door County’s Oktoberfest – Cherry Hut is a Bavarian-style beer festival offering great music, traditional German beer and lots of bratwursts.
Visit the Eagle Tower at the Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek for stunning view of Horseshoe Island and the peninsula.
And take a stroll along Door County’ lakes to get your fill of breathtaking autumn colors – Door County has a whopping 19 lakes that best showcase the fall colors in Wisconsin.
Stop by the Door County Creamery for luscious food in a warm and cozy environment. Try the hot baked artisan sandwiches and the mouthwatering cheese curd sandwiches.
And don’t miss Wickman House and its outstanding steak fries – the star dish of this charming restaurant. For desserts, the ice cream sandwich is a must-try. There’s also plenty of cocktails including the aptly named Rusty Leaf.
– contributed by Paulina of Paulina on the Road
7. Branson, Missouri
Branson is an unbeatable fall destination thanks to its numerous festivals and beautiful fall foliage in the Ozark Mountains.
Head to the Silver Dollar City’s Harvest Festival for the region’s most popular event. This amusement park goes all out with fall decorations that include some 15,000 pumpkins. There are also rides and games, local food and entertainment for the whole family.
Stop at Top of the Rock for the best place to see the region’s fall foliage. Hop on a self-guided Top of the Rock golf cart tour for a scenic ride through the local landscapes and incredible views of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake.
Don’t miss Table Rock Lake State Park for more breathtaking Missouri fall foliage. Stop by the Dewey Short Visitor Center for more info about this gorgeous stretch of Americana and then take a scenic walk on the paved trail alongside the lake.
The Branson Scenic Railway is another local favorite that’s even more stunning in the fall. Hop on this railway for a ride along the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The fall colors are stunning – and it’s a great way to enjoy the beauty of Branson.
Stay at the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing for a cozy hotel in the heart of this Midwestern city. It’s within walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants. And all the live music and theater venues that Branson is known for are just a stroll away.
Book dinner at The Keeter Center for a truly unique dining experience. This farm-to-table experience is nestled in wood and stone buildings on a leafy collage campus. And it’s staffed by students from the local College of the Ozarks.
– contributed by Caitlin of Twin Family Travels
8. Yosemite National Park, California
Fall is a special time to visit Yosemite National Park as the summer heat – and the tourist crowds – leave the park for the season.
The entrance lines and the 90-plus-degree temperatures are gone. And that leaves the park perfect for exploring and being at one with nature.
Witness this transition of the seasons at Yosemite in November as the deciduous big-leaf maples leaves and Pacific dogwoods change colors.
Yosemite really shows off its striking contrast in mid-October. The fall tones play against the evergreens and the grey granite.
The park trails are wide open and many waterfalls still flow in the fall. And it’s the best time to explore the park’s main attractions – without having to fight through the crowds.
Later in the season the weather cools and brings occasional snow flurries that blanket the park’s granite peaks. Enjoy some hot cocoa and ice skate with a view of Half Dome at Curry Village.
Hotels no longer require reservations months in advance. And you can enjoy the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel, with its luxury rooms and dramatic views, at shorter notice.
And don’t miss the cozy Rush Creek Lodge and Spa, conveniently located just outside the Big Oak Flat park entrance.
– contributed by Kristel of Chef Travel Guide
9. Ellijay and Helen, Georgia
Northern Georgia is a gorgeous fall destination with lots of local autumn festivities and rural gems like Ellijay and Helen that should definitely be on your Georgia bucket list.
Start your trip at Ellijay, Georgia’s apple capital (about an hour and a half north of Atlanta) near the state’s north mountains. You’ll catch glimpses of autumn foliage in the mountains as you drive through this farm country.
Head to one of Ellijay’s dozen apple orchards for a perfect, brisk day of apple picking, cider tasting and treating yourself to some homemade goodies.
Apple picking season spans several months, depending on which apples are in season. Fall and especially September is the perfect time to go. You can book at an orchard ahead of time, or you can just as easily drive along GA-52 or Tails Creek Road and stop at whichever orchard looks most enticing. They’re all clustered together and easy to find.
