September 11, 2020 by Stephanie Frias of Skyscanner

1. Montpelier, Vermont

Average October temp: 59°F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Sept. 24 – Oct. 14th

If you’ve ever dreamed of sneaking to New England for the fall leaf extravaganza, October offers no better time to do it. Find stunning displays of sugar maples away from the crowds by sticking to road trips, small towns, and the sprawling countryside.

From Montpelier, it’s easy to access more than a dozen picturesque bridges, endless hiking in the White Mountain National Forest, and the Highway 98 scenic byway.

Other things to do in Montpelier, Vermont:

  • Embrace history with tours of Wilson Castle and the Vermont State House.
  • Indulge in all things maple syrup at the Bragg Farm Maple Sugarhouse.
  • Catch a performance at the legendary Lost Nation Theater.
Vermont state house in october
Vermont State House, Montpelier, Vermont

Cody, Wyoming

Average October temp: 59°F

You probably first think of Wyoming as the Yellowstone state to hit up in the summertime, right? But, October offers prime timing for last-minute vacations. Avoid getting shoulder to shoulder with others by opting for a scenic road trip on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway.

If you’re itching to stretch your legs, swap out obvious hikes in the national park for less traversed trails within the Buffalo Bill State Park or the Shoshone National Forest. And, avoid major hubs by staying in a smaller town like Cody rather than Jackson or Jackson Hole.

Keep in mind that this year isn’t idyllic for leaf peepers with their eye on the Yellowstone region. An unprecedented snowfall paired with hurricane-strength winds wiped out most of the leaves in early September.

Other things to do in Cody, Wyoming:

  • Visit the numerous wild west themed museums and the historic Old Trail Town. 
  • Take a safari to see wild mustangs, pronghorn antelope, elk, bison, bears, bighorn sheep, and more.
  • Check out the historic Buffalo Bill Dam built in 1910.
wagons in front of western style buildings
Old Historic Town in Cody, Wyoming

Traverse City, Michigan

Average October temp: 57°F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 1st – 17th

Although often overlooked by leaf-peepers in favor of popular east coast destinations, Michigan just might be the spot you’re looking for. It’s possibly one of the best-kept secrets for spotting fall foliage. Traverse City is a beautiful waterfront town linked with impressive road trip routes. Try out the Gold Coast route and the Lake Superior Circle.

From Traverse City, you can also hop on one of three unique train rides geared at fall leaf tours. Choices include the Michigan Steam Train, the Southern Michigan Railroad, and the Coopersville and Marne Railway.

Other things to do in Traverse City, Michigan:

  • Hit the beach with 35 miles of coastline in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
  • Visit five historic lighthouses: Mission Point, South Manitou Island, Grand Traverse, Point Betsie, and North Manitou Island Shoal.
  • Walk, bike, or roll across town on the 10-mile paved and accessible TART trail.
aerial view of forest with fall colors
Northern Michigan

Warwick, Rhode Island

Average October temp: 64°F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 12 – 28th

Heading back east, Rhode Island is a charming pick for a last minute vacation in October. It’s the perfect spot to cash on both the last hoorah of summer and the first peek of autumn. You might even like to linger a little longer for harvest activities and small city Halloween. There is certainly no shortage of stuff to do in Warwick this time of year.

Start with a New England road trip along the scenic Route 1A which winds through 123 miles of both woodlands and beach. Then, opt for hiking in Goddard Memorial State Park, Rocky Point State Park, or Conimicut Point Park.

Other things to do in Warwick, Rhode Island:

  • Navigate a corn maze and pick a pumpkin at Morris Farm.
  • Take a scenic horseback ride on 18 miles of trails at C & L Stables.
  • Visit the Clouds Hill Victorian House Museum.
houses on the lake
Warwick, Rhode Island

Girdwood, Alaska

Average October temp: 43°F

2020 First snowfall: Sept. 24 – Oct. 15th

If you’re thinking of squeezing in a last minute vacation to Alaska in October, it’s a great time to glimpse the first hints of winter. It can be a magical moment to see summer wink out before the landscapes are covered in snow. Especially since October also starts the aurora borealis season when the first signals of the Northern Lights emerge.

It’s probably best to stay near Anchorage since you don’t want to get stranded elsewhere if big snowfall does hit. But, if you don’t want the big city, Girdwood offers an idyllic version of small-town Alaska. The residential area known for its ski resorts is less than an hour south of Anchorage yet remains well within traveling distance of Denali National Park.

Other things to do in Girdwood, Arkansas: 

  • Enjoy a road trip along the scenic Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood.
  • Take a glass dome train ride to Denali National Park.
  • Explore like a local in nearby wilderness areas; Chugach State Park & Kenai Fjords National Park.
train going through snow covered mountains
Alaska Railways

Annapolis, Maryland

Average October temp: 69 °F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 19 – Nov. 4

Baltimore is a legendary center point for getting a glimpse of fall color. Avoid the crowds by sneaking off to smaller town, Annapolis. This quaint waterfront village displays New England at it’s finest. Autumn foliage can be appreciated right from the historic district alongside adorable brick houses and old churches.

