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.

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. It's like having acres of shining stained glass above!
  • 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.

Follow the show of Missouri’s fall color, and find events on your route

The Missouri Division of Tourism’s online calendar (see Visit Missouri under External Links below) is packed with events happening all across Missouri this fall. Find those along your preferred routes.

Fall Color Updates Run September–November

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

We have finally reached peak fall color in the Central Region. Two-thirds of the canopy has changed, which makes for a good diversity of color across the landscape. Oaks are now ranging from green to orange to red. Dogwoods are a brilliant red in the understory, and mulberries have a golden sheen in the sunlight. The sunlight we’ve had this last week has improved the oranges and reds from maples as well. In urban settings, pears have turned a dark burgundy, silver maples are bright yellow, and sweet gums are beginning to display some orange in their canopies. This next week should only continue to improve.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Take a boat ride down the Missouri, Osage, Gasconade, Loutre, or Blackwater rivers and you should get a good view. Otherwise, driving on back roads in the river hills will suffice. Enjoy!

10/22/2014 - 6:13pm

Kansas City Region

Fall colors are in full swing in most of the Kansas City Region and should peak within the next week or so. Maples that have not lost leaves are glowing with brilliant reds and oranges, and the cottonwoods along the Missouri River are beginning a nice display of yellow. Oaks are still providing a lot of green but are starting to show some color, although brownish shades will dominate. The duration of fall color will depend on the weather. High wind, heavy rain, or a hard freeze will hasten leaf drop.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in our region, try Highways 45 and 224 along the Missouri. For hiking, try Big Buffalo Creek and Burr Oak Woods Conservation Areas; Maple Woods and White Alloe Creek Natural Areas; Knob Knoster State Park; and Forest Hills and Mount Washington cemeteries.

10/22/2014 - 6:14pm

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

Fall colors are vibrant, but the progression has been very slow over the last week. Sugar maples across the Northeast Region are various shades of yellow and orange. Many hickory trees have changed to a golden yellow and are beginning to turn brown. Oaks are changing very slowly and still have many green leaves remaining. Fall colors are still not peaking, but they will peak very soon.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Route 79 from Louisiana to Hannibal is an excellent drive for viewing fall color. This drive has several scenic overlooks that have excellent views of the Mississippi River valley, which is surrounded by forested bluffs.

10/22/2014 - 6:14pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Great fall color is at our doorstep. Hickories started showing deep yellows last week and they should peak this week. The oaks and sugar maples are teasing, with a few leaves changing color. Because the weather has cooperated, the sugar maples should produce some really good oranges and reds. These colors are common but can be really enhanced by bright, sunny days and cool nights. Forecasts predict only a few chances of rain later this week into next, so there should be plenty of opportunity to view the upcoming colors.

Fall Color Hot Spots

One of the best routes in this part of the state is I-29, especially along the loess hill bluffs from Mound City to the Iowa border. Or if you’d like a less-traveled route, try Highways 45 and 59 from Platte City to St. Joseph, then continue on Highways K and T to 111 and back onto I-29 north at Mound City.

10/22/2014 - 6:15pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

This weekend will likely be your best chance to get outdoors and see peak fall color in the Ozarks. Oaks dominate the Ozark forests, and they are just starting to turn various shades of gold, orange, red, and brown. Bright orange and yellow hickories are at their peak in most parts of the region. The other tree species, which are not as common — such as bright red black gum, deep scarlet dogwood, and yellow-orange sassafras — have peaked and are starting to lose color in some early spots. Another week should bring on the peak color of the oaks, but the high winds and rain predicted for early next week threaten to remove a lot of leaves from their branches, and warm temperatures may keep colors relatively muted.

Fall Color Hot Spots

To take in the breadth of color in the Ozarks this weekend, start at the Big Springs area in Van Buren, hike the loop trail around the spring, take Skyline Drive back to Van Buren, and follow Highway 60 west toward Winona or east toward Poplar Bluff.

10/22/2014 - 6:15pm

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

The hickories are really showing nice orange and yellows. Sassafras, some gums, and sumac are showing nice reds. Elms and silver maples are yellow. Sugar maples are showing orange and red. Some red oaks are turning, but most are still green.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in the Southeast Region, drive Highway 67 south from Farmington to Silva, Highway 32 from Ste. Genevieve to Farmington, and Highway 61 from Jackson to Perryville.

10/22/2014 - 6:15pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Fall Color is starting to progress well in southwest Missouri. Several foresters are predicting peak color in the next two weeks. Ash, black gum, sumac, Virginia creeper, and dogwood have turned red and purple but are fading. A majority of the red and sugar maples in communities are showing good color. Most hickories and sycamores are shades of yellow to tan and are starting to fall off. The oaks are still more green than any other color but are showing some tans and occasional red hints. Oaks are our dominant species group and are thus most noticeable in the landscape.

Fall Color Hot Spots

The best areas to view colors are at state conservation areas, cemeteries, parks, and yards. Drive along Highway 90 west of Washburn; Highways 112, 86, and 76 south of Cassville in Barry County; the Ozark Mountain Highroad between Highways 65 and 76 (on the northwest side of Branson); Highway 65 between the City of Ozark and Branson; Highway 160 between Highways 65 and 125; and Highway 86 between Highways 65 and 39.

10/22/2014 - 6:16pm

St. Louis Region

Fall color should reach its peak for most areas around St. Louis over the next week, but the city itself is a bit behind the surrounding counties. Oaks and hickories have joined the color display. Many early fall color species — such as Virginia creeper, Virginia sweetspire, persimmon, sumacs, poison ivy, ash, sassafras, black gum, dogwoods, and maples — still have some color, although it’s becoming a bit sporadic as they lose their leaves. Most oaks are yellow to brown, but we’re hoping to get some good purple out of our white oaks before the season ends.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Good fall color drives from St. Louis include I-55 south to Mastodon State Historic Site, Highway 30 southwest to Little Indian Creek Conservation Area, I-70 to Reifsnider State Forest, or north on Highway 61 to Logan Conservation Area. Get out and hike at Engelmann Woods, Weldon Spring, Rockwoods, or Little Lost Creek Conservation Areas.

10/22/2014 - 6:16pm

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