Each orchard has different U-pick options, but usually you’ll pay by the “peck” where a half peck is about 5 pounds or a dozen apples.
Next, take an hour-and-a-half drive east to Helen, a Bavarian village right in the North Georgia mountains.
Fall is the best time to visit because of Helen’s long-running Oktoberfest celebration. Watch the ceremonial tapping of the keg, explore the shops and enjoy traditional German food and music at this lively local event. And don’t miss Bodensee for the best food including pretzels, sauerbraten and wursts.
Stay at The Heidi Motel for a fun, on-theme motel with cozy rooms and an on-site windmill.
– contributed by Alanna of Periodic Adventures
10. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is a breathtaking destination for brilliant fall folliage, fantastic hiking trails, sweeping views and a charming little downtown to explore.
Enjoy a fall day in Acadia and get out on some of the beautiful hiking trails.
Head to Beehive Trail, a short 1.5-mile loop that’s certainly not for the faint of heart with its maze of rungs and ladders to reach the top. Don’t forget a sturdy pair of hiking boots for this one, as it’s a bit tricky.
Or try the Precipice Loop and the South Bubble Mountain for an easier hike with amazing views of the fall foliage and the magnificent ocean.
Take a drive along the Park Loop Road, a 27-mile road that loops around the park, for more stunning views. And head to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for sunrise views – it’s one of the first places in the states to see the sun coming up.
Make your way to Bar Harbor and stroll through the charming downtown. Stop for lunch at Geddy’s for a mouthwatering variety of seafood, including the East Coast’s famous lobster rolls.
Tuck in for the night at the historic Bar Harbor Grand Hotel. This beautiful property is perched on Mount Desert Island, and surrounded by Maine’s natural beauty.
– contributed by Kassidy of The Hiking Helper
11. Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, Sheboygan is gorgeous in the fall with its changing leaves. And it’s got another unique draw as the freshwater surfing capital of the world.
The waves hit their peak in the fall and draw surfers from around the world. But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy this rural Wisconsin gem.
Head to Kohler-Andrae State Park, just south of the city, for leaf peeping and a stroll along the beach.
If you’re travelling with kids, don’t miss Bookworm Gardens – a charming and popular botanical garden that showcases children’s literature.
And if you’re an arts lover, visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and the Kohler Arts Preserve. These vibrant museums showcase contemporary art with a focus on Wisconsin creators.
Sheboygan boasts a lively German community – and that means their Oktoberfest is not to be missed.
In the evening, head to the beach to warm up at a city-run firepit. And enjoy a nightcap at 3 Sheeps Brewing at their dog-friendly tap room.
The Blue Harbor Resort is a great home base for your stay. You’ll get epic sunrise views and there’s an on-site waterpark that your family will love.
For dinner, indulge in some authentic VPN certified Neapolitan pizza at Il Ritrovo.
– contributed by Theresa of The Local Tourist
12. Moab, Utah
Moab is an incredible fall destination for great national parks, adventure and unique scenery.
Kick off your visit with a canyoneering tour with Paddle Moab and repel down Morning Glory Arch for a thrilling ride with gorgeous scenery. And take a guided jeep tour of the famous Hell’s Revenge off-road trail for great views, steep climbs and exciting obstacles.
Head to Arches National Park for some of Moab’s most iconic landscapes, including some 2,000 natural gravity-defying stone arches and giant balanced rocks. Fall is perfect for a visit as this national park gets cooler weather and far fewer crowds in autumn.
Stay at the Hyatt Place Moab for desert views and spacious, minimal rooms and a large outdoor swimming pool.
Stop for lunch at Zaks for their amazing Italian-style pizza. Nearby, Glorias has mouthwatering hamburgers and the best Kombucha you’ll ever have.
– contributed by Candice of CS Ginger
13. Hudson Valley, New York
The Hudson Valley, just north of New York City, is home to cute villages and towns, bucolic farms and pristine forests that come alive with color in the fall.
It’s also one of the best places in the US for leaf peeping.
The mid-Hudson Valley has peak color in mid October, but color peaks earlier further north and in the neighboring Catskill Mountains. This means that leaf peeping season is long here – and you’re sure to see amazing colors anywhere from late September to early November.
