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

Central Region is now over the peak of fall color, and the once-vibrant colors across the landscape have given way to more dull greens, burnt oranges, and burgundy reds. Although it is less magnificent, it is still a spectacle to embrace. The first frost is scheduled for Friday along with some gusty winds, which may just be the one-two punch for many leaves still hanging on.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Youth firearms deer season is this weekend. If you are taking part, enjoy the scenery! Also, please be mindful of those who are out enjoying the autumn views.

10/30/2014 - 1:57pm

Kansas City Region

Fall colors are about at peak this week in much of the Kansas City Region, although there are areas that are past peak and some that are behind. Recent rain and heavy winds have knocked the leaves off many trees, dulling the display a bit. But certain pockets, especially in more urban areas, are still showing some good colors, probably because of the slightly warmer temperatures in those areas. The duration of fall color depends 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.

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Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

Fall color is currently peaking across northeast Missouri. Leaves in all shades of orange, yellow, and red are decorating the hillsides. Leaf drop is beginning, so don’t miss the chance to experience what has turned out to be an excellent fall color display.

Fall Color Hot Spots

This weekend will be the best chance to take a drive and enjoy the fall colors. Route 6 stretches from Kirksville to Taylor. This drive has several sections with rolling hills that provide great views of the countryside.

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Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Peak color made a good showing last weekend in most of the region. Now we have the leftovers of dull oranges and yellows. This was an interesting year, with pretty good colors, thanks to moisture and temperatures that brought out attractive reds and oranges. Pines made a good showing this year, too. Most people don’t realize that pines and other evergreens produce fall color. The needles of most pines only last about three years. By then, that set of needles are so far back in the tree they are no longer useful in producing food, so they are cast off. They typically turn straw yellow, which contrasts against the many green needles. As the needles fall, they create the bed of strawlike needles commonly found under pines.

Fall Color Hot Spots

You can drive just about anywhere to have a good look at post-peak fall color, but if you’re going to do it, you need to do it this week. Temperatures are set to cool off, and I’ll bet we get some wind, too, which could knock off a lot of leaves.

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Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

Fall color has peaked across the Ozark Region, but it still looks good in many areas that escaped strong wind and rain last week. Lack of summer rain and warm temperatures are keeping many of our dominant species — black, scarlet, and red oak — from reaching their full potential, but roughly a third will show good color. Hickories are still a strong yellow but are losing leaves quickly. Walnuts are dropping leaves and fruit. Maple varieties are brilliant in town, and even exotic invasive Callery pear is showing pretty, deep maroons. A predicted freeze and high winds Friday night will knock a lot more leaves to the ground, so get your rakes and blowers ready!

Fall Color Hot Spots

The best spots to view the last of peak fall color in the Ozarks will be in the Arkansas border counties, including Highway 142 from Thayer to Doniphan, Highway 160 from Alton to Doniphan, and Highway 160 from Theodosia to West Plains.

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

In the Southeast Region, it looks like the peak weekend is coming up. We have the best colors to date, but with rains, winds, and freeze warnings predicted for Friday night and Saturday morning, the show might soon be ending. The red oak group, such as scarlet and black oaks, are sporting a muted burnt orange color. Trees in the white oak group are a dull burgundy. Maples are peaking with some stunning yellowish orange and red.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Get off the couch, skip the big game, and turn off all the electronics. Drive Highway 32 from Ste. Genevieve to Farmington. Along the way, stop and hike Pickle Springs Natural Area. Drive Highway 177 north from Cape Girardeau. Stretch your legs at Trail of Tears State Park. Take Highway 21 south of Ironton (a few miles out of town, spend an hour or two hiking Royal Gorge Trail) and drive to Ellington. In Ellington, go to the Current River Conservation Area and drive the circle tour route (a gravel road). Cruise Highway C through Madison County for a great drive.

10/30/2014 - 1:59pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

We are at or near peak color in most of our region. Soft maples in communities and yards are showing strong reds. Sumac, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy are looking more scattered as their leaves fall. Black gum is showing decent red in Barry and McDonald counties. Hard maples are showing yellow to orange to light red in many places. Most oaks are going straight to shades of tan. Predicted temperatures in the twenties on Friday may put an end to fall color. It will depend on how long the freeze lasts and the leaves’ ability to recover from the cold.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For fall color drives in our region, try Hwys M, N, J, and CC (Cedar Co.); Hwy 215 from Pleasant Hope to Stockton; Hwy 123 from south of Humansville to Walnut Grove; Hwy K between Everton and Highway 39 (Dade Co.); Hwy D/64 along northern Polk to mid-Hickory Co.; Hwy 54 between Hermitage and Weaubleau; hillsides along the bluffs of the Pomme de Terre River, Sac River, and Turnback Creek; Hwy 90 west of Washburn to Noel; Hwys 112, 86, and 76 south of Cassville; Ozark Mountain Highroad between Hwys 65 and 76, on the northwest side of Branson; Hwy 65 from the Hwy EE exit at Highlandville and south to Branson; Hwy 160, between Hwys 65 and 125; and Hwy 86, between Hwys 65 and 39.

10/30/2014 - 1:59pm

St. Louis Region

Fall color is at or just past peak over most of the St. Louis area, although the color ranges from “still green” to already bare because of the warmer than usual weather. The prolonged fall color season has allowed some early fall color species like Virginia creeper, sumacs, poison ivy, persimmon, sassafras, black gum, dogwoods, and maples to still be colorful, alongside the later-season species like spicebush, witch-hazel, hickories, and oaks. Color varies widely this season, so don’t be surprised if you still have green trees or if you’ve already mulched your fall color display. The hard freeze expected this weekend will likely put color into a quick decline, so get out and enjoy it while you can.

Fall Color Hot Spots

You don’t have to travel far to see good color! Enjoy hiking at Forest or Greensfelder parks, or at the Englemann Woods, Rockwoods Range, Victoria Glades, Pea Ridge, or Huzzah Conservation Areas.

10/30/2014 - 1:59pm

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