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Fall foliage guide for 2020
Peak leaf peeping throughout the US.
Leaf peeping is novel because it comes around once a year, but that’s not the only reason why we love it. Admiring the changing leaves is a natural cleanser for the soul, a reminder that the seasons are brief and changing. It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect and find peace before the sleepiness of winter sets in.
Better yet, it’s free for everyone. Here’s when to see peak fall foliage throughout our great and expansive nation.
Fall foliage map for 2020
Peak fall foliage dates in 2020
Peak fall foliage totally depends on your location, with the brightest colors starting up north in early September and easing south into November.
Keep in mind that leaf peeping isn’t an exact science, as it’s solely based on meteorological prediction at the end of the day — similar to the weather — and is subject to mother nature’s unpredictability.
Best places for leaf peeping
Even though some trees in southern states do change colors, the fact remains that these regions produce the most vibrant leaf-peeping views:
Think Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, along with upstate New York.
Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois offer stunning landscapes of orange and red.
Nebraska and the Dakotas do have some areas with lovely leaf peeping, but these heartland states are more prairie than woodland.
Upper Idaho, Washington and Oregon will dazzle you with scenic fall foliage.
Montana and Wyoming are gorgeous too, though you’ll want to target an area known for having lots of deciduous trees, rather than ranch land.
Our favorite smaller towns for leaf peeping
Looking for an off-the-grid getaway to a smaller town? These leaf-peeping hot spots are close enough to metropolitan areas for convenient access, but far enough away to feel cozy and secluded.
- Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Early October sees flaming fall trees in this old riverside mill town. Cedar Creek Winery has daily tastings, and Cedarburg Coffee Roasters will keep you wide awake. A short 15-minute drive east brings you to the shores of Lake Michigan and Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve.
- 30 minutes north of Milwaukee, and 2 hours north of Chicago
- Duluth, Minnesota. This picturesque northern town sits on the edge of Lake Superior, with a population of about 86,000. Visit between Sept 21 and 28 for the best leaf peeping. Duluth is also a great choice for beer aficionados, as there are nine craft breweries in the city.
- 2.5 hours north of Minneapolis
- Hood River, Oregon. Located where the Hood and Columbia rivers meet, northeast of Mt Hood and its namesake national forest, Hood River is straight out of a painting come fall. The scenic byways to and from this town offer incredible leaf peeping views.
- 45 minutes west of Portland
- Leavenworth, Washington. Next to the Wenatchee River and surrounded by mountains — it’s slightly south of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest — Leavenworth has as much hiking and mountain biking as your heart could ever desire, and breathtaking fall foliage to reward you at the top.
- 2.5 hours east of Seattle
- Stowe, Vermont. Oh, Stowe. It’s a quintessential New England city, without the crowds. Stop in for a sweet treat at family-owned Laughing Moon Chocolates, and stock up on maple syrup and other souvenirs at Stowe Mercantile, an old-fashioned country store.
- 3.5 hours north of Albany, New York
- Wakefield, Massachusetts. It’s a sleepy town on Lake Quannapowitt, but the cider donuts at The Bread Shop on Main Street will make your tastebuds dance.
- 30 minutes north of Boston
Of course, there are hundreds of small towns throughout the northern US that have wonderful leaf peeping. If you’re looking for a remote getaway with easy access from an airport, find a major city on a map and look for pinpoint surrounding areas that look interesting. Towns situated on lakes and rivers tend to have nature walks and hikes galore, for leaf peeping above sparkling blue water.
Plan your leaf peeping travel
Hotels and vacation rentals
Fall foliage tours
Some tour companies design adventures to cater specifically to leaf peeping enjoyment, complete with photo ops. You could use a site like Tour Radar to plan an overnight fall foliage tour, Viator to locate day tours, or browse local providers for seasonal offerings. Here are a couple of our faves:
Boston fall foliage guided bicycle tour
History and leaf peeping come together for one gorgeous bike tour through the Cradle of Liberty.
- 4 hours
- From $78 per person
Autumn in Vermont
Five days of leap peeping through Vermont, with pit stops along Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.
- Boston to Ludlow
- From $2,299 per person, including accommodation and meals
And don’t forget about cruises! American Cruise Lines in particular is known for its fall foliage cruises along the Hudson River, Cumberland River, Upper Mississippi, Chesapeake Bay and Grand Puget Sound.
After you’ve decided on your destination for leaf peeping, it’s time to make a plan. If you’re staying overnight, we recommend booking a locally-owned motel or bed and breakfast — which you can usually locate using a tool like Expedia — to add some local flavor to your fall foliage getaway. Of course, Airbnb and Vrbo are ideal for reserving a cozy rental.
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