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

The Central Region is still very green, despite the cool temperatures we have already experienced. While driving down the road, you may start picking out a few trees starting to turn, such as sycamores turning lime green, cottonwood and elm beginning to show some yellow, and even a few maple, sassafras, and sumac showing some red hues. Select wildflowers are still displaying some color, so lower your eyes a little from the forest canopy and enjoy what’s left of our native forbs and grasses this year! The forecast for next week calls for another slight cooldown starting early next week. With shortening days and cooler temperatures, we may start seeing some good color changes within the next couple weeks.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Fall festivals are kicking off in the area, so get out and take advantage of this beautiful weather. Stay tuned!

09/18/2014 - 1:01pm

Kansas City Region

While most of the Kansas City region is still green, leaves should start to change soon due to dropping nighttime temperatures and sunny days. Some trees are dropping leaves prematurely due to leaf diseases, caused in part by cool, wet weather. Sumac, poison ivy, and Virginia creeper are just starting to turn red in a few parts of the region. Keep an eye out as native prairie grasses, such as little bluestem and broom sedge, begin to display beautiful shades of orange, red, and purple. The intensity and duration of fall color will depend on the weather between now and leaf drop. The best fall color will occur if we experience warm days, cool nights, and enough rain.

09/18/2014 - 12:57pm

Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal

The Northeast Region has no fall color to report this week.

09/18/2014 - 12:57pm

Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe

Not much is happening in the Northwest Region. A few cottonwood, walnut, and miscellaneous other trees (mostly stressed ones) are showing faint yellows and dropping leaves. Some shrubs such as sumac are also turning slightly, but most of what is seen along roads at this point is caused by chemicals sprayed in late summer by road crews to clear roadsides of brush. Yet this color is sometimes pretty showy. Also, Ohio buckeye, typically the first tree to show fall color, is showing some yellow. Buckeyes are small understory trees local to the loess hills along the Missouri River.

Fall Color Hot Spots

Because Ohio buckeyes are understory trees, bigger trees usually hide them. You’ll have to drive next to the loess hills to see them. Try visiting Bluffwoods Conservation Area, about 7 miles south of St. Joseph. Highway 59 runs nearby: Buckeye will be visible in the loess hills, and the early cottonwood color will be in the Missouri River floodplain, on the other side of the car.

09/18/2014 - 12:58pm

Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence

Although the official start of autumn is Monday, fall color is still a few weeks away from the Ozark Region. When you look across the landscape, you can see lighter greens starting to pop out of the dark hillsides. You will also see some red sumac along roadsides, but this is probably from herbicides applied by road maintenance crews to keep the roadways visible and safe. We are finally receiving rain after a late-summer drought, but for many trees it is too late. Some individual trees have already “cut their losses” for the season and faded to brown. Although the summer drought won’t help the fall color prospects, it is cool nights and sunny days that will intensify fall color in our rich Ozark forests.

09/18/2014 - 12:58pm

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

The Southeast Region has no fall color to report this week.

09/18/2014 - 12:59pm

Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin

Fall color in southwest Missouri has not really started yet. Only in a few locations has sumac even started to barely turn. We had a drought in extreme southwestern Missouri this year. Leaves were turning brown and falling off in August in Barton, Jasper, and Newton counties. Recent rains have stopped this process. Late-summer dryness occurred in all of the region until our recent light rains. We are all are hopeful for good fall color, but it depends on plant health and weather conditions as we move further into the fall.

09/18/2014 - 12:59pm

St. Louis Region

At this point, there is no significant fall color to speak of in the St. Louis Region. We have good soil moisture, but we need some lengthy stretches of warm, sunny days (in the 70s) and cool nights (in the 40s) to get some good color in the greater St. Louis area. We should expect to see the first color appearing on the early changing species within ten days.

09/18/2014 - 1:00pm

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