Visit Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park to take in the autumn rainbow of color. There are dozens of hiking trails to choose from. But they’re also very popular, so get there early to secure a parking spot.
Spend a day picking apples at a u-pick farm. The Hudson River Valley is a huge apple growing region in the northeast so there are a plenty to choose from. Many farms like the Hurds Family Farms have an array of activities for the whole family including hay rides and corn mazes.
Stop by a cute town like Kingston, New Paltz, Kinderhook, Rhinebeck and Hudson. Take a stroll through the historic stone houses and quaint downtowns and stop for lunch at a cozy local restaurants.
And don’t miss The Tavern at Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck – it’s the oldest inn in the US and boasts a colonial tap room and open hearth fireplace.
– contributed by James of Travel Collecting
14. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park lights ablaze with autumn colors in the fall – and almost a quarter of its annual visitors come in October.
The national park lies along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and has four entrances that are easily accessible from Washington DC and Charlottesville.
Start your visit with a ride along Skyline Drive, which runs along the top of the ridge for the full 105-mile length of the park. The drive is the most popular spot in the park – and Shenandoah was actually created specifically as a scenic driving destination.
Stop at one of the 75 overlooks and enjoy the stunning fall views over the Shenandoah Valley and other majestic Virginia landscapes.
There are plenty of great hikes and many take you to viewpoints or into beautiful waterfalls. And while some of the waterfalls dry up in the fall, Dark Hollow Falls is always stunning. Other highlights include the rock scramble at Bearfence and the beautiful Stony Man Trail.
Keep your eyes peeled for gorgeous black bears that can be spotted around the park at dawn and dusk. Shenandoah National Park has the largest concentration of black bears on the east coast – and these bears are especially active in the fall as they gorge themselves on berries and other foods to fatten up for winter.
Spend a warm and cozy night at one of the national park’s two lodges. The gorgeous Big Meadows Lodge has nearby campground surrounded by sweeping nature. Skyland has cabins and motel-style rooms set among the woods.
– contributed by James of Parks Collecting
15. Bayfield, Wisconsin
With its plentiful fruit farms and windy country lanes, the Bayfield peninsula is a beautiful and quaint autumn getaway.
Surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, the peninsula has more than 70 miles of shoreline. The major draw are the Apostle Islands – an archipelago of 21 small islands just off the peninsula’s tip.
Depending on how late in the autumn you visit, the ferry to the Apostle Islands may no longer be running. But there’s plenty to do in Bayfield in the off-season.
Hike the Apostle Islands Lakeshore Trail for spectacular views of Lake Superior sea caves. Then take the ferry from Bayfield to Madeline Island to bike and explore the small rustic island.
Spend an afternoon in the charming town of Bayfield, a small town of less than 500 residents on the peninsula’s eastern side.
Grab a coffee and breakfast at Wonderstate Coffee, then peruse the numerous small independent shops. For lunch, Manypenny Bistro offers an eclectic menu that keeps even picky eaters happy.
Stop at a Bayfield orchard like Bayfield Apple Co to stock up on apples, ciders, and other homemade apple goods.
And don’t miss Bayfield’s Apple Festival on the first weekend in October. This festival takes over the little town with fun games and plenty of homemade apple goodies.
At the end of the day, head up the hill and check into the historic Old Rittenhouse Inn, housed in a Victorian mansion.
– contributed by Ada of Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
16. North Cascades National Park, Washington
The Pacific Northwest and the surrounding national forest offers absolutely jaw-dropping – and very underrated – fall colors.
The North Cascades have shrubs and wildflowers that carpet its slopes and explode into vibrant shades of orange, red, and yellow in the autumn.
Llarches, a type of conifer found only at alpine elevations, are even more spectacular. They turn from green to gold before their needles fall to the ground for the winter.
Head to the Yellow Aster Butte hike for spectacular ground foliage and breathtaking views of Mount Baker, vibrant wildflowers and endless huckleberries to snack on along the trail.
