Fall represents a return to “the grind” after a summer of relaxation and lazy days. But the crisp air and beautiful colors actually make the season an ideal time to take one final outdoorsy vacation. The following list, in no particular order, includes some places in New England, of course. Most of them are gorgeous, but we deliberately looks beyond the famous fall foliage area to bring you cities all across the U.S. that come to life in September and October.
The village nestled in the Adirondack Mountains in far upstate New York is a hidden gem in the fall. Most people think of it in the summer recreation and in the winter when they go for the famous Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. Lately Saranac has been referred to as New York’s “healing town.”
The little town is perfectly located in the middle of all kinds of outdoor adventure – miles of trails, rivers, orchards, and vineyards. Visit in the fall for the popular Georgia Apple Festival – Oct. 13 – 14 and Oct. 20 - 21. Hundreds of vendors offer food, art, and crafts.
The Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River at this small West Virginia town that was the site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid on the United States arsenal in 1859, an event that hastened the onset of the Civil War. The extremely affordable city sits in the middle of the Appalachian Trail and offers both casual nature-lovers and die-hard sportsmen hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting opportunities.
The village and its surrounding – the Porcupine Mountains Area – is an adventurous destination if you are into outdoor and fun vacations. It’s rugged, has an abundance of scenic terrain and mountains, and offer stunning panoramas. Old Growth Forests, waterfalls, river and inland lakes are just a few examples.
As the second largest ski resort in the U.S., Vail offers over thousands of acres of terrain to explore. Pick a trail and enjoy the leaves for all that they are worth. Don’t miss the 4-mile Booth Falls moderately trafficked hike. In town, go to The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum/ Hall of Fame for a little history and background to help you appreciate the importance of snow sports.
This small charming city is right at the bottom of Big Mountain and Glacier National Park. The city is pretty much giant ski village with the Whitefish Mountain Resort being the go-to place for everyone. Paddle a kayak on Whitefish Lake for beautiful views of Big Mountain and the surrounding forest. For a change of scenery, visit the Santi World Art Museum to see bronze sculptures by the famous sculptor, Sunti, commemorating Native American chiefs and historic legends – a stunning display of art.
If you want just one reason to go, here it is: The small city is in the Napa Valley region. The Calistoga Harvest Table event will take place on Sunday, September 9. About 1,000 feet of tables will be set in the center of the city’s picturesque downtown so people can try delicious wines from this world famous region.
Far more famous for its winter adventures, Park City is a gem in the fall, too. Take to the air on Park City’s zip lines. Check out the mountains on bike or on foot. For mountain bikers, Park City’s internationally-recognized trails are pure heaven and rock climbers will find their niche out in the Wasatch Mountains. The ski lift is one of the best spots for leaf-peeping. You can also do a high-speed descent though the fall colors via an alpine slide, one of the longest slides in the world.
What the small town lacks in size it makes up for in recreational activities and charm, especially in the fall. The lively arts and music scene draws many artists. Go to Hubbard and North Branch Parks for an abundance of outdoor opportunities like hiking and mountain biking. For challenging rapids go to the Winooski River.
The city is known for its sculpture and public artwork. Make sure you visit the Bethlehem House Contemporary Art Gallery. Be there on a monthly First Friday for events at the Banana Factory, a former banana distribution warehouse that is now home to studio artists. There are many cultural events in this “City of Festivals,” many of which are free.
It’s not the Woodstock in Vermont, but this New York town is not any less gorgeous in the fall. All you need to do to see this is hike the stunning trails all around the area. A popular, and short, one is the Kaaterskill Falls. The hike to Huckleberry Point is alittle longer, but it’s worth it. Your reward will be a spectacular and far-reaching view of Plattekill Clove. Don’t miss the hike to Overlook Mountain for a magical view of the Hudson and the Catskills.
Stroll the 1,900 feet of public waterfront, the beautiful beach and marina and you will want to move to Sister Bay immediately. Water fun, biking, hiking, shopping, eating delicious food at small restaurants and beer gardens – everything is fun there. Thousands of acres of state, county and local parks make for the perfect playground.
