Autumn Leaves From Coast to Coast

Wooden dock on autumn lake Michigan

When the seasons, the weather and the leaves change, the leaf-peepers come out to play. They  head for the hills, valleys and forests to view autumn foliage in all its colorful splendor.  Although New England has long been considered prime leaf-peeping territory, fall makes just as much of a grand entrance in other parts of the country. Consider these sites to experience the full glory of autumn in America.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

More people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park than any other national park in the country. The color change begins in mid-September, but the golden orange, magenta and yellow fall colors peak from early October to mid-November. Don’t limit yourself to the region’s natural beauty alone.  The Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the largest group of independent craftspeople in North America. From October 11 through October 28th the 37th Annual Fall Craftsmen’s Fair offers stained glass, pottery, painting, quilts, and leatherwork among the hundreds of outstanding items crafted by skilled Great Smoky Mountains artisans.


In Michigan opportunities abound to say welcome to fall. With more than 100 species of trees, the state is a leaf peeper’s paradise. Take the Great Lakes State’s country roads, highways and coastline for a look at the best a Michigan autumn has to offer.  From the city of Detroit, drive across the bridge to the gold, green and orange colors of Belle Isle Park. Walk the beach, ride the bike trails and catch a glimpse of Windsor, Ontario.  On Michigan’s Heritage Route treat yourself to a leisurely drive on Highway 119 from the town of Harbor Springs to Cross Village. This ride takes you through the spectacular Tunnel of Trees, a dense and colorful canopy of trees lining each side of the road. It’s not only a Michigan treasure, but a drive considered to be one of the most scenic in the country.

Sedona Arizona

If you’ve never considered the Southwest as a fall foliage destination, the beauty of Arizona in autumn just might change your mind. Here the season among the red rocks and the valleys blazes with just as much color as any destination in the country. One choice for soaking up autumn glory southwest style is a 28 mile drive through Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon.  Peak season in Sedona runs from late September to mid-October. While you’re there visit the village of Oak Creek to eat, shop and explore. It’s considered the gateway to the Red Rock Scenic Byway. In 2005 the United States Department of Transportation named this road as Arizona’s first All-American road, which gives it the status of being “a destination unto itself.”


Gold is the color of fall in the high country of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s also yellow, orange, crimson, and yes, even pink. According to seasoned leaf peepers, higher elevations catch the falls colors first.  The season runs from mid-September through October and can be viewed in all its beauty from designated Scenic Highway 395. Don’t be surprised if you see some northeastern transplants along the way. Thanks to homesick New England goldminers who brought a piece of home to the West with them, some trees native to the east coast can be found here as well.

For a state-by-state look at more of the best leaf-peeping locations in the country,  Mapquest has produced Leafquest , a coast to coast guide of where to look and how to get there.

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