Fall is the most important time of year on a college campus – maybe even more than spring graduation. It’s the time that new students are just beginning to settle into their independent life, the time that everyone – students old and new, professors and administrators – begins getting into the groove of the academic year. Football, Homecoming, and your history professor’s worn-out cardigans: these are the things that signify “college” in pop culture and nostalgia. It’s also the time that most colleges look their best, their most iconic. Think about it: what says “campus” more than tree-lined walks covered in rustling golden, orange, and crimson leaves?
The Most Beautiful Fall Foliage on College Campuses
The most beautiful college campuses in the US are just as diverse as the colleges themselves; there are all sorts of ways a college can be beautiful, just as there are all sorts of ways a college can be great. Many colleges are known for their architecture, from Gothic cathedrals to Georgian and Victorian mansions, modernist concrete slabs to ivy-covered brick. Others are noted for their landscaping, with bubbling fountains, manicured lawns, lush gardens, and placid ponds. Still others are beautiful for their integration in nature, living alongside forests and wetlands, mountains and rivers.
But there’s one thing above all that makes for a beautiful fall campus – beautiful fall foliage. Nothing against evergreens, nothing against deserts, but for many people nothing is quite as beautiful as a forest of red, yellow, and orange as the days get shorter and cooler. There’s a reason leaf-lovers will travel for miles, even following the progress of the change from north to south along the Appalachians. But whether it’s the Appalachians or the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest or the South, college campuses in autumn are a special species of beauty.
Ranking The Most Beautiful Autumn Campuses
The Most Beautiful College Campuses-Fall ranking runs the gamut: small liberal arts colleges, huge public research institutions, private universities, and everything in between. Some of the colleges featured have massive campuses of thousands of acres, while other have just a small, but extraordinarily lovely, campus. Some of the best mountain colleges, and some of the best river and lake colleges, are represented, along with colleges and universities ranked among the best national and regional institutions.
Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, so we don’t pretend this is an objective ranking, but every college on the Most Beautiful College Campuses ranking has earned its place. Colleges are ranked according to their Consensus score, not according to any measure of their relative beauty.
Peak fall foliage dates were estimated using an interactive Fall Foliage Map; predicting when the leaves will change is not an exact science, so don’t blame College Consensus if you miss it.
Williams CollegeWilliamstown, MA
Williams College is one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the US, nicknamed one of the Little Ivies for its exceptional quality and influence despite a student body of just over 2000. One of College Consensus’ top 3 national liberal arts colleges, Williams is defined by both nearly unanimous accolades from publishers, and an overwhelmingly strong sense of community, loyalty, and nostalgia from students and alumni. Founded in 1793, Williams is one of the oldest colleges in the US, and over more than two centuries of service the college has become the heart of Williamstown and Berkshire County, and one of the most beautiful campuses in the US.
The Berkshires are, famously, one of the most beautiful areas of New England, a destination for tourists for generations. The region is particularly famous for its fall foliage; visiting the mountains to see the leaves change is a popular tradition for New Englanders, and Williams College, with its famously lovely, wooded campus, is a prime destination. In fact, life in the Berkshires is so central to campus life that Williams’ official alma mater is “The Mountains,” a song composed by 1859 graduate Washington Gladden celebrating the college’s scenery. The college even has its own quaint New England inn for visiting parents, alumni, and tourists, who are attracted to Williams as much by the fall foliage as by football games and homecoming.
Middlebury CollegeMiddlebury, VT
Ranked as one of College Consensus’ Best Mountain Colleges, Middlebury College is the oldest college in Vermont, and one of the most respected small institutions in New England. Founded in 1800 by a partnership between the Congregationalist Church and the town of Middlebury, Middlebury has long been called “the Town’s College” for its abiding commitment to the people and place. Middlebury is deeply integrated into its location, and even as a private college operates as a center of culture, recreation, entertainment, and service for Middlebury and the surrounding area. As one of the most beautiful colleges in the US, Middlebury is an attraction of its own.
With its strong regional identity, Middlebury College is also defined by its unique location, in the pristine valley where the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks meet. That location, unsurprisingly, makes Middlebury one of the prettiest colleges in New England once autumn rolls around. While the Green Mountains are known around the world for their skiing and snowboarding (both popular activities at Middlebury), the dense woodlands around campus create an extraordinary sight around mid-October, when Middlebury’s fall foliage is at its peak. Fall is time for family and alumni, with music, homecoming, and other weekend events that are a highlight of the year in Middlebury.
