Experience nature as it puts on its most glorious, yet short-lived, spectacles of color.
If nature speaks to us in colors, then autumn is when it’s singing at the top of its lungs. Don’t wait until the week before the leaves begin turning to plan a trip. Start planning now to make sure you get the best seat in the house.
Know When to Go
Many a fall foliage trek has ended in disappointment: Travelers are greeted with a sea of still-green leaves or they arrive just in time to see the last hangers-on dotting the landscape with less-than-glorious color.
The typical leaf-peeping season begins in mid- to late-September in northern states, peaks during October in the lower Midwest and western states, with southern states changing in November.
Keep in mind that fall colors are unpredictable and vary based on myriad factors. But to help travelers better plan their colorful getaway Farmers’ Almanac has Peak Fall Foliage Dates by state. To get even more up-to-date information about the area you’re planning to visit, call that state’s Fall Foliage Hotline. (Yes, that’s a thing.)
Pick a Spot, Any Spot
From sea to shining sea, the U.S. has more than 750 million acres of forest land. Which means that, no matter where you live, the awe-inspiring splendor of nature’s gold-orange-crimson fireworks is only a car drive away. These are a few of our favorites.
Rocky Mountain Region: Aspen, Colorado
Anyone interested in fall foliage must experience the turning of the aspens. These trees, known locally as “Quakies” and for exhibiting some of the most dramatic color changes, are best when visited in … well … Aspen.
Of course, the Rocky Mountains are a go-to destination for fall foliage viewing. If Aspen is not quite your style, there are plenty of other Colorado destinations to choose from.
Pacific Northwest: Colombia River Gorge
There’s a total of 17 national forests within the borders of Oregon and Washington. Choosing one proved difficult so why not highlight an area crossing the borders of both states? The Columbia River Gorge cuts a natural border between the two. The gorge itself is a breathtaking backdrop but add the fall colors to the mix and you’ve got a picture-perfect destination.
If 17 choices just aren’t enough, add in western Montana and Idaho and you’ll never run out of places to see fall colors in the Pacific Northwest.
Great Lakes Region: Michigan Upper Peninsula
For those who desire the calming sound of murmuring waters, plan an autumn adventure to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Boasting a sprawling forest (the largest of the eastern states) there are more than 20 state parks within the four million acres of forest.
For equally amazing views take your pick from a full menu of fall scenery surrounding the Great Lakes.
The Midwest: Lake of the Ozarks
Don’t think that the largest state park in Missouri is only a summer hot spot. With cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, the lake, surrounded by the Ozark Hills, becomes a striking display of red, yellow, and orange hues.
The Eastern Seaboard: Anywhere in the Northeast
Ask any seasoned leaf-peeper and they’ll tell you New England in the fall is synonymous with the best place to see unforgettable foliage. So let’s cut to the chase: Check out this list of top 10 New England road trips. We’ll let you decide.
We Think You Can, We Think You Can
For those of us who prefer to be dazzled rather than distracted by nature’s technicolor displays, driving is not the best option. The better way to go: a rail-cation.
For a glimpse of the fall foliage train tours available here are three places to start:
- “12 Best U.S. Train Trips to Take This Fall” from AARP
- Autumn Foliage Train Tours with Vacations By Rail
- “6 of the Best Fall Foliage Train Vacations to Book Now” courtesy of Amtrak
Unlike flying, train travel has no extra charges for baggage and unlike driving, on-the-go restroom stops—as many as you need—are included.