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. 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.

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

Fall color is still progressing slowly in the Central Region. In some areas, ash trees are beginning to show yellows and purples. Elm, walnut, and sycamore are all displaying yellows and browns in the canopy. Maples are showing hints of orange and red, but some have started shedding their leaves after just a short display of color. Sumac, Virginia creeper, sassafras, persimmon, and dogwood still have the most prominent colors in the region. A cool front just passed through the area recently that will create very cool nights and continued sunny days — that should spike fall colors just in time for the upcoming fall festivals!

Fall Color Hot Spots

Because of their rich variety of tree species, especially maples, Painted Rock Conservation Area and Rock Bridge State Park are good areas to stroll around and see fall color.

09/30/2015 - 9:18pm

Kansas City Region

Fall colors are still progressing slowly in our region, but the current sunny days and cool nights should bring out more color. Dogwood, ash, and pear are showing purples, and an occasional red or sugar maple is turning. Look for yellows to start showing on honey locust, elm, redbud, hickories, and hackberry. The display will be diminished a little by the many trees in the area that are dropping leaves early due to fungal diseases, but conditions are right for some nice fall color in the region this year.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in our region, try Highways 45 and 224 along the Missouri River. 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.

09/30/2015 - 9:19pm

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

Fall color is progressing slowly because we have not had cool weather this past week. Sugar maples are changing at the very top. Most of the ash trees have skipped fall color and are turning brown. Walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, and elm are beginning to show more yellow than green leaves. Virginia creeper and poison ivy are starting to turn various shades of red, which really stand out against the oak and hickories that are still green. Fall color will continue to develop over the next week as cooler nighttime temperatures set into northeast Missouri.

Fall Color Hot Spots

It is still a little early for hotspots.

09/30/2015 - 9:19pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Fall color is coming along! A few more trees are turning, but we’ve still had warm temperatures. Walnut trees are showing more yellow, which contrasts with the deep reds of Virginia creeper as it grows up their trunks. This is the time for yellow-leaved species such as hackberry, cottonwood, walnut, and elms, giving a yellow cast to the overall landscape in our region. The forecast is calling for highs in the 70s and cool nighttime temperatures, so color could begin improving by the first of October.

Fall Color Hot Spots

To see yellows, drive near any large forested landscape, especially along the loess hills from Kansas City to the Iowa border, but any large wooded area should work. Also, drive around your local community to look for individual trees with fantastic color. These scattered, stressed trees are common in cities, but you have to hunt for them. Certain trees, like some sugar maples, can be worth the effort.

09/30/2015 - 9:20pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

Fall colors this week are exiting for the squirrel hunters, who are seeing the colors up close, but rather humdrum for road travelers, viewing the broader landscape. The understory here in the Ozark Region is booming with deep poison ivy reds, beach-toned yellows, and watercolor oranges. The oaks are standing their ground, maintaining deep forest greens, indicating continuing photosynthesis. However, hickories and black walnut are waving their yellow leaflets as signs of retreat.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For a scenic drive, try Highway K north from Summersville to Highway 19 or vice versa. Expect to see horse-drawn carriages, rolling open pastureland, tree-shaded roads, and steep river hills. Go backwoods with a drive through a portion of the 40,530-acre Sunklands Conservation Area, or cross the Current River on Missouri’s last two-car ferry at Akers Ferry (confirm rates and availability by phone).

09/30/2015 - 9:20pm

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

The leaves are changing color quickly. Sycamores, elms, river birches, and grape vines are a showy yellow now. Black gums are turning reddish purple, with sumac shrubs showing vibrant red. Maples are just beginning to turn. It won’t be long before the hickories and oaks join in the change. Warm-season prairie grasses are at their peak color right now with purples and reddish gold.

Fall Color Hot Spots

One of the best scenic drives for viewing fall color is on Highway 67, from Bonne Terre to Poplar Bluff. From here you can drive by rocky bluffs and catch glimpses of the rolling Ozark hills. Also from this highway, you can access St. Francois State Park or Coldwater Conservation Area for hiking and photography.

09/30/2015 - 9:20pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Fall color in southwest Missouri is starting and is scattered. Reds and purples are showing in some flowering dogwood, ash, burning bush, sumac, Virginia creeper, and some maples. Yellows are less common, with most native trees still green.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Most of the scattered color may be seen in towns and along roadsides and woodland edges. Other suggestions include:

  • Highway 65, south from Highlandville to the Arkansas line;
  • The Ozark Mountain Highroad (Highway 465) around the northwest side of Branson, from Highway 65 to Highway 76;
  • Highway 160, traveling southeast from Highway 65 to the Taney–Ozark County line;
  • Highways AA and M in Cedar County;
  • Highway 123 between Humansville and Weaubleau;
  • Highways D/64 along northern Polk to mid-Hickory County;
  • County Road 134 north of Hermitage;
  • County Road 273 between Hermitage and Galmey in Hickory County;
  • In Dade County, Highway CC from east of Greenfield, north via Highway 185 to Highway 215.
09/30/2015 - 9:23pm

St. Louis Region

Fall color progresses in our region but remains scattered. Flowering dogwood, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, sassafras, black gum, white ash, persimmon, and sumac are the leaders in fall color right now, but maples and mockernut hickory are in the mix, too. Ash and some other species and early defoliation. With cooler nights ahead, color should change more rapidly next week.

Fall Color Hot Spots

With fall color still rather scattered, try visiting glades or prairies to enjoy the late-season flowers of asters, goldenrods, ironweed, and many others. To see prairies, visit Forest Park, Busch and Young Conservation Areas, or Cliff Cave County Park. Shaw Nature Reserve has beautiful prairies and glades that are definitely worth the visit. Remember that fall can be a good time to identify and treat or remove invasive exotic species that damage our beautiful native landscapes. Remove and replace invasives like Callery (‘Bradford’) pear, burning bush, Japanese and bush honeysuckles, and Japanese wintercreeper, just to name a few. For more information, see the entries for invasive species in MDC’s online Field Guide.

09/30/2015 - 9:24pm

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