Best Places to See Fall Foliage

Best Places to See Fall Foliage

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Top Locations for Fall Colors

Ah, fall! For many Americans, it’s the most beautiful time of the year – especially if you live in rural areas populated by trees that, when conditions are right, ripen and burst into gorgeous, eye-dazzling color. Fleeting and often subject to a combination of unpredictable weather patterns, autumn’s annual show is rarely less than delightful and often purely dazzling. Soon, dedicated leaf-peepers will be taking to the roads to hunt down and drive (and walk) among one of nature’s most curious displays. But with only a limited number of days to choose from, where are the best places to see fall foliage?

First off, start with foliage reports or maps and be sure to gauge exactly where you’ll want to go; peak foliage times can vary for different locations. But assuming you can schedule your visit to the trees at just the right time, here are several of the best places to see fall foliage around the country. And while you’re there, add in some wine tastings, antique shopping and hiking – because soon enough, we’ll all be hibernating, just like the trees, as winter comes!

1. Lake Placid, New York

With the Adirondack Mountains in full color, the contrast of earth tones and the crisp clarity of the lake are not to be missed. Maples, aspen, oaks and beech trees are all part of the Olympic Trail scenic byway that runs for over 170 miles. Another idea: The Fall Foliage Train tour, which runs on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Fall Foliage in Lake Placid, NY
(Photo Credit: Lake Placid Region/Flickr)

2. Aspen, Colorado

When your town is literally the name of a tree, that’s a good sign. The ski resort area of Aspen has a brief foliage season, but the sheer majesty of the golden tree-covered landscape makes it a must-see. Consider a drive through Maroon Bells , the peaks considered the “most photographed” in all of Colorado, just 10 miles west of Aspen. Fall Colors in Aspen, Colorado
(Photo Credit: US Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

3. Salem, Massachusetts

Few towns come into their own in the fall months better than Salem, home to the former historical “witch” trials. Autumn is time for the town to kick off their “Haunted Happenings,” which kick off in October. This particular leaf-peep is best done with the car parked, walking through town to see how the tree-lined streets set off the grandeur of homes that are hundreds of years old. Drivers can then hit road and head south to Saugus and check out Birch Pond. A favorite spot among writers looking for inspiration, Birch Pond is one of the best places to see fall foliage.

Salem Fall Foliage
(Photo: Birch Pond, Saugus, Credit: Jeff Floger, Massachusetts Office of Tourism)

4. Oakland, Maryland

In 2014, Travel & Leisure plucked the otherwise rarely-visited town in Garrett County, Maryland, as the top spot for fall colors, specifically at Swallow Falls State Park. In addition to the trees, Muddy Creek Falls is a sight to behold, a 53-foot waterfall into the Youghiogheny River. While down there, check out the Annual Autumn Glory Festival.

Autumn Foliage in Maryland
(Photo Credit: Visit Maryland)

5. Franklin, Tennessee

If you miss out on classic New England foliage, consider heading south; fall colors are available all the way into early November in Tennessee. Downtown Franklin is south of Nashville and provides a chance to stroll among the trees along a 16-block walk that’s part of the National Register of Historic places. Afterward, check out the Natchez Trace Parkway, which provides hundreds of miles of further chances to catch the beauty. Drivers can also take a ride through the Cherokee National Forest by way of the beautiful Cherohala Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway Fall Colors
(Photo: Cherohala Skyway, East Tennessee, Credit: Tennessee Department of Tourism)

6. The Gold Coast, Michigan

Start out in Traverse City, and the roads are yours for around 100 miles. Drive along Lake Michigan’s shores through fishing towns and pass maple and oak leaves that contrast nicely with the evergreens. Explore the Upper Peninsula through Oswald’s Bear Ranch to Tahquamenon Falls State Park  50,000 acres of largely undeveloped woodlands spread over 13 miles.

Fall Along the Gold Coast in Michigan
(Photo Credit: Jim Sorbie/Flickr)

7. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Oregon is notable for being scenic all times of the year, but in fall the big-leaf maples, cottonwoods, ash and twisted pines all come together for a marvelous show in the fall. Drive along the Columbia River, hike trails or kayak/raft down the river, while Mt. Hood rises over 11,000 feet to provide an even more beautiful backdrop.

Columbia River Gorge Fall Foliage in Oregon
(Photo Credit: Bret Vogel/Flickr)

Many foliage chasers hop in the car to get the most out of the autumn leaves. Consider packing up the car and taking a road trip through one or multiple locations. If you’re a fall lover, a relaxing ride in the car is the perfect way to take in the change of seasons. However, Road trip insurance is a must, so you and your passengers stay protected against unexpected breakdowns and other surprises.

“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.”
— Robert Frost, “October”

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