Plan a perfect autumn adventure with these top spots for fall colors—plus, use our foliage map to know exactly when to go.
It’s no secret: We have a national obsession with autumn here in the US. For some, this cozy time of year means breaking out comfy sweaters and pumpkin spice everything. Others are allured by cool foggy nights and Halloween celebrations. Either way, most agree that fall is a beautiful time to be outside, when the leaves take on hues of gold, crimson, and saffron before ultimately falling to the ground. Fall camping is top-tier.
Plenty of people plan trips around fall colors, but because there’s some variation in when leaf colors are at their brightest, timing your leaf-peeping trip can be a challenge. Fortunately, it’s possible to loosely forecast peak fall foliage dates throughout the country to make trip planning easier.
And the Hipcamp data team did just that. We analyzed a variety of factors—think temperature, precipitation, satellite image data, and more—to create a 2023 fall foliage map and predict the optimal times to experience the best fall colors in every part of the US. We then layered that data on top of available tent campsites, RV sites, cabins, and yurts to change the way campers plan leaf-peeping getaways. Simply navigate the fall foliage prediction map to find an area of interest, then use the slider to see what leaves will be like on different dates.
Many factors prompt the leaves of deciduous trees to turn from shades of green to hues of red, orange, and yellow as the season turns, according to Dan Tomko, Hipcamp Lead Data Analyst. While weather plays a part—with the most vibrant hues in areas with warm days and cool nights—it's day length that makes leaves change color before eventually falling to the ground.
As fall approaches, days become shorter and less sunny, prompting chlorophyll production to slow down and eventually stop. At the same time, carotenoids—which are responsible for making things in nature orange or yellow (think carrots)—and anthocyanins, pigments that come in shades of red, blue, and purple, increase as sugars in leaves break down. This happens at different times for different species and naturally varies by latitude and location.
“There are primary cues such as sunlight and temperature,” Tomko says, “but there are other factors to consider when trying to predict peak fall foliage timing: weather conditions during the growing season, tree species, nutrient availability, elevation, and wind. In general, fall colors peak earlier in the north and at high elevations, and tend to peak later in the south and at lower elevations.”
As you’ll see in our map, gorgeous fall foliage can be found all over the country. Here are some of our favorites.
New England is synonymous with fall colors. While the changing hues of trees are a worldwide phenomenon, it's spots in the Northeast like New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine where you’ll find some of the nation’s best fall foliage spots. Although it’s tough to know when fall colors will start, even with foliage reports, you can generally expect things to change by late September or early October, with peak color in mid- to late October. New York state is another great place for fall foliage camping, particularly in the Adirondacks and the Catskills.
If you're planning a leaf-peeping trip, the Smoky Mountains are a great place to go. In Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers exceptional fall foliage, though peak fall colors vary considerably depending on the week. The higher elevations (above 4,000 feet) tend to get fall colors earliest—head to the Blue Ridge Parkway or Clingmans Dome Road to see them. The prettiest displays are at lower elevations—ideal for fall foliage camping—and usually come during the second half of October.
The Pacific Northwest is better known for its evergreen conifers than its deciduous trees, but there are still plenty of spots to catch fall colors in the region. While you’ll be able to see colorful trees throughout this forested region, colors start first in central and eastern Washington and Oregon. These areas also generally have less rainfall than west of the Cascade Mountains, making them ideal for a fall camping trip.
Running along the California-Nevada border, the Eastern Sierra region gets its peak fall colors a little earlier than some of the other parts of the country, and the aspens found in this area often start to change to yellow in September. If you want to experience these vibrant pigments for yourself, consider heading to one of California’s national parks, such as Yosemite or Sequoia, or head up to Mammoth Lakes or Inyo National Forest for a camping trip.
As with the Eastern Sierra, aspens and cottonwoods account for much of the fall colors in Colorado. These trees also change to golden hues early, sometimes before summer is even out. While you should always check our fall color tracker for up-to-date information, you can generally expect to see golden leaves in September. Just be prepared for cold nights, and know that most Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds close in September. Choose a private Hipcamp nearby instead.
