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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White oak branch showing brilliant reddish fall color
White Oak Leaves, Fall Color
In good fall-color years, white oaks can turn beautiful claret red. This is usually at the peak of fall color, in the second half of October for most of the state.

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Fragrant sumac leaves in fall color
Fragrant Sumac, Fall Color
Like its cousin poison ivy, fragrant sumac turns lovely colors in the fall. Note the lack of a separate, elongated leaf stalk on the center leaflet; instead, the leaf middle leaflet blade tapers to where it joins the other two.

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Fall Color
Fall Color
Autumn leaves at Mark Twain Lake.

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Closeup of smooth sumac leaves turning color in fall
Smooth Sumac, Fall Foliage
Smooth sumac leaves are feather-compound, 12–16 inches long, with 15–23 coarsely-toothed leaflets. The central leaf-stem is smooth and lacks wings. Leaves turn red in fall.

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Flowering dogwood branches showing fall color
Flowering Dogwood Branches In Fall Color
Flowering dogwood is one of our standout species for fall color.

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Multicolored leaves of sugar maple in fall
Sugar Maple Autumn Leaves
Sugar maple occurs in moist to dry upland forests, margins of glades, ledges and bases of bluffs, and stream banks.

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Bright red and orange sugar maple leaves backlit against blue sky
Sugar Maple Leaves, Fall Color
Sugar maple is a popular ornamental tree, especially for its brilliant yellow, orange, and red fall foliage.

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Orange sugar maple leaves backlit against blue sky
Sugar Maple Foliage, Fall Color
The sun shining through brilliant sugar maple leaves on a sunny October day can be dazzling.

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Sugar maple tree in fall, showing variety of colors on same tree
Sugar Maple Tree, Fall Color
In fall, the outermost leaves of sugar maples often turn color first, leaving the green and yellowish leaves in the protected parts.

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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.

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Autumn woods showing a patchwork of different colors
Autumn Woods With Sugar Maples
The magnificent display of fall color in eastern North America is one of the most spectacular sights involving the plant kingdom. Sugar maples, with their bright reds, oranges, and yellows, play a starring role.

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Sweet gum leaves in fall color
Sweet Gum Leaves in Fall Color
Many people prize sweet gum as a landscaping tree because of its beautiful fall color.

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

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Tulip tree with leaves showing fall color
Tulip Tree In Fall Color
Tulip trees, though native to only southeastern Missouri, are popular statewide as landscaping trees.

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

Fall Color Updates Run September–November

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 11:15am

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

In progress

A lot has changed in the Central Region since last week! Most oaks and hickories are still green, but the understory dogwoods are dark red, and the sugar maples have quickly changed to flaming orange and yellow. In the lowlands, cottonwoods, hackberries, and sycamores are all yellowish green. Most of the white ashes are at their peak reddish purple color, and the green ashes are well on their way to bright yellow. Catalpa and red maple ― species that are native to southern Missouri but are commonly planted up here ― are beginning to turn as well. Look for the yellowing heart-shaped leaves of catalpa in rural yards and along highways. Red maples are dark red right now but will continue to brighten to a true lipstick red. Roadsides still showcase brilliant red poison ivy and smooth sumac, as well as the orange tones of sassafras and black cherry.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For a good tour of the fall colors, a drive along MO 94 heading east out of Jefferson City is always a good choice. If you’re looking for a lovely hike, we’re getting reports that Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area in Morgan County currently has a nice variety of beautiful fall colors.

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 11:17am

Kansas City Region

In progress

Conditions over the last several days in the Kansas City Region have been right for trees to produce their red pigments — sunny days and cool nights. Keep an eye out for vibrant reds, purples, and oranges in red and sugar maples and in white ash. Meanwhile, yellows are coming out in honey locust, green ash, and hackberry due to the shorter days. But colors are still spotty in the region at this point. Within the same neighborhood, trees showing nearly peak colors are right next to trees whose leaves have not yet begun to change. The recent rains were not intense enough to have knocked leaves off of most trees, although some trees have been stressed by fungal diseases and have started to turn brown.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in our region, drive on MO 45 and MO 224 along the Missouri River. For hiking and photography, try 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. If you’re looking for fall color in and near the city, VisitKC.com has lots of other ideas for you.

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 11:24am

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

In progress

The cold snaps of fall finally arrived this past week throughout the region, with a hard freeze occurring overnight at least one to two times. When it comes to fall color, these cooler temperatures are always welcome, so long as we keep our warm, sunny days! But you can expect to see some fall color “fallout” from the hard freeze we just experienced ― many of our daintier, more tender-leafed species such as soft maples, ashs, elms, and walnut are quickly fading from their beautiful reds and yellows. Hard freezes tend to hasten the color change process, shutting the door to a slow progression of pigment changes inside the leaves. The heavier and more robust leaves, as on oaks and hickories, can withstand this a little better. Be sure to enjoy the deep crimson and bright cherry of the shrubby sumac species that dot the roadsides and fields. Many fields are getting showier with a gorgeous display of goldenrod species.

Fall Color Hot Spots

We recommend going for a stroll, bike ride, or short drive through neighborhoods to catch the full display of maple cultivars before they quickly fade.

As the weather continues its colder trend, you can expect more hunters to utilize our Conservation Areas and local woods to hunt. Exercise caution when out and about looking in these areas. Recommended public lands to visit include Thousand Hills State Park, Mark Twain Lake, and Steyermark Woods and Hidden Hollow Conservation Areas.

