Summer is almost over. This means it’s time to come home from your summer vacation and start preparing for fall. What this doesn’t mean, however, is staying home until Thanksgiving or the December holiