The Top Ten Insta-Worthy Fall Destinations in the United States

Fall is officially upon us, and if the copious amounts of pumpkin spice didn’t give you a hint, the cooler temperatures and shorter days just might. But what most everyone looks forward to about fall is the beautiful window of color that blankets the nation, as the trees transition for winter. Warm hues of red, orange, and yellow become commonplace for a few weeks, creating a paradise for photographers and nature lovers alike. However, with a country as massive as the United States, it can be hard to pinpoint the best spots to visit, especially when the color clock is ticking fast. So here is a list of the top ten Insta-worthy fall destinations in the United States, going from east to west.

But before you scroll down and view the list, here is a quick tip to game plan and see these beautiful fall destinations at the best times. Locations that are more northern or are in higher elevations tend to transition into color first and fastest. Here is an helpful, interactive map that predicts when color peaks at what time throughout the country.

Now, to the list.

Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, Maine

acadia national park
Photo via Shutterstock

This area in the farthest northeast region of the United States is consistently ranked as one of the most jaw-dropping locations for fall color. Bar Harbor, Maine is the gateway to Acadia National Park, a gorgeous national park known for its rugged coastline and beautiful lighthouses. Mix in the warm fall hues, and you have a recipe for brilliant photos. Simply travel by car down the picturesque 40-mile Acadia Byway or up the park’s highest point, Cadillac Mountain, for a fall experience you won’t forget.

The White Mountains, New Hampshire

The White Mountains, New Hampshire
Photo by Nathan Lee Allen

The White Mountains, are simply magical, and are sometimes overlooked, but should not be forgotten as one of the top fall destinations in the United States. The region lies directly above the famous Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and towns like Lincoln, Woodstock, and North Woodstock are its central hubs. The area is dotted with several quaint ski resorts, and home to one of the most beautiful highways in the United States, the Kancamagus Highway or Highway 112. This Highway carves through the heart of the White Mountains and in peak fall color, is one of the most breathtaking roads you can travel. Photographers have the chance for intimate road shots or sweeping mountain vistas, covered with color. You can’t go wrong with the White Mountains, and it is a true destination for fall lovers.

The Green Mountains, Vermont

The Green Mountains, Vermont
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Vermont is known for its tasty maple syrup and beautiful Green Mountains that attract winter sport enthusiasts from around the world. But that combination of beautiful mountains and maple trees creates a mecca for fall color. The deep reds and oranges in this area are truly remarkable, and if you take the Green Mountain Byway, from Waterbury to Stowe, you have the perfect opportunity to experience this state in all its fall splendor, surrounded by charming farms and towns that harken to a more simple time. But the cherry on top of this fall destination is that the Green Mountain Byway ends on top of Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak, with sweeping views of the entire range.

The Adirondacks, New York

Adroniacks New York
Photo by MacKenzi Martin on Unsplash

The Adirondacks offer a fall escape from one of the world’s busiest and most prominent cities, with an outdoor playground that is the largest natural wilderness region in the eastern United States. In the fall, this area explodes with color, with bright reds, oranges, and yellows from the oak, maple, birch, and beech trees that grow in this region. Take a stroll down the 170-mile Olympic Trail that connects Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain for a fall experience that is as good as it gets.

The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains Tennessee
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There is a reason why this region is home to one of the busiest national parks in the nation. In fall, the Smoky Mountains truly shine, with some of the most vibrant fall colors you will see. A southern subsection of the Appalachian Range, the Smokies are home to some of the largest mountains in the eastern United States. The park begins at famous Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a fun, quirky mountain town in the heart of the mountains, and the park road weaves through the Smokies for some incredible views and access to hundreds of trails that take you deep into these colorful mountains. Summit destinations like Clingmans Dome, one of the park’s highest spots, is a perfect spot for sunrise and a purely fall experience you have to see to believe.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Linn Cove Viaduct
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

The Blue Ridge Parkway, beginning south of the Great Smoky Mountains and located in the beautiful state of North Carolina, offers one of the most beautiful drives in the country. The road is not only beautiful in fall, but is a true engineering marvel. Stretches like the Blue Ridge “Aqueduct” were built to wind and tower above the trees, and offer a birds eye view to some of the most magical fall colors in the country. Sourwoods, populars, and maples offer every kind of red and crimson hue and are striking beautiful, especially in the morning, when the fog routinely covers the mountains, and swirls around these colorful trees. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a perfect southern Appalachian getaway and a world class fall destination for photographers and nature lovers alike.

The Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies
Photo by Nathan Lee Allen

Aspens in the fall. Enough said.

There is simply nothing that beats peak fall season in the Colorado Rockies. The massive Rocky Mountain range is blanketed by aspen trees with their distinct white bark and yellow leaves that dance in the wind and glitter like golden coins. Add the deep contrast of evergreen, blue spruce, and ponderosa pine, and you have a recipe for a beautiful photograph.

Towns like Aspen and Telluride are some of the best destinations for aspen lovers, and the San Juan and Elk Ranges, with their massive 14,000 foot mountains like the famous Maroon Peak and Mount Sneffels, look stunning, coated in yellow and green. World famous landmarks, like Maroon Bells and the Dallas Divide, are landscape photography meccas, and should be visited by anyone serious about landscape photography. Simply put, fall in Colorado is a must for those looking for brilliant fall color in the mountains.

Zion National Park, Utah

zion national park
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Fall in Utah and the Southwest is one of the most unique you will ever experience. Most do not think about southern Utah as a fall foliage destination due to its desert landscape, but Zion is unique in that it has a thriving desert environment, fed by the powerful Virgin River, which creates a thriving oasis on its massive canyon floor. In the fall, the thousands of Cottonwoods that call the canyon floor home turn bright yellow and offer an incredible contrast to the massive orange, pink, and red sandstone walls and cliffs of Zion Canyon. It almost doesn’t seem real, but that colorful contrast at photo destinations like The Narrows and The Watchman are a marvel to photograph and will be at the top of your fall portfolio.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico
Photo via Shutterstock

They don’t call New Mexico the “Land of Enchantment” for nothing. While this state is known for its beautiful desert landscapes, it also has thriving mountain communities that come to life with color in the fall. Taos is one of these places.

This beautiful city is marked by studios and art galleries, partly because of its vibrant fall season. Home to golden aspens and bright yellow and crimson cottonwoods, Taos is home to some of the most beautiful fall colors in the southern United States. To truly experience all these colors for yourself, take the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway loop from Taos to Eagle Nest and Angle Fire. The drive is as beautiful as any, and if you’re lucky, you may spot a bear or elk along the way.

The Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Columbia River Gorge
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The Columbia River Gorge, carved by the massive Columbia River and on the outskirts of Portland and Mount Hood National Forest, is a Pacific Northwest gem and known for beautiful, powerful waterfalls and lush, temperate rainforests. But when fall arrives, the large population of ash, firs, and maple trees turn, and the golden and orange hues mixed with the lush greens from the temperate rainforest create a picture-perfect fall destination unlike any in the world. Imagine hundreds of waterfalls framed by bright greens and yellows. That’s what you experience when you visit Columbia River Gorge in fall. It is truly a sight to behold and a destination you have to visit and photograph when fall season rolls around.