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Explore colorful possibilities in Kentucky



Kentucky’s vast expanses of forested terrain make it one of the best places in the U.S. to enjoy nature’s spectacular display of fall color. Nearly half of Kentucky’s land area – about 12 million acres -- is forested, and some 175 tree species grow wild in the state. Kentucky is rich in hardwood forests populated by trees known for their bright fall colors, from red and purple to yellow and gold.

Dean Henson, with Kentucky State Parks, notes that many variables contribute to the degree of foliage color in any given fall season.

“The greater the frequency of crisp, sunny days with no evening frost, the more brilliant our colors,” notes Henson, an expert on foliage stages in southeastern Kentucky. “For those seasons when the fickle mix of environmental factors is just right, waiting eyes are rewarded with a beaming display of color.”

The color changes usually begin as early as late September in the higher elevations of the eastern mountains and gradually progress to the west during October and into early November.

Scenic vistas and great outdoor pursuits like hiking, camping and biking make the mountains of eastern Kentucky ideal for experiencing autumn color. Enjoy a cozy fall mountain escape at several state park lodges that offer all the necessities for a memory-making romantic getaway. 

Take a scenic drive in Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky, where many roads pass through heavily wooded and mountainous terrain that shows off fall foliage colors to great advantage.  Or visit one of Kentucky's Trail Towns to access hundreds of miles of trails.for all sorts of outdoor pursuits.  

Among the most scenic routes in western Kentucky is the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway in Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. In central Kentucky, fall is an ideal time to take the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour, which winds past horse farms with their wooden and stone fences underneath a canopy of many-colored leaves.

Rail excursions, such as southeastern Kentucky’s Big South Fork Scenic Railway, provide an excellent way for families to take in fall beauty without roadside distractions like signs and billboards.

Consulting Kentucky’s ColorFall program will give you a general idea about when and where you might expect to see the beautiful shades of autumn in the Bluegrass State.

For more than three decades  ColorFall has provided reports on stages of color changes from key locations across the state. The program provides updated blog posts from across the state, links to special events of the season, and offers an opportunity to share your own digital photos of fall travels on a special Facebook page. 

Check on weather and leaf stages before you make plans to go in search of fall displays in Kentucky. A well-timed trip will produce a treasure trove of inspiring impressions.