Spectacular leaf peeping. Bucket list scenic drives. Spooky Halloween escapes. And food festivals galore. The best places to visit in October in the USA offer an immersive experience in the very best of the season.
Whether you’re in search of epic hikes or wine tasting without the crowds, here are the most incredible places to travel this fall…
Best Places to Travel in October
1. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
It may be somewhat subjective to suggest that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the best road trip in the United States of America.
But when you consider the fact that the parkway, which stretches 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, is the most popular unit of the US National Park system (15+ million visitors each year), there are stats to support the claim.
This epic scenic route was envisioned by FDR as part of his New Deal to provide jobs and improve American infrastructure. Construction began in 1935 and was mostly done in 1966, but the incredible eight-mile stretch in North Carolina between the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain wasn’t finished until 1987.
It’s the longest linear park in the US, traveling through Jefferson, George Washington, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests. So naturally the area is at its most picturesque in mid to late October, when the autumn colors in the Blue Ridge region reach their most dynamic peak.
There are 200 remarkably scenic overlooks along the way, offering stunning mountain views, verdant valleys, and hiking trails to beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls. There’s also wildlife such as Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, and countless other birds.
Driving the 45 mph speed limit without stopping, one could theoretically cover the entire route in around 15 hours. But that would totally defeat the purpose of what is arguably America’s best scenic drive.
The stunning views from the BRP’s best overlooks—including Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Linville Gorge Wilderness, the Linn Cove Viaduct (pictured), Looking Glass Rock, Mount Mitchell (North Carolina’s tallest), Pisgah National Forest, and Julian Price Memorial Park–—really insist that visitors slow down and immerse themselves in the majestic beauty of one of America’s largest remaining stretches of wilderness.
And in October, these sights are nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Where to stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Stay at the Engadine Inn and Cabins in Chandler. Just 14 minutes from Ashville, it’s a beautiful 19th century B&B that also offers private cabins.
Check price and availability at Engadine Inn and Cabins here.
Bret and Mary | Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
2. Eastern Sierras, California
California’s Eastern Sierra mountain range extends from the Nevada state line in the north all the way to Lone Pine in the south and includes famous sites like Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes, Mount Whitney and Yosemite.
The Eastern Sierras come alive with color in fall, making them one of the best places to visit in October in the USA. Particularly beautiful are the shimmering, bright yellow Aspen forests here. While skiers love Mammoth for its winter wonderland as a California winter escape, fall is fabulous here, too.
Bathe in this magical forest beauty at Mammoth Lakes with a hike around Convict Lake or set out on one of the many dedicated bike trails here. It’s an ideal way to take in fall.
Take a scenic drive—or cycle—the June Lake loop on Highway 158. It’s 16 miles of golden fall glory! Visit Bodie Ghost Town, a historic gold mining settlement in Mono County.
Then head to Lundy Lake for stunning off-the-beaten path hike into the foothills of the Eastern Sierras. You’ll be mesmerized by the unique sound of crackling aspens as the breeze gusts down the valley and catches their sunlit leaves as you ascend to a lookout point for a waterfall view.
The Eastern Sierra truly comes alive in fall.
Where to stay in the Eastern Sierras: Stay in Mammoth at a luxe cabin in the woods with five star views.
Check prices and availability on the Mammoth cabin here.
3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
When it comes to spectacular fall destinations, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore deserves a place on everyone’s bucket list. Located on Michigan’s wild and rugged Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks stretches for 42 miles along Lake Superior’s coastline.
While it’s a lovely place to visit any time of year, autumn is especially beautiful. The Pictured Rocks fall colors are absolutely stunning.
Pictured Rocks gets its name from the towering sandstone cliffs along its craggy shoreline. One of the best ways to see these colorful cliffs is by boat or by kayak.
Miles of hiking trails are also available, including the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Chapel Loop Trail. Driving scenic County Road H-58 is another great way to see Pictured Rocks. In autumn, the trees along this road and throughout the park turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow.
The best time to see autumn leaves at Pictured Rocks is in late September or early October. This can vary from year to year, depending on the weather and other conditions.
There is no fee to enter Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. For more information and current park conditions, refer to the official Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore website.
Where to stay at Pictured Rocks: Stay in a cozy waterfront house right on the bay with a private beach. It’s surrounded by beauty.
Check price and availability on the cozy waterfront house here.
Katy | A Rambling Unicorn
4. North Cascades National Park, Washington
North Cascades National Park, and really Washington State as a whole, is one of the best US vacations in October because not only does it have beautiful autumn foliage, but it has one specific type that isn’t available in most of the country: larches!
