Find the best places, road trips to view fall colors in Missouri and Kansas

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MDC conservation areas, or state parks such as Ha Ha Tonka, offer scenic views to enjoy fall color. (Photo Courtesy: Missouri Department of Conservation)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri and Kansas have a variety of trees, shrubs and vines that make the fall season come alive with color every year.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has weekly updates on which trees are changing and where to get the best views of the changing foliage with its fall color report.

“Our fall color report is updated weekly from MDC foresters all over the state,” explained MDC Community Forester Ann Koenig. “Users can see where trees are beginning to turn and get recommendations on great places to view the changing leaves.”

The fall foliage is the perfect excuse to take a long drive or a day trip.

Here in the Kansas City, the local tourism office recommends visiting Loose Park, the City Market, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, Cliff Drive Scenic Byway to see the stunning fall foliage that will take over trees soon.

Even trips to Weston, Missouri; Atchison, Kansas; and favorite sites like Powell Gardens are great options for leaf peepers.

If you’re up for a day trip, Missouri’s tourism department recommends these six road trips for people looking for fabulous fall foliage:

  • Hannibal to St. Louis: Highway 79
  • Hermann to St. Charles: Highway 94
  • Caledonia to Van Buren: Highway 21
  • Cuba to Eminence: Highway 19
  • Lake of the Ozarks loop: Highway 5, Highway 54, Highway 52
  • Table Rock Lake loop: Highway 65, Highway 13, Highway 76

On the Kansas side, these 10 drives won’t disappoint, according to the state’s tourism department:

  • Glacial Hills Scenic Byway: K-7 Highway
  • Chautauqua Hills
  • Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway: Highway 160
  • Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park
  • Flint Hills National Scenic Byway: K-177 Highway
  • Native Stone Scenic Byway: K-4 and K-99
  • Prairie Trail Scenic Byway: K-86, K-4 & K-141
  • Arikaree Breaks
  • Cimarron Grasslands
  • Frontier Military Historic Byway: K-5, I-435, U.S. 69 Highways

Leaves change color at different times, so a fall color season might last four-to-six weeks.

Missouri trees first begin changing color in the northern part of the state, then move southward. The same can be said for Kansas, as fall colors move from north to south.

Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change in Missouri, beginning in mid-September. By late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood are turning.

Koenig noted bright, cloudless fall days are ideal for a good display of autumn color.

“As a general rule, the third week in October is a good time to pay attention to fall color in Mid-Missouri,” she said. “Colors are usually fading and leaves are falling by the end of the month.”

MDC said Missouri’s fall color can be enjoyed from nearly everywhere. Based on the widespread recommendations from Kansas tourist experts, it’s clear no matter where you are in the Sunflower State, you can find fall foliage as well.

You can view weekly Missouri fall color updates here. The updates run September through November.

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