Photo Tip Tuesday

Photo Tip Tuesday – Where To See (and Photograph) Fall Foliage Across the Country

This Friday – September 22nd – marks the first day of fall… my favorite season! Fall colors can be very different from place to place. Some areas will have a very short color-changing season of a week or less, while elsewhere, it can last nearly a month. Every location will produce different colors, depending on the type of flora and other factors such as climate and soil. The Sierra Mountains of California and Nevada, for example, are known for their vast yellow forests of Aspen and Birch. A quick Google search can give you some insight into when the leaves are expected to change in your area so you can make the most of this opportunity.

The hillsides of New England, which attract thousands of photographers every year, are famous for their dappled assortment of species producing different shades of reds and greens. But even if you don’t live in the area from Maine to Connecticut, there are still plenty of places throughout the country to capture fall foliage; there are even locations in Hawaii and Alaska!

Below, we’ve compiled a list of locations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. where you can capture some beautiful fall foliage images!

Alabama: Little River Canyon Nature Preserve
Right off Highway 35, Little River Falls welcomes park visitors to Fort Payne, Alabama, with a glorious autumn view of its 45-foot falls. Little River is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. Forested uplands, waterfalls, canyon rims and bluffs, pools, boulders, and sandstone cliffs offer settings for a variety of recreational activities. Natural resources and cultural heritage come together to tell the story of the Preserve, a special place in the Southern Appalachians.

Alaska: Denali National Park
Go leaf peeping in Alaska and you might be treated to the added bonus of witnessing the Aurora Borealis. September is prime time for both along with moose, caribou and grizzly bears. Denali is also home to North America’s highest peak (Mount McKinley at 20,310 ft.), the Kahiltna Glacier and the national park encompasses more than 6 million acres.

Arizona: North Rim, Grand Canyon
Kill two birds with one stone by visiting the Grand Canyon while getting your foliage fix. Among the spruces and ponderosa pines on the Kaibab Plateau, you’ll also get stunning views of aspen trees in all their glory.

Arkansas: The Ozarks
The Ozarks’ rolling plateaus, charming mountain towns and exciting outdoor activities are great year-round, but in the fall, the mountains’ Maple, Blackgum, Sweetgum, Hickory, Sassafras, Sycamore, Flowering Dogwood, and Oak trees provide some of the South’s most glorious fall color. The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are two separate forests with many differences. They are distinct in their own topographical, geological, biological, cultural and social differences, yet each makes up a part of the overall National Forest system. The Ozark National Forest covers 1.2 million acres, mostly in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas. You’ll find the tallest mountain in the State, Mount Magazine, and a living underground cave – Blanchard Springs Caverns.

California: June Lake
Situated on the eastern edge of Yosemite, south of Lake Tahoe, June Lake is at a high enough elevation to allow for spectacular autumn aspen tree displays. Jump off of US 395 and hit the June Lake Loop, a 16-mile drive featuring bucolic meadows and four lakes.

Colorado: Kebler Pass
Located outside of Crested Butte, Kebler Pass connects the ski town of Crested Butte to Highway 133, but only during the non-winter months before it becomes un-passable. Home to North America’s largest aspen grove, the route is scenic and colorful. The road is mostly gravel and follows Coal Creek past the Keystone Mine and other abandoned mining camps. 

Connecticut: Devil’s Hopyard State Park
Devil’s Hopyard features a Revolutionary War history due to the Sons of Liberty who beset some pro-British loyalists in 1775. There’s a road that goes right through the heart of the park and across three bridges on the National Register of Historic Places, but you’ll want to stop to explore the abundant fall colors along with Chapman Falls.

Delaware: Trap Pond State Park
Freshwater wetlands once covered a large portion of southwestern Sussex County. Trap Pond State Park retains a part of the swamp’s original beauty and mystery, and features the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress trees in the United States. Visitors have many opportunities to explore the natural beauty of the wetland forest. Hiking trails surround the pond, providing opportunities to glimpse native animal species and many flowering plants. Bird watching is a popular activity and the observant hiker may spot a Great Blue Heron, owl, hummingbird, warbler, Bald Eagle or the elusive Pileated Woodpecker.