Larches are a type of conifer tree with pine needles that turn gold in late September through October and then drop their needles.
Most trees with pine needles keep their foliage throughout the year, but these curious specimens are more like deciduous trees with leaves. They grow at high altitudes and are mostly found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Canada.
What makes larches extra mysterious is that the exact time they change colors every year is different. Starting in mid to late September, hiker reports on sites like Washington Trail Association start buzzing to find out when they’ll start changing. Once you catch wind that they’re turning, head out within about two to three weeks before they go away until next year.
It’s eight miles and takes you to a turquoise lake with larches dotting the banks. If you’re feeling really wild, you can enter the lottery to try and get backpacking permits to do the longer trail to the Enchantments.
If you’re looking for something easier, head to the 4.4 mile Blue Lake or 3.8 mile Cutthroat Lake near North Cascades National Park. Just remember to head there really early to avoid crowds on these more family friendly hikes so you can have the larches to yourself.
Where to stay near North Cascades National Park: Stay in a romantic little cabin in Mount Vernon. It’s just steps from a clear blue pond—you can fish from the deck—on six private acres.
Check price and availability on the romantic cabin here.
Adria | The Emerald Palate
5. New York City, New York
New York City is easily one of the best October destinations. Not only can you walk through Central Park and enjoy all of the vibrant fall foliage that surrounds you, but you can also pick up some fresh pumpkins to carve at the Queens Fall Festival.
In fact, get a head start on the Halloween festivities by dressing up as your favorite superhero while attending New York City’s famous Comic Con.
However, to really get into the season, stop by SERRA by Birreria—a rooftop bar and restaurant that sits atop Eataly in the Flatiron district—and admire the stunning seasonal decor that surrounds you.
Feel free to Instagram it up here before ordering a seasonal cocktail or two from their vast, Italian inspired drink menu.
Finally, end your 4 days in New York City by attending the Village’s annual Halloween Parade. It’s been in existence since 1973 and now features more than 80,000 people who dress up in costumes of every variety.
It’s also the only parade that is held in the U.S. on Halloween night and features a wealth of puppets and bands that the whole family is sure to enjoy.”
Where to stay in New York City: Stay at The Bowery Hotel in trendy Nolita for cozy stylish rooms that come with jaw-dropping views.
Check price and availability at The Bowery Hotel here.
Kelly | Girl with the Passport
6. Yosemite National Park, California
A visit to Yosemite National Park in the perfect October travel destination; it’s a great time to miss the crowds of summer.
In October, one day in Yosemite National Park gets half the number of visitors as a typical summer day. This means popular hiking trails are less crowded and parking in the Yosemite Valley is easier.
October is the perfect time to visit thanks to fewer crowds and mild weather. Temperatures are usually in the 60s and 70s during the day, ideal for hiking!
The draw in October? Trails in Glacier Point and Tioga Pass areas before the roads close for the season. Don’t miss hiking to Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, and Glacier Point. Exploring the shores of Tenaya Lake off Tioga Pass is a great way to spend a fall afternoon.
October in Yosemite also brings beautiful changing leaves. The best time to spot fall colors in Yosemite is from mid to late October.
On a scenic drive around Yosemite Valley, you can spot yellows and oranges on many trees. In the fall, the park’s meadows change color too, painting the park in a beautiful shade of gold!
Where to stay in Yosemite: Stay at adorable and peaceful Sage Cabin inside the park. It’s just 15 minutes to the valley floor.
Check price and availability at Sage Cabin here.
Julia | Well Planned Journey
7. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
While plenty of destinations within the United States have beautiful fall foliage, certain areas of the Pacific Northwest, including Mount Rainier National Park, explode with vibrant autumnal colors.
And it’s not just the falling leaves on its towering trees, but also the shrubs, succulents, and other flora carpeting its rolling valleys.
For those looking for a low impact way to explore Rainier in October, drive the Chinook Scenic Byway, a 107 mile driving tour that bypasses Mount Rainier National Park and Mount Baker. Snoqualmie National Forest is a fantastic way to soak in the most stunning landscapes the Cascades Mountains have to offer.
If you’re up for a hike, there’s plenty of trails that will take you up close and personal to both Rainier and its fall colors.
Consider the Skyline Trail, a 5.5 mile trail that will bring you face-to-face with the mountain and take you through the park’s colorful autumn foliage, from the vibrant red of scarlet paintbrush to the burnt orange of elderberries.
Naches Peak Loop, a 3.2 mile portion of the Pacific Crest Trail allows you to meander through gorgeous subalpine meadows aflame with fall colors, as Rainier looms above you.
