Where to Go Leaf Peeping to Spot Colorful Fall Leaves
Leaf-peeping season comes each year, but we still admire its unbelievable beauty every single time.
What is leaf peeping, you ask? It's the act of traveling to certain parts of the world to witness the invasion of fall colors that comes with the change of leaves. These orange, yellow and red colors happen mostly everywhere in North America (sorry, Florida, Hawaii and Mexico), but it’d be an outright lie to say that the intensity of peak colors is equally spread. This is why choosing the right spot is so crucial.
Do you want a relaxing retreat full of hiking and fresh air? Are your kids already excited to gorge on caramel apples and pumpkin pie? Or would an urban escapade suit your cosmopolitan needs better? No matter what you’re looking for, there’s an autumnal standout for you.
Some of the following hand-picked destinations are well known, while others are more suited for off-the-beaten-path types at higher elevations. But these towns in the United States and Canada hold the promise of beautiful fall foliage and apple cider galore for all the enthusiastic leaf peepers out there.
Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
Most people come to Antigonish to spend time in the astonishing Cape Breton National Park.
It abounds with wildlife, miles of trails, beaches and some truly stunning sights whose beauty peaks in the fall.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Antigonish
The Celtic Colours International Festival celebrates the town’s Gaelic heritage with music, dances and, of course, lots of food, from local favorites such as fishcakes to seasonal fare like squash soup.
Though ski season is Aspen’s most popular time, fall competes with it in terms of scenery and activities. The city’s rocky peaks suddenly float in a cloud of color, starkly contrasted with the deep blue sky.
It’s every bit as pretty as what winter offers with its snow-capped vistas.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Aspen
Join the Golden Leaf Half Marathon to train your body, get cultured at the Aspen Film Festival or remember the music legend John Denver.
Or, better yet, plan an epic trip and enjoy all three.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
Banff is the charmed, mom-and-pop gateway town to the one and only Banff National Park.
There’s nothing like paddling Lake Louise in the fall, as the reflection of the trees turns the water into a surrealist painting.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Banff
Melissa’s Road Race, beloved by locals and tourists alike, allows you to take in autumnal colors while enjoying a 5K, 10K or half-marathon fitness boost.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
Already one of Canada’s most famed provinces, PEI truly comes to life in autumn.
Go all Anne of Green Gables and seek magic in the natural beauty of this color-filled province.
With intense foliage painting the majestic Great Smoky Mountains and a wonderful array of fall events, Gatlinburg regularly lands on lists of must-visit places in autumn.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Spend your fall holiday kayaking, rafting and hiking the Columbia River Gorge.
Already one of Oregon’s most naturally alluring places, the gorge brings out seemingly all the colors come fall.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
The small town of Waterloo is lovely in autumn and so is Niagara Falls (pictured), just an hour’s drive away.
The falls never look more beautiful than when they’re ringed with trees bursting with color.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Waterloo
There may be other Oktoberfest festivals in North America, but none compare to the raucous nine-day Waterloo Oktoberfest, the largest outside of Germany.
Stowe is one of the most famous places in all of the U.S. for fall foliage, and the hype is justified. Even the drive to get there is postcard-worthy scenic.
Head to a nearby state park for a hike, take the gondola in the ski area for a breathtaking panoramic view, and finish the day with a brewery tour.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Stowe
At the Stowe Foliage Arts Festival, 150 fine artists and artisans display their craftwork against a backdrop of seasonal wonder.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada
Moose, zip-lines and freshwater fjords are just some of the features that distinguish Gros Morne National Park. Come autumn, the park is lit with symbolic fire, calling lovers of the outdoors.
But don’t worry, even during peak fall season, moose residents still outnumber humans.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Gros Morne National Park
The Gros Morne Fall Fest & Craft Fair showcases live theater, craft demos, history lessons and more.
Attendees can even learn about lobster-trapping from local fishermen.
What makes the fall scenery so unique here is that the bursts of color are framed by the snow peaks of Glacier National Park.
Look out for elk, mountain goats and bears preparing to hibernate.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Whitefish
The Great Northwest Oktoberfest does the Munich original proud with its showcasing of authentic German beer, food and music. Prost!
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Okanagan Valley and Okanagan Lake define Kelowna’s landscape, surrounding it with forests, parks and mountains.
All these conditions make it the perfect destination for leafing aficionados.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Kelowna
Okanagan Wine Festivals is a series of wine events taking place throughout the season, and you better believe harvest dinners, terroir tastings and grape-stomping parties are all on the menu.
Taos, New Mexico
The southwest is usually ignored by leafing enthusiasts, but Taos is slowly changing that.
Sure, the colors may not be as diverse as in the north, but the desert catches a surreal golden tone that is just as beautiful.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Taos
The Taos Fall Arts Festival showcases local art and performances, while harvest celebrations bring a flood of New Mexican chiles to every corner of the city.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
The upper midwest location of Wisconsin Dells truly has something for every type of traveler.
There are theme parks for thrill-seekers, trails for outdoorsy types and boat tours providing awe-inspiring views of stone formations and leaf colors for pretty much everyone.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Wisconsin Dells
The Wo-Zha Fall Festival, featuring a huge parade, a long-distance run, and tons of arts and crafts activities, is an autumn event that packs in the fun.
