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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Photo of sassafras tree in autumn color.
Sassafras
Sassafras is a pleasant tree in cultivation. Its leaves are very colorful in autumn.

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Fall Color
Fall Color
Autumn leaves at Mark Twain Lake.

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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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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: 10/22/2020 - 3:06pm

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

Peak color

This week should be the peak of the autumn colors in central Missouri. Most sugar maples in the region are lit up, showcasing their bright yellow-orange shades. Some red maples are turning their characteristic crimson, and silver maples are at their peak shade of yellow. Fragrant, or aromatic sumac is still a stunner, carpeting the woods in orange and red. The oaks are beginning to turn: the various red oaks are tipped in red, and some of the white oak species are too, but others are simply turning brown. Black oak is beginning to turn a mix of yellow and brown. Some hickories remain brilliantly yellow, but many are turning brown and dropping leaves at this point. Many persimmons have lost their leaves, leaving their abundant orange fruit hanging on bare twigs. In town, sweet gums are turning yellow. Hopefully the return of sunny days will coax some shades of red and purple out of them in the later part of the week. Last week’s high winds made a lot of the leaves fall already, particularly in the northern part of the region, but colors remain bright in the southern part of the region.

Fall Color Hot Spots

This is the time to enjoy a conservation area with a vista! Cooler weather makes for a more pleasant hike, and the fall color is a great reward. Take a hike up to the scenic overlooks at Grand Bluffs CA in Montgomery County, Hart Creek CA in Boone County, or Painted Rock CA in Osage County.

If you’re in the mood for some fall fishing, put your boat in at Larry Gale Access at Lake of the Ozarks, which is currently a very pretty area.

For scenic drives, we recommend the bluff-lined highways of MO 94, MO 179, and MO 100; these are always seasonal favorites.

  • Remember that this is also a great time to be out hunting, so be careful while you’re in the woods.
Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:00pm

Kansas City Region

In progress

Fall colors will soon peak in much of the Kansas City Region, although some areas are past peak and some are still lagging behind. Our fall color display has been a bit dull this year due in part to the very dry conditions over the last few months. Also, early leaf drop has been common in some species due to high winds and tree diseases, most of which do not affect the long-term health of the tree. In more urban neighborhoods, fall color is a little delayed — paved surfaces retain warmth, which subjects city trees to higher temperatures than they would experience in more natural settings. In spite of the overall lackluster display, there are pockets of brilliant reds and oranges in some of our healthier maples, and oaks will start to show shades of red, yellow, and brown. With the little bit of much-needed rain we had recently, we could see some good color as the cottonwoods along the Missouri River change to yellow.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in our region, consider taking a drive on MO 45 and 224 along the Missouri River. For hiking and photography, the following will become showy: 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. Visit KC.com has a fall colors page devoted to our area.

Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:39pm
A damp, paved walking path leads into yellow, rust, and green-leaved woods.

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

Peak color

In and around Hannibal, the dry weather has caused trees to change color very quickly, and recent high winds and rains took a toll on some leaves that had turned. Yellows abound on common hardwood species. Reds are in full swing on sumacs, dogwoods, tree vines, and various shrubs, plus sugar maples, but leaves are dropping quickly. Ash trees are showing yellows and reds. Autumn color can be found in all area landscapes with cottonwood, walnut, hickory, mulberry, catalpa, and buckeye steadily yellowing.

In the western portion of our region, we’ve noticed that the brisk morning temperatures this past week are a chilly reminder that winter is right around the corner. With this cooler weather, more leaves have been falling. The sumacs’ vibrant red leaves have all dropped for the season. Most of our oak and hickory species have dropped their leaves as well. The few leaves that have not yet blown off are displaying rusty brown. As you drive through neighborhoods, the signature bright red maple leaves that we all associate with fall are now littering yards and filling trash bags. Squirrels have been out in full force this past week storing up their nuts for winter, which is fast approaching. Our ash species are still holding on to their color, despite some leaves dropping. Their remaining yellow leaves are a bright contrast against the deep reds and browns in the landscape.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Good viewing is always available at the overlooks on MO 79 south of Hannibal, and Riverview Park in Hannibal offers a beautiful view across the Mississippi River. There are many great conservation areas in our region where you can enjoy fall color along hiking trails and walking paths. These areas also provide opportunities to watch squirrels, migrating birds, and other wildlife. This week we’re highlighting Steyermark Woods, Edward Anderson, Deer Ridge, and Dupont Conservation Areas. See the links below for more information.