Where to stay in Mount Rainier National Park: In a cozy cabin in the woods of course! Mount Rainier Chipmunk Cabin peaks out of ferns and cedar trees and comes with a hot tub and fireplace.
Check price and availability of the chipmunk cabin here.
Jessica | Uprooted Traveler
8. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Visiting one of the most extraordinary natural landscapes on Earth will blow you away any time of year, so why should you visit Yellowstone National Park in October?
Let’s start with the big one: crowds. Yellowstone is unbearably busy in summer. Over 2 million of Yellowstone’s annual 4 million visitors enter the park between June and August alone. Late October is when certain roads and park hotels begin closing for the sinter season.
As a result, it is the perfect month for walking along quiet hiking trails, peacefully visiting the most popular geyser basins and waterfalls, spotting wildlife and perhaps most importantly, finding available accommodation.
Yellowstone has the largest intact ecosystem and more abundant wildlife than anywhere else in the lower 48. In October, female grizzly bears roam the park searching for a winter den, as males stalk packs of wolves to take scraps of meals before hibernation. Bugling elk are in rut and bison jams are common.
Spectacular sunsets and early night Milky Way displays mean October is arguably the best month for romance in Yellowstone. Head to Artist Point to watch the sun set behind Lower Falls of the Yellowstone before driving to Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin for safe stargazing. Epic hikes abound here.
October brings unpredictable weather to Yellowstone, which means one day it could be glorious sunshine with gall reds and golden yellows bursting out from trees and the next, a glistening white washed Winter wonderland.
Mark and Kristen | Where Are Those Morgans?
9. Napa Valley, California
The beautiful wine region of the Napa Valley is the perfect October destination as the rolling hills full of vineyards change color from a lush green to a mix of yellow, red and orange which is spectacular to see.
The best wines of the Napa Valley are full bodied reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel, and these are also best tasted in Autumn by a roaring fireplace when the weather cools.
Napa Valley is made up of several small towns along the wine trail, and St. Helena is the pick of the bunch when it comes to October travel. Relax with a cellar door wine tasting at the famous Auburn James winery just outside the town centre and then head on into town where the vineyards are quite literally at your doorstep.
For a special treat, and to truly sample the wine of the area paired with incredible food, stop in at paddock to plate restaurant The Farmstead to cap off a wonderful Autumn day amongst the leaves.
Where to stay in Napa Valley: Stay at the quirky El Bonita Motor Inn and make the most of the cooler weather by enjoying their open fire pit with other visitors.
Check price and availability on the El Bonita Motor Inn here.
Emma | Emma Jane Explores
10. Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the beautiful mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina. While it’s a great year-round destination, October is when the city and surrounding mountains come alive with colorful fall foliage.
To experience the magic of autumn in the mountains, plan to spend a weekend in Asheville or even a full week.
With ideal hiking weather in October, exploring on foot is one of the best ways to take in the fresh fall mountain air and changing leaves around Asheville. For stunning views over the colorful peaks, hike to Craggy Gardens, Looking Glass Rock Overlook, or up Mount Mitchell.
To add thundering waterfalls into your hikes, opt for Graveyard Fields, Crabtree Falls, or head to Dupont Forest, home to a number of waterfalls.
If hiking is not up your alley, go leaf peeping by driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. It runs right through Asheville and offers dozens of stunning overlooks with incredible views.
Other perfect fall activities in Asheville include visiting the famous Biltmore Estate, the largest private home in the United States, which offers its own fall foliage and garden.
Be sure to taste the specialty fall beers, like pumpkin ales, from over 45 local craft breweries!
Where to stay in Asheville: Stay at the famous Omni Grove Park Inn. It comes with incredible view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and but close to downtown.
Check price and availability at the Omni Grove Park Inn here.
Julia | The Cure for Curiosity
11. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is considered one of the most haunted cities in the US, and October is the best time of year to take advantage of that spook factor!
Homeowners tend to go all-out with picturesque fall décor. Pumpkins line the entrances of fancy mansions in the Historic District, and visitors might spot fall foliage spilling over the gates of private gardens throughout the city.
Popular shops like River Street Sweets line their entrances with yellow and orange flowers to welcome visitors inside where they can purchase caramel apples, warm pralines, and other sweet fall treats.
A plethora of ghost tours run throughout the day and into the night. The walking tours are the scariest, but haunted trolley tours—and even hearse tours— are also an option. The weather is perfect in October for touring beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery.
There are numerous festivals and events during the month of October. Visitors can choose from Oktoberfest, the Savannah Jazz Festival, Wag-O-Ween, and Savannah PRIDE. Nearby Tybee Island’s Pirate Fest is also popular!