Or, hop on the Route 40 towards Easton to see unforgettable reflections in the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland is a horseback riding hotspot, so you’ll definitely want to consider a trail ride at the Center for Maryland Agriculture & Farm Park.

Other things to do in Annapolis, Maryland:

  • Take a hike in the lesser-visited Gwynnbrook Wildlife Management Area, Seneca Creek State Park, or the local Quiet Waters Park.
  • Visit St. Anne’s Episcopal Church with 24 antique Tiffany glass windows.
  • Go sailing with a cruise to see three lighthouses and the United States Naval Academy.
seneca creek with fall foliage trees in the back
Seneca Creek State Park, Maryland

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Average October temp: 66 °F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Sept. 28 – Oct. 9

The dry arid desert landscapes of New Mexico are the last place you’d expect to find colorful fall foliage, right? But, Santa Fe is actually a mountain city of the Colorado Rockies at 7,000 feet and makes an excellent destination for a last minute vacation in October.

Don’t leave without taking a drive along the High Road to Taos, and be sure to arrive in Sante Fe with an adventurous spirit. Hiking, biking, climbing, and camping are huge here. Favorite local spots include the Carson National Forest, the Brazos Cliffs, and Cibola National Forest.

Due to the early September cold front, some areas surrounding Santa Fe may not display autumn colors this year. Particularly, the Sandia Mountains and areas northeast of the city were affected.

Other things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico:

  • Visit traditional Native American pueblos like San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Ohkay Owingeh, plus UNESCO site Taos.
  • See the Meow Wolf interactive museum built by Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin.
  • Explore 100+ fine art galleries in the Canyon Road neighborhood.
pueblo style house in new mexico
Historic district of Santa Fe, New Mexico

Bismark, North Dakota

Average October temp: 56 °F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 5 – 21

There may be no better than North Dakota to take a scenic autumn drive. The state is home to at least 10 registered scenic byways. One great option from Bismark is to take the Killdeer Mountain Fours Scenic Byway.

If you’d rather get out on foot, this northerly state is no stranger to historic landmarks and stunning natural scenery. Especially during a last minute vacation in October, be sure to hit the local Missouri Valley Millennium Legacy Trail. Or get out in the wilderness at Cross Ranch or Fort Stevenson State Parks.

Other things to do in Bismark, North Dakota:

  • Don’t miss the street project on Alley 5.5
  • Admire the aurora borealis at the Northern Lights Atrium.
  • See dinosaur skeletons at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum.
northern lights atrium in north dakota
Northern Lights Atrium, Bismark, North Dakota

Scranton, Pennsylvania

Average October temp: 53 °F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 5 – 21

Head up to the northeast corner of Pennsylvania for a classic view of small town New England come October. You’ll find endless hiking in the Endless Mountains and jaw-dropping scenery along a Route 322 road trip.

Or, stay local with strolls along the Lake Scranton Walking Trail,  Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, or within the impressive Nay Aug Park. October is also prime time for other harvest activities like visiting pumpkin farms, wineries, and corn mazes.

Other things to do in Scranton, Pennsylvania:

  • Visit nearby apple cider distilleries like Deep Roots Hard Cider and Rowan Asher Winery & Hard Cidery.
  • Go underground with a coal mine tour at Lackawanna Coal Mine.
  • Explore the Steamtown National Historic Site.
buildings in scranton
Scranton, Pennslyvania

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Average October temp: 71 °F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 12 – 28

Ever dreamt of going to the Ozarks? Well, it’s not just about summertime on the lake, it’s also an epic choice for last minute vacation in October. The warmest October destination on this list is the heart of northern Arkansas.

An absolute must-do while in Fayetteville is to drive or bike the 36-mile Razorback Regional Greenway. Otherwise, there are dozens of unforgettable hiking trails. Try the paved, 5.5 mile Lake Fayetteville Trail or the more rustic,  Lake Sequoyah Trail. Devil’s Den State Park and Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area are also great spots to immerse in nature.

Other things to do in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

The Ozarks fall colors in October
The Ozarks, Arkansas

Presque Isle, Maine

Average October temp: 53°F

2020 Fall foliage peak: Oct. 1 – 17

The best autumn getaways in Maine are way up north, where cities are still tiny and wilderness abounds.Presque Isle is a great starting point for digging into the heart of the region. Great places to catch the autumn foliage include Aroostook State Park, the Nordic Heritage Center, and the dog-friendly Baxter State Park.

You’ll definitely want to save time for a jaunt on the state’s newest scenic and cultural route, St. John Valley Cultural Byway. Also known as the Parcours culturel de la Vallée, the 92-mile road trip drifts through small-town Maine highlighting areas of Acadian, Quebecois, Scots-Irish, and Native American heritage.

Other things to do in Presque Isle, Maine: 

  • Take a ride the 4-mile bike path along the Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • Explore The Northern Maine Museum of Science at the Univesity of Maine.
  • See the world’s largest scale model of the solar system, it’s spread out over 40 miles.
dirt road through forest on either side
Baxter State Park, Maine

As you can see, there’s plenty to do near and far if you’re craving a last minute vacation this October. Although each of these destinations is verifiably reading for tourism, always double-check government travel guidelines before heading out.