Dartmouth CollegeHanover, NH
Dartmouth College is one of the 9 Colonial Colleges, founded before the American Revolution, and the smallest of the founding Ivy League universities. As one of the most prestigious colleges in the US, Dartmouth is known for its influence and excellence, not only in New England but nationally, serving as a hub for culture, politics, research, and leadership. Dartmouth’s campus in Hanover, CT, is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the nation, with historical buildings designed in the Georgian style dating back to the early 19th century. Ranked by College Consensus as one of the Best Mountain Colleges, Dartmouth overlooks the Connecticut River in the Upper Valley region on one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US.
Surrounded by more than 260 acres of forest, Dartmouth is especially proud of its fall foliage, one of the most stunning displays in New Hampshire. As is New England tradition, thousands of family members and alumni appear at Dartmouth in the fall, particularly to see some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the US. From Dartmouth Night and Homecoming – one of the oldest Homecoming celebrations in American higher education – to outdoor adventure, recreation, and entertainment, Dartmouth may be its best self in the fall. Dartmouth’s unique combination – the prestige of the Ivy League, with the close-knit community of a small liberal arts college – means that the Dartmouth spirit creates unusually dedicated alumni, and autumn is the time for the Dartmouth family.
Colgate UniversityHamilton, NY
Founded in 1819, Colgate University is named for the family whose wealth (from their soap company) helped sustain and grow the college from its very earliest years. But the Colgate family’s generous support did far more than sustain the college; with so much early support, Colgate was able to establish itself as one of the most prestigious institutions in the Northeast, becoming part of the fabric of Upstate New York. Colgate has long been ranked one of the top national liberal arts colleges in the nation, earning the distinction of a Hidden Ivy and a New Ivy by publishers. And Colgate has not only been named one of the best colleges for getting rich (the best outside of the Ivy League), but one of the best for social mobility, with life-changing outreach to minority students.
Of course, Colgate is situated in the middle of one of the most picturesque areas in the US, Upstate New York, surrounded by miles of hills and forests. In Upstate New York, autumn means cool weather, harvest, and some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the US. In the fall, Colgate is washed in gold and orange leaves, presenting some incredibly scenic images of one of the most beautiful campuses in the US. And with Colgate celebrating their bicentennial in 2018-2019, there are more alumni and family events than ever to encourage current, past, and future Raiders to discover Colgate’s exceptional beauty.
College of the Holy CrossWorcester, MA
New England’s oldest, and one of the nation’s best Catholic colleges, College of the Holy Cross is also one of the top-ranked liberal arts colleges in the nation. Founded in 1843, Holy Cross has long been known for its service and commitment to Massachusetts and to the community of Worcester, MA, building on its Jesuit heritage to emphasize responsibility, ethics, and good deeds. The college’s dedication to social justice, put into practice by the institutions and the students alike throughout the region, has made Holy Cross one of the most-loved colleges in New England. It’s not justice that brings visitors to Holy Cross every autumn, though – it’s one of the most beautiful colleges campuses in the US.
Holy Cross’s 175-acre campus on the side of Mount St. James is a registered arboretum, giving Crusaders the opportunity to attend classes and work in the midst of a profoundly lovely forest. As one of the prettiest colleges in New England, Holy Cross is particularly known for the magnificent display of fall foliage, which peaks around mid-October. A stunning range of colors, from gold and orange to red and pink, has given Holy Cross a national reputation for some of the most beautiful fall foliage of any college, adding to a campus filled with stately historic buildings and award-winning landscaping (and one of the nation’s best college dining halls).
Wesleyan UniversityMiddletown, CT
Founded in 1831, Wesleyan University was the first of many colleges to be named for Methodist founder John Wesley, and one of the first Methodist colleges period. While Wesleyan is a secular institution today, the university is still well known for the values instilled by its Methodist heritage: an emphasis on academic excellence, a commitment to community engagement and service, and a strong sense of ethics and responsibility in all areas of education and campus life. In addition to recognition as a top national liberal arts college, Wesleyan has been acclaimed as one of the best colleges in the nation for black students, and was a pioneer in open-access learning.
