Contrary to popular belief, Texas does have lovely fall foliage, but you’ll have to wait until later in the year to see it. When fall does arrive — usually in late October — it’s a beaut, and East Texas is where you’ll see rich autumn colors of yellow, orange, red, brown, and green from maple, oak, dogwood, and many other trees.
Many towns in the area are getting prepared for their fall festivals, fall foliage driving trails are getting their manicure from Mother Nature, and travelers who want to experience East Texas’s rolling hills, forests of green, and cooler temperatures are making plans to visit. So get ready to plan a day trip, or better yet, an autumn getaway in this neck of the (piney) woods.
I’ve listed the best scenic towns in no particular order for a charming fall visit complete with fall foliage, scenic drives, and family fun. To me, fall is the most enjoyable time to visit Texas.
Pro Tips: If you’re coming to East Texas just to see fall colors, plan your visit in late October. In some areas, fall foliage can last until early December. But if you’re coming for the festivals, be sure to check the dates. Some can even be in September.
When you do find yourself in East Texas during fall, be sure to meander through the back roads as much as possible for the most picturesque backdrops of what fall has to offer in this area of Texas.
Marshall, Texas is better known for having the best winter light show during the holidays called Wonderland of Lights, but autumn rolls around first, and Old Stagecoach Road turns into an 8-mile fall frolic drive. It’s a narrow dirt road that begins in Marshall and ends in Karnack, Texas. Legends have it that this road is haunted, or maybe it’s just spooky.
Marshall is roughly 150 miles east of Dallas on I-20, or for the scenic route, take Highway 80. If you’re looking for things to do in town, check out historic downtown, Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard & Winery, and Karma Farms — one of the best places to go horseback riding. When I was there recently, it was just me and the owner on the trails. She showed me a great time, and I even got to trot the horse.
Pro Tip: Caddo Lake is close by and is another area with gorgeous fall foliage, plus you can take a tour on the bayou to see the hanging cypress trees. The peak time for color tends to be the end of October through late November.
In mid-November, beautiful autumn colors swarm the town of Palestine, and every year visitors get their cars ready to drive the Pineywoods Autumn Trail. The trail is a 145-mile scenic road trip along breathtaking back roads in Palestine that includes historical markers and magnificent fall colors. Autumn colors are expected to arrive mid to late November.
While in town, you may want to stick around to enjoy outdoor adventures, train excursions, local cuisine, and historic shops. Also, catch a ride on the well-known Texas State Railroad, and ride it to Rusk, Texas, and back for a scenic fall tour of pinewood, rolling hills, nature, and wildlife. The railroad has a park at each end of the excursion route.
Pro Tip: Contact Visit Palestine for foliage updates at (800) 659-3484.
The 55-mile self-guided scenic fall foliage trail through Athens has once been named the best fall foliage trail in East Texas. On this route, you’ll have a chance to visit several points of interest, including the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and the East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society, where you can take an afternoon stroll through the gardens. If you like the adrenaline of zipping across treetops, check out New York Texas Zipline Adventure for a fun time. It’s less than a 20-minute drive from town and is also on the driving route. I’ve ziplined there twice, not in the fall, but in the summer, and it was the most thrilling zipline course my grandson and I have been on. If you’re up for it, be sure to zip the nine lines. The best is at the end!
Pro Tip: If you’d like to check out farmers markets in Athens, the last one for the year is the last weekend in October, at 212 North Palestine Street, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The town claims the title of “Garden Capital of Texas,” and with beautiful landscapes at the Mast Arboretum on the Stephen F. Austin University campus, that’s a good reason to plan a visit. The oldest town in Texas, Nacogdoches (Nac for short) is especially stunning during the fall season. Deep East Texas Fall Foliage Trail loops from Nacogdoches to Alto, Crockett, Livingston, Newton, Hemphill, San Augustine, and Shelbyville. A map of the trail is available at the visitor center located at 200 East Main Street. When planning your trip, be sure to look for the downtown art walk, vintage market days, and the several festivals in town. The best time to visit for fall foliage is in late October through early December. A year-round farmers market is held every Saturday at 107 West Pearl Street.
Pro Tip: Auntie Pasta’s Italian Restaurant is a great place to grab a pizza or pasta — all handmade.
This town is on every list when it comes to the best towns to visit in Texas in the fall. Why? Because of the natural beauty of blazing yellow, orange, red, and pink colors of autumn you’ll see at Daingerfield State Park. In late October, the leaves start tumbling down all over the park, making way for an excellent fall backdrop. The reflections of the trees on the lake and the wildlife out there are other reasons this area is so special.
If a day visit is all you have, plan for it, but if a weekend stay is in the works, check out the cabins for rent in the park. That way, you’ll get at least 2 days to see and experience autumn at probably the best place in Texas. And don’t forget about all the hiking you could do there. The very best time to visit the park is in early to mid-November. There is a small entrance fee to enter the park.
Pro Tip: Right outside of town is The Greer Farm, which offers lovely cabins to rent overlooking a pond and free bicycle rentals. This would make a nice and quiet autumn getaway option if all the cabins in the park are full.
Jefferson, Texas, is a town that shows up on lists for the best places to stay with big Texas charm. It is a large bed and breakfast community — probably the first town to do so in Texas — and offers many fun attractions for the whole family. There is always something fun going on in town, including a Texas Bigfoot Conference. Yes, the locals swear they’ve seen Bigfoot out there a time or two. He’s so popular, it seems there’s a need for a conference!
Pro Tip: Lake O’ The Pines is a nice lake nearby that offers parks, camping, and canoe, kayak, and boat rentals, and of course, beautiful fall colors.
Winnsboro is one of those towns you want to live in, or at least near, for the close community it seems to have and the fun activities that go on all year long. The town is well-known for its annual festivals, including its free Winnsboro Autumn Trails. Also look for a chili cook-off, antique car parade, and a trail ride. The Winnsboro Autumn Trails put this town on the map — complete with a brochure and all. There are three routes to choose from. Check with the Winnsboro Autumn Trails Association for exact routes and more information.
Highway 14 and Highway 16, or virtually any farm-to-market road, are excellent drives for fall favorites.
Located on I-20 between Dallas and Shreveport, this place that is well-known for its East Texas charm is easy to access. Longview, one of the largest cities in the Piney Woods region of East Texas, would be an excellent choice for a visit in the fall with the family. With gorgeous views of the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center in the fall and the events going on there in October — including a wine festival — it would certainly be my pick for a fun time.
Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of coffee, head down to the local’s favorite coffee shop, Silver Grizzly Espresso, for a cold brew, Americano, or any one of their specialty coffees.
The Rose Capital of America is none other than Tyler, Texas, and for good reason. The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden includes over 38,000 rose bushes and over 600 different varieties, and it holds the Texas Rose Festival every year in mid-October. Fall coloring may not be around for it just yet. However, when it’s time, Tyler State Park will explode into a palette of orange, yellow, and red foliage (usually in late November), but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t arrive until early December.
Pro Tip: From spring to fall, you can buy cut roses from a vendor that sells out of her van in the French Quarter Shopping Center at the corner of Loop 323 and Broadway, near Einstein Brothers Bagels. For as long as I can remember, Tyler roses have been sold on street corners in Dallas — but I just don’t see this anymore.