Mont Sutton, Quebec, Canada
While known mostly as a winter ski resort, this small Quebecois town loves the fall and isn’t afraid to show it.
Catch a ride on a chairlift for the best views of autumn hues. (And don’t forget your camera!)
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Mont Sutton
The Mont Sutton Fall Festival lasts five entire weekends, offering plenty of time to take in wine tastings, live music, barbeques, hikes and children-friendly maze games.
Grand Ledge, Michigan
Small but mighty, Grand Ledge shows off glorious tree foliage set against sandstone ledges.
With a population of less than 8,000, this is where to go if you want to beat the crowds and revel in the quiet.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Grand Ledge
The city’s Color Cruise and Island Festival is expressly designed to show off fall’s natural handiwork.
Boat tours are the most popular activity during the festival; folk music, local crafts and fall treats await once you’ve come back to land.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Algonquin Provincial Park is a preferred seasonal spot for Torontonians and Ottawans. Forests and rivers abound, providing ample opportunities to spot maple trees and red oaks shedding their green for resplendent red.
Hike, bike or kayak the surroundings, and partake in some forest bathing. You might even catch a glimpse of a moose or two.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Algonquin Provincial Park
Pumpkin carving, spooky stories around the campfire and an animal-skeleton tour make the Haunted Halloween Weekend a spooky delight that’s still appropriate for the little ones.
Ellicottville, New York
This tiny village is known for its classic fall-trip offerings.
It is close to Allegheny National Forest (pictured), so you can do short or long day hikes and head back to your cozy Bed & Breakfast in time for dinner.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Ellicottville
The town’s annual fall festival is great for the whole family, with fall snacks, carnival rides and music pleasing all ages.
This Bavarian-styled village backed by the towering Cascade Mountains is charming and beautiful any time of year.
It’s just especially charming and beautiful in the fall.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Leavenworth
No worries, West Coasters, you don’t have to go to eastern Canada to find an amazing Oktoberfest: Leavenworth's will quench your thirst.
For three weekends in October, celebrate fall colors and your favorite drink with live performances, an interesting mix of Bavarian and American cuisine, and, of course, tons and tons of craft brews.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Victoria is small enough to walk, but big enough to offer a number of fun fall attractions.
People flock to Butchart Gardens (pictured) to see the 55-acre park ablaze in color. Halloween tours abound, wine tastings are popular and little ones enjoy pumpkin-carving.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Victoria
At the Galey Farms Festival of Fear, the Cornfield of Horror provides mild scares for younger kids during the day and more serious thrills for teens and adults at night.
Glens Fall, New York
Glens Falls is in the advantageous position of being close to the incomparably beautiful Adirondacks State Park (pictured).
This A-list leafing spot calls visitors from all over the country during the fall and offers numerous hikes for all skill levels.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Glens Fall
The most spectacular way to hunt for foliage is at the Adirondack Balloon Festival.
The colors look especially splendid from the vantage point of a hot-air balloon high in the sky.
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Walking through Quebec City feels like you’ve been transported into a picturesque postcard during any time of year, but fall is truly something special. For your fix of nature, do a day trip to the nearby Laurentian Mountains, where you’ll see a sea of pines and sugar maples as they change colors.
Back in town, warm up at night with a glass of vin chaud.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Quebec City
The Great Color Adventure in nearby Mont- Sainte-Anne encourages fall-foliage enthusiasm via breakfast at the base of the Laurentian Mountains, a run through scenic alpine trails and other seasonal activities.
Bar Harbour, Maine
Fall is the perfect time to escape the summer and winter rush at Bar Harbour, the gateway town to idyllic Acadia National Park.
New England’s famous fall colors won’t let you down.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Bar Harbour
The unique Acadian Night Sky Festival celebrates the natural wonders of the heavens as seen from the beautiful national park.
Enjoy bright colors in the forest during the day, then take in the black and white of the sky at night.
Asheville, North Carolina
The relatively mild weather of North Carolina helps keep fall’s red and orange hues around for longer. Of course, the star of the show is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is perhaps at its most beautiful in the fall.
But Asheville itself is also an interesting destination, with plenty of fall events to keep visitors happy.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Asheville
Where to begin? Asheville hosts Oktoberfest celebrations, Halloween-themed walking and ghost tours, and apple-picking activities throughout the season.
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Whitehorse’s unbelievably pristine land turns crimson and gold in the fall, providing the perfect juxtaposition to the serenity of the snow that caps the surrounding mountains.
The town hosts a caribou migration that’s the longest land mammal migration in the world. And if you’re lucky, and the conditions are right, you might even get a different type of color show at night: the Northern Lights.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Whitehorse
The Yukon Beer Festival, featuring locally crafted brews and ciders, isn’t fall-themed per se.
But it’s a wonderful event to enjoy in the autumn.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
A small town with big spirit, Eureka Springs is dominated by classic Victorian houses set against the Ozark Mountains.
Foliage is as intense as what you’ll find in New England, but there are significantly fewer tourists to get in the way of your leaf-peeping.
Can’t-Miss Fall Event in Eureka Springs
Autumn events range from the expected to the whimsical: activities in the Ozarks, music concerts, Halloween-themed festivals and even a fanciful Mad Hatter Tea Party.