Wesleyan is also one of the most beautiful colleges in the US, a distinction that is shared with numerous New England institutions. Wesleyan has been ranked by College Consensus as one of the best River and Lake Colleges in the US, thanks to its location on the Connecticut River, but that’s just the start of Wesleyan’s beauty. In addition to its historic buildings and landscaping, much of Wesleyan’s 360 acre campus is wooded, making Wesleyan a perfect destination to see some of the most beautiful fall foliage in New England. Students may come to Middletown, CT, for an excellent education, but the beautiful New England autumn keeps alumni returning year after year.
Wake Forest UniversityWinston-Salem, NC
Wake Forest University has known been known as one of the Southern Ivies – the South’s answer to the Ivy League, a loose distinction of prestigious, elite private research universities that are the Ivies rivals in every sense. A reputation as one of the nation’s top undergradutate educators and one of the best national research universities has brought students to WFU since 1834, both to its original location in Wake Forest, NC, and its current incarnation in Winston-Salem, NC, where the college moved in 1946. Wake Forest’s proximity to the Appalachian foothills has also given the university another distinction, as one of the most beautiful colleges in the US.
Wake Forest University is distinguished by its uncommonly handsome campus, with neo-Gothic buildings and exquisite landscaping. Located not far from the historic town of Old Salem, Wake Forest has developed its own identity as a tourist destination, particularly in the fall. With some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the Carolina’s on its 340-acre campus, Wake Forest’s leaf-changing peaks around the end of October and early November, with the warmer central North Carolina climate holding off the colors later than in the mountains. For generations, parents and alumni have visited the campus in the fall to see the lovely displays students get to enjoy every day, while the South’s brief autumn lasts.
Lafayette CollegeEaston, PA
One of the top national liberal arts colleges in the US, Lafayette College has long earned the distinction of being called one of the Little Ivies (and sometimes a Hidden Ivy). Founded in 1826 by leaders in Easton, PA, Lafayette was named for the Revolutionary War hero who had recently passed through the area on his famed Grand Tour of the nation he helped to found. By the mid-19th century, the college had passed to the Presbyterian Church, where it remains affiliated, and the small, selective college has long been known for its commitment to community. Students and faculty are actively engaged with one another, and with the town of Easton, making Lafayette a key part of culture and life in the area.
That area, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, has also given Lafayette the distinction of being one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US. While the Lehigh Valley is centrally located between New York City and Philadelphia, making it a bustling suburban region, it is also in the heart of the Appalachians and the Poconos, one of the Northeast’s most popular tourist destinations. Lafayette students, like the rest of Easton’s inhabitants, will frequently spend their mid-October weekends driving through the mountains, where gorgeous fall foliage, hiking, and camping are in their backyard. Lafayette’s own 340-acre campus is a prime spot to watch the leaves change.
The University of the SouthSewanee, TN
One of the foremost liberal arts colleges in the nation, numbered among the elite Southern Ivies, Sewanee: The University of the South is an institution quite unlike any other. Founded in 1857, Sewanee began making its reputation after the Civil War, developing into a cultural hub not only for Tennessee, but for all of the South, and earning distinction as a center of literature, creative writing, and criticism. But Sewanee has also been known as a cradle of leaders in many fields and disciplines, steeped in the Episcopal values of ethics, responsibility, and holistic learning. Sewanee has more than earned that emphatic “The” in its official name, The University of the South – it’s without peer or rival.
Sewanee is also uncommonly beautiful, with a 13,000 acre campus that is largely made up of pure, undeveloped mountain forests; in fact, College Consensus has already named Sewanee one of the best mountain colleges in the US. With The Domain sitting at the feet of the Appalachians, Sewanee is one of the most popular places for people who want to see the most beautiful fall foliage, especially at its peak around the first of November. While many Tennesseans drive through Sewanee in the autumn, students and faculty can hike its dozens of miles of trails, and camp in the cool, colorful forests.
Mount Holyoke CollegeSouth Hadley, MA
One of the nation’s best women’s colleges, Mount Holyoke College dates back to 1837 and remains one of the few historical women’s colleges that have remained women-only. Traditionally considered a sister institution to Dartmouth College, Mount Holyoke was the first of the prestigious Seven Sisters, but has earned its reputation for academic excellence and cultural impact all on its own. Mount Holyoke’s alumni list features influential women from every field and discipline, from culture and the arts to politics and business, doctors, lawyers, and academics. In addition, Mount Holyoke is famed as one of the most beautiful colleges in the US.
