(c) Christine Sarkis

 

 

 

 

Fall is a time to slow down and enjoy the scenery, and small towns know a thing or two about embracing a slower pace of life. To help you make the most of the season, we've scoured the country to find 10 towns that deliver exceptional fall foliage.


Our top picks might have all weighed in with populations under 10,000, but all offer big reasons to visit.

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

During autumn in Jim Thorpe, a trip down memory lane is framed by brightly colored leaves. The historic town, tucked into a steep valley in the Poconos, offers wonderfully preserved buildings that house tea rooms, art galleries, and an old opera house popular on the Vaudeville circuit. Fall foliage weekends complete with arts, crafts, music, and kids' activities run throughout October, and this time of year also brings guided ghost walks to town. 

Time it Right: October is prime time for both foliage and fall activities. This year, the projected peak of color is around October 12, but Alicia Quinn at the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau notes, "if history repeats itself, this will get pushed back until mid-month, and usually lasts about two weeks." 

 

Sedona, Arizona

There's nothing understated about Sedona, about two hours north of Phoenix in the high desert of Central Arizona. Vibrant red mesas and blushing sandstone cliffs offer some of the country's most spectacular scenery, especially at sunrise and sunset. During fall, the color show takes it up a notch. In town you can browse art galleries—or get your energy balanced by one of the many healers and spiritual guides that call Sedona home—before heading out for some leaf peeping. 

Time it Right: Ellen Bilbrey of Arizona State Parks says that fall foliage colors will likely start to appear in mid-October this year, but warns, "We never know the actual peak time until the weather starts to drop to temperatures of 45 degrees at night." 

 

Stockholm, Wisconsin

The village of Stockholm, on the banks of the Mississippi River about 70 miles from Minneapolis, offers dozens of delightful ways to savor fall. Vast swaths of fall foliage adorn the landscape around the town, the local pie company bakes up fall in many flavors, and at the Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery, you can drink the season too, with wines made from apples and berries. And if that's not enough, you can tool around town on free blue bikes available for visitors or take advantage of some of the best boutique and antique shopping in the state. 

Time it Right: This year, TravelWisconsin's fall color report predicts peak fall color in mid-October. 

 

Woodstock, Vermont

In Woodstock the most wonderful time of the year comes early. With fall foliage that's nothing short of spectacular, the town and surrounding countryside put on a color show that draws visitors from around the world. Weekend events include harvest suppers, the Woodstock Apples and Crafts Fair, and the nearby Antique Show. Before you head out of town in search of the brightest reds and oranges of autumn, spend some time roaming the quaint downtown or exploring Vermont's rural heritage at the nearby Billings Farm & Museum. 

Time it Right: The leaves have already started to change in Woodstock. Rain and wind dependant, peak season should fall between October 1 and October 10 to 15. 

 

Jasper, Arkansas

Each fall, the tiny Ozark mountain town of Jasper beckons visitors with the promise of vivid fall colors and Southern hospitality. Start the warm fall days with a big breakfast at a local cafe or by people-watching in the downtown square before heading out for some serious leaf peeping, wildlife spotting, and scenic drives. 

Time it Right: The best time to see the fall colors near Jasper is usually between October 15 and November 15. You can stay up to Sdate on fall foliage around the state by checking the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism website. 

 

Hood River, Oregon

Colorful fall foliage and abundant harvests. That's what you'll get in and around Hood River, a town nestled in the Columbia River Gorge next to the Cascade Mountain Range. Plan your stay for the first weekend of any month and you'll get to enjoy First Friday, when art galleries, shops, and restaurants downtown put on an evening of new art exhibits, wine tastings, and free music between 6 and 9 p.m. October brings many fall festivities, including the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest and the Heirloom Apple Celebration. 

Time it Right: Because summer has lingered this year, peak foliage likely won't arrive until early- to mid-October. 

 

 Stockbridge, Massachusetts

The small town of Stockbridge in the Berkshires has some pretty high praise to its name. Norman Rockwell called it "the best of America, the best of New England." In fall, surrounded by some of the country's most dazzling displays of fall foliage, it truly earns its high marks. The town and its environs aren't just rich in fall color; area attractions include the MASS MoCA, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Colonial-era Mission House, the frontier re-creation Bidwell House Museum, and The Mount, Edith Wharton's Estate and Gardens. 

Time it Right: Berkshire Leaf Chief Lauren Stevens says that while the leaves begin to turn before the official start of fall on September 23, they "typically reach their crescendo in October."

Fayetteville, West Virginia 

Small-town appeal comes in many packages, and Fayetteville prefers its charm funky and cool rather than just quaint. In town, little restaurants serve up local microbrews and local specialties (check out the grape pizza at Pies & Pints). Just outside town, the New River Gorge offers some of the best fall foliage in the state. It's also a focal point for adventure seekers: Whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and BASE jumping are popular activities. In fact, October 15 is New River Gorge Bridge Day, when thousands come together to celebrate fall and watch some serious BASE jumping (think tall bridge and parachutes). 

Time it Right: Fayetteville usually sees peak color in late October. The West Virginia Division of Forestry publishes a weekly update on the latest fall foliage around the state. 

 Munising, Michigan

Gorgeous fall foliage has good company in the Upper Peninsula town of Munising. With dramatic sandstone cliffs rising above Lake Superior and 17 local waterfalls, the stage for beauty is already set by the time the dramatic reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn take hold of the forests. Take a stroll downtown, admire the work of local artists, and feast on fresh fish from the lake or sink your teeth into pasties, the local specialty. 

Time it Right: Peak colors in the area occur from late September to mid-October. You can check out the latest fall colors on ExploreMunising.com. 

Julian, California

Julian offers fall colors where you'd least expect them: in Southern California, about an hour from San Diego. This former gold-rush town in the Cuyamaca Mountains still shines bright each autumn. The town is also known for its apple season and draws leaf peepers looking for a side of apple pie and cider donuts. The Julian Apple Days Festival occurs the first weekend in October this year. 

Time it Right: September and October see the changing of the leaves, and promise plenty of apple treats.