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One of the best parts of being in the Midwest is the vegetation—tree-lined streets, forested hiking paths, and hills with breathtaking views at the top are just the norm. For beautiful fall colors in October and November, all you really have to do is look out almost any window, but that means that the best fall sites are really, really, ridiculously good. Here are just a few of the places to get the full effect of Missouri’s beautiful fall foliage.
The density of the trees on either side of the trail makes for some beautiful sites when the leaves start to turn. Missouri State Parks even offers free roundtrip tram tours during the season along the nine miles between the Rocheport and McBaine trailheads (a $5 donation is recommended for adults, and $3 for kids 12 and younger). After the trip, consider continuing your tour along the rest of the 240-mile trail by bike, horseback, or just taking a leisurely walk. You might even stumble upon some of the picturesque trail towns, which are well-known for their craft shops, bed and breakfasts, and wineries.
For a fall-foliage viewing worth about $10.2 million, visit Tower Grove Park, one of just 74 Level II-accredited arboretums in the world. The valuable tree population is made up of approximately 7,000 trees in about 290 varieties. Perfectly punctuated by the Victorian pavilions and 19th-century sculptures, the fall hues add a pop of color to an already beautiful setting. The park also offers three playgrounds, nine tennis courts, hiking trails, and more. If visiting before mid-November, be sure to stop by the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market to do all of your stereotypical autumnal activities in one fell swoop. Bonus: It’s just about a two-minute drive from the Missouri Botanical Garden and a 10-minute drive from Forest Park, which also has some of the city’s best fall sights.
This 4,956-acre park is on top of the Lamotte sandstone bedrock, which basically means Hawn State Park has a unique mixture of plants that are unusual for the region. In fact, this park is the only place in Missouri where some of this vegetation can be found. The acidic soil over the sandstone allows for shortleaf pine, as well as white oak, shagbark hickory, and red maple, all punctuated by wildflowers and ferns. The combination is truly awesome in autumn as the trees turn and the pines remain vibrantly green. Bring a picnic, hike the trails, or set up camp and immerse yourself in fall for as long as possible.
Okay, yes, hanging out in a cemetery sounds a bit morbid, but many of them are nothing short of exquisite. Maple Park Cemetery in Springfield, Mo., is definitely a sight to see, especially in the fall. Opened as a nonprofit cemetery in 1876, after a Civil War battle in the city damaged the existing cemetery, the grounds feature a beautiful Victorian gazebo, which was built the same year and served as a stage for performances and public speakers. Take in the peaceful quiet with sights of the densely packed maple trees, which turn a bright red as the seasons change.
Vineyards almost always offer gorgeous sites, and the thing that Missouri’s wineries have on some of the others is the gorgeous autumn views. When the leaves start changing color behind the vines, it’s a powerful combination. Among the most scenic cities that make up Missouri wine country is Hermann, Mo. Visit this historically German area on weekends throughout October for Hermann Oktoberfest; all of the wineries and breweries get in on the festivities, which include live music, German food, biergartens, and, of course, wine. For the sake of safety—and fun—leave your car at home and hop on the wine trolley instead, conveniently located just outside of the Amtrak Station.
Most Missourians will tell you that the Lake of the Ozarks is a summertime destination. However, there is a sweet spot during the year, usually, mid-October, when the temperatures haven’t dropped too much yet, and the leaves have started to turn. That’s when you head to The Lake for incredible fall scenes. Take a boat to the middle of the water, and surround yourself in the densely packed forest that borders it. Or, get up close to the brilliant colors on some of the narrow back roads where in some places, the trees nearly form a dome above you.
Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Kansas City, you’ll find Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical gardens. When looking for fall foliage, a garden is a safe bet, but Powell has some truly exceptional viewing opportunities. With nine themed gardens over 970 acres, take in changing leaves over the hills, meadows, ponds, and modern architecture throughout the grounds.