With its historic Gothic-influenced buildings and fine landscaping, Mount Holyoke is one of the prettiest colleges in New England, with lakes and waterfalls, stables and riding trails, and a botanical garden. With its location in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke is part of one of Massachusetts’ most beloved and popular tourist destinations, where people come from all over New England to see historic Guilded Age estates, rolling mountains, and some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the US. Mount Holyoke loves its trees, which are central to its campus identity, and its many varieties mean a parade of color in mid-October.
William & MaryWilliamsburg, VA
The second-oldest college in the US, the College of William and Mary was founded in 1693 by a royal charter; it was named for the reigning king and queen, and unlike other Colonial Colleges, the name did not change after the American Revolution. Today, William and Mary is a state-supported institution named as one of the original Public Ivies (a public university as distinguished as the Ivy League), and its historic significance as the alma mater of Presidents and leaders is matched by its contemporary excellence. Known as one of the top undergraduate educators in the nation, William and Mary is also a top-tier research university and a nationally-renowned institution for business and law.
With its location in the area of Colonial Williamsburg, William and Mary is a historical treasure and one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US. The Wren Building (originally simply the College Building) is the oldest college hall in the nation, while portions of the Ancient Campus date back to the Colonial Era. The area around Williamsburg, including the campus, is a tourist destination not only for its historical significance, but for its exceptional natural beauty. Located on the Virginia coast, in the heart of the English Colonies, William and Mary is surrounded by woodlands on more than 1200 acres. Fall at William and Mary is a particularly special time, not in the least because of some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the South.
Lehigh UniversityBethlehem, PA
Traditionally noted among New England’s Hidden Ivies, Lehigh University is a prestigious private research university (and historic football rival to its neighbor, Lafayette College). Founded in 1865, Lehigh was built on modern business and industry, founded by industrialist and philanthropist Asa Packer for the express purpose of educating the young people of the Lehigh Valley for modern professional careers. Lehigh University has certainly attained its goal, earning a reputation as one of the most selective colleges in the nation, and one of the nation’s highest level of income for graduates. All that and beauty too: Lehigh is famous as one of the most beautiful colleges in the US.
As it is throughout the Lehigh Valley, autumn at Lehigh University is perhaps the college’s most beautiful time. While the region remains one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation, Lehigh’s location at the feet of the Poconos means that when mid-October rolls around, students, faculty, alumni, and parents are compelled to stop and gaze at some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the Northeast. With more than 2300 acres around South Mountain – one of the last undeveloped stretches in the valley – Lehigh University is one of the most attractive tourist areas in a region known for awe-inspiring scenery.
St Olaf CollegeNorthfield, MN
Founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1874, and named for the patron saint of Norway, St. Olaf College is one of the nation’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges and one of the most beloved institutions in Minnesota. Affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Olaf is deeply dedicated to life and service in Northfield and throughout Minnesota, as well as one of the most successful study-abroad programs in the country. With just 3000 students, St. Olaf is known throughout Minnesota for its close-knit community, including one of the nation’s best college dining halls, and a strong commitment to the rural region surrounding the college.
Northfield, MN, St. Olaf’s hometown, sits in rural southern Minnesota, a region settled by Norwegian farmers – the people celebrated by A Prairie Home Companion and The Golden Girls. It’s also one of the loveliest regions in the nation, especially in the fall, and St. Olaf College has widely been cited as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US because of its natural spaces. Along with its historic buildings, St. Olaf’s 300-acre campus is distinguished by forests, wetlands, and the picturesque farmland that surrounds it. With its fall foliage peaking in late October, St. Olaf is on the radar for anyone in the Midwest who loves the autumn leaves.
St Lawrence UniversityCanton, NY
St. Lawrence University was founded by the Universalist Church in 1856, originally to prepare ministers for service in the church. While the seminary ended in 1965, when the Universalist Church merged with the Unitarian Church, St. Lawrence has always remained faithful to the basic values of church, which was (and remains) the most progressive wing of American Protestantism. For that reason, community, responsibility, service, and justice have always been at the center of life at St. Lawrence. It is also an academic powerhouse, the pioneer of living-learning communities (earning St. Lawrence distinction for some of the best college dorms in America), and high rankings among national liberal arts colleges.
