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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. It's like having acres of shining stained glass above!
  • 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

There is very little change from last week within the central part of the state. White ash have started to stand out against the green background with shades of purple, and scattered maple are showing signs of brilliant reds and oranges, but for the most part the color is still very sparse. Poison ivy and Virginia creeper, climbing up tree trunks, look like red flames stretching for the sky. Goldenrod, New England aster, false sunflower, and rough blazing star are some of the last wildflowers giving color to our prairies, glades, and woodlands.

Fall Color Hot Spots

There are still no extravagant areas to report . . . yet!

09/25/2014 - 12:36pm

Kansas City Region

Fall colors are developing rapidly now and will probably peak earlier than in the last few years. Scarlets and purples will grow more intense in the Kansas City Region and could be especially striking in white ash, sumac, red and sugar maples, and dogwoods. In recent weeks, conditions have been right for trees to produce the reddish pigments in tree leaves — bright, sunny days and cool nights. As days become shorter, yellows are coming out in trees such as honey locust, green ash, and hackberry. Keep an eye out for native prairie grasses, including little bluestem and broom sedge, as they display beautiful shades of orange, red, and purple.

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.

09/25/2014 - 12:36pm

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

This should be an excellent year for fall colors in Northeast Missouri! Abundant rainfall throughout the year has allowed for good soil moisture. The forecasted cool nights, combined with warm sunny days and good soil moisture, provide the right ingredients for vibrant fall colors. Most trees are still green, but the trees that change early are starting to show in the canopy and along the roadsides. Cottonwood, elm, ash, black walnut, and maple are turning yellow and shedding some leaves. Sassafras, Virginia creeper, and sumac are showing hints of red and orange.

Fall Color Hot Spots

There are no hot spots at this time.

09/25/2014 - 12:37pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Generally we’ve had plenty rain; the far northwest corner had too much, while the eastern part, around Chillicothe, is drier. We haven’t had much frost, though some locations got really close. Temperature and moisture strongly influence the quality of fall color, and it’s still too early to make predictions with confidence. Mixed colors are emerging, with white ash showing deep purples. Virginia creeper and poison ivy are turning deep purples and reds. No one likes poison ivy, but it does produce attractive early fall color. It and Virginia creeper can help you identify walnut trees. Those woody vines tend to climb on black walnuts more than any other. In early fall, look for the yellow leaves of walnuts, whose main branches and trunks are clothed in the vines’ reds and purples.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Ohio buckeyes still have good color but are quickly fading. To see them, walk trails in the loess hills along the Missouri River, between Kansas City and St. Joseph. Black walnuts are often intermixed with other trees along creeks and ditches in crop fields.

09/25/2014 - 12:38pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

A week of sunny days and cool nights provided a good start to fall color in the Ozarks. Color is slowly coming to the forest, beginning with deep purple dogwood and red blackgum in the understory. Some walnut and sassafras are starting to turn yellow in the northern part of the region. Outside of the forest, native warm season grasses such as Indian grass and bluestem are turning open fields and roadsides a beautiful bronze. If this weather pattern continues, we can expect fall color to peak around mid-October for most of the Ozarks.

Fall Color Hot Spots

If seed ticks and lack of color are keeping you out of the woods, try a hike at one of the Ozarks’ rare native prairies. Tingler Prairie Natural Area (south of West Plains) or Little Prairie Conservation Area (east of Rolla) offer the first palette of autumn hues set against a canvas of clear blue sky.

09/25/2014 - 12:38pm

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

In the Southeast Region, sassafras, sumac, and some dogwoods are turning red to reddish brown. Sugar maples are showing some yellow orange in their tops. Other species are turning from green to pale green to yellow. Meanwhile, the oaks and hickories remain in their summer wardrobe.

Fall Color Hot Spots

While there are no particular roads, so far, to travel for fall color, remember that no back road in beautiful southeast Missouri is ever boring!

09/25/2014 - 12:39pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Southwest Missouri is starting to show some color. It is scattered and varies dramatically across the region. Color is starting to show in dogwood, ash, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, Callery pear, persimmon, sumac, blackgum, and maples. The warm, sunny days and cool nights that are in the forecast should get things going more!

Fall Color Hot Spots

County roads are a good place to see sumac, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, and other native trees. The communities of Bolivar, Stockton, Hermitage, and Lockwood are noted for Callery pear, and maples are visible in yards away from the main highways. Blackgum can be seen along Highway 37 in southern Barry County.

09/25/2014 - 12:39pm

St. Louis Region

We’re still mostly green in the St. Louis area, but color changes come quickly this time of year! You can see some early color in Virginia Creeper, poison ivy, sassafras, white and green ash, and dogwoods. A few sugar maples are turning, but most are still green. We’re still on track for good fall color with the warm, sunny days and cool nights, but a few areas in the region are getting dry, which may cause some early leaf drop.

Fall Color Hot Spots

It’s a bit early to head out for a fall color drive, but this weekend does look good for a float on the river! If you have your own boat, check out the Meramec or Huzzah Conservation Areas or one of the numerous river accesses not far from downtown St. Louis.

09/25/2014 - 12:40pm

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