Fall weather in Savannah is usually quite comfortable. Visitors only need to pack a light sweater or jacket in case evening strolls down River Street turn breezy.
Where to stay in Savannah: The historic Marshall House is famous for being haunted!
Check price and availability on The Marshall House here.
Erin | Savannah First-Timer’s Guide
12. Bennington, Vermont
If you’re wondering where to visit this October in the United States, look no further than Bennington. This hidden gem located in southern Vermont is often overlooked as the perfect destination for the fall, making it even more of a gem.
Bennington is filled with charm and character, and October, in particular, really brings this small town to life. The crisp autumn weather will lead you to The Apple Barn & Country Bake Shop, the perfect place in town to get fresh apple cider.
In the fall, they even host fun events, like tractor rides, apple bobbing, and even occasionally, they’ll plow their cornfield and turn it into a maze!
You can even go and pick your own apples at Terry’s Orchard, an autumn staple in Bennington. Prices are by the bag and you can pick a variety of apples, including Cortland, Rex Max, and Macintosh.
After picking apples, you’ll want to go to the Bennington Monument, which commemorates the Bennington Battle Day win from the Civil War. This serves as one of the best viewpoints in town, and you can look out and see the breathtaking fall foliage among the rolling hills of the Green Mountains.
Where to stay in Bennington: Stay at Four Chimneys Inn, a mansion on an 11 acre estate just 1.2 miles from the town center.
Check price and availability at the Four Chimneys Inn here.
Written by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
13. San Francisco, California
San Francisco is commonly known as Fog City, due to the dense fog it can experience for the majority of the year. But, when autumn arrives, the skies clear, the sun shines, and crowds disperse, making San Francisco an incredible fall destination in the U.S.
October is home to Fleet Week in San Francisco, a massive multi-location event that honors and celebrates the naval and marine US forces. This nine-day event features Navy ship tours, concerts, and more.
It also hosts a spectacular fully choreographed airshow starring the US Navy Blue Angels and is held between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island.
October in San Francisco also brings the mouthwatering SF Street Food Festival. The event is held in the Central Waterfront district and showcases over 50 of the city’s top chefs. Not only does the festival have amazing food and drink, but it promotes equity for women, immigrants, and POC-owned businesses.
Other great things to do in San Francisco during the month of October include renting a bicycle and pedaling over the Golden Gate bridge, picnicking in Dolores Park, and strolling along the waterfront. All come with spectacular views of the city and the picturesque bay area.
With more time, consider a road trip from San Francisco.
Where to stay in San Francisco: Stay at Inn San Francisco, a fantastic Victorian B&B with authentic decor in the Mission District.
Check price and availability at Inn San Francisco here.
Haley | haleyblackall.com
14. Miami, Florida
Miami is one of the most well-known cities in the U.S and the world. The temperatures are high all year round, and the month of October is no exception, with an average daily temperature high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best part about visiting in October is that you get to avoid all the summer tourists.
The thing with the top restaurants in Miami is that most of them require a reservation. It’s much easier to get a reservation when you don’t have to worry about thousands of others trying to do the same. Plus, other activities like parasailing and ecotours also have more openings.
One of the most popular festivals that go on during this month, specifically the 20th to 23rd is the South Beach Seafood Festival, considered one of the best food festivals in the U.S.
You also have the Water Lantern Festival that happens right at the beginning of the month on the second. It’s perfect for families or as a romantic date.
Apart from those, you have the annual and traditional Miami Harvest Festival that’s been happening for the last 47 years. It provides all sorts of entertainment like pony rides for kids, cute baby contests, and much more.
Where to stay in Miami: Stay at The Redbury South Beach in Miami Beach. The rooftop pool is epic.
Check price and availability at The Redbury South Beach here.
Martin | Travel Explorator
15. Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts is one of the country’s oldest towns, founded in 1626. Best-known as the site of the harrowing Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Salem is a must-visit for autumn aficionados due to its spectacular foliage and its Haunted Happenings Festival, which takes place each October.
While witches and magic certainly capture much of any visitor’s imagination, Salem is also home to spectacular historic architecture, beautiful green spaces, and world-class museums.
Its long legacy as a maritime heavyweight is showcased in opulent seaside mansions and exhibits at the fantastic Peabody Essex Museum.
You should absolutely plan an October visit in order to take advantage of the Haunted Happenings Festival, where there is no shortage of fun for all ages, from elaborate costumes and street performers to small businesses selling witch-themed apparel, homemade soaps and candles, and beyond.
There are different activities each day and you will have a wonderful time exploring the various goings-on under a canopy of gorgeous fall leaves. However, keep in mind that this is the most popular time of the year to visit, and it gets very crowded.
If you’re staying in Boston, consider taking the commuter rail to Salem, which only takes 40 minutes and leaves from Boston’s North Station multiple times each hour. This way, you won’t have to find parking in Salem, which is challenging.
You should also be sure to request tickets for the must-see Salem Witch Museum when you first arrive, as you will likely get a zoned entry time for several hours later.
While the museum is certainly a bit dated, it’s the best way to learn all about the history of the Witch Trials, and you can pair it with a visit to the Witch House, the only remaining house from the Witch Trials period, and the Burying Point, where the victims of the witch trials are buried, afterwards.
Where to stay near Salem: Stay at the Harbor Light Inn in the historic center of nearby Marblehead. Your stay includes a free cocktail at the bar.
Check price and availability at the Harbor Light Inn here.
Tegan and Alex | Why Not Walk Travel Guides
16. Aspen, Colorado
Colorado is one of the most popular destinations for fall foliage in the United States. October is the time to visit when aspen trees turn golden across the state with Aspen being a particularly popular place with travelers.
Located about 2,5 hours from Denver airport, Aspen has many scenic hikes, overlooks and the incredible Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed places in North America.
A trip from Denver to Aspen takes about three hours via Interstate 70 and is by far one of the most popular road trips from the Mile High City. You can also take a scenic drive via Independence Pass, the highest continuous paved road in North America with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.
October is the best time to visit Aspen because the weather is perfect. While it can be crisp in the morning and chilly at night, day time temperatures hover around high 50s mid 60s, offering a perfect opportunity for being outside.
If you want to see the incredible valleys of aspen trees surrounding this town, make your visit in the first week of October when the fall colors are at their brightest. And don’t forget to take at least a couple of hikes to enjoy this incredible scenery.
Make sure to spend at least a couple of days in Aspen to explore wonderful hikes at Sunnyside Trail and Rio Grande Trail that can be accessed from downtown Aspen.
After enjoying the scenery, make sure to visit the city’s quaint downtown with its brick buildings from the mining era and get on the silver Queen Gondola to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
Where to stay in Aspen: Stay at The Gant, a beautiful resort with outdoor pools and hot tubs at the base of Aspen Mountain.
Daria | The Discovery Nut
17. Burlington, Vermont
The vibrant city of Burlington, Vermont is stunning in October. The fall foliage is at its peak with reds, oranges and yellows spreading across the hillsides.
There are numerous hikes within the city limits to see the blazing colors. A hike up to the tower at Ethan Allen park will give the best views. Rent a bike on the Burlington bike path to pedal along Lake Champlain with incredible views of the Adirondack mountains across the lake.
Another way to see the leaves is to take a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen. The boat travels on Lake Champlain with excellent glimpses of the Adirondack and Green Mountain colors. Choose from family friendly nature trips as well as champagne brunch sailings.
Stroll through the pedestrian mall of Church Street to enjoy the cute shops, fine restaurants, and street performers. Grab an outdoor table to taste the farm to table cuisine Burlington chefs love to feature.
Burlington is famous for its craft breweries. In October, look for special fall brews specially made to fill out your flight of beers. Local favorite Foam Brewery has views of Lake Champlain from its outdoor beer garden.
End your day in Burlington with a visit to Waterfront Park to see the spectacular sunsets on Lake Champlain.
Where to stay in Burlington: Stay in a custom-designed carriage house with a farmhouse feel. It’s just outside the city and feels like a luxury barn!
Check price and availability on the Burlington carriage house here.
Karen |Outdoor Adventure Sampler
18. Door County, Wisconsin
Situated in the Upper Midwest, Door County is the destination worth visiting in Wisconsin, U.S. It is one of the places that become most beautiful in October.
While fall seems to slow down time in other places, Door County is filled with excitement celebrating the colors of fall with a spectacular array of hues including gold, scarlet, russet, and more. Plus, in October, local orchards and farm markets are ready to sell produce. So it’s time to celebrate.
Some of the most popular festivals include Pumpkin Patch in Egg Harbor, where the locals and tourists enjoy food carnivals, rides, and art.
Check out Fall Festival in Sister Bay, the biggest of all. to sample mouth-watering delicacies from top restaurants. Don’t miss Townline Art Fair, Lighthouse Festival, and Jack O’ Lantern Days in Fish Creek..
Another reason to visit here in October is to taste local apple pies at the market.
Where to stay in Door County: Stay at The Foxglove Inn, a luxe romantic B&B with out of this world breakfasts. (Or check out these top Airbnbs in Door County.)
Check price and availability at The Foxglove Inn here.
Paulina | Paulina on the Road
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