America’s 7 Most Stunning Spots to Enjoy Fall Foliage
It’s always bittersweet to see summer draw to a close, but it’s just as important to look forward to the wonderful things that fall has in store for us: pumpkins, crisp autumn air, and — most importantly, perhaps — spectacular foliage. In the days and weeks before they start dropping to the ground, leaves of all shapes and sizes begin to turn ravishing shades of crimson, fiery orange, and golden-yellow. From New England to the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, these vibrant shades are worth seeing!
Head out for a quick weekend getaway — or an extended autumn vacation — and check out any of these top 7 destinations for colorful foliage viewing the United States.
1. Aspen (Colorado)
This popular resort town is named for its most distinctive variety of tree, the aspen, whose leaves turn a vibrant yellow-orange hue every fall. The aspen’s golden leaves contrast beautifully with the evergreen trees that pepper this area’s mountainous landscapes, writes Fodor’s. Shuttles carry visitors from downtown Aspen to the famous site of Maroon Bells, which is home of two scenic peaks among the Elk Mountains. Maroon Bells is one of the prime foliage-viewing sites in the country, offering extraordinary glimpses of purple and white mountaintops, emerald evergreens, and shimmering golden-orange trees.
2. Green Mountain Byway (Vermont)
The entirety of New England is celebrated for its arboreal elegance, but this 11-mile jaunt down Vermont’s Green Mountain Byway is perhaps the best spot to enjoy the region’s leafy vistas, according to Conde Nast Traveler. The standout trees here are Vermont’s sugar maples, whose leaves glow a vivacious red in the autumn months thanks to Vermont’s crisp and temperate climate. Visitors can also appreciate the color contrasts between deep-red sumac leaves and those of the golden-and-yellow birch, poplar, elm, and hickory trees.
3. Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee)
According to the Travel Channel, leaves of the dogwood, sourwood, and black gum trees along the Blue Ridge Parkway turn an intense shade of crimson, while poplars and hickories turn yellow, and maples burst into red and orange hues. The Parkway spans more than 105 miles, and autumn is undoubtedly the best time to watch this kaleidoscopic scenery come to life. Being just a few hours outside Washington, D.C., it’s a perfect weekend getaway for individual travelers, couples, and families — and to top it all off, the Blue Ridge Parkway terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, a breathtaking landscape dotted with trees displaying varying shades of warmth.
4. Upper Peninsula (Michigan)
Forbes recommends that foliage-seekers explore the heavenly colors of fall along Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, home to more than 20 forested state parks that contain over 7 million total acres of woodlands. Here, oranges, golds, yellows, and deep reds come together as a result of the region’s 100-plus different species of trees. Three hundred or so scenic waterfalls lend rich character to the area’s natural splendor, with each waterfall cascading forth into a pristine, azure body of water. Visitors should drive along Lake Superior to renowned Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to best appreciate the local fauna — travelers are likely to encounter white-tailed deer, moose, and beavers.
5. The Ozarks (Arkansas, Missouri)
The Ozarks are a popular lakeland getaway for summer travelers, but this spot becomes even more remarkable in autumn: The overwhelming throng of travelers disperses, leaving a colorful, lush, and leafy scenery in its wake. Travel + Leisure notes that the mild temperatures along the Ozark Hills help usher in varying hues of red, gold, orange, and rich mahogany on the flora of Missouri’s largest state park. Visitors can enjoy the foliage by driving through the area, hiking, or even from a boat or yachting tour in the center of the Lake of the Ozarks.
6. Columbia River Gorge (Oregon, Washington)
The 80-mile Columbia River Gorge, which cuts into the scenic Cascade Mountains along the borders of Washington and Oregon, is an exquisite sight any time of year. The region welcomes record-breaking numbers of visitors throughout the fall season, when the region’s maples, Oregon ashes, firs, cottonwoods, and twisted pines begin displaying intensely warm colors, according to Fodor’s. Vistas can be enjoyed any number of ways: hiking the mountainous trails, driving alongside the Columbia River, or even in a raft or kayak trip along the river’s waters.
7. Adirondack Mountains (New York)
The Adirondack Mountains are home to a wide variety of tree species, such as birches, aspens, oaks, silver maples, and sugar maples. The area’s biological diversity offers stunning color contrasts upon the beautiful backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains. Drive along the Ausable River to get the best views of this sweeping New York landscape, writes Travel + Leisure.