As the leaves hit the ground and winter approaches fast, there’s still time – and lots of places – to experience autumn foliage. New England, Upstate New York, The Eastern Sierra of California and Nevada, and the lakes region of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan are just some of the most well-known regions known for their autumn vibrancy. However, we at VacationRenter wanted to go deeper.

To uncover which U.S. cities best combine vacation time with the classic photographer’s pursuit of leaf peeping, we asked over 1,000 people where they like to experience fall foliage. Our survey revealed the top four cities to catch the annual transition from life to hibernation.

  1. Bar Harbor, Maine – As the gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is full of diverse scenery. Ocean cliffs and rocky beaches sit next to glacier-formed lakes, mountain peaks, and boreal forest. A known vacation spot for two centuries it is located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island – pronounced as “dessert” in its native French. While you’re there, snap a few shots of the fall foliage, try some local lobster and experience genuine Maine hospitality in one of the oldest vacation destinations in the U.S.


    Best spots to see the leaves in Bar Harbor:

    • Frenchman Bay (For the sea-faring):One of the best ways to view the fall leaves is from the ocean. Rent a kayak in town to enjoy the contrast of vibrant colors against a backdrop of granite cliffs while paddling along the coastline.
    • Great Head Trail (For the family): For more traditional leaf enthusiasts, Great Head Trail is a family-friendly, 1.4-mile loop full of picturesque views.
    • The Beehive Trail (For the adventurous): The Beehive Trail is a 1.9-mile loop that overlooks the beach and cliffs. Not for the faint of the heart, it includes tricky terrain and an exposed iron-rung climb.

    Where to go to lunch after:

    • Route 66: It wouldn’t be a trip to Maine without lobster. Route 66 delivers the staples of lobster and fresh seafood next to options of hearty burgers and hand cut fries on a menu that’s large enough to please any picky eaters.
    • La Bella Vita: For a homey, land-based meal, La Bella Vita offers aromas of fresh-made Italian dishes using traditional recipes and local ingredients. Their comfy atmosphere is paired with a gorgeous view of Frenchman’s Bay. However, it is Maine, so there’s also sautéed lobster on the menu.

  2. Catskills, New York – The Catskill Mountains are a flannel-wearer’s paradise, with a variety of fall attractions and magnificent colors to match. The smell of crisp apples will greet you along a mountain trail, or you can drive across the rolling farm country and park your car next to a waterfall to snap reflections of leaves in the water. Top off the scenery with a glass of sweet apple cider for the kids or hard cider for the adults made from juicy apples grown right in the Catskills.


    Best spots to see the leaves in the Catskills:

    • Pratt Rock (For the adventurous) – Quick and steep, this hike features views of colorful leaves and cliff-side carvings that depict the life of 19th century Congressman Zadock Pratt. It’s one of the earliest Civil War monuments in the country and is known as New York’s Mount Rushmore. Full of fall views, Pratt Rock is a 3.1-mile round trip that can help you drift your way back through American history.
    • Kaaterskill Falls (For the Instagram-obsessed) – If waterfalls are high on your nature priority list, these aren’t the ones to miss. In the fall, drones can be seen flying high above the 250-foot cascading falls to capture the foliage surrounding them. For an easy view of the falls, park at the bottom and grab a quick selfie. If you’re looking to revel in Kaaterskill’s beauty from all sides, take the short half mile hike down from the top.

    Where to go to lunch after:

    • Circle W Market – Located in Palenville and the best option for hikers of Pratt Rock, Circle W Market offers great food in a retro-chic setting. Order a New York bagel and lox (or two) to guarantee a memorable meal.
    • Phoenicia Diner – An Ulster County favorite for locals and weekenders alike, this packed breakfast and lunch spot offers upscale diner food in a bright setting. Even if you’re a savory breakfast person, make sure to order a side of the buttermilk pancakes for the table. You can thank us later.

  3. Aspen, Colorado Touted by locals as the most beautiful place on Earth, Aspen has no shortage of jaw-dropping photo opportunities. Aspen trees first turn to a vibrant gold, then fill with yellows, oranges and reds later in the season. Trails and scenic hikes are plentiful, ensuring that you’ll come home with more photos than you’ll know what to do with.


    Best spots to see the leaves in Aspen, Colorado:

    • Behind The Sign Trail (For the adventurous and the family) – Catch leaves in their fall glory as you walk through the aspen trees in the middle of Smuggler’s Mountain. For the curious, you can veer off the trail to take in some history at the Bushwacker Mine or the Park Regent Mine.
    • Montezuma Basin Road (For the family) – Ride to the sign, park your car and travel beyond to immerse yourself in aspen leaves. Walk less than a mile further and you’ll see a beautiful reflecting pond and small bridge that’s perfect for a photo.
    • The Maroon Bells (For the photographers) – Take a shuttle up to the Maroon Bells, Colorado’s most iconic view of the glorious aspen trees in the fall. Take the 1-mile Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, or longer 3.6-mile trail up to Crater Lake, all surrounded by aspen trees in various hues.

    Where to go to lunch after:

    • Jour De Fete – Jour De Fete is a French bistro offering sandwiches, salads, coffee, quiches, pastries, charm, and smiles. Stop in after a scenic view for a refreshing meal.
    • Hickory House – For something a little heavier, hike over to the Hickory House for pulled pork, ribs, or brisket. Great barbeque to prompt great captions for your photos.

  4. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – Lake Geneva is a peaceful outdoor paradise in the fall, with surrounding farmlands and dense forests to provide a diverse landscape of water, rolling hills, and colorful leaves. Boat tours, shoreline walks, and forest zip lines are all seasonal fall attractions waiting for you.


    Best spots to see the leaves:

    • Shore Path (For the family)Take a walk along the Shore Path around Lake Geneva for a mix of clear blue waters, antique boats and colorful changing leaves. The length is up to you, with a path that reaches nearly 26 miles of weaving along the shoreline, in and out of the woods.
    • Lake Geneva Cruise Line (For the sea-faring) – If you’re looking for a different kind of leaf-viewing experience, you can view them from a boat. Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers a ferry that lets you cruise through the waters as the captain narrates the history of the region.

    Where to go to lunch after:

    • Egg Harbor Cafe – A family-owned restaurant involving three generations of children and grandchildren, the Egg Harbor Cafe can serve you an egg in almost every way. Their breakfast and lunch menus are full of great options that cap off a great Lake experience.
    • Joni’s Diner – With a metal diner exterior that can match any poodle skirt, Joni’s Diner is a Lake Geneva staple. Large portions, great service and décor that can take you back in time. Don’t forget to order the homemade pie.