  • Remember to be careful as we get deeper into bow-hunting season: be safe while enjoying our public lands.
Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:12pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

In progress

Fall color in the Northwest Region is slow to peak. The warm weather and slight bit of drought have hampered good color in oaks and maples. Most other trees have turned, with yellow being the most prominent color. There are some good oranges and reds in sugar maples growing along the Missouri River loess hills south of St. Joseph. Those steep hills are usually covered in brilliant reds, purples, and oranges, but it will be a waiting game this year to see just how colorful things will be. We are guessing there is still at least a week or two of fall color left to go. But that projection could easily change if we receive hard rains and strong winds . . . or, dare we mention it, a heavy wet snow, which would cause a lot of leaves to fall.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For a good driving route, we still recommend US 59 from St. Joseph to Kansas City along the river bluffs. Our suggested public lands this week are Bluffwoods, Sunbridge Hills, Monkey Mountain, Honey Creek, and Riverbreaks Conservation Areas.

Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:19pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

Peak color

It’s peak color right now. The landscape is stunning and beautiful. Now is the time to get outdoors and experience this special time of year!

Ozark hillsides are now awash in almost every color imaginable. All the colors of the spectrum are represented: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and violet. Reds have been most notable in black gum, sumacs, and Virginia creeper. Orange has been the dominant color of sassafras and some maples recently. (If you are fortunate enough to have a maple in your yard you may have noticed that the side exposed to the sun is a little more vibrant.) Yellow is common on black walnut, mulberry, pawpaw, and hickories. Greens, of course, dominated throughout the growing season. Now, however, and through the winter months until leaves emerge in spring, the green tops of shortleaf pine and eastern red cedar will decorate hillsides and valleys. Dogwood leaves are also a special treat, spanning the entire width of cyan, blue, and violet color all on the same tree!

Taken together, and with the recent cool nighttime temperatures and a little rainfall, this next week should be the peak viewing time. Get out and enjoy nature!

Fall Color Hot Spots

Fall color and water look fantastic together. See the links below for this week’s recommended conservation areas, which feature rivers, lakes, and springs.

Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:42pm
Under slightly overcast sky, a line of trees showing green, rust, and golden fall color along a highway

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

Peak color

Rain has moved back into the forecast, a relief for the dry spell and turning down the fire danger. Wet days aren’t typically conducive to vibrant colors, but nevertheless, fall color is in full mode. Sugar maple, sumacs, sassafras, and black gum continue to dominate the show, as their alluring displays can be seen from long distances. Persimmon contributes subdued maroon and yellow shades, and hickories dapple the landscape, brightening the horizon in amber and sunshine tones. Oaks are adding the final touches to fall color, with their various tawny and russet shades. Colors will still be most prominent in the northern section of the region, but any forested view will be a joy to see. We like this quote by Albert Camus: “Autumn spring is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic drives, this week we recommend highways starting in Ironton and heading in all directions: Missouri highways 72 and 21, and continuing on MO 49; other good fall-color routes in our region include MO 25, MO 34, and MO 51. This week we’re also highlighting public lands in the Arcadia Valley region, such as Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and Elephant Rocks State Park. Along the Mississippi River north of Cape Girardeau, Trail of Tears State Park provides spectacular views of forests along the river bluffs.

Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:45pm
A gravel trail leads straight forward flanked on each side by fallen leaves, with green and yellowish green trees on either side

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

In progress

There has not been very much change from last week to this week. Unfortunately, some of the showy color that had already developed has diminished due to leaf drop. Those seeking fall color can expect to find some good color still on the landscape with the potential for it to improve with oak, some of the maples, and other species still waiting to change. This week the weather conditions are good to encourage good color. Southern counties with more black gum are reporting that that species still has some decent red color but is fading fast.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Barry and Christian counties have several excellent places to get outside and view fall color in the Mark Twain National Forest. The many MDC conservation areas in our region are also excellent places to hike, bike, or horseback ride and enjoy the fall weather. Other places to get out and enjoy nature include many local and regional trail networks. The Ruby Jack Trail, a gravel rails-to-trail path between Carthage and Carl Junction, is one example.

Updated: 10/22/2020 - 2:49pm
Golden and rust-colored autumn leaves of shagbark hickory against a pine tree and a pale sky beyond

St. Louis Region

Peak color

Fall color continues to be inconsistent across the region, with outlying areas at or past peak and other areas with a majority of oaks still green. The windy days have also caused considerable defoliation in some areas, bringing an abrupt end to the fall season for trees affected by drought and early-spring fungal diseases. Although most oaks are still green or only dull green, there are some with good red or purple color. You can find more consistent color in maples, hickories, dogwoods, sassafras, black gum, pawpaw, spicebush, and Virginia creeper. More sporadic color can be found in some sycamore, poison ivy, and hackberry.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Seeking out maples will likely be your best bet for finding consistent color this year, so consider visiting Powder Valley, Rockwoods Range, Engelmann Woods, or Logan Conservation Areas, or take a drive west of St. Louis on MO 94 or MO 47 through Warren County.

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Fall Color Events

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