Let’s be real, Florida isn’t known to be an autumnal destination unlike other states. Those of us seeking chillier weather and a colorful explosion of oranges, yellows and reds will have to book a trip far north. Well, at least as far north as the Florida Panhandle because believe it or not, there are a few places in the Sunshine State where you can experience a true glimpse of fall.
In fact, three state parks were just named fall foliage “hidden gems” by photo book site Mixbook. The rankings surveyed 3,000 respondents, asking for which under-the-radar destinations they would most like to visit to see autumn-leafed trees this year. Their answers led to a list of the top 150 best places in the country for seeing fall foliage.
Florida’s top pick was Falling Waters State Park in Chipley, home to the tallest waterfall in all of the state. It came in at No. 31 for its “unique blend of warm autumnal hues amidst its impressive waterfalls and lush vegetation.” There’s a boardwalk that leads to the, well, falling waters and several short trails wind through a serene forest, perfect for getting the upmost fall views.
“Its off-the-beaten-path charm, combined with the rarity of fall colors in Florida, offers a distinctive opportunity for nature enthusiasts to witness the changing seasons in a tranquil and lesser-explored setting,” the rankings read.
Blackwater River State Forest in the western panhandle also made the list, ranking 47th. The scenic location — also known to be one of the largest state forests in Florida — “surprises with its subtle blend of changing colors, predominantly seen in the sweetgum and cypress trees.”
“The meandering Blackwater River adds to the ambiance, reflecting dappled sunlight and shimmering leaves,” Mixbook adds. “Its relative obscurity ensures a unique setting for those seeking a different take on the beauty of fall.”
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park rounds off the list of Florida locations at No. 55, with “a mosaic of hues, particularly in its marsh grasses that turn a golden bronze come autumn.” Encompassing nearly 23,000 acres in Micanopy, south of Gainesville, it holds the title of being the first state preserve in Florida, set in 1970.
“The expansive vistas across the prairie, with its diverse wildlife create a unique tableau. It’s another superb spot to appreciate Florida’s more subtle autumnal transformations,” the rankings read.
The top 10 ‘hidden gems’ in the U.S. to witness fall foliage include:
- Sterling Forest State Park, New York
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
- Bear Creek Lake State Park, Virginia
- Mount Greylock State Reservation, Massachusetts
- Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Maine
- High Bridge Trail State Park, Virginia
- Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
- Beartooth Highway, Montana
- Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee
- Hope Valley, California
“We hope these stunning, hidden gems across the U.S. inspire people to pack their bags and experience some incredible fall destinations firsthand,” said Leslie Albertson, Director of Brand at Mixbook.
We’re packing our bags as we speak! Read the complete rankings here.