Take on an outdoor adventure along the Mississippi River, or spend hours exploring the nooks and crannies of our many historic sites. Whatever you do, you will never be bored in Galena. Among the favorites is soaring the sky in a hot air balloon. You may also like teeing up a round of golf on the championship greens. From waterways and byways to unbeaten paths, Galena Country is a thrilling gem.
The No. 1 destination on the rise in the U.S. is Gatlinburg, according to TripAdvisor. People describe it as beautiful, clean, and very peaceful. Gatlinburg offers access to the Great Smoky Mountains (read: Absolutely gorgeous vibrant fall colors everywhere) Cycling in the Smokies, zip lining and mountain golf are some of tourists’ favorite activities.
The charming village of Nashville is ideal for romantic getaways. Locals are proud of the hundreds of unique craft, specialty and antique shops in the area, as well as of the music and theatre venues. It’s no coincidence that Brown County is known as the “artist colony of the Midwest.”
The town is a nice blend of forestry and tourism. Active retirees have move here over the last decade, embracing Bethel’s nature over that of cities. In addition to finding stunning fall foliage, the town is a fun destination for outdoor recreation opportunities year-round. Hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, golf, and sightseeing are very popular, especially in the summer.
Cherokee is located right in the heart of Western North Carolina. It's a base camp for hiking in the Great Smokies, arts and crafts shopping, native elk herd viewing, hours of fishing fun, and home to a history that spans millennia.
October is the best time to visit to see stunning fall foliage that offers a riot of glorious shades of amber, pumpkin and russet. It’s also a month of exciting events such as theatre performances and dance parties. Port Townsend is an easily accessible base camp to the iconic Olympic Peninsula.
The more adventurous of you should try cliff walking for 3.5 miles along the eastern shore of Newport, a popular public access walk that combines the natural beauty of the coast with the architectural history of the city’s golden age.
Northern California has the longest and most diverse fall color season of any region in the U.S., according to Visit Redding. The fall color reflected over Lake Shasta, surrounded by regal mountain tops that are peaking out in the distance is a breathtaking view you shouldn’t miss if you’re in the Golden State in the fall. Hike the peaks to see the most stunning panoramas.
Set in the midst of five different climate zones, Denver residents and visitors are surrounded by one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country. If you have a car, there’s no limit to the wilderness you can explore. But if you’re staying in the city, there’s still plenty of fall color to keep you occupied. Washington Park is one of the most centrally-located options and cyclists will love Cherry Creek Bike Trail, which starts in downtown and ends 40 miles later in Cherry Creek State Park.
It’s very close to the New River Gorge National River, which is a true paradise for outdoor adventurers. Go hiking along the rim of the New River Gorge, try mountain biking and see why it’s so popular, and do some antiquing. You can also go on a whitewater rafting, fishing and hunting trips.
This beautiful small town is alongside the border with New York, just 90 miles from NYC. Nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, Kent is a friendly place with an abundance of adventure opportunities for kids and parents. Biking or camping at the Kent Falls State Park is what a lot of locals love to do.
This serene place is on the banks of the Ottauquechee River and the Crossroad of Vermont Scenic Byway. Located in the Green Mountains of Windsor County, the town boasts the only national park in Vermont, agricultural landscapes and many unique lodging cabins.
With more than 50 miles of expansive trails, Breckenridge serves as a perfectly picturesque destination for exploring Colorado’s rugged mountain landscape as it’s highlighted with a wide array of changing fall colors. Whether you’re after an easy three-mile ride or ready to tackle a 20- or 50-mile trek, Breckinridge offers accessible trails for cyclist of all levels and abilities.
Surrounded by farms, forests and the majestic White Mountains, Jefferson is a destination of absolutely incredible scenery. Hiking and paddling along local lakes and rivers are just what you need in the fall. Make time to visit the remarkable Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge and the oldest 18-hole golf course in the state - Exeter Country Club – where gold has been played since 1895.
Nature lovers won’t be disappointed. They have access to thrilling opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, and rock climbing, to name a few. Branson also made the list of the most pet-friendly vacation destinations and the best trail running towns in the U.S.
Creep along the Virginia Creeper Trailer to do some incredible leaf peeping. The 35-mile trail runs from Abingdon to Whitetop through national forest and crossing the Appalachian Trail. As you bike past the glistening river views wave hello to all of the grazing llamas.
