Even though we are still experiencing triple digit temperatures in many parts of the country, fall will be here before we know it, so its time to start planning a trip to enjoy the changing colors of fall. While New England is the most famous location for fall foliage, great fall color can be seen throughout the country with an added scenic bonus of mountain backdrops, rock canyon vistas, lakeside scenes, or sprawling vineyards.
Here is a list of a few travel destination ideas for finding a beautiful display of fall colors. This list is not meant to be a “Best” list, but rather a list of a few places you may not have thought about for viewing fall foliage.
Pacific Northwest – Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River gorge, the nation’s first National Scenic Area, cuts through the Cascade Mountains and forms the border between Oregon and Washington. The area is loaded with big-leaf maple, cottonwood, Oregon ash, and vine maple trees that show their colors from mid-September to mid-October. Fall foliage viewing opportunities include a scenic drive, hiking, or boating. The area is also known for a large collection of waterfalls including the 620-foot Multnomah Falls.
California Wine Country
Fall is the most beautiful time of year in wine country, with Sonoma being my favorite fall wine trip. The wine and food is great any time of year, but nothing beats the cool temperatures of October and November and the breathtaking vistas of rolling hills in the vineyards with brilliant displays of purple, yellow and rust.
San Isabel National Forest – Colorado
For the best aspen viewing in North America, head to San Isabel National Forest. For viewing the yellows, golds and bold oranges of the largest stands of Aspen trees anywhere, against the backdrop of rugged mountains, head for Aspen in mid to late September, and take Highway 82 through the Lake District and over Independence Pass to Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the continental US.
Lost Maples – Texas
The Lost Maples State Natural Area features a large, isolated stand of rare Uvalde Bigtooth Maples boasting beautiful red and yellow fall color. The area covers more than 2,000 acres on the Sabinal River, northwest of San Antonio. Viewing times for the best fall foliage are typically the last 2 weeks of October through the first 2 weeks of November.
Great Smoky Mountains – N.Carolina/Tennessee
In addition to radiant fall colors from 100 species of native trees including sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgums, red maples, and hickories – a visit in the fall to the Smoky Mountain National Park will reward you with breathtaking mountain views, rolling autumn fog, and countryside charm. Memorable shades of crimson, orange and purple are best seen from early October through early November.
Upper Peninsula – Michigan
The area referred to as the Upper Peninsula is a 409 mile strip of land surrounded by lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron, providing awe-inspiring views of fall foliage reflected in the water. The area has more than 100 species of trees such as oak, ash, birch, maple and sycamore. Leaves turn from mid- to late-September into October. For a memorable scenic fall drive, US Highway 41 meanders across the Peninsula from Menominee on Lake Michigan to the Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior. You will also find many scenic trails for hiking or biking in the areas State Parks and national forests and parklands.
The Catskills – New York
The Catskills region, 100 miles north of New York City, is often referred to as “America’s First Wilderness”. This area harbors a variety of trees including maple, oak, birch, and beech providing a fall display of colors that rival those of Vermont and Massachusetts. The prime season starts in late September and continues through mid October.