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Fall foliage guide for 2020

Peak leaf peeping throughout the US.

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High alpine leaf peeping of Aspen groves outside of Carbondale, Colorado

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

Fall foliage animated map showing peak times around the country.

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.

Here are the peak fall foliage dates for cities across the country:

City Sept 21 Sept 28 Oct 5 Oct 12 Oct 19 Oct 26 Nov 2 Nov 9 Nov 16 Nov 23
Atlanta, GA Peak
Augusta, ME Peak
Austin, TX Peak
Bismarck, ND Peak
Boston, MA Peak
Bozeman, MT Peak
Burlington, VT Peak
Charlotte, NC Peak
Chicago, IL Peak
Columbus, OH Peak
Dallas, TX Peak
Denver, CO Peak
Des Moines, IA Peak
Detroit, MI Peak
Houston, TX Peak
Indianapolis, IN Peak
Memphis, TN Peak
Milwaukee, WI Peak
Minneapolis, MN Peak
New Haven, CT Peak
New York, NY Peak
Oklahoma City, OK Peak
Omaha, NE Peak
Philadelphia, PA Peak
Phoenix, AZ Peak
Portland, OR Peak
Reno, NV Peak
San Antonio, TX Peak
San Francisco, CA Peak
Sioux Falls, SD Peak
Seattle, WA Peak
Foliage data and map obtained from smokymountains.com, which analyzed millions of data points across every county in the US to come up with these estimates.

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:

New England

Think Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, along with upstate New York.

Upper Midwest

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.

Northwest

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.

Fall foliage photos taken in October, 2020

Enjoy these photos of the changing leaves from Finder staff taken during this year’s season.

Fall colors in Colorado

  • High alpine leaf peeping of Aspen groves outside of Carbondale, Colorado
  • igh alpine leaf peeping of Aspen groves outside of Carbondale, Colorado
  • fall leaves changing colors around Beaver Lake, Colorado
  • igh alpine leaf peeping of Aspen groves outside of Carbondale, Colorado

High alpine leaf peeping of Aspen groves outside of Carbondale, Colorado. Photos by Adrienne Fuller taken on October 4, 2020.

Fall colors in the Adirondack Mountains, New York

  • fall foliage in Castle Rock Adirondacks
  • fall foliage in Sawyer Mountain Adirondacks

Fall in the Adirondacks. Photos by Michael Koh taken in October, 2020.

Fall colors in Pennsylvania

  • Autumn leaf colors around Slate Run, PA. Photos by Gabrielle Pastorek October 10-11, 2020.
  • Autumn leaf colors around Slate Run, PA. Photos by Gabrielle Pastorek October 10-11, 2020.
  • Autumn leaf colors around Slate Run, PA. Photos by Gabrielle Pastorek October 10-11, 2020.
  • Autumn leaf colors around Slate Run, PA. Photos by Gabrielle Pastorek October 10-11, 2020.

Autumn leaf colors around Slate Run, PA. Photos by Gabrielle Pastorek October 10-11, 2020.

Fall colors in New Hampshire

  • Fall foliage colors in Hudon, NH (near Nashua) taken by Roslyn McKenna October 10-11, 2020
  • Fall foliage colors in Hudon, NH (near Nashua) taken by Roslyn McKenna October 10-11, 2020.

Fall foliage colors in Hudon, NH (near Nashua) taken by Roslyn McKenna October 10-11, 2020

Plan your leaf peeping travel

Flights

Hotels and vacation rentals

VrboVrbo

US vacation rentals starting under $50 per night

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Booking.comBooking.com

15% or more off stays between now and January 4, 2021

Ends 1/4/2021. T&Cs apply.

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Deal ends

Airbnb GuestAirbnb Guest

Book unique places to stay, experiences and adventures anywhere in the world

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Car rentals

OutdoorsyOutdoorsy

RV and camping trailer rentals starting at just $81/night

Everything from motorhomes to campervans, travel trailers and fifth wheels available all across the US.

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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

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

Check availability

church in autumn vermont

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

Check availability

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.

Bottom line

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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