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: 11/08/2018 - 3:59pm

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

Past peak

Sadly, last week’s showy color came and went in a blink — but was it ever a show! There will be no encore, however, and we’ll have to wait until next year to see leaves in vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and purples. The oaks have changed to shades of rusty reddish brown, and most of the hickories are bare. Some sugar and silver maples still show yellow in the southern part of the region, but they’re fading to tan up north, or dropping their leaves entirely.

Throughout the urban landscape, scattered trees continue to display some color. City parks, street sides, and cemeteries usually have a variety of species planted, some of which may still be showing some color. For example, sweet gums are still very pretty, but they, too, are dropping their leaves.

The planted invasive exotic Callery (‘Bradford’) pears are very bright red right now, and it is easy to recognize their unwanted offspring on roadsides and in fields, since they add a punch of reddish orange to an otherwise tan landscape.

The cold weather predicted for Veterans Day weekend will likely bring the show to an end. This week, look at the more subtle changes that are still going on, such as the variation in the rusty colors of oaks, the golden cast in pines undergoing their annual needle shed, and the pale blue berries on female cedars.

Fall Color Hot Spots

If you go outdoors to enjoy nature this week, keep in mind that the November portion of firearms deer season will have a lot of hunters in the woods, so exercise caution and only visit public areas where there is no hunting. Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, and city parks might be the best places to experience the last of fall’s Technicolor show.

Updated: 11/08/2018 - 4:00pm

Kansas City Region

Past peak

We are still seeing some vibrant fall color in the Kansas City Region, but many of the showier maple and ash trees have lost their leaves and are contributing to a browner landscape. But those fallen leaves are beautiful and are fun to collect and use in craft projects — or you can just pile them up and jump into them!

Meanwhile, most of our oaks continue to cling to their leaves, some displaying deep shades of amber and red against some spectacular sunsets. If you find yourself near the Missouri River, take note of the especially vibrant yellow of the cottonwoods.

Whatever your plans for the next week, try to take advantage of the remaining fall colors because with the forecast calling for possible rain and snow and a few very cold nights, we could see a quick end to what has been a wonderful fall color display.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in our region, try MO 45 and MO 224 along the Missouri River. For hiking and photography, the following are showy areas: Big Buffalo Creek, Burr Oak Woods, and White Alloe Creek Conservation Areas; Maple Woods Natural Area; Knob Noster State Park; Forest Hills and Mount Washington cemeteries; and the Swope Memorial in Swope Park.

Updated: 11/08/2018 - 4:30pm

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

Past peak

In the last few weeks, many folks have told us that this is one of the most beautiful fall color seasons they can remember in northeast Missouri. We certainly agree with them! Over the past week, our pin oaks and white oaks really stole the show with their gorgeous display of deep, cherry reds and rich purples. These beauties grab the attention of almost every driver. Nearly every hillside and creek bed has one or two of these oaks to enjoy.

The maples, which never disappoint when it comes to fall color, will soon be wrapping up their display. Be sure to catch their flaming colors before it’s too late. They’re entering their fiery yellow stage right now. Silver maples, with their neon yellows, are matching their sugar-maple cousins for beauty this year.

Most of our ornamentals are close to being done, if they haven’t already dropped their last leaf. There are some pretty serviceberries still lingering with color in neighborhood yards.

Here’s a suggestion. As you’re out walking a nice trail at a park, make a note of where you’ve seen the best fall color, and what it looked like, so you can compare it to next year’s show.

This is the time of year to look out for nonnative plants as well. Most likely, they’re the still-green bushes that occupy the entire understory of your local woodlot or old field. We recommend doing your homework on these nonnatives to learn more about their growth habits, what kind of native habitats or species they negatively effect, and how to get rid of them properly. The Missouri Department of Conservation has plenty of information to help you.

Fall Color Hot Spots

To soak up our last bit of fall color, we suggest you visit parks and wooded areas that have lots of oaks or maples. We recommend the Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal, Rothwell Park in Moberly, as well as Long Branch State Park, Mark Twain State Park, and Thousand Hills State Park.

Updated: 11/08/2018 - 10:20pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Color has ended

Sad to say, but the Northwest Region is on the downside of fall color. Most of the good color has faded to browns, and there are more and more bare limbs. But it was a good season despite all the weather ups and downs! The next “color” for us is supposed to be a blanket of the white stuff on Thursday — woohoo! . . . Let winter begin.