When St. Lawrence was founded, the Universalist Church put the college outside of the village of Canton, afraid that too much stimulation would distract students from their studies. While the quaint village of Canton, compared to certain other cities in New York, might seem like the definition of a sleepy, quiet small town, St. Lawrence’s location in the rural area has helped it become one of the most beautiful colleges in the US. St. Lawrence is particularly known to be beautiful in the fall, with a wooded campus boasting beautiful fall foliage to rival any liberal arts college in New England. The region is also well known for its outdoor adventure, so St. Lawrence students can test themselves in one of the prettiest areas of the country.
Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing, MI
Michigan State University is one of the most influential and significant universities in the nation, though it may not always receive its due credit. Founded in 1855, Michigan State was a pioneer in combining modern, scientific agriculture and applied science with traditional liberal arts learning – so much so, that when the US passed the Morrill Land Grant Act in 1862, dedicating federal funds to establish a public university in every state, they looked to Michigan State as the model. Today, Michigan State has built on that foundation to become one of the nation’s top public research universities, with more than 20,000 acres of land (in addition to its 5200-acre main campus) and a history of transforming Michigan and American higher education.
In addition to its significance as a research institution, Michigan State University is also known for its deep commitment to Michigan’s land, waters, and people – it’s even been ranked one of the top river and lake colleges in the nation by College Consensus. With farmland and forests, rivers and lakes, Michigan State has made a mission of reconnecting the people of Michigan with its land, and that includes unusual programs like the university’s Extension programs all about Michigan. With one of the largest and most beautiful college campuses in the US, Michigan State can teach us a thing or two about fall foliage.
Appalachian State UniversityBoone, NC
Founded in 1899, Appalachian State University has always had one mission above all others – to serve the people of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, in whatever capacity it can be of most value. In its earliest days, that was as a normal school, training teachers to educate children in a region critically short on both teachers and schools. Today, that means preparing professionals and leaders for North Carolina and beyond, with an eye focused on the needs of a developing region. Widely known as one of the top regional universities in the South, App State has been ranked by College Consensus as one of the best mountain colleges in the US, and for one of the most unusual college degree programs, all in the name of transforming life in the hills.
The Appalachian Mountains, by any estimation, have some of the most beautiful fall foliage in America, and Appalachian State, in rural Boone, NC, is widely known as one of the most beautiful colleges in the US. Autumn draws scores of tourists to the Appalachians, and App State is not at all unaware of how important the seasonal change is to Appalachian culture and life; in fact, the App State Biology Department maintains a blog following the changing of the fall colors every year. It’s not an idle exercise; it’s tracing one beautiful aspect of how people in the region keep tradition alive – Appalachian State’s biggest reason for being.
Ohio Northern UniversityAda, OH
Ohio Northern University is a small, Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college in the lovely rural village of Ada, OH – a town just only a few more residents than the 3000-student college itself. Founded in 1871, ONU began as a normal school, training teachers for the school system in the era before teacher’s colleges, but over time the school added programs like pharmacy and law to meet the needs of northern Ohio’s people. That’s always been ONU’s mission – to provide for the people – and for its efforts Ohio Northern has been ranked one of the top regional colleges in the Midwest, as well as earning a reputation as one of the prettiest colleges in the US.
The little town of Ada – adorably named for the original postmaster’s daughter – is called “A Classic Ohio Village,” and Ohio Northern does a lot to add to its charm. ONU cares deeply for the people and place, whether it’s through sustainability efforts (like wind turbines and solar arrays generating clean energy for the school) or promoting the local culture. Ada and Ohio Northern are especially beautiful in the autumn, when the changing leaves make ONU one of the most beautiful campuses in the US. With the classic college look, and a sweet little town, Ohio Northern is a portrait of Midwest life.
Saint Michael's CollegeColchester, VT
One of College Consensus’ Best Small Colleges in the US, St. Michael’s College was founded in 1904 by the Society of St. Edmund, a Catholic religious order who had escaped a period of anti-Catholic persecution in France. Originally an academy, the school transitioned to a college by the 1930s, but never forgot its origins; St. Michael’s is known for its dedication to the region, always grateful for being welcomed, and has even hosted refugees from other countries. As one of the best small liberal arts colleges in the nation, St. Michael’s emphasizes small classes, strong mentorship, and commitment to community.
