12 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the Midwest


As vivid reds, vivid yellows, and dark browns take over the green leaves, it’s fall foliage time in the Midwest. Since peak color periods run from late September to mid-October in the region’s 12 states, it can be difficult to determine the best time to get on the family wagon and find rides or hikes that showcase. the beautiful fall foliage of the Midwest.

From Minnesota to Missouri, residents of the Midwest enjoy plenty of opportunities to see gorgeous colors as the region changes seasons. Here’s a look at some of the best places to enjoy the fall season in the Midwest.

1. River Trail Nature Center, Northbrook, Illinois

Walk among the leaves at Northbrook’s River Trail Nature Center. With a rainbow of fall colors – orange, yellow, red and brown – visitors enjoy beautiful views of the season. As the leaves fall from the trees, they create a colorful carpet on easy-to-walk trails, such as the Paved Orange Trail. Unpaved trails include Little Fort, Grove Portage, Green Bay (each is approximately half a mile long). As you explore the center of nature, look for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife that inhabit the trails.

Amdizdarevic / Shutterstock.com

2. Dunnings Spring Park, Decorah, Iowa

With a cascade casually descending a deceptive slope, Dunnings Spring Park is one of the best places in Iowa to see fall foliage. With trails that take you past the waterfall, as well as other areas of the park, you’ll walk among the vibrant fall colors. Although the trails vary in difficulty, fall hikers can find one to suit their preferences. Follow the trail to the Ice Cave, a rare geological attraction in the park that creates an ice cave that lasts from winter until late summer. As part of the Driftless Zone – an area comprising northeastern Iowa that was never covered in ice during the Ice Age and was unaffected by glaciers – Decorah offers other scenic routes during the fall.

Pro tip: The ice cave has narrow passages which may not be safe for some visitors.

Brown County State Park in Nashville, Indiana, in the fall.
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3. Brown County State Park, Nashville, Indiana

As the largest state park in Indiana, with approximately 16,000 acres, Brown County State Park is perfect for viewing fall foliage. Nicknamed “Little Smokies” for its views, hike one of the park’s trails, ranging from easy to rugged, and get up close to oaks, birches and maples. Stroll along the shores of the lake for beautiful views, including the colorful reflections of the trees in the water. The visitor center and other places offer a breathtaking view of the fall colors. Consider a guided weekend horseback ride along the park’s trails. With around 20 miles of tree-lined roads, you can also enjoy a comfortable drive through the park, stopping at several lookout points along the way.

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Overland Park, Kansas, in the fall.
Sculpture by Claude Monet at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens (Photo credit: Tim Trudell)

4. Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Overland Park, Kansas

With 300 acres of trees, plants and flowers, a walk through the Overland Park Arboretum is full of fall color. With 6 miles of paved and woodchip covered trails, visitors can walk among the colors while exploring the trees and plants at Overland Park Arboretum and Gardens. Sculptures and special exhibits are also available on the trails. With 75-foot-long pedestrian bridges, hikers cross Wolf Creek on their treks through the park, including an open meadow, as well as a small lake (with a sculpture by artist Claude Monet painting the landscape of the Kansas).

View of the Lutsen Mountains from Moose Mountain in Lutsen, Minnesota, in the fall.
View of the Lutsen Mountains from Moose Mountain (Photo credit: Tim Trudell)

5. North Shore Scenic Highway, Lutsen, Minnesota

A 150-mile drive from Duluth to Grand Portage State Park in northeast Minnesota is among the most beautiful parts of the United States any time of year, but it’s especially appealing in the fall. With Lake Superior on one side and the Superior National Forest covering much of the other, trees, creeks, small lakes and more create a unique experience for fans of fall foliage. While a walk along the Gunflint Trail near the Grand Marais offers beautiful landscapes, Lutsen Mountain at Lutsen rate as the region to visit for fall colors along the the north coast. With thousands of hectares of trees displaying all the colors of autumn, the view is enhanced by a walk on the Summit Express Gondola, traveling from the base of the mountain to the top of Moose Mountain. With multiple trails to follow, enjoy a hike among the area’s tall trees, while taking in views of the Sawtooth Mountains and a seemingly endless landscape of orange, yellow, red, green, and brown.

6. Upper Peninsula, Grand Marais, Michigan

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula features some of the most beautiful fall scenery in the Midwest. Consider a car ride of Grand Marais in Munising, along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. With its unique rock patterns contrasting with the colors of the season, the park can be considered one of the most impressive sites in the country. At the park, go back to your childhood and have fun at Devil’s Logslide. The scenic route includes lookouts, which offer you an exceptional view of the art of nature, as well as the Au Sable lighthouse.

7. Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Kaizer, Missouri

The fall foliage landscape in Southeast Missouri is complemented by a visit to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Missouri’s largest state park features acres of forest that ranges from green to hues of yellow, red and orange. With rolling hills and the glow of Lake of the Ozarks, a walk through the park includes breathtaking moments of pristine beauty. Enjoy a hike along one of the park’s 13 trails, including Rocky Top Trail, which stretches for 2 miles through white oaks, blue-stemmed grasses, and other native trees. After crossing a ravine, you’ll find yourself atop dolomite cliffs with picturesque views of Lake of the Ozarks.

Haystack cat at Indian Cave State Park in Shubert, Nebraska, during the fall.
Haystack cat at Indian Cave State Park (Photo credit: Tim Trudell)

8. Indian Cave State Park, Shubert, Nebraska

Embracing the Missouri River, Indian Cave State Park in Southeast Nebraska combines fall foliage with a hint of Halloween. Decorations, such as hay figures and ghosts, highlight a walk through the park. With Nebraska leaves ditching green for fall gold, red, orange, and brown, a walk through the park offers some awe-inspiring views. Follow the road to the cave and stand next to the river, admiring the beauty that nature radiates. Hayrack rides offer the opportunity to see the colors of fall from different angles.

Pro tip: A daily or annual permit is required to enter Indian Cave State Park.

Turtle Mountain Forest in Bottineau, North Dakota, in the fall.
Tim trudell

9. Turtle Mountain Forest, Bottineau, North Dakota

North Dakota might not be known for its trees, with an old joke being that the state tree is a utility pole. But, Peace Garden State is home to more than 7,500 acres of aspen, birch, and bur oak in the Turtle Mountain Forest. Although not real mountains, the rolling hills add to the beauty of the area.

Mystical horizons in the Turtle Mountain Forest in Bottineau, North Dakota, in the fall.
Mystical Horizons (Photo credit: Tim Trudell)

While enjoying the fall foliage in the forest, visit the Mystical horizons. Located at the western end of the Turtle Mountains, “Stonehenge of the Prairie” offers views of the farmlands of the valley below. The attraction features stone and cement light fixtures celebrating summer, winter, and the equinox. A functional sundial helps keep the time in the mountains. Metigoshe Lake State Park offers scenic water and foliage views as part of your tour through Turtle Mountain State Forest.

10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Brecksville, Ohio

Maples are among the first to change color, with leaves turning bright red, orange and yellow. They are soon followed by white oaks, dogwoods and black gums, among others, to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. With 33,000 acres and over 125 miles of trails, the views are endless. Follow the trail to Brandywine Falls and soak up the natural beauty that surrounds it. Ledges Overlook features breathtaking landscapes of miles of trees displaying colorful views. The national park also offers cycle paths and kayaking / canoeing opportunities.

Vanocker Canyon Road in Sturgis, South Dakota in the fall.
Vanocker Canyon Road (Photo credit: South Dakota Travel)

11. Vanocker Canyon, Sturgis, South Dakota

South Dakota’s Black Hills offer pristine views year-round, so it’s pretty easy to find stunning views of fall foliage. Selecting an area to highlight is harder than you might think. However, Vanocker Canyon ranks among the best roads to enjoy fall foliage in South Dakota. A 17 mile drive through the canyon offers views of pine trees and the golden hues of Aspens. Explore the northern Black Hills on one of the trails along the way, while seeking ever more glorious views of the land considered sacred by the Lakota (Sioux) Native Americans.

The Raspberry Island public lighthouse at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Bayfield, Wisconsin, during the fall.
Raspberry Island Public Lighthouse in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Photo credit: outbounding / Shutterstock.com)

12. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield, Wisconsin

Board a cruise ship and enjoy the fall colors of the Apostle Islands. With leaves typically turning on colors later in the season than on the mainland, “leaf views” can extend the viewing of fall foliage a bit longer. With vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves accented with dark brown, the islands offer stunning views. Once back on the mainland, explore further the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, with another 12 miles of majestic colors on display. The annual Apple Festival also takes place in Bayfield on the first weekend in October.

Pro tip: While in Bayfield, visit Frog Bay Tribal National Park, the first national park owned and managed by Native Americans. With approximately 300 acres of forests and wetlands, Frog Bay includes 4,000 feet of unmanaged lake shores.

For more fun fall places to visit around the country, visit:

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