And don’t miss the Maple Pass Loop for a beloved autumn hike where you climb past countless groves of larches to the top of a mountain ridge and panoramic views of the mountain peaks and the sea.
Or take a cruise along the North Cascades Scenic Highway to drive past alpine lakes, jagged mountains and quaint mountain towns.
Stop in the town of Winthrop, an 1800s gold rush town restored to its Wild Western roots. Stroll along the town’s antique boardwalk and pop into quirky boutiques with old Western facades.
Head to the Methow Valley Ciderhouse for cider made from local apples and stick-to-your-ribs food.
And spend the night at Sun Mountain Lodge, which offers cozy rooms and outdoor hot tubs with mountain views.
– contributed by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
17. Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a funky and beautiful fall destination that boasts crisp mountain air, pumpkin patches, apple orchards and gorgeous leaves.
Located in western North Carolina near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville boasts some incredible fall hikes that start right from downtown. These rustic trails head up into the foothills where you can see all the fall foliage up close. Or hike the two-mile round-trip hike to Black Balsam for spectacular views of autumn leaves and mountain peaks.
Asheville is known as “Beer City USA” and has a thriving river arts district, more than 30 craft breweries and a growing culinary scene.
Start your day in Asheville at Tupelo Honey, where hot chicken and waffles warm you up on a cold fall morning. And don’t miss the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands in October. This decades-old annual fair hosts more than 200 vendors displaying their crafts, live music and craft demonstrations.
Then head to the famous Biltmore Estate and its 75 acres of gardens. This estate is filled with colorful mums, maple trees, evergreens and shrubs bursting with winter berries.
Stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate for a luxurious evening with stunning mountain views.
– contributed by Erin of Super Simple Salty Life
18. Washington, DC
Known as the “City of Trees,” Washington DC displays all its fall finery in autumn when its oaks, maples and elms turn yellow, orange and red.
Watch the leaves turn scarlet on the city’s famous Yoshino and Kwanzan trees planted around the Tidal Basin. And rent an eBike or scooter to explore Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial along the basin.
Then steer towards the National Arboretum and wander through the National Garden to explore dozens of plant-worthy exhibits inside. Stop at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and stroll through the intriguing collection of modern sculpture set amid the trees and their changing colors.
For lunch, stop at Rasika for gourmet Indian cuisine with lots of innovative and groundbreaking dishes made from seasonal ingredients.
And take a group walking tour of some DC neighborhoods, the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol – Washington DC is home to lots of different small tour companies that offer fascinating itineraries.
Head to Rock Creek Park for “leaf peeping.” On the weekend, Beach Drive is closed off to cars so it’s a great spot for a bike ride or a hike to admire the fall foliage.
Book a hotel at Penn Quarter, an ideal neighborhood just three blocks from the Smithsonian museums. The historic 4-star Kimpton Hotel Monaco on F Street is a great option with its eclectic and bold decor. And it’s just across the street from the National Portrait Gallery.
– contributed by Terri of Female Solo Trek
19. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe is a quintessential fall destination with its vibrant autumn colors and charming small-town atmosphere.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Stowe in the fall. Start your visit in the historic downtown and walk down Main Street towards the iconic Stowe Community Church. Grab a cup of maple coffee from PK Coffee and indulge in a delicious breakfast at Butler’s Pantry.
Then drive through Smugglers Notch State Park along Route 108. The park features a mountain pass between Mount Mansfield and the Sterling Range with hairpin turns and stunning fall colors.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, hike to the top of Stowe Pinnacle. You’ll get sweeping views of the Green Mountains painted in oranges and reds.
And take the short drive to visit Cold Hollow Cider Mill for their apple cider donuts. Cold Hollow is New England’s largest (and most well-known) cider mill and you’ll want to try all the apple cider things during your visit.
Save time for a stop at the famous Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory and sample the flavor of the day while touring the facility.
End your day at the Austrian-style Von Trapp Family Lodge with its majestic views, tempting dining options and skiing and snowshoeing excursions. Owned and operated by the Von Trapp family since the 1950s, the lodge is an enchanting resort that brings some European magic to Stowe.
– contributed by Jina of By Jina Lee