Familiarly known as St. Mike’s, the college is located in Colchester, VT, a suburb of Burlington, in the gorgeously forested region between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. It goes almost without saying, then, that St. Michael’s has one of the most beautiful campuses in the US, and never more so than in autumn. The Green Mountain region is known nationwide for some of the most beautiful fall foliage ever seen, and St. Michael’s 400-acre campus is flush with color beginning in early October. St. Michael’s also stewards the environment as the nation’s first fair-trade college, along with numerous environmentally-conscious initiatives.
Bryant UniversitySmithfield, RI
Founded in 1863, Bryant University was originally a part of a popular chain of bookkeeping schools (which still exists today as Bryant & Stratton College), but became an independent university in 1916. As an independent, regionally-accredited nonprofit, Bryant has spent the last century building a strong campus community and a reputation for quality, earning ranking as one of the best regional universities in the North, and particularly as one of the best business schools. Bryant’s two colleges – the College of Business, and the College of Arts and Sciences – keep Bryant focused on its strengths, turning out class after class of successful alumni.
While Bryant was located in Providence, RI, for much of its history, in 1971 the college moved to Smithfield, RI, to land donated by alumnus (and Tupperware inventor) Earl Tupper (incidentally, Bryant’s mascot, a bulldog, is also named Tupper). That more rural setting had a wonderful impact on Bryant, allowing the university to develop a more traditional campus atmosphere. Bryant’s verdant campus turns to a full spectrum of colors in autumn, displaying some of Rhode Island’s most beautiful fall foliage.
Indiana University-BloomingtonBloomington, IN
Indiana’s flagship public research institution, Indiana University Bloomington has long been recognized as a Public Ivy and one of the most influential colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1820, not long after Indiana was admitted to the Union, IU had a crucial hand in making the frontier of Indiana into a place for government, business, and learning. With nearly two centuries of history behind it, IU can also boast Nobel Laureates, business giants, and cultural icons among its alumni and faculty. From business and law to medicine and nursing, IU is central to Indiana’s professional life, with a reach that extends around the world.
Closer to home, though, Indiana University is also one of the most beautiful campuses in the US, and Bloomington, IN, has been widely seen as one of America’s most-loved college towns. Visitors to IU’s Bloomington campus will find monumental old-growth trees, lush green spaces, charming brick walks, and some of the oldest and finest buildings in Indiana. Around mid- to late-October, they’ll also see some of the most beautiful fall foliage to be seen in the Midwest, as the university’s sugar maples, sweetgums, and Japanese maples produce colors from shimmering gold to rich plum purple.
Berry CollegeMount Berry, GA
Ranked as one of the best mountain colleges in the US, Berry College is one of the most extraordinary institutions in the South, located on the largest contiguous campus in the nation – more than 27,000 acres. Founded in 1902 by philanthropist Martha Berry, Berry College began as an academy offering impoverished mountain children the opportunity to go to school, and continues with one central mission – providing the people of Georgia with exceptional education. As a non-denominational Christian institution, Berry puts service and engagement at the center of its life and curriculum, and its role in life around Mount Berry and northern Georgia is significant.
With more than 27,000 acres, much of it gloriously undeveloped, Berry College is also one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US. The campus proper is also well-known for its beauty, with Gothic Revival buildings, wide green spaces, and beautiful fountains and reflecting pools. The entire area around Berry is organized as a natural preserve, with more than 80 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails that give students and visitors a way to observe some of the most beautiful fall foliage in Georgia. With the seasonal change peaking around the first of November, tourists from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and the Carolinas flock to Northern Georgia.
Eastern Mennonite UniversityHarrisonburg, VA
One of the best small colleges in the US, and top regional universities for the South, Eastern Mennonite University was founded in 1917 by the Mennonite Church USA, originally to serve the children of Mennonite farmers in rural Virginia and surrounding states. While EMU remains deeply connected to the church, students come from a wide variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, making EMU an especially diverse institution. EMU is primarily known for its social justice orientation, including the world-renowned Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, an outgrowth of the Mennonite faith. Eastern Mennonite’s commitment to service and engagement has made it a leader in the Shenandoah region.
