2022’s Best States to Visit This Fall

Backpacker walking over a bridge, approaching a farm in a valley against a background of hills covered in colorful fall foliage

Cooler weather, changing leaves, and pumpkin-flavored treats — fall has arrived. If you’re planning an autumn getaway, you won’t want to miss 2022’s Best States to Visit This Fall.

To help you find the perfect destination, LawnStarter compared the 50 states based on 20 key indicators of a breathtaking and fun fall trip. 

We looked at outdoor access, such as the number of state parks and hiking trails, as well as fall-themed amusements like pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and hayrides. Of course, we also considered how long fall foliage will stick around for those Insta-worthy snaps.

So pull out your sweaters and check out our ranking below, followed by our take on the ranking results and expert tips to help you make the most of your fall escape.


  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 Rank (1=Best)StateOverall ScoreFall Scenery RankOutdoor Recreation RankEntertainment RankSafety Rank
6New York48.40851010
7New Hampshire47.23121822
18North Dakota39.3816482121
25Rhode Island36.85254433
29New Mexico34.6321373434
31South Dakota34.2222473737
32West Virginia34.1634324949
37North Carolina32.9720153131
38New Jersey32.7732233232
46South Carolina22.1633334646
Infographic showing the Best States to Visit This Fall, a ranking based on fall scenery, outdoor recreation, fall entertainment, and safety

Highlights and Lowlights

Golden Fall Hues in the Golden State

California turned over a new leaf this year, dethroning Vermont as our Autumn Capital. Despite offering one fewer week of projected fall foliage than many of its northern neighbors, the aptly nicknamed Golden State leaped to the top of our ranking from fourth place in 2021.

It’s hard to beat the outdoor enthusiast’s paradise if you want to feast your eyes on nature. Camp your way through the hundreds of scenic byways and state parks, as well as thousands — yes, thousands — of forest and hiking trails meandering throughout the state. California placed first in every single one of these ranking factors.

Wildfires in some areas — plus a lack of enough corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and hayrides — are the only potential drawbacks to visiting the Golden State this fall. The abundance of California’s attractions (No. 1) and fall festivals (No. 3) promise otherwise.

Local Tips:

Yippee Yankeeland

New England is synonymous with the fall season. Every year, tourists from around the world visit this region for its richly vibrant colors, on display as early as mid- to late September.

Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine earned their spots in our top 10 if for no other reason than promising the maximum 12 weeks of leaf-peeping pleasure. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island also rustled their way to the upper half of our list.

New England especially dominates the Entertainment category. Four Yankeeland states occupy the top five positions, while the Nutmeg State — pumpkin spice, anyone? — and the Bay State trail slightly behind. The region clearly understands its fall-obsessed clientele.

Local Tips:

Stay in the North, Avoid the South

We read the tree leaves: You will fall in love with the North this season, while the South might fall away from your bucket list.

As expected, Northern states dominate the top of our ranking — from Washington (No. 2), across Michigan (No. 4), all the way to New York (No. 6). After all, colorful leaves, chillier temperatures, and fire-roasted foods are the qualities that make the fall season a truly unique experience. America’s upper latitudes deliver on all of them.

That’s not to say you can’t enjoy fall cheer closer to the equator. If you get cold easily and detest pumpkin (it’s an acquired taste for many people), then it’s an ideal time to visit South and Southwestern states like Nevada (No. 44), Florida (No. 47), and Louisiana (No. 49). It’s been a relatively quiet hurricane season for the Southern (and Atlantic) states, but experts advise staying on guard.

Local Tips:

  • Revel in the gold, orange, and crimson hues of maple, dogwood, and ash leaves against the backdrop of evergreens in the Pacific Northwest. Leaves change color in high elevation first, so start at Mt. Hood in Oregon or Mt. Rainier in Washington.

Ask The Experts

Timing is key when planning a fall getaway, and participating in unique experiences will make your trip one for the books. 

To help you make the most of your autumnal adventure, we turned to a panel of travel experts for insights and inspiration.

  1. What’s a fall travel essential that every traveler should pack?
  2. What are 3-5 unique fall travel activities you’d recommend?
  3. 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’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’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.


For each of the 50 U.S. states, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below. 

We then grouped those factors into four categories: Fall Scenery, Outdoor Recreation, Entertainment, and Safety.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for each state across all categories.

The state that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the state with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 50). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 50 due to ties among states.)

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Fall Scenery
Projected Number of Weeks with Fall Foliage5512Max. Value
Number of Scenic Drives30131Max. Value
Outdoor Recreation
Number of National Parks109Max. Value
Number of State Parks115270Max. Value
Total Surface Area of State and National Parks (Acres)26,64635.8 MillionMax. Value
Total Surface Area of Forest Land (Acres)23,5491.3 MillionMax. Value
Share of National- and State-Park Area20.06%9.41%Max. Value
Share of Forest Area22%83%Max. Value
Number of Forest Trails2615,702Max. Value
Number of Hiking Trails28310,666Max. Value
Camping-Friendliness2150Min. Value
Number of Fall Attractions2031Max. Value
Number of Fall Festivals3042Max. Value
Apple Orchards per 100,000 Residents201.1Max. Value
Corn Mazes per 100,000 Residents201.1Max. Value
Pumpkin Patches per 100,000 Residents20.111.9Max. Value
Wineries per 100,000 Residents10.421.6Max. Value
Hayrides per 100,000 Residents201.7Max. Value
Wildfire Risk5027Min. Value
Hurricane Risk5029Min. Value

Sources: AllTrails, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, America’s State Parks, Everfest, Funtober, HayRides.com, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Park Service, Other LawnStarter Studies, PlaygroundEquipment.com, PumpkinPatchesAndMore.org, SmokyMountains.com, and U.S. Forest Service

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. 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 the season.

That’s why LawnStarter conducted this study of the Best States to Visit This Fall: to help you plan your autumn adventure.
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: Shutterstock


Staff Writer