As we start to wrap up fall color, here’s a tip: Next spring, be prepared to see a little bit of limb damage on some trees and bushes. Because of the drought we experienced, some plants in our region put on a second growth spurt late in the season. The severe lack of moisture had caused some plants to shut down growth — a natural survival mechanism. Once the rains started falling, these same plants started to grow again. This new growth may have been damaged by the really cold temperatures (and snow!) we had in the middle of October. There’s not much you can do about it, except to properly prune any dead limbs just as soon as they are apparent in the spring.

Updated: 11/08/2018 - 4:08pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

Peak color

Although leaves are constantly falling, most of the Ozark Region is still very bright with the colors of fall. Driving through the valleys and ridges, you can see colorful canopies everywhere you look. All tree species have changed, and some are losing leaves faster than others. We can expect to see almost full canopy color over the next week, but leaf fall will be happening gradually and may be on the downhill side after this week. Any rain events will speed up that process. After an extended summer season, drought, and the late onset of fall, the Ozark Region is still enjoying a beautiful fall display.

Fall Color Hot Spots

The southern part of the Ozarks offers lots of recreational opportunities through the Mark Twain National Forest. Both the Jacks Fork River and the Current River offer many scenic views for those brave enough to float or kayak in cooler weather, and for those who would just like to visit one of the many scenic stops along either river. Barn Hollow Natural Area, near Mountain View, has a hiking trail that provides visitors with scenic woodland views.

Updated: 11/08/2018 - 4:14pm
Photo of flowering dogwood showing fall color at Trail of Tears State Park

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

Peak color

After the recent pinnacle of fall color, we’ve had a couple of rain events that have blown leaves off of trees. There are still several trees to enjoy this next week, but colors are already starting to wane. Hickories and sugar maples are hanging on with their blond shades. Elms are waving lemon-colored leaves. White oaks are turning a gorgeous apple hue, while other oaks, such as bur oak, northern red oak, and cherrybark oak, are marching on with russet and tans.

Callery (‘Bradford’) pear and burning bush (euonymus) also spark fiery reds, but take heed. These species are nonnatives that are increasingly escaping to the wild, outcompeting and threatening native species. Instead, consider planting native trees and shrubs, such as red maple or flowering dogwood, that provide an equally impressive display.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Hunters will soon flood the woods to appreciate their deer hunting heritage. Consider sticking closer to urban areas or local parks to minimize disruption of their hunting experience. And if you are out and about in the woods, be sure to wear hunter orange, for your safety and theirs.

This week, we recommend the General Watkins, Castor River, Clearwater, Current River, and Graves Mountain Conservation Areas, and Sam A. Baker State Park.

Updated: 11/08/2018 - 4:17pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Past peak

Leaves are dropping fast in southwest Missouri. Most trees have changed to their fullest expression of fall color or have dropped. There are a few holdouts holding on to green, though. There is still time to see plenty of yellow, red, and tan leaves on trees. Now is also time to hear the rustling of leaves as you walk.

Remember, too, that deer rifle season starts this weekend, so wear orange when enjoying the outdoors.

Fall Color Hot Spots

The best places to see color still include most communities, where there are colorful trees in yards. For walks, we recommend the Mort Walker Trail at Bicentennial Conservation Area, Morse Park in downtown Neosho, and Walter Woods Conservation Area.

Recommended driving routes include

  • MO 64 from Lebanon to Bennett Spring,
  • MO 5 from Lebanon to Camdenton,
  • MO 59 from Diamond to Anderson,
  • MO 90 from Noel to Jane, and
  • MO 43 from Seneca to Tiff City.
Updated: 11/08/2018 - 4:57pm

St. Louis Region

Past peak

During this past week, our fall display moved rather rapidly past peak, mostly due to rain and wind. But there’s still great color out there, especially closer to the big city where temperatures are warmer. Many oaks still have colors ranging from yellows to purples, but many of the early seasonal trees have dropped their leaves. We’re forecasted to have a hard freeze coming soon, so now is the time to get out and enjoy the colors while the trees still have leaves.

It’s also a great time to identify and eliminate invasive species like burning bush, Callery (‘Bradford’) pear, and the invasive honeysuckles, as they’ll still be green.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Consider a hike or drive to Forest Park, or Powder Valley, Victoria Glades, or Little Lost Creek Conservation Areas.

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Fall Color Events

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