Eastern Mennonite has the benefit of being located in one of the most famously beautiful regions of the US – the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A cultural and tourist hub between the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, the Shenandoah Valley attracts visitors from all over the East Coast throughout the year, whether for hiking and camping in the summer, or skiing in the winter. Many visit the campus of EMU, one of the most beautiful campuses in the US, to enjoy its green spaces and forests. EMU is one of the most active colleges in America, and one of the most environmentally conscious, but come late October, EMU also shares some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the South.
Lewis & Clark CollegePortland, OR
Lewis & Clark College is widely recognized as one of the best national liberal arts colleges in the US, having earned that distinction with more than a century and a half of service in Oregon. Founded in 1858, Lewis & Clark is one of the oldest colleges in the Pacific Northwest, established even before Oregon was admitted to the union by Presbyterian settlers who knew that a higher education would mean development and opportunity for their community. Today, Lewis & Clark remains deeply committed to the well-being of Oregon’s people and environment, with national recognition as one of the top green colleges (a full 100% of Lewis & Clark’s energy comes from wind power).
Of course, the Pacific Northwest is known far and wide as one of the most beautiful areas of the country, and Lewis & Clark College add to this distinction. With its campus on the top of Palatine Hill, overlooking Portland, Lewis & Clark’s 137-acre campus connects to the more than 600-acres of the Tryon Creek State Natural Area, giving students access to a bounty of natural beauty. Lewis & Clark’s campus is notable for the lush greenery that covers the Pacific Northwest, but in October, all of that green yields some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the region. Visitors to Lewis & Clark College in the fall will find miles of hiking and biking trails to take it all in.
The University of Tennessee-ChattanoogaChattanooga, TN
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has worn many hats over its long history, from its founding in 1885 as a private Methodist college; its years as a branch campus of Grant Memorial University (now Tennessee Wesleyan); and a stint as an independent University of Chattanooga. That’s enough lives for any university, but UTC soldiers on, contributing greatly to a renewed and vibrant Chattanooga that has emerged in the 21st century as a hub of technology, entrepreneurship, and culture. Today, UTC is particularly known for its business, healthcare, and technology programs, earning recognition as one of the best regional universities in the South.
Located on the Cumberland Plateau, at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, Chattanooga is not just one of the most exciting up-and-coming cities in the US, but one of the most beautiful – in fact, Chattanooga’s official nickname is The Scenic City. UTC’s campus – 120 acres of urban forest – is a handsome natural haven in the heart of the city, just blocks from the Tennessee River. The UTC Arboretum is home to more than 60 species of tree, more than 2000 specimens in all, including old-growth trees that were there before the college. Of course, around early November, the entire campus is lit up by some of the most beautiful fall foliage imaginable.
Drew UniversityMadison, NJ
Drew University is ranked one of the top national liberal arts colleges in the nation, a United Methodist Church-affiliated institution that has been serving northern New Jersey for a century and a half. Founded in 1867, Drew is named for its founder, railroad baron Daniel Drew, who bought a massive estate known as The Forest to open a Methodist seminary. While Drew continues one of the oldest Methodist seminaries in the nation, the school grew well beyond its original religious mission, developing a strong reputation for excellent undergraduate education, experiential learning, and close-knit student life.
With Drew’s nickname – the University in the Forest – it should come as no surprise that Drew would be one of the most beautiful college campuses in the fall. In fact, the woodlands around Drew (more than 180 acres) are so deep and unspoiled that visitors would find it hard to believe New York City is just 25 miles away. With both a forest preserve and an arboretum, there may be no better place in New Jersey to see the leaves change in mid-October. And for those who like a little autumn spookiness with the most beautiful fall foliage in New Jersey, Drew is also one of the most haunted colleges in America.
Saint Mary's University of MinnesotaWinona, MN
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota dates back to 1912, when it was founded by the Diocese of Winona, though today the university is headed by the De La Salle Christian Brothers (also called the Brothers of the Christian Schools), an order dedicated to teaching. Though it began as an all-male school, Saint Mary’s has been coeducational since 1969, while the creation of a special program for working adults in 1985 began a new phase of the university’s development. Throughout the years, Saint Mary’s has been dedicated to educating the people of Minnesota, whether through online education in recent years, extension campuses throughout the state, or in Winona on one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US.
