With the fall season around the corner, it’s time to dust off your hiking boots and book your accommodations so you’re ready to get out there and enjoy the most beautiful leaf peeping destinations the season has to offer. To help you in your pursuit of those fiery fall hues, we’ve put together a list of our favorite fall vacation spots.
What is Leaf Peeping?
Leaf peeping is the whimsical activity of ushering in the fall season through spending time in nature, admiring the changing colors of the leaves from vibrant green to a stunning display of oranges, reds, and yellows. The origin of leaf peeping dates back 1200 years to the Japanese tradition of spending quality time with the natural environment in the autumn season, pondering the passage of time. It’s a pretty special experience to practice this art of appreciation for the picturesque autumn season.
When is the Best Time to Go Leaf Peeping?
As a general rule of thumb, leaf peeping season starts in mid-September for areas in the North, but you might have to wait until later in November to start seeing peak colors in more Southern locations. As those summer temps start to drop and you start preparing for hot cocoa, corn mazes, and pumpkin carving contests, you’ll want to start prepping for your leaf peeping road trip!
Top Leaf Peeping Destinations
As those bright yellow leaves of the birch trees and deep red hues from the dogwoods paint the forests, it’s time for a fall family adventure. Here’s a list of our top U.S. destinations to soak in the colors of the autumn season with your loved ones.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Maine, Lebanon KOA is the perfect base camp for your dreamy New England leaf peeping adventure. This stunning leaf peeping destination has something for everyone! Enjoy the fall colors from the water while tubing down the iconic Salmon Falls River or become one with the treetops as you tackle the on-site ropes course. And at the end of a long day, hop in the car for a scenic drive through the golden hills surrounding the campground. For peak fall colors, plan to visit late September to early October.
On 46 wooded acres, this campground is a leaf peeper’s dream! Smack dab in the middle of the beautiful Lakes Region of New Hampshire, you’ll enjoy endless hiking and adventure in this idyllic fall destination. Take a hike up Blue Job Mountain for stunning views of southern New Hampshire or spend the day hitting the campsite’s epic water slide with the family. For the ultimate leaf peeping experience, plan your stay between late September and early October.
Jellystone Birchwood Acres sits at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains amid tree-lined hiking and biking trails and scenic byways. The Catskills – part of the mighty Appalachian range – boast over 30 peaks which provide endless hiking opportunities in the fall season. You can also spend your days fishing and boating with rentals right there at the property. Plan your stay from September to mid-October for an incredible leaf peeping outdoor experience.
Does the fall season inspire you to get outside? If so, Jellystone Park™ at Natural Bridge is the destination for you! Take your pick between the Natural Bridge State Park, the historic Appalachian Trail, Jefferson National Forest, the Natural Bridge Caverns, the Blue Ridge Mountains and so much more. If your boots are made for walkin’, book your adventure between September and late October for an unforgettable fall hiking experience.
Experience the fall season from a canoe, paddleboard, or innertube from Virginia’s best kept secret – the Shenandoah River. Or relax from the shore on this 100-acre retreat with ¾ miles of Shenandoah River frontage. Then head over to the Luray Caverns for a day of adventure in the most popular caverns in the region. Book your stay between late October and mid-November to watch the tree lined river turn red and gold in season.
Every year, leaf peepers flock to this beautiful event venue and campground for an unforgettable fall vacation in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Located on 200 acres of fields and woodlands, this campground is only minutes away from the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway which boasts one of the most scenic drives in the United States. For storybook fall views along the parkway, book your stay from late October to mid-November.
Explore the largest cave system in the world, watch migratory birds head south for the winter, and hit the Bourbon Trail this fall when you visit Cave City. Just minutes away from Mammoth Cave National Park, Jellystone Park™ Mammoth Cave offers family friendly activities including a sandy swimming beach, pools, and a Waterzone splash pad. It’s also Kentucky’s only Jellystone Park™! Book your stay for late September through mid-October for a truly unforgettable family fun experience!
The gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this location offers over 500,000 acres of autumn beauty. You’ll also experience adventure, culture, and fine dining between the Aerial Adventure Park, Dollywood Theme Park, and multiple noteworthy wineries in the area. Finish your idyllic fall vacation with a gondola ride up to the top of the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area for mountain top views of the park as it turns green to gold.
Just four blocks from Yellowstone National Park, this destination offers a once in a lifetime nature experience. Head into the park to view some of the Yellowstone favorites including Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful. With a backdrop of orange and gold, these stunning natural wonders will leave you breathless. Then, be sure to drop down into Lamar Valley and pop back up into the Beartooth Mountain Pass for 360 degree fall views of the area. For prime leaf peeping, plan your visit between mid-September to early October.
If you’re hoping to experience the wonder of fall in the great Pacific Northwest, head over to this picturesque location in the beautiful state of Oregon. Enjoy the fall views over the Willamette Valley from one of the many wineries or microbreweries nearby. Or take a quick trip up to the Columbia River Gorge which offers incredible hiking opportunities and expansive leaf peeping views on either side of the roaring Columbia River. For the best Pacific Northwest fall experience, book your stay between late September and mid-October.
Are you ready to experience the natural beauty of fall at one or more of these stunning locations? Book your stay today!
– Erin Salisbury is a freelance copywriter and content creator for the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. As an avid traveler herself, Erin’s goal is to help companies in the industry authentically connect with their target audience and inspire them to get out and see the world. If you’d like to see more of her work, you can find her on Instagram at @esalisbury.travelcopy