We advise focusing on field edges, roadsides, grasslands, and savannas for the next couple of weeks for the best fall color views.

We also suggest driving north of Lewistown on Routes H and Y for several pretty views. We also recommend driving MO 149 from Ethel north to US 136.

Updated: 10/18/2019 - 1:48pm
Parking lot with several Kentucky coffee trees turning yellow

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

In progress

Unfortunately the progress on fall color continues to be slow in the Northwest Region. Most color is still pale yellow, on hackberry, Kentucky coffee tree, walnut, willow, and cottonwood. Some sumac, poison ivy, and Virginia creeper have brighter red colors now that we’ve had a few cool nights to go along with the sunny warm days. But those cool nights have been few and far between, so color has slowed, which could be good news. Color may come all at once ― or it may last longer into the season than usual. The current forecast calls for just a few color-friendly nights, so only time and weather will tell.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Like last week, driving suggestions include most rural routes with fence rows. In town, it is still scattered maples and, most recently, Kentucky coffee tree.

Also, the 33rd annual Poosey Conservation Fall Tour is Sunday, Oct. 20, from noon until 4 p.m. Poosey CA is northwest of Chillicothe in Livingston County. The annual driving tour allows visitors to drive on roads not normally open to the public for vehicle traffic. (With the areas steep hills, deep valleys, and shallow stream crossings, vehicles with high clearance are recommended.) The tour begins at Pike’s Lake. An entrance to the lake is reached off Route W and County Road 502. Gates open at noon and the last vehicle will be allowed to begin at 4 p.m. Smokey Bear, who is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, will be present for photos with his fans, and there will be presentations on the role of fire in forest, woodland, and grassland ecology. Visit the link below for a page about the event.

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 11:34am

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

In progress

Fall color has progressed just slightly from last week, and overall there is very little change: a lot of canopies are holding brown leaves from drought, and a lot of species have not started to turn yet. We saw some cooler temperatures and some rain in places this week, and hopefully that will contribute to more of a fall display by next week. Dogwoods, sycamore, black tupelo, sumac, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and black walnut make up the majority of the species that have started changing color or losing leaves.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Make the most of the pleasant weather and take a hike or scenic drive this weekend. Although there is not much fall color in the landscape yet, you can visit Big Spring south of Van Buren to see the turquoise spring water that flows into the Current River. Peck Ranch Conservation Area is about 10 miles west of Van Buren and is home to the Missouri elk herd. There is a scenic driving tour route at Peck Ranch that takes you through valleys that offer a chance to see the elk. Note that the Peck Ranch Driving Tour will be closed Oct. 26–28 for a managed deer hunt, so keep that closure in mind as you plan your visit.

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 11:39am
Landscape with Lake Girardeau in foreground and mostly green trees in background

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

Beginning to turn

At last, fall is finally here! Temperatures have dropped, just in time for hayrides, campfires, warm beverages, and snuggling in your favorite sweater. Fall colors are still lagging this year, compared to previous years. But colors are definitely appearing now; as you drive around, you’ll notice the scenery has patches here and there of warm color pigmentation. Black gum trees are starting to contribute vibrant scarlet shades. Hackberry and black cherry are displaying their sunshine yellows, and a few red maples are revealing the reason for their name with beautiful cherry hues. Do not forget the continued glory of our late-season wildflowers. New England asters display a particularly gorgeous shade of lavender.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Continue your adventures in the northern and western parts of the region. This week we feature Hickory Canyons Natural Area and Magnolia Hollow, Ketcherside Mountain, Seventy-Six, and Lake Girardeau Conservation Areas.

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 11:54am

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

In progress

The cool evening temperatures ― including one morning hitting 32F ― and warm, sunny days have rewarded us with the sight of more trees turning color. Black gum and flowering dogwood are showing red to dark purple in many places, and red maples in communities are also showing red on many trees. Green ash, sycamore, and hickories are showing greens and yellows in several locations, and white ash are showing purple in select locations. Oaks are mostly green, with a few showing yellow to tan. The early changers of smooth sumac and Virginia creeper are holding on to good color.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Locations to visit include any community or yard with red maple, and woodlands with black gum and flowering dogwood, such as Flag Spring, Huckleberry Ridge, and Mule Shoe Conservation Areas.

Updated: 10/17/2019 - 12:00pm
Landscape with red sumac and small yellow maples in foreground, with green canopy of larger trees behind

St. Louis Region

In progress

Fall color is rather variable across the St. Louis Region right now, with our northern counties (St. Charles, Lincoln) becoming more consistent with fall color in the metropolitan area, and southern counties (Crawford, Washington) still more green than not. Up north, the northern red oaks are finally beginning to show color and are contrasting nicely with sugar maple and dogwoods. Dogwoods, sumacs, and sassafras are showing color throughout the area with maples, oaks and hickories being variable depending on your location. The cooler weather in the forecast should help to jump-start more widespread fall color, but an early hard freeze may end things abruptly.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Fall color tours worth taking this weekend include a trip up north to Logan Conservation Area or out west to Daniel Boone Conservation Area. Indian Camp Creek Park, a St. Charles County Park, is a shorter trip for those in the metropolitan area. Remember that fall color floats are another great way to enjoy this fantastic season!

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Fall Color Events

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