Pittsfield is the heart of the Berkshires’ art scene. A favorite attraction is the Hankock Shaker Village, where you can explore Shaker life as you visit 20 historic buildings located within a working heritage farm. Watch. Presentations of Shaker Music, worship and life and first person portrayals offer a variety of experiences.
Stowe is one of the most incredible mountain towns in the country. If you are looking for a low key getaway with some outdoor access, this charming place, situated in a valley between peaks of the Green Mountains, is your destination. Drive the back roads to Mount Mansfield for some gorgeous views and go on a canoe trip to Boyden Valley Winery. The sugar maples look stunning, covered in strong shades of gold, orange, and scarlet. They make the surrounding ranges look absolutely magical.
The Adirondack Region boasts one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country. The range bursts into different shades of reds, orange, yellow and green. For a thrilling adventure, you can take a hot air balloon ride. Thanks to the stunning golden colors that contrast against the gleaming blue waters, New York’s Finger Lakes region is considered one of the country’s best spots for leaf-peeping. There are other exciting ways to see the fall foliage there, including whitewater rafting, biking, and even wine tours by boat.
Vale offers plenty of outdoor recreation so you can have fun and enjoy the fall colors at the same time if you just want to relax. Bully Creek Park and Lake Owyhee State Park are where you go for boating fun, fishing, hiking and picnicking. Both have RV facilities if you want to camp there.
The tiny hilly town of about 1,300 residents is home to old maple trees that date back centuries. Come fall and they become truly stunning with intense red, orange, and yellow hues all over. The best time to go and see them is in September.
Likely best known as an Olympic host, Salt Lake City’s proximity to ski resorts and preserved areas draws many people out of city limits, but natural beauty can also be found minutes from downtown. Those in search of fall colors should visit either Sugar House Park or Dimple Dell Regional Nature Park.
Hike the gorgeous Glen Onoko Falls in Lehigh Gorge State Park; bike the Switchback and D&L trails; or camp and canoe at Mauch Chunk Lake Park. Whatever you choose to do, you will not be disappointed doing it in the fall. The scenery is simply spectacular.
Any town that is has the Rocky Mountain National Park in its vicinity is a must-see destination in the fall. The fall foliage season is fairly long as leaves start to change color as early as late August all the way until October. When largely depends on the elevation. Stunning views from mountain peaks and wildlife sightings are two big incentives to visit.
Oakland is a gorgeous city with an array of fall scenery. While in Oakland, you can enjoy the turning of the leaves at Swallow Falls State Park where the Youghiogheny River offers a lovely backdrop to hundreds of oaks, aspen, pine and hickory trees. The city hosts its annual Autumn Glory Festival and a Halloween hayride along the lake every October.
The aspen trees there are changing from green to gold and orange between mid-September and early October, making for a mountain valley that is bright and colorful. This is the best time to see astonishing fall foliage while hiking, biking, golfing, or even fishing. Hike to the iconic Maroon Bells, surrounded by pristine National Forest lands, for some of the best pictures of the splendor of fall leaves you can get on camera. Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek and Crater Lake are other popular leaf-viewing spots.
The fall leaves and incredible mountains attract visitors to Asheville. It is home to the Blue Ridge Mountain Range — the longest-running fall leaf color display in the country. Embark on a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It provides stunning scenery of colorful trees and close-up looks of the natural beauty through the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.
Drive there for some fine Amish cooking, as well as historic sites featuring the history of Amish and German people. See the lifestyle of a place and people who defy modern conveniences from up close while enjoying the simple pleasures of farm life and country living.
The gorgeous town of Wellsboro is located in north-central Pennsylvania. Those of you looking for peace and quiet may be pleased to find out that the closest city is about 50 miles away. Favorite outdoor activities take place at Pine Creek Rail Trail, Leonard Harrison State Park, and Colton Point State Park. Horse-drawn carriage tours are preferred in the fall.
Located in the famous located in Door County, Fish Creek offers hundreds of miles of scenic trails and shoreline that are just awaiting adventurers. Kayaking, boating, fishing, biking, hiking – you can do it all. Fall foliage is stunning all around, especially in the town’s backyard – the Peninsula State Park.