As the crisp fall air sweeps across the country, so too does autumn color. Rich hues of red, gold and orange leaves spread through all the trees. Don’t miss taking in the fall foliage at one of the colorful destinations below. Take in stunning landscapes saturated in bold autumnal colors and explore historical sites while sipping warm cider to ward off the crisp fall air. Participate in insightful lectures from local naturalists and historians and enjoy regional and seasonal treats like pumpkin pie to complete your autumn experience.
2freenites.com staff has recommended several locations in no particular order for your fall trips.
Every autumn, Gatlinburg undergoes a stunning transformation as the trees erupt into vibrant colors that make up the most breathtaking Tennessee fall foliage scenes. The Gatlinburg fall calendar of events is jam-packed with the most fun events and fall festivals in Tennessee. It’s the perfect time for a family getaway or a romantic escape to the Smoky Mountains and a chance to see the most beautiful time of year in Tennessee. Fall foliage in full color, cool, crisp air and entertaining activities for everyone. Leaf enthusiasts visiting Gatlinburg can enjoy the city’s small-town charm in the middle of the Smoky Mountains. With over 600 miles of hiking trails, there is plenty of room for exploration, including the Newfound Gap Road from which travelers can observe a brilliant tapestry of foliage at 1,400 feet above sea level.
Asheville, North Carolina
Set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, N.C. boasts one of the longest and most colorful leaf seasons in the world. Vistas filled with fall colors can be seen from a variety of settings including “America’s Favorite Scenic Drive” – the Blue Ridge Parkway – which offers travelers some of the most stunning views in the country along the 469-mile route. George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate – America’s Largest Home and a historical landmark – is a great setting to soak in the sea of fall colors among the Pisgah National Forest, or hike your way through the fall foliage at Graveyard Fields, an easy drive south on the Parkway from Asheville.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Central Missouri’s popular summertime lake getaway becomes even better in the fall when the crowds disperse and the temperatures pleasantly drop into the sixties. The surrounding Ozark Hills are at their most scenic come fall, when the forests ignite in shades of scarlet, gold, mahogany, and russet. Experience the color explosion while hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding at Missouri’s largest state park. Or take in the fall foliage on a yacht, at the wineries, during a round at one of the lake’s championship golf courses, or on a twenty-five-mile scenic drive.
The Green Mountain Byway travels through the towns of Waterbury and Stowe between the spine of the northern Green Mountains to the west and the peaks of the Worcester Range to the east. The maple, birch, and beech trees lining this eleven-mile route bisecting Vermont put on one of the most dazzling displays of color in New England. The drive from quaint Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, to Stowe, one of the most famous ski resorts in the east, passes through two state forests and three state parks. In Stowe, the ski area gondola offers a bird’s-eye view of the forested slopes and easy access to hiking.
Niagara Falls, New York
Time a visit to Niagara Falls during the peak fall foliage season for scenic views of Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil Falls against the backdrop of a bright mix of yellow and orange leaves. Walk among the dazzling hues at Niagara Falls State Park. Due to the warm water flowing from Lake Erie down the Niagara River, fall foliage season is typically mid-late October, a few weeks later than the surrounding areas. The fall is also full of events and festivals featuring wine, food and music. Hop aboard a haunted history boat tour during October, check out the River Region Scarecrow Expo or hit the Niagara Wine Trail.
Awash in dramatic autumn colors, Portland’s famous Japanese Garden is the perfect location to wander a tranquil atmosphere full of fiery Japanese maples and other Asian flora during fall. A hike to Pittock Mansion from Forest Park, a sprawling urban wilderness also in the northwest corner of the city, offers panoramic views of the Rose City and the deciduous trees speckled throughout its footprint. Finally, no fall leaf peeping is complete without a trip down the Historic Columbia River Highway. The most vibrant place to view fall foliage in the Portland-metro area, this historic highway is lined by big-leaf maple and cottonwood trees, not to mention incredible vistas of the Columbia River Gorge and picture-perfect waterfalls.
Cut into the Cascade Mountains and forming a natural border between southern Washington and northern Oregon, the eighty-mile Columbia River Gorge is already a sublime sight. Come fall, when the firs, cottonwoods, big-leaf maples, Oregon ash, and twisted pines start to show their colors, it’s absolutely breathtaking. Visitors can choose to take in the golden and bronze hues while driving along the Columbia River, hiking a variety of trails, or rafting or kayaking down the river.
When a world-famous town is named after a tree, you know it’s an extraordinary specimen. Aspen leaves turn a rich yellow hue in the fall and literally shimmer in the breeze when the sun hits them. The gold tones of aspens in autumn make for a picture-perfect contrast with the evergreens and craggy mountain peaks. While the ritzy ski resort town of Aspen is the place to see and be seen in the winter, it mellows during the autumn months.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Michigan’s state forest system is the largest in the eastern U.S., encompassing nearly 4 million acres. Take your pick from one (or more) of the Upper Peninsula’s twenty-plus forested state parks. Ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarack are the stars of this densely forested peninsula sandwiched between three Great Lakes. The tranquil waters, ranging in color from azure to navy, visually enhance (and reflect back) the trees’ already brilliant fall colors.
A true New England autumn experience, Massachusetts boasts a myriad of locations to view the blazing colors of fall. A road trip to the Berkshires, a scenic mountainous region in Western Massachusetts, offers unique views of foliage over water at locations such as Cheshire Reservoir and the Bowl in Stockbridge. Or celebrate autumn and enjoy the changing of the seasons at Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, a Massachusetts town set along the Wachusett Reservoir. Here, the garden displays hundreds of trees and shrubs teeming with fall color. In addition, visitors can participate in apple tastings and other harvest season events and exhibits throughout the fall.
The essential escape for urbanites in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, the Berkshires provide world-class foliage viewing alongside notable art and culture. Narrow winding roads connect mountain hamlets set against a forested backdrop of crimson, yellow, and every hue in between, making for the most beautiful gallery-hopping or antiquing trip of your life. Or, spend the weekend at one of the region’s storied spas, soaking in the sweeping autumn views.
The Catskills, New York
The 6,000 square miles in southeastern New York known as the Catskills are home to six major river systems, thirty-five mountain peaks over 3,500 feet, and the famed Woodstock festival. A year-round destination, the Catskills are at their most vibrant in the fall when yellows, oranges, and reds electrify the thickly wooded hillsides. Locals and visitors alike savor the fall harvest, when many of the region’s historic villages host festivals and craft fairs alongside the bountiful farmers’ markets and pick-your-own orchards.
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
The dazzling eighty-three-mile loop starting and ending in Taos has become a fall foliage pilgrimage for aspen aficionados. Here, the aspens turn not only yellow, but also dark orange. The route encircles 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point, and the mesas and mountain vistas offer a unique southwestern perspective on autumn color. While aspens steal the show, there are also purple cinquefoil and cottonwoods in fiery shades ranging from bright red to yellow.
Glacier National Park, Montana
For the ruggedly self-sufficient, Glacier National Park is a dream fall foliage destination. By the end of September, all the park’s concessions have closed for the season, guests have gone home, and you pretty much have the entire park to yourself. This is one of the best places to see larch trees—deciduous conifers that turn bright gold in the fall before losing their needles. Yellow larch intermingled with evergreens set against the backdrop of the massive snow-covered peaks of the Continental Divide make for perhaps the most dramatic autumn scene in the U.S. Plus, wildlife abounds, with elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears making their preparations for winter.
Enjoy the colors of the season!!