Ushering in the change of seasons in much of the country, October famously gives way to crisp air, breathtaking colors, and all-things-harvest. But there’s so much more to October than just pumpkins and foliage.
If you’re ready to explore some of the best places to go in October, check out the suggestions below, covering the country from coast to coast. Head to the Southwest to attend the world’s largest hot air balloon festival or head east instead to Cape Cod to spot humpback whales.
This list also includes the best places to experience harvest season, whether that means picking your own apples or collecting buckets and buckets of cranberries. And it includes, of course, some of the best scenic drives and hikes in the country.
So whether you’re looking to chase foliage, explore a new city, discover a small town, or just breathe in some fresh air, you’ll find the perfect place to go in October right here.
Related Read: 7 Spectacular Places to See Arizona’s Fall Colors
1. North Adams, Massachusetts
Why you should go: For the scenic drive along the Mohawk Trail.
The Berkshire Mountains are at their peak foliage colors in October, changing from verdant greens to fiery rainbow shades of red and orange. One of the best ways to catch fantastic autumnal views is by driving the Mohawk Trail, a 63-mile scenic drive ending in North Adams, Massachusetts.
The town is admittedly small, but it hosts the largest contemporary art museum in the country — the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — as well as bookshops, cafes, and galleries ripe for exploration. You should also stick around for an extra day to hike the summit of Mount Greylock, the state’s highest point.
2. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Why you should go: See the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Albuquerque is beautiful year-round, but every October, the city hosts the world-famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It’s the largest hot air balloon festival in the world. At sunrise, thousands of hot air balloons float over the desert, creating one of the most epic, beautiful views you’ll ever see. If you’re not afraid of heights, you can take a ride in a balloon to experience the views from the top. Make sure to book your ride in advance as each balloon carries only a few people.
Related read: 8 Secluded New Mexico Cabins for a Relaxing Getaway
3. Napa Valley, California
Why you should go: Reap the rewards (and colorful views) of the harvest season.
Napa Valley enjoys some of its most pleasant weather in October. Temperatures hover in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit. Quite chilly by LA standards, which is what most people think of when imagining California, but quite pleasant for northern California.
But most importantly, come October, it’s time for the harvest in the country’s most famous wine region. The harvest takes place anywhere from September to late October at wineries across the state, depending on what type of wine they’re making and what the weather has been like that year.
Some wineries have harvest days where you can pick and stomp the grapes. But if you’re looking for something more relaxed, there are plenty of places to do wine tastings, where you can chat about the harvest with a wine pro but let someone else do the actual work. If you want to stretch your legs and feel the wind in your hair (and not worry about traffic or parking), consider hiking or biking the 47-mile Vine Trail.
4. Bushkill, Pennsylvania
Why you should go: For fall foliage hiking in the Poconos and views of Bushkill Falls.
Many of the waterfalls and lakes around Bushkill are popular summer getaways, with many New Yorkers having lake houses in the area they rent every summer for an annual family vacation. But the area is also one of the best places to go in October, when the hiking trail to Bushkill Falls, deep in the wooded Pocono Mountains, is covered in golden yellow and red leaves both on and falling from the colorful surrounding trees.
Bushkill also has plenty of nearby activities and parks, so it’s perfect for outdoor adventuring in October. Check out the Delaware Water Gap park, book a zip lining tour, or rent a canoe for a leisurely lake paddle.
Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See Pennsylvania’s Fall Foliage
5. Narrowsburg, New York
Why you should go: Quaint small towns surrounded by natural outdoor beauty an easy drive from NYC.
Along the snaking Delaware River Valley, between the Catskill and Pocono mountains, is the town of Narrowsburg. It’s surrounded by natural beauty and is a popular escape for NYC city-dwellers as it’s less than three hours by car. Come October, the beauty of the color-changing leaves along the river is unmatched.
The best way to see them? Drive north from Sparrowbush, passing the iconic Hawks Nest road (which you may recognize from car commercials) that winds through the mountains along the river valley. The foliage is beautiful in October. Once you arrive in Narrowsburg, take the time to explore the adorable town center.
If the weather is warm you may be able to go whitewater rafting, and there’s a popular winery (Three Hammers Winery) just across the border with Pennsylvania. The Tusten Mountain Trail is an easy walk with great mountain and river views, and the Fort Delaware Museum is a cool living history museum with colonial reenactors.
Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See New York’s Fall Foliage
6. Yosemite National Park, California
Why you should go: Beat the summer crowds and enjoy the foliage with more space to yourself.
Yosemite is beautiful all year, but October may be the best time to visit without the summer crowds, as long as you don’t mind slightly cooler weather. It’ll be in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit in the Yosemite Valley, but could be in the 30s at higher elevations. But as long as you bring a jacket, it’s the best time for hiking since the trails are far less crowded. And you’ll get to get to explore trails off Glacier Point Road and Tioga Pass before those roads close for the season (though check the road status page as they could close in October if the snow comes early).
Of course, the leaves are changing here by October, too. The colors are especially great near Tenaya Lake off Tioga Pass.
Related Read: 10 Killer Backpacking Trails in Yosemite National Park
7. Asheville, North Carolina
Why you should go: See the Blue Ridge Mountains become the orange Ridge Mountains.
Probably the most famous city in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Asheville, North Carolina. It has a reputation in the outdoor community for being a year-round playground for hikers and mountain bikers, especially as it also offers up heavy doses of art, culture, and historical architecture. But October is arguably the best time to visit as it’s when the famous mountain range turns to a vivid orange.
