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

Some good color is beginning to form in our region; maples and ashes lead the way. Looking across the landscape, you will likely see spots of purple, yellow, and orange starting to break up the blanket of green. Sugar maples are producing most of the reds and oranges in the canopy at this point, and ashes are showing brilliant maroon or yellow in most places. Along forest edges and roadsides you may notice the reds of sumac along with sassafras and flowering dogwood. Oaks are just beginning to turn but have a long way to go. Many hickories are turning brown rather than their usual gold. In urban areas, sweet gum is just beginning to turn, and some ornamental pears are red and purple.

Fall Color Hot Spots

The Lake of the Ozarks area is quite scenic during autumn. Visit Ha Ha Tonka State Park and Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Also try the scenic drive on Tunnel Dam Road and Chapel Bluff Road just off of Highway D.

10/08/2015 - 8:43am

Kansas City Region

Conditions have been right for trees to produce their red pigments — bright, sunny days and cool nights. So keep an eye out for red, purple, and orange hues in red and sugar maples and in white ash. Meanwhile, yellows are coming out in honey locust, green ash, and hackberry due to the shorter days. But colors are still spotty in the region at this point. Within the same neighborhood, trees showing peak colors are right next to trees whose leaves have not yet begun to change.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For scenic fall color drives in our region, try Highways 45 and 224 along the Missouri River. 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.

10/08/2015 - 8:44am

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

The temperatures are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and it is starting to feel like fall. Nighttime temperatures are starting to cool across the Northeast Region. Trees are responding and have made some progression over the last week. Yellows are becoming slightly deeper in elm, cottonwood, and walnut. Hickories and oaks still remain green throughout the region. Many trees seem to be losing leaves before they get a chance to change color. The abundant rainfall in the spring and early summer stopped suddenly and now the soil moisture is very low. Good soil moisture is a key component of vibrant fall color. This missing component could lead to dull fall color that will not last long.

Fall Color Hot Spots

No hot spots at this time.

10/08/2015 - 8:45am

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Color in and around St. Joseph has finally been improving. Last week’s cooler temperatures probably helped bring it about. There are some colorful red and sugar maples — mostly individual yard trees — scattered around in towns. Several of these maples have the best color in the top half of the crown with the lower half still green. The sumacs and Virginia creeper continue to turn deep red. Light yellows predominate in several locations as hackberry, cottonwood, ash, and others change. We’ve noted that fall colors in west-central Iowa are also lagging behind, so we aren’t alone in this “holding pattern.” Peak color in oaks and hickories is still a few weeks away.

Fall Color Hot Spots

In communities, keep an eye out for random color, especially in red and sugar maple trees. Rural routes are still good for the deep reds of sumac. Along creeks and drainages you can see red Virginia creeper and poison ivy growing up the trunks of walnut trees.

10/08/2015 - 8:46am

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

The Ozark Region is beginning to ripen with fall colors. Oaks, hickories, black gum, ash, and sycamore alike freckle the landscape with their respective cool-season colors; smooth sumac is a bright wildfire crimson in the understory and roadside ditches, and many maples scattered throughout the region’s yards are showing off their rosy hues.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For a scenic 4-wheel drive, skirt through the 40,530 acres of Sunklands Conservation Area in Shannon County. A map of Sunklands CA is available at MDC Online. Black bear, sinkholes, 2008 derecho (severe wind) damage, caves, bluffs, and well-managed forests all can be found in this extremely diverse terrain.

10/08/2015 - 11:28am

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

Dogwoods are a deep purple, and sassafras are a showy orangish red. Some trees are shedding leaves early, after a short show of color. Sweet gum along with sugar and red maples are showing some color, but silver maples show no signs of changing. Sycamores, elms, and grape vines continue to show yellow brown. The oaks and hickories continue to stay green.

Fall Color Hot Spots

For a scenic drive, try Highway 34 from near Jackson to Piedmont. It’s a curvy road, but it goes through some lovely hills and valleys. From this highway you can access the Castor River Conservation Area for hiking, hunting, and other outdoor recreation.

10/08/2015 - 8:54am

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Reds, purples, and yellows are showing along many roadsides and city streets. The most notable species for reds and purples include flowering dogwood, sumac, black gum, sassafras, burning bush, and red maple. Trees showing a range of yellows include sycamore, redbud, elm, sassafras, and silver and sugar maples.

Fall Color Hot Spots

City streets are still currently the best areas to view the color. Scenic drives include:

  • Areas along Highway 65, south from Highlandville to the Arkansas line;
  • The Ozark Mountain Highroad (Highway 465) around the northwest side of Branson from Highway 65 to Highway 76;
  • Highway 160, traveling southeast from Highway 65 to the Taney–Ozark county line; and
  • Highway 13 between Bolivar and Springfield.
10/08/2015 - 9:16am

St. Louis Region

It seems that fall color is a bit reluctant this year with the warmer weather slowing color change in many trees, shrubs, and vines. Species with early fall color are a bit more consistent, but overall color is scattered. Flowering dogwood, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, sassafras, black gum, white ash, persimmon, and sumac have good color, and you may see a few maples and mockernut hickory turning as well. Oaks and many hickory species are still green.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Areas away from the St. Louis metro will have greater color, so consider a day trip to Meramec Conservation Area or Meramec or Washington State Parks. Remember to enjoy the late season wildflower displays to enhance your fall color tour!

10/08/2015 - 8:55am

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