Along with New England, the Midwest is a key destination for fall leaf peeping. While the whole region is ideal for this fall activity, you’ll find some of the prettiest autumn displays in Door County, Wisconsin; in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Michigan's Upper Peninsula; and around the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.
If you’re worried that you've missed peak fall foliage season, fear not: You can always go to the South, where fall foliage comes in late, particularly at lower elevations. The weather stays pleasant well into fall in much of the South, making it ideal for a late-season camping trip. The region also offers some particularly scenic drives for leaf-peepers, including the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, and Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway.
A fall camping adventure requires preparation, especially if you’re hoping to camp in an area rich with reds, yellows, and oranges. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The best time to go camping in the Great Smoky Mountains to see fall foliage is typically from mid-October to mid-November. However, the exact timing of peak fall colors can vary depending on the week and elevation. Higher elevations tend to see fall colors earlier. Use a fall foliage prediction map like Hipcamp's to find the best time for peak foliage.
During a fall camping trip in the Eastern Sierra, you can expect to see aspen and cottonwood trees. These trees change to golden hues early in the fall, often starting in September.
Leaves change color in the fall due to a combination of factors. These include day length, temperature, weather conditions during the growing season, tree species, nutrient availability, elevation, and wind. Day length, in particular, plays a crucial role as the days become shorter and less sunny, causing chlorophyll production to slow down and other pigments like carotenoids and anthocyanins to become more prominent.
If you're looking for a late-season camping trip to see fall foliage, head to the South. The South experiences fall foliage in mid-October to November, particularly at lower elevations. The region offers pleasant fall weather and scenic drives for leaf-peepers, as seen in Hipcamp's interactive foliage map.
Autumn is considered a popular time of year in the US because of various factors such as cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice products, cool foggy nights, and Halloween celebrations. Additionally, the beauty of fall foliage, with leaves changing colors to gold, crimson, and orange, makes it an attractive season for outdoor activities like camping.
Some tips for planning a fall camping adventure include:
To plan a trip around fall foliage, use an interactive fall foliage map that predicts the optimal times to experience the best fall colors in different parts of the US. This map takes into account factors like temperature, precipitation, and more to help you plan your leaf-peeping getaway.
Some of the best places to see fall foliage in the US include:
The best time to witness fall colors generally falls between late September and early November, depending on the latitude and altitude of the area. Remember that the timing and intensity of fall foliage can vary from year to year due to weather conditions, so it's always a good idea to check a fall foliage prediction map like Hipcamp's before planning your trip.
Fall foliage season usually starts in mid-September and can last through late October or early November, depending on the location and the specific weather conditions of the year. Check out a fall foliage map to pinpoint the right time to visit any given part of the US.
Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Maine are known for having the longest fall foliage seasons in the United States, typically from mid-September through October. This is due to their diverse ranges of tree species and northern latitude. Check out the Hipcamp fall foliage prediction map to know exactly when to plan your fall foliage getaway to these northeastern states.
Some of the best national parks to visit during autumn include Acadia National Park (Maine), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina), Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), and Shenandoah National Park (Virginia). Use Hipcamp's fall foliage prediction map to know exactly when to plan your trip for peak foliage.
During fall camping, you can enjoy hiking, photography, campfires, stargazing, and participating in seasonal activities like apple picking and pumpkin carving. Many areas with vibrant fall folors host harvest festivals, wine crushes, and Halloween events, all of which complement fall foliage trips.
To capture fall foliage photos, use early morning or late afternoon light, include a focal point in the foreground, use a polarizing filter to reduce glare, experiment with different angles, and consider capturing reflections in water bodies. All of this will make the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges pop.
Yes, you can go camping in many national parks during the fall. Acadia National Park, Yosemite National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Shenandoah National Park are some of the best national parks for fall camping. Just check the specific park's regulations, availability, and weather conditions before planning your trip.
Fall camping can be an excellent experience for outdoor enthusiasts. The cooler weather, fewer crowds, and stunning foliage in many parts of the US make it a popular choice. Just be prepared for lower temperatures and check the weather forecast before you go.