Fall Colors

Latest Reports and Best Places

Predicting the peak of fall color can be difficult. Missouri is blessed with a great variety of trees, shrubs, and vines. Their leaves turn at different times, so Missourians enjoy a fall color season that may last four to six weeks. Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change, beginning in mid-September. By late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood are turning.

The peak of fall color in Missouri is usually around mid-October. This is when maples, ashes, oaks, and hickories are at the height of their fall display. Normally by late October, the colors are fading and the leaves beginning to drop from the trees. Fall color is usually finished by the middle of November.

The progression of color change starts earliest in north Missouri and moves southward across the state. Generally, the color change is predictable, but it can vary from year to year. Much depends on the weather.

Where’s The Best Place?

You can enjoy Missouri’s fall color almost anywhere.

  • For spectacular vistas, choose routes along rivers with views of forested bluffs, and along ridges with sweeping scenes of forested landscapes.
  • On a smaller scale, drive on back roads, hike, or take a float trip under a colorful forest canopy on a clear, blue-sky day. Visit MDC Conservation Areas and Missouri State Parks.
  • Even treeless areas, such as prairies and roadsides, display beautiful shades of gold, purple, olive, and auburn with autumn wildflowers, shrubs, and curing, rustling grasses.
  • If you can’t get out of town, enjoy places with mature trees, such as older neighborhoods, parks, and even cemeteries.

Find events on your route

The Missouri Division of Tourism’s online calendar is packed with events happening all across Missouri this fall. Find those along your preferred routes.

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Fall colors in Missouri
Fall colors in Missouri

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Fall Color
Fall Color
Autumn leaves at Mark Twain Lake.

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Beatuiful fall colors in Hartsburg's river bottom.
Hartsburg's Fall Color Display

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Peck Ranch in Fall colors
Peck Ranch in Fall colors
Peck Ranch in Fall colors

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Photo of a summit at Elephant Rocks State Park showing boulders and trees with fall color
Elephant Rocks State Park in Fall Color
Elephant Rocks State Park, in southeast Missouri, is one of many great places to see fall color in Missouri.

Fall Color Updates Run September–November

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 11:07am

Central Region, including Columbia, Jefferson City, and Lake of the Ozarks

Not Started

It’s still early: leaves remain green on nearly all trees around central Missouri. There is little, if any, indication that fall color might come early this year. The severe drought that plagued much of the region this summer will certainly make this year’s fall color season interesting. In years impacted by growing season drought conditions, trees typically tend to turn more rapidly, with leaf color generally duller and browner. But this was not the case in our state after the drought of 2012, when Missourians witnessed incredibly brilliant fall color for much of October. Trees aside, there are wonderful fall wildflowers blooming across mid-Missouri’s natural communities this time of year. Look for the vivid pinkish-purple flowers of rough blazing star and prairie blazing star and the bright yellows of bristly sunflower, ashy sunflower, and stiff goldenrod blooming across the prairies and woodlands of central Missouri.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Marshall I. Diggs Conservation Area is a hot spot for fall wildflower viewing! It is on the boundary of Montgomery and Audrain counties, near Martinsburg. The area includes restored remnant prairies, savannas, and woodlands that each exhibit a diverse array of native grasses and wildflowers. Many of these are blooming now. Take an early fall hike through Diggs CA and experience the beauty of these restored natural communities.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:51pm

Kansas City Region

Not Started

Fall color reporting for 2018 will begin soon.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:52pm

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

Beginning to turn

Fall color is still getting started in the northeast Missouri. Unlike last year, we’re actually expecting a fairly decent fall color season because of a good amount of moisture we’ve had in the last month and a half. Right now, most of the fall color consists of the golden yellows of ash, honey locust, cottonwood, and black walnut. Along roadsides, pastures, and field edges, the wild sunflowers and goldenrods are putting on a beautiful display. Soybean fields are changing to yellow rather quickly, too. The beautiful deep reds of sumacs, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy are in full swing. The beautiful grayish purple of gray dogwood hasn’t popped out yet, but be sure to look for it in the coming week.

Fall Color Hot Spots

This week, try sticking to lettered highways that take you through more grassland-dominated landscapes as opposed to forested ones. Highways 5, 6, 11, and 15 will also have some scenic views as well. Fields that were burned off in the spring or summer will likely be dominated by bright showy goldenrods and other yellow flowers.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:52pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Not Started

Despite recent rains, most of the Northwest Region is still in severe to extreme drought conditions. Only the three counties in the very northwest corner are basically out of the drought. Drought effects can be long-term and slow to show up in most trees, but some drought symptoms can show up rather quickly. You’ll easily notice early dropped fruit, especially in oaks and walnuts. Walnuts, Ohio buckeye, willows, cottonwood, hackberry, sycamore, some elms, and other water-loving trees are showing early fall color, turning rather dull yellows. Some of the dogwoods are showing soft reds. A few sugar maples, in towns in the western part of the state, are showing some bright early oranges and reds.

Predictions on fall color development and quality this year, like last year, will be tough. It may boil down to just how much more rain the area receives and what the temperatures do. We had a few days of very nice, cool temperatures, but they have given way to 90 F temperatures the last few days. Good soil moisture, sunny days, and cool nighttime temperatures are some of the key ingredients to good fall color.

Fall Color Hot Spots

To see the color of dogwoods, we recommend driving along any road with brush along the right of way. The yellows are appearing all over. For good views, drive north from St. Joseph on I-29 to just beyond the Iowa line.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:51pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

Not Started

Fall color reporting for 2018 will begin soon.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:22pm

Southeast Region, including Cape Girardeau, Farmington, and Poplar Bluff

Not Started

Summer weather hangs on! Its lingering heat makes us think of fishing and relaxing on beaches; hayrides and bonfires still seem far away. The trees have not started their overall transformation. But you may see a single tree here and there whose green foliage isn’t so vibrant anymore as it concedes to dryness. You may see a patch of sumac starting to pop with red leaves and deep maroon drupes (fruits). Walnuts are the first to change, and some are burnishing into yellow. Other early changers include the occasional poplar, sycamore, or sweet gum.

Although fall officially starts this week, we’ll have warm temperatures a bit longer. But the rain was fairly decent for foliage growth earlier this year in our region. Sunny days and clear nights may create some good fall color later in the season. In the meantime, enjoy the lingering effects of summer. Find your favorite water hole to fish, swim, canoe, and relax in the sunny rays.

Fall Color Hot Spots

This week, we suggest visiting Twappity Community Lake, Amidon Conservation Area (especially near at the granite shut-ins on the Castor River), Johnson’s Shut-Ins, or any local river access.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:33pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Not Started

The drought we had this summer caused a few scattered trees to develop fall color early in August. Many started dropping leaves early, and the species that normally lose leaves early were doing so, too. But since we had rain in mid-August, this has all stopped. With the weather we’ve had, fall color prediction is not possible.

Just because fall color has not started does not mean you can’t get out and enjoy nature. Go on a snipe hunt — yes, they are real! Long called common snipe, North America’s species is now called Wilson’s snipe.

Updated: 09/20/2018 - 12:36pm

St. Louis Region

Not Started

There is no fall color so far, although trees affected by drought may show early color, indicating stress.

Related Content

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Learn what is happening inside leaves to make them change color.

Fall Color Events

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