Many argue it’s some of the best foliage in the country. But you’ll only know if you see it for yourself, perhaps while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail or taking a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Related Read: 10 Incredible Treehouse Rentals in North Carolina
8. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Why you should go: To see the Pacific Northwest’s best fall colors against an iconic backdrop.
The Pacific Northwest isn’t all just towering pines. In Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park, you can explore an incredible explosion of colors. The national park has around 260 miles of trails, so you won’t be hurting for places to stretch your legs. And since the park isn’t Yosemite-levels of popular, you can usually find some space to yourself on the trails, especially if you don’t mind hiking a bit further than most people.
One of the best places to go in October in the park is the 6.2-mile Skyline Trail, which has excellent views the entire time as it winds you closer to the base of the mountain, passing a waterfall along the way. You could also try the Naches Peak Loop. It’s 3.2 miles round-trip and gains just about 650 feet of elevation. It’s part of the Pacific Crest Trail and that takes you through colorful meadows as Rainier looms from above.
Related Read: 14 Jaw Dropping Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
9. Burlington, Vermont
Why you should go: Apple picking and traditional New England autumn vibes.
You can’t make a list of the best places to go in October without including somewhere in Vermont, and the cute, liberal town of Burlington is an excellent choice. The weather is breezy, crisp, and beautiful, perfect for exploring with a scarf and hot apple cider. Be sure to pop in and out of the boutiques and antique shops in town, stop by at least one bakery for an apple-cider donut, and take a short trip out of town to one of the many nearby breweries — Vermonters love their craft beer.
For more rural views, go for a hike. Choose the kid-friendly and mostly flat Peninsula Trail at the Ethan Allen Homestead if you want a walk you can do with a coffee (or craft brew?) in hand. If you’re good with a more challenging trek, try the Camel’s Hump Trail, which is short but difficult. It leads to excellent views from a point above the Green Mountains. And don’t leave town without at least one apple-picking farm visit, which peak in October.
Related Read: 12 Magical Glamping Destinations in New England
10. Salem, Massachusetts
Why you should go: If you love all things historical, spooky, and downright eerie.
Infamous for their Salem Witch Trials, today, the town of Salem looks back on its precarious and spooky past with their annual Haunted Happenings Festival in October. This is the place to go in October if you want to see costumed performers strolling in elaborate period costumes and performing under the waning shades of yellow, orange, and red leaves. You can also visit the Witch Museum, take ghost tours, or take yourself on a walking tour past the most notable buildings and places.
While you’re there, take time to visit some of the charming local businesses and artisans. It’s a beautiful town and many of the streets are the originals from the 1600s.
11. Denver, Colorado
Why you should go: If you time it right, you can see everything in the city without the huge summer and winter crowds.
With looming mountains and forests of aspens, Colorado is host to some of the country’s most beautiful fall foliage. But foliage aside, Denver is also one of the best places to go in October as it’s the sweet spot between the warm summer season and the snowy ski and snowboard season. It’s not not crowded, but it’s hardly as busy as it’d be during the more popular months.
While you’ll have missed September’s famous (and 51-year strong) Oktoberfest, you shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to explore Denver’s brew scene while you’re here. There are more than 100 brewpubs and breweries in the city, so pace yourself. After (or before, perhaps), burn the calories off with a hike on the Mount Falcon Loop, which passes by the ruins of an old castle, where the colored aspens reflect on the water, or cycle the Cherry Creek Bike Trail.
Related Read: 10 Best Cabins to Rent Near Denver, Colorado
12. Old Lyme, Connecticut
Why you should go: Relaxed beaches, cute towns and New England foliage.
In October, the crowds have left Old Lyme and made room for shoulder-season explorers to enjoy popular sites like Soundview Beach and Rocky Neck State Park. Old Lyme sits where the Connecticut River empties into the Long Island Sound. It’s where forest meets shoreline, boasting incredible views and cute downtowns to explore (it’s very close to the equally charming town of Old Saybrooke).
For a unique way to experience Connecticut’s famous New England foliage, hop aboard the Essex Steam Train or ride the rail bikes to pass through quaint towns and countryside surrounded by changing fall colors.
Related Read: 12 Best Airbnbs in Connecticut for the Ultimate Getaway
13. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Why you should go: Go whale watching and help with cranberry harvest, all in one weekend.
Like the rest of the state, the leafy forests of Cape Cod are filled with changing colors come October. But there’sa another color that makes Cape Cod one of the best places to go in October: red. As in cranberry red.
Be sure to get out on the water while you’re here, too. October and November are the best time of year to spot whales around Cape Cod, so bundle up book your ticket for a whale-watching cruise. If you’re lucky, you’ll see humpbacks brush up against your boat or maybe even see them breaching.
Related Read: 10 of the Best Airbnbs on Cape Cod, Massachusetts
14. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Why you should go: For golden sunshine, aspen trees, mountain biking, and some crystal therapy.
If you want to ensure you’ll have sunshine and nice weather but still want to see the changing of the seasons, Santa Fe, New Mexico is an ideal choice. In October, the aspen trees turn an incredible golden color that contrasts perfectly against the blue bright skies this region is known for.
It doesn’t get very chilly during the days, so a light jacket is all you’ll need. Spend some time hiking or mountain biking in the Santa Fe National Forest, which is just a short drive from the city. On your return to Santa Fe, have dinner at a classic restaurant like El Farol (the oldest restaurant in the state) or Geronimo, an expensive but great restaurant for a date night or special occasion.
Related Read: The 10 Best Glamping Rentals in New Mexico
Find Your Next Adventure
Sign up for the Weekend Wanderer, our free email newsletter delivering 10,000+ readers epic travel ideas every week.
Seen in: Fall Colors