Where to See Gorgeous Fall Foliage in Washington State

See fall colors in all their glory in Washington state
See fall colors in all their glory in Washington state | © John Barger / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Jacklyn Grambush
1 October 2020

Washington is sometimes referred to as the Evergreen State, and yet it has plenty to offer once autumn descends. National parks, nature preserves, forests – all of them transform when the leaf colors start to change, and the mixture of greens, golds and reds only increases the appeal. Here are the top places to see fall colors in all their glory in Washington state.

Leavenworth

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Leavenworth is an all-around stunner of a town, nestled comfortably in the Cascade Mountains. Even when the leaf colors aren’t changing, it’s worth a visit, but during autumn they even have their own festival. There are various nature trails in the area good for seeing the changing colors, but Blackbird Island is a particularly special patch of natural serenity.

Mt Rainier National Park

Park
Map View
Why just look at the leaf colors change from beneath, when you can see them from above? Mt Rainier has numerous routes that end with you standing over incredible vistas, which make for a flaming sea of brilliance. If you’re driving, the Chinook Pass is a great ribbon of road to take in the views, and if you’re on foot, the Grove of the Patriarchs will place you up close and personal with some of the biggest trees in Washington state, belted by wooden walkways.

Hoh Rainforest

Forest, Park
Map View
Autumn season in Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, WA, USA. Beautiful unusual natural landscapes
© Galyna Andrushko / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’ve never heard of Hoh Rainforest, and are a bit taken aback to see it on this list, well you just wait. The United States houses precious few temperate rainforests, but the few that exist are very special. Hoh is a fairytale, a tangle of lichens, conifers and chattering wildlife – frogs, deer, cougars and elk. During the autumn, the leaf colors intermingle in the most astounding ways, and it is also peak season for the elk, so expect to hear their loud mating calls and see the males butting antlers in the clearings. The Hoh River Trail and Hall of Mosses Trail are especially good for leaf-watching.

Discovery Park

Natural Feature, Park, Hiking Trail
Map View

If you’re a bit more tethered to urban surroundings during peak season, Discovery Park is the place for you. It is the biggest city park in Seattle, but once you get into the thick of it you feel as much in the wilderness as you would in, well, the actual wilderness. The 534-acre (216ha) park sports beaches, meadows, cliffs and forest, so the leaf colors are far from the only draw at this magnificent park.

Columbia River Gorge

Natural Feature
Map View
You could, if so inclined, follow the Columbia River Gorge through Washington and right through most of Oregon. It is a 112-mile (180km) juggernaut with some of the most amazing scenery in the USA, no matter the time of year. If you’re in Washington, though, the Maple Pass in Beacon State Park is a great spot for leaf colors, and the Lewis and Clark Trail is also well worth exploring for a bit of living history.

Kubota Garden

Botanical Garden
Map View
WASHINGTON - Autumn color at Heart Bridge Kubota Garden in Seattle.
© Spring Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Another Seattle gem, Kubota Garden brings a little flair to typical fall colors. Though the plants are indigenous to the area and follow their other flora friends’ range of hues, the design of the garden’s layout is Japanese. Stroll through this public park for an exotic display of vegetation Washingtonians already know and love.

Walla Walla vineyards

Winery
Map View
As if fall leaf colors weren’t enough to entice people to a maple-lined vineyard, the Walla Walla area of Washington has a secret weapon – a Fall Release Weekend. This autumn weekend gives visitors the chance to try new wines and learn about the process that goes into creating them from the winemakers themselves. You can pick just about any vineyard in Walla Walla (there are many), and you’ll get an unforgettable autumnal experience. Depending on how much you drink, of course.

Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Forest
Map View
Amazing fall color in Picture lake, Mt Baker
© Andrew(Chungho) Kim / Alamy Stock Photo
Crawling down the immense slopes of the Cascade Ridge, Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a sight to behold. It spans six counties and 140 miles (225km), and there are various different byroads you can take to reach it. To see the leaf colors, Highway 542 is a good bet – you can use it to reach scenic hikes like the high divide between Excelsior Pass and Welcome Pass, or the glacier-spotter favorite Skyline Divide. Whatever you choose, it’ll be easy to see why this is a peak time favorite.

Washington Park Arboretum

Park, Botanical Garden
Map View
Japanese Garden in autumn, Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, Washington.
© Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo
Another great option for those who wish to stay within city limits, this Seattle mainstay features a large creek, Japanese garden (the oldest one in North America), wetlands and the famous Azalea Way, which speaks for itself. Why go in fall, though? Well, it’s an arboretum – a living laboratory with trees of all kinds, so when the leaf colors do change you get the most astounding spectrum. There’s even an interactive map to help you chart this living color wheel and identify the species you like best.

Callum Davies contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on October 1, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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