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While New England is famous for its stunning foliage colors, it is far from the only region in the United States to enjoy the golden leaves of autumn. If one is looking for a great destination to visit in the fall outside of New England, then perhaps Kentucky ought to be on one's bucket list.

The Appalachian Mountains run through Kentucky, and their foliage and little towns are a stunning attraction in the autumn. The foliage of Kentucky doesn't have to be the only attraction during the autumn - Kentucky is the home of bourbon, after all. If one hasn't seen Kentucky in the autumn, then one may be pleasantly surprised.


Why Kentucky Is A Great Destination For Fall Foliage

Kentucky is one of the most forested states in the country. It boasts around 12 million acres of forests that cover around 47% of Kentucky's land area.

Kentucky is home to around 175 tree species in the wild, and the state's hardwood forests are made up of trees famous for their bright fall colors.

  • Forests: Around 47% of Kentucky Is Forested

Come and the right time and under the right conditions, and one will see how the dogwoods and sumacs turn red and purple while the sugar maples transform into oranges and reds. At the same time, see the red hues of the sourwoods, oaks, and sweet gums and the yellows and golds of the poplars and hickories.

Foliage Season In Kentucky

According to Kentucky Tourism, the best time to go and see the transformation is in October - although it also depends on the elevations of the parts of the state one is planning to visit. In the higher elevations of the eastern mountains, the color changes start as early as September. The autumn change sweeps westwards and lasts into early November.

  • Season For Foliage: Late September to Early November
  • Peak Period: October
  • Starting Point: Kentucky's Eastern Mountains

If one would like to see the New England foliage, then refer to the very helpful peak foliage map that tracks the predicted foliage across the region.

Related: Need A Day Trip From Louisville? Look No Further Than This Charming Small Kentucky Town

Activities To Enjoy In Autumn In Kentucky

In the autumn, the sometimes oppressive heat of the summer has passed. Autumn becomes a great time for a myriad of outdoor pursuits. Some top outdoor activities in this period are biking, camping, and hiking (it is a great time to discover Kentucky's eastern mountains). State park lodges at this time can be extra romantic and dreamy - with the added bonus that the crowds are thinning out at this time.

Alternatively, one can discover the foliage by taking a scenic drive. Top places for a scenic drive are the Zilpo Scenic Byways, the Red River Gorge, and the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

  • Tip: Explore The Daniel Boon National Forest For Kentucky Foliage

Top Foliage Routes:

  • Zilpo Scenic Byways
  • The Red River Gorge
  • Wilderness Road Heritage Highway
  • The Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway
  • The Bluegrass Country Drive Tour

In western Kentucky, a top foliage road trip includes the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway. While in the central part of the state, visitors can take a Bluegrass Country Driving Tour (see horse farms to the backdrop of the Kentucky foliage during the tour).

Related: If You Didn't Know There Was A Massive Life Sized "Noah's Ark" In Kentucky, Now You Do

Take A Scenic Railway Tour

Kentucky's Big South Fork Scenic Railway, located in the southeastern part of the state, is one way to explore the beauty of autumn. Train tours are an excellent way to enjoy nature without all the roadside distractions like billboards and signs.

Their train trips are a 3-hour round-trip adventure. The train visits the historical Barthell Coal Camp and explores the southernmost portion of the Appalachians.

Visitors enjoy breathtaking views of the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Gaze out to the wide-open vistas and admire the roaring rivers while soaking in the charm of the American South.

  • Duration: 3 Hours (30-Minute Ride Down Trip, 30 Minute Return, & 2 Hour Layover
  • Cost: $28 Per Adult and $18 per Child

Standard Schedule:

  • May-October 9th: Wednesday Through Sunday
  • October 12th-November 6th: Tuesday through Sunday

These are just a few of the many options Kentucky offers in the autumn and why it is a great fall destination.