2021’s Best States to Visit This Fall

Fall colors on leaves reflected on a lake in the foreground.

Marshmallows are roasting, corn is ready to harvest, and everything is flavored pumpkin spice — but where should you travel for your autumn getaway?

To help you plan your trip, LawnStarter ranked the Best States to Visit This Fall. 

We compared the 50 states based on 15 fall factors, such as the number of national and state parks, trails, corn mazes, and wineries. We even considered the projected number of weeks each state will produce fall foliage for your postcard-perfect snaps.

Check out our ranking below, followed by highlights, lowlights, and expert tips.

Table of Contents

  1. State Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Ask the Experts
  4. Methodology
  5. Falling for the Season’s Best

State Rankings 

See how each state fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKStateOverall ScoreFall SceneryOutdoor RecreationEntertainment
1Vermont60.34761
2New Hampshire52.86932
3Maine49.341844
4California43.6613217
5Wyoming43.093514
6Alaska42.1047148
7Oregon39.0524103
8Montana38.306710
9Washington35.522395
10Connecticut35.0120811
11Colorado33.1021428
12Utah32.8811237
13Massachusetts30.97211320
14New York30.8751522
15Michigan30.847209
16Wisconsin29.7711278
17West Virginia29.02121632
18Idaho28.9042115
19Minnesota27.2193513
20New Mexico26.39141724
21Tennessee24.50162233
22North Carolina23.42142435
23Kentucky23.04173030
24South Dakota22.42193231
25Virginia22.33262923
26Rhode Island21.9038387
27Arkansas20.45272825
28Iowa20.4136456
29Missouri19.98293419
30Arizona19.84222643
31Pennsylvania19.27411926
32Ohio19.25403618
33New Jersey19.18312534
34Maryland17.14304027
35Texas16.73282347
36Florida16.40491150
37Georgia15.84313342
37North Dakota15.84384716
39Illinois15.82313740
40South Carolina15.60363144
41Nevada15.38244445
42Nebraska15.33454912
43Indiana14.95414221
44Kansas13.38315029
45Oklahoma13.00314839
46Alabama12.88443941
47Hawaii12.72481849
48Delaware11.89434636
49Mississippi10.85464138
50Louisiana6.65504346
Infographic showing the best states to visit this fall

Highlights and Lowlights

Northeastern Domination

Fall foliage is New England’s specialty. No wonder the region monopolizes the top of our ranking. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine claim the top three spots, respectively, while Connecticut rustles its way to 10th place. 

Each of these states promises a projected 10 to 11 weeks of colorful leaves — not to mention the abundance of trails and big yards to maximize your leaf peeping pleasure. 

These four states also towered above the rest in the Entertainment category. Vermont is tops, followed by New Hampshire at No. 2, Maine at No. 4, and Connecticut in 11th place. So when you throw in all the apple orchards, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches — while balancing a glass of vino in your other hand — you get the perfect autumn getaway. 

Western Contention

The West promises its own falltastic escape. California leads the region at No. 4, followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, and Washington State, in that order. 

Unlike the Northeast, these states don’t just bring colorful leaves but all of nature, including some of the continent’s most impressive natural wonders. 

Check out Wyoming’s Yellowstone, Montana’s Glacier National Park, and the vast evergreens covering Oregon and Washington State. In Alaska’s Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, fall foliage starts showing in late August.

The West helps you see it all, too, boasting the highest number of scenic drives in the U.S. Take a ride through the Golden States’s 31-mile Avenue of the Giants, for example, and marvel at some of the oldest Redwoods flanking the road. 

Just make sure to check for closures — it’s wildfire season in the West.

Up and Autumn in the South

The South called, and they said it’s not a good time to visit — at least not the three bottom states located along the Gulf Coast: Alabama (No. 46), Mississippi (No. 49), and Louisiana (dead last). All three states were in the path of Hurricane Ida, one of the most powerful storms in mainland U.S. history, this past August. 

These states are still great travel destinations, though — just not while they’re busy rebuilding in the wake of Ida. They’re not out of the woods yet, either. Hurricane season is still in full swing. 

Not-So-Great Plains

We read the tree leaves: Part of the Great Plains may fall away from your bucket list this season. Nebraska placed 42nd, trailed by Indiana (No. 43), Kansas (No. 45), and Oklahoma (No. 45). Each of these states performed poorly in nearly every category.

There’s a perfectly good reason why they landed at the bottom, though: These states are some of the least forested in the nation, defined instead by flat grasslands and prairies. 

That’s not to say you can’t enjoy a scenic fall trip here. Bloomington, Indiana, for example, is known for its lush autumn landscape. In Kansas, you can find fall hues at the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine. Oklahoma boasts the vibrantly colorful Talimena National Scenic Byway in its southeast. 

These are suitable options if you’re stuck in the middle-ish of the country this fall.

Ask The Experts

This fall looks quite different from last — at least figuratively. More Americans are vaccinated and able to trave safely. To help you make the most of your autumnal adventure, we turned to a panel of travel experts for insights and inspiration. See what they had to say below.