The changing of the seasons isn’t just a time of year at Saint Mary’s – it’s an event, and Saint Mary’s makes the most of it. With a campus built on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, Saint Mary’s is part of the picturesque region around Winona (once a popular tourist destination with a rich local folklore). During the autumn, Saint Mary’s hosts Fall Foliage Fridays, using the prettiest time of year to attract high school juniors and seniors with their families to visit campus. Peaking in late October, Saint Mary’s takes full advantage of having some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the Midwest.
SUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuse, NY
The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is exactly what its title says – a comprehensive college dedicated specifically (and solely) to environmental science and forestry. While SUNY-ESF is a public college today, it began as a unit at Syracuse University in 1911 before becoming an independent institution in 1913, and the campus is still connected to Syracuse. When the SUNY system began in 1948, the college joined up with the state, and today is widely regarded as the foremost public institution for studying sustainability, environmental science, and related fields.
Of course, SUNY-ESF is one of the most beautiful colleges in autumn – though not necessarily on its Syracuse, NY, main campus. Of course, Syracuse is a lovely city in Upstate New York, in the heart of the Finger Lakes district, but SUNY-ESF is much more than the nine buildings that make up its main campus. Much, much more – as in 25,000 acres of beautiful, untouched wilderness throughout the Adirondacks. Obviously, SUNY-ESF takes autumn quite seriously; in fact, any leaf-lover owes it to themselves to check out ESF’s publication Why Leave Change Color, as well as the Guide to Fall Colors in New York.
Champlain CollegeBurlington, VT
Founded in 1878 as a small business school, Champlain College is cited as one of the best regional universities in the North and a top business educator. Champlain College is particularly known for its unusual “Top-Down Curriculum,” which puts students in their majors courses starting from the first semester. Rather than a traditional general education curriculum for the first two years, Champlain arranges coursework thematically over the first three years – Self, Community, and World. With interdisciplinary learning and a small student:faculty ratio, Champlain has earned acclaim as one of the best undergraduate educators in the region, while early adoption of distance education has made it one of the top online colleges.
Champlain College, obviously, is located on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the most beautiful regions of New England, and as such has a small campus well known for its handsomeness. Students at Champlain live in 20 remodeled Victorian mansions around the campus, while all of Burlington is famed for its trees and green spaces. Some of the most beautiful fall foliage in New England peaks in mid-October, which just so happens to be the time of year when Champlain holds its Open House events – all the better to show off one of the prettiest colleges in New England.
Berea CollegeBerea, KY
Berea College is, quite simply, a college like no other, if only for one simple reason – no student pays a dime to attend. Founded in 1855 by political radical John Gregg Fee, Berea was the first integrated, coeducational college in the South – and the only one for several generations. Like many colleges of the era, Berea was a work college, in which students paid their way by working for the institution, but what makes Berea unusual is that it is still a work college today. Berea only accepts students who qualify for financial aid (according to FAFSA), primarily from the lower 40% of income, predominantly from the Appalachian region, and its enormous endowment (more than $1 billion) allows the college to make every student a work study student.
But Berea is hardly all work and no play; in fact, its 140-acre rural campus is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the region. Berea, KY, sits on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, the highlands to the west of the Appalachian Mountains, and with that geography in its favor, Berea is one of the South’s most picturesque small colleges. Berea’s campus features well-developed trees and lush green spaces, and when late October brings the change of seasons, the kind of beautiful fall foliage the the Appalachians are known for.
Long Island UniversityBrookville, NY
The largest campus of the Long Island University System, LIU Post is named for the breakfast cereal magnate C.W. Post, whose daughter donated the estate on which the college was built. Founded in 1954, LIU Post was dedicated to diversity and access from the very beginning, with much of the student body made up of African-American and Latinx students from the boroughs of New York City and the metropolitan suburbs. With its focus on the practical professional disciplines most useful to its students, LIU Post has earned most of its recognition in areas like business, nursing, healthcare, and education.
The Post campus, on Long Island’s high-society North Shore, encompasses more than 300 acres of rolling hills, lawns, gardens, and woods in the village of Brookville. There, students get to live and study in the opulence of the bygone Gilded Age, which once gave the North Shore the nickname “The Gold Coast” and inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Along with its landscaped and architectural beauty, LIU Post has 40 acres set aside as an arboretum hosting rare trees. In mid-October, Post is overtaken with some of the most beautiful fall foliage in New York City, inspiring students to walk a little longer and take a little more time outdoors before the New York winter arrives.