Florida: Torreya State Park
Overlooking the Apalachicola River from Torreya’s high bluffs in Bristol, Florida, this state park is one of Florida’s most scenic places. Torreya gets its name from an extremely rare species of Torreya tree that only grows in this area of the nation. High bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River make Torreya one of Florida’s most scenic places. Forests of hardwood trees provide the finest display of fall color found in Florida and the park plays a critical role in preserving unique plant and animal species. The park’s high plateaus, steep bluffs and deep ravines are covered with rich forests that harbor a variety of rare and endemic plants and animals, many of which are more common further north than this location. As in the past, the park continues to provide the public with exceptional scenic vistas and challenging hiking terrain as well as attractive camping and picnicking areas.

Georgia: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway
The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is the perfect spot to witness what is considered one of the most stunning mountainous fall foliage sites. The winding road is flanked by trees undergoing seasonal change and includes several turnoffs with scenic overlooks along the way. You can also stroll two Appalachian Trail crossing points, listening to the leaves crunch below your feet. Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, this 40.6-mile national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians in Georgia. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region.

Hawaii: Mainland
Say “aloha” to your island paradise if you want to catch a traditional leaf transformation show as the word “autumn” doesn’t officially exist in the Hawaiian language. The slightly cooler and shorter days of September cause many colorful native plants to flower and bring a harvest of avocados, tangerines, starfruit and grapefruit. 

Idaho: Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
The Idaho portion of the International Selkirk Loop in Northern Idaho provides abundant foliage viewing. Start in Priest River and head east to Sandpoint before turning north toward Bonners Ferry, skirting the Kootenai National Wildlife and the Selkirk Mountain Range. Evergreens, aspens, cottonwoods and willows all add their own unique fall hues to the mix.

Illinois: Morton Arboretum
You only need to drive 30 minutes west of Chicago to experience a peaceful fall paradise. Home to 4,200 varieties of trees, many add to the rich tapestry of autumnal luminosity including maples, lilacs, hickories, sumac and buckeyes. The park even hosts an annual Fall Color 5K Run & Walk.

Indiana: Brown County State Park
About an hour south of Indianapolis, take advantage of fall’s colorful palate by heading to Brown County State Park. The park is home to four types of maples including the sugar maple which is the star of any fall foliage tour.

Iowa: American Gothic House
Make your way to Eldon to see the home that inspired artist Grant Wood, and is featured in the background of his most famous work, American Gothic. Located in the southeast corner of the state, the second half of October is the best time to view the brilliantly colored maple trees that surround the house.

Kansas: Atchison
Located along the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway, Atchison – and the picturesque drive – is rich in color and history. The rolling hills and valleys were formed when glaciers receded after the last ice age.

Kentucky: Harrodsburg
Aboard the Dixie Belle paddle wheeler at Shaker Village, you’ll enjoy an hour-long excursion through the Palisades, limestone cliffs formed as the Kentucky River wound through this area five million years ago. The brilliant colors along the cliffs during fall actually turn the river waters teal.

Louisiana: Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
Named after the famous pirate who used these swamps as his hideout and located just south of New Orleans, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park offers visitors the unique experience of fall in the bayou. Look for crimson swamp maples and yellow bur-marigolds. 

Maine: Camden Hills State Park
Maine’s Atlantic coastline is always picturesque, but fall offers a whole other level of stunning imagery. For panoramic views of the nearby islands and hills, climb one of Camden Hills State Park’s two mountains (Battie or Megunticook). Mt. Battie also offers a driving option to gain the same views.

Maryland: Rt. 219 Scenic Overlook
U.S. Route 219 enters Maryland near Backbone Mountain. You can catch one of the state’s best scenic fall views at the overlook in Accident, Maryland. The Highland Scenic Highway, a designated National Scenic Byway, is a beautiful corridor through the National Forest. This Byway extends 43 miles from Richwood to US Route 219. It has four developed scenic overlooks and each site provides a comfortable rest stop with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Massachusetts: Monson
Escape the cramped confines of Boston and head west. Monson is home to Peaked Mountain, which offers views of the tree-saturated White and Green Mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, respectively.

Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Take a drive through the Upper Peninsula from Grand Marais to Munising and enjoy unspoiled views of changing sugar maples, basswood, beech, yellow birch and ironwood.

Minnesota: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
More than 1,200 acres of gardens and trees make up the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in the town of Chaska. Take the Three-Mile Drive by car or shuttle to experience native Minnesota fall color in the form of maple woods and prairie landscapes.

Mississippi: Jeff Busby Park
At milepost 193.1, pull over and check out the views at Jeff Busby Park. Fall foliage on the Natchez Trace Parkway is typically at or near its fall color peak from mid-October thru mid-November. On a clear day from atop Little Mountain, you can see about 20 miles. The ridges and valleys are part of a geological land form called the Wilcox series that extends northeast into Alabama.

Missouri: Forest Park
Forest Park is a magnificent destination for fall photography. The park is massive and includes attractions such as the Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum and Missouri History Museum, which offer extra incentives for visiting photographers. South of St. Louis, you’ll find terrain rolls a little more as you make your way into the section of Missouri known as the Boot Heel.

Montana: Glacier National Park
Encompassing more than 147 million acres, you could spend decades exploring the Big Sky State. Opt for Glacier National Park AKA The Crown of the Continent. Fall is a great time to visit as crowds have subsided and the trees turn the park into a rich tapestry of colors while the wildlife makes winter preparations.

Nebraska: DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
The 82-mile Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway travels north from Omaha to South Sioux City. Nebraska is home to any number of deciduous trees including maple, ash, oak, cottonwood and serviceberry. At the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll glimpse many of these vibrant species of trees along with bison and snow geese.

Nevada: Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Catch some fall colors in the nearby Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, 30-minutes from downtown Las Vegas where aspen and oak trees paint the hills brilliant shades of orange and yellow.

New Hampshire: Sandwich
This New Hampshire town is a gateway to the White Mountain National Forest. Plan your trip around the Sandwich Fair and take a drive along Squam Lake for the best autumn has to offer. 

New Jersey: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
New Jersey is home to a plethora of fall-friendly trees and many are on display in the 70,000 acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Worthington State Forest is a great starting point to take in the red, yellow, green and orange hues of fall.

New Mexico: Albuquerque
Situated along the banks of the Rio Grande, Albuquerque offers abundant opportunities to take in fall colors. Cottonwoods and willow trees growing in close proximity to the river paint the city in vibrant shades. Take the Sandia Peak Tram to the top of the eponymous 10,378-foot mountain or ascend even higher during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

New York: Bluestone Wild Forest
Part of the larger Catskill Forest Preserve, the Bluestone Wild Forest is the perfect fall escape from the Big Apple. Plan a day-trip and hike through the forest’s dense woods and past Ontera Lake and Pickeral Pond.

North Carolina: Panthertown Valley
Panthertown Valley, known as the “Yosemite of the East,” features 30 miles of back country trails and 12 waterfalls. The valley contains a network of hiking trails that travel to a variety of popular destinations within this 6700 acre tract of high-elevation Forest Service land. At least 8 major waterfalls and countless smaller ones lie along the area’s streams. You’ll also find hikes that take you to cliff-top views of the surrounding mountains.

North Dakota: Turtle Mountain
Head to the northernmost part of central North Dakota for the 53-mile Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway that traverses the tree-filled hills of the state. Stops along the route include the Mystical Horizons, Lake Metigoshe State Park, the International Peace Garden, Marineau House and Coghlan Castle, an abandoned castle listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Ohio: Lake Milton State Park
The tree-lined banks of Lake Milton offer a spectacular spread of fall color thanks to Ohio’s abundance of hickory, northern hemlock and white oak. A drive from Damascus north to Harpersfield will take you to Lake Milton, along with Geneva State Park, and allow you to savor the fall flavor.

Oklahoma: Talihina
Talihina is the fall capital of Oklahoma; the season is celebrated every year at the Talihina Fall Foliage Festival. Next, head to the Talimena National Scenic Byway which heads east through the Ouachita National Forest.

Oregon: Tumalo Falls
A short trip from Bend, Tumalo Falls in Deschutes National Forest offers easily-accessed views of breath-taking waterfalls. The area is flush with aspen trees, which litter the trails with vibrant leaf detritus.

Pennsylvania: Fonthill Castle
For a colorful fall bounty, head to Fonthill Castle in Doylestown. The surrounding grounds are awash in fiery fall colors during the autumn months.

Rhode Island: Mount Hope Farm
The 127-acre Hope Farm in Bristol – a historic site – was a refuge for Wampanoag Native Americans and features grounds that light up in fall.

South Carolina: Poinsett Bridge
The oldest intact bridge in South Carolina, Poinsett Bridge once served as an important link in State Road, which connected Charleston with the mountain communities in North Carolina. The graceful 14-foot Gothic arch stone bridge spans the Little Gap Creek.

South Dakota: Custer State Park
Situated on 71,000 acres in southwest South Dakota, fall in Custer State Park is draped in color, awe-inspiring granite spires and bison. The herd roams freely and frequently causes traffic jams along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road.

Tennessee: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
The 125,000 acres of land along the Cumberland Plateau is an adventurer’s autumn dream. Grab your camera and explore the many miles of Tennessee hiking trails that lead to natural wonders – like Twin Arches – which features rock overhangs, cliffs, and an old home site. The area boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs and is rich with natural & historic features. 

Texas: Lost Maples State Park
Located about 90 miles northwest of San Antonio in Vanderpool, Lost Maples State Park is populated by Bigtooth Maples that draw significant fall crowds.

Utah: Provo Canyon
As you go through the 20-mile Alpine Loop Scenic Drive, you’ll traverse the aspen and maple congested Uinta National Forest while passing by Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Sundance and Cascade Springs all against the backdrop of Mount Timpanogos and the majestic Wasatch Range.

Vermont: Mad River Glen
The Green Mountain State is synonymous with fall color. Approach the Mad River Glen from the northwest and climb the windy Route 17 before descending into the Mad River Valley. Hike or take the iconic Single Chair to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding Green Mountains.

Virginia: Mabry Mill
This beautiful location has been painted and photographed many times throughout its 100 years of existence and is surrounded by picturesque mountains & colorful trees that come alive in the fall. This rural landmark is located at milepost 176.2 of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, Virginia.

Washington: Hoh Rain Forest
Western Washington is home to some of the country’s only temperate rain forests making for a one of a kind fall experience. Check out the prehistoric looking big leaf maple trees covered in moss and keep an eye out for the park’s herd of Roosevelt Elk. https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-hoh.htm

Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Arboretum
With 446 acres and 9.5 miles of roadways, the U.S. National Arboretum offers respite from the beltway bustle just a few miles northeast of Capitol Hill. Check out the single-genus groupings of maples, boxwoods and magnolias or collections such as aquatic plants, bonsai, slow-growing conifers and much more.

West Virginia: Coopers Rock State Forest
Tucked away in the northeast corner of West Virginia you’ll find Coopers Rock State Forest and a wealth of fall colors. There are also several rocky overlooks along the Cheat River Gorge and an excellent trail system.

Wisconsin: Marinette County
The “Waterfall Capital” of Wisconsin, Marinette County boasts 14 different falls along the 125-mile waterfall loop and abundant fall foliage. Along the drive, expect to see golden-yellow white birch and aspen, bright red maples and dark purple white ash. 

Wyoming: Aspen Alley
“Quakers”, as they’re colloquially known, abound this scenic, aptly-named drive between Baggs and Encampment through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The towering Aspen trees form a canopy above the dirt road, shimmering and swaying in the autumn breeze.

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7 thoughts on “Photo Tip Tuesday – Where To See (and Photograph) Fall Foliage Across the Country”

  1. Wow! I am new to this. I would like to link this to my blog, but a bit later. I am in California, where autumn color is much later. It is only barely visible in the sweetgums.

      1. Thank you. I know where some good color is because I happen to be a fan of autumn color. Although I am a native, many people in California are not; so autumn color is more important in some regions than you would think. As you know, the cottonwoods are spectacular against the clear blue desert sky! So are the black oaks amongst the evergreens of the Sierra Nevada.

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