  1. What will travel look like this fall season?
  2. What’s a fall travel essential that every traveler should pack?
  3. What are 3-5 unique fall travel activities you’d recommend?
  4. When is the optimal time to see fall foliage depending on the region where one lives?
Min Park, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Academic Program Coordinator, Tourism and Events Management, School of Sport, Recreation, and Tourism Management
Rosa Abreu
Assistant Professor, Hospitality Management
Min Park, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Academic Program Coordinator, Tourism and Events Management, School of Sport, Recreation, and Tourism Management
George Mason University

What will travel look like this fall season?

Auto trips and domestic travel will continue to be the trend. Although concerns over the Delta variant and a surge of confirmed cases in the past couple of months stalled recent recovery of travel demand, the majority of Americans (8 in 10 Americans according to the U.S. Travel Association) have trip plans in the fall.

With crispy weather and the harvest season, leisure travelers will attend a variety of state fairs, festivals, and concerts this fall, and national and state parks with famous fall foliage will be a popular destination for fall travel.

What’s a fall travel essential that every traveler should pack?

I would say a mask is still the number one item every traveler must pack this fall. A packable jacket comes in handy in the evenings when the air gets chilly. Don’t forget to charge your phone for photogenic autumn colors!

What are 3-5 unique fall travel activities you’d recommend?

I would recommend the following activities:

  1. Take a scenic drive to experience gorgeous autumn colors in national/state parks, recreation areas, and scenic roads.
  2. Take a farm tour for apple picking or pick-your-own pumpkins
  3. Fall is a season for festivals in every place. Apple butter making, pumpkin flavored goodies, arts and crafts, live music, craft beer and wine festivals, and much more. Find a fall festival that suits you and the ones you love.

When is the optimal time to see fall foliage depending on the region where one lives?

In general, fall foliage peaks in mid-October through mid-November in most parts of the nation. Some mountains in the northwest are often at their most colorful in mid-September to early October.

As I live in Virginia, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is one of the best for fall colors. The best time to experience gorgeous fall colors in Shenandoah National Park is in October. Visitors can make the scenic cruise along the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive, which offers 70 overlooks where travelers can hop out of the car for a better view of foliage with red, yellow, and orange leaves.

Rosa Abreu
Assistant Professor, Hospitality Management
New York City College of Technology

What will travel look like this fall season?

As everyone continues to get vaccinated, Americans feel more confident using airplanes, trains and buses. It will be a busy traveling season.

What’s a fall travel essential that every traveler should pack?

In the Fall you should pack comfortable walking shoes, light jacket and sweater since temperatures can fluctuate

What are 3-5 unique fall travel activities you’d recommend?

  1. Stay in a place that has a fire pit and roast marshmallows
  2. Have a few drinks by the fire
  3. Go glamping
  4. Pumpkin and apple picking is always fun!

When is the optimal time to see fall foliage depending on the region where one lives?

In New England and Upstate New York, the best time to see the Fall foliage is end of September to late October.

Methodology

We ranked the 50 states from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 50) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across all the weighted metrics listed below. 

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Fall Scenery
Projected Number of Weeks with Fall Foliage3511Max. Value
Number of Scenic Drives10122Max. Value
Outdoor Recreation
Number of National Parks209Max. Value
Surface Area of National Parks10 acres32,526,051 acresMax. Value
Number of State Parks215270Max. Value
Surface Area of State Parks16,646 acres3,300,000 acresMax. Value
Share of National- and State-Park Area10.06%9.41%Max. Value
Share of Forest Area12.00%83.00%Max. Value
Forest Trails per 100,000 Residents23.01111.5Max. Value
Hiking Trails per 100,000 Residents23.31151.51Max. Value
Average Yard Square Footage17,219 sq. ft.27,708 sq. ft.Max. Value
Entertainment
Apple Orchards per 100,000 Residents2068Max. Value
Corn Mazes per 100,000 Residents2011Max. Value
Pumpkin Patches per 100,000 Residents21120Max. Value
Wineries, Wine Producers, and/or Wine Blenders per 100,000 Residents23203Max. Value

Sources: National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, terragalleria.com, playgroundequipment.com, funtober.com, pumpkinpatchesandmore.org, LawnStarter

Falling for the Season’s Best

Whether you’re a pumpkin spice fan or not, diving into a pile of leaves as a kid, attending a college homecoming bonfire, or sipping apple cider on the porch likely are treasured memories. 

America is a big country, and some states are a better pick for those golden, red, and orange hues, apple bobbing, and flannel-clad hikes. That’s why LawnStarter conducted this study of the Best States to Visit This Fall — to help you plan your autumn adventure. 

Like last year, being outdoors is safer amid the pandemic. A corn maze, visiting a state park, or just gazing at the fall colors along a scenic byway like the Great River Road are all fun ways to enjoy autumn. 

Safe travels! Your fall adventure awaits.

Oh, and what does fall have to do with LawnStarter? Well, all those leaves in your yard need to be raked, blown, or mulched. If your back isn’t up to the task, our pros can handle your leaf removal.

Main Photo Credit: James William Smith / Shutterstock

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