Grab a front-row seat for Mother Nature’s dazzling annual autumn show.
The summer heat continues to rage on, but sweet relief is just around the corner. Fall, with its brilliant colors and cool breezes, is just a few weeks away— you’ve got just enough time to plan a weekend getaway for a few days of leaf-peeping in late September or early October. As you gaze longingly at the fuzzy sweaters in the back of your closet and dream of cozying up by a fire, consider making a day trip to one of these charmers.
Maroon Bells, Colorado
Situated 10 miles southwest of Aspen, Maroon Bells may be one of the most photographed vistas in the United States. Your friends may cry “photoshop” when they see your technicolor pics of this reflective lake flanked by mountains aglow with bright aspen leaves. Besides being a fabulous natural canvas, Aspen is a lively town with plenty to see and do and nearby Snowmass offers outdoor activities like hiking and horseback riding.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for being a particularly scenic drive, but come fall the stunning vistas over the Appalachians offer a dizzying array of color. There’s even a daily leaf tracker to help perfectly time your visit. Don’t miss the artsy town of Asheville, which beckons with its laid-back vibe and plenty of restaurants, galleries and shops, as well as Art in the Park on October Saturdays.
Lake Placid, New York
The Adirondack region prides itself on jaw-dropping fall color. Don’t miss the Flaming Leaves Festival in early October that features blues, brews and BBQ and the opportunity to watch top ski jumpers compete at the Olympic Jumping Complex. For a fantastic birds-eye view of the vivid autumn hues over Lake Placid and Lake Champlain, take a ride on the Whiteface Gondolas.
Country road during the peak fall foliage season in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts. DenisTangneyJr | Getty Images
The Berkshires are another idyllic leaf viewing region, known for its explosion of autumn color. Consider timing your visit in late September around the Fall Foliage Festival. While in the area, don’t miss the Norman Rockwell Museum, where you can see Rockwell’s original Stockbridge studio as well as the largest collection of his work.
Acadia National Park, Maine
A stone’s throw from charming Bar Harbor is Acadia National Park, with its stunning display of crimson, orange and yellow on a 27-mile Park Loop. Get there before late October for prime viewing, a lobster roll at Charlotte’s Lobster Pound and fall-inspired ice cream flavors like Pumpkin Caramel at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The Ozarks provide a rugged and mountainous backdrop that sets northwest Arkansas ablaze in fall color. Come mid-October, the hamlet of Eureka Springs (home to the Great Passion Play) puts on American’s longest running Folk Festival. Animal lovers will also appreciate a visit to the nearby “Big Cat” wildlife refuge at Turpentine Creek. There are pleasant and twisting autumn drives around the Ozark National Forest, including routes towards Jasper and Mountain View that are dotted with tiny mountain towns steeped in preserving Ozark folk life.
June Lake, California
June Lake Loop area of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California. Ted Soqui | Corbis | Getty Images
Not everyone thinks of California for fall foliage, but June Lake in Mono County offers a fantastic display of color set against the often snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. Make a day of driving, hiking or biking around the June Lake Loop and either pack a picnic or stop into the Double Eagle for lunch.
Skyline Drive, Virginia
Fall is the most popular time to visit Shenandoah Park in Virginia, and the leaf action is concentrated along the 105-mile stretch of Skyline Drive from Front Royal to Charlottesville (home of the University of Virginia.) If you are staying over, Skyland Hotel is tucked smack into the middle of the drive. Consider timing your visit in early September to take part in the Annual Apple Butter Celebration.
Red barn of Grandview Farm Stowe Land Trust at Stowe Hollow road Vermont. Education Images | UIG | Getty Images
Few places conjure images of quintessential New England like the winding single-lane roads and covered bridges of Vermont, and Stowe provides a postcard-worthy autumn backdrop. Linger over the breathtaking hues of alder and maple leaves as you weave through Smuggler’s Notch Park or change your vantage point by skimming over the leaf tops with a ZipTour or TreeTops rope course. Kids of all ages will also enjoy a tour of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory.
Goat Island, New York
On the American side of Niagara Falls, Goat Island is a two-for-one, as you can take in the majesty of the changing leaves and enjoy the falls themselves. Don’t miss Cave of the Winds, which allows you to see the U.S. Falls up close, from below. More colorful vantage points can be found on connected Green Island (a bit of a misnomer in autumn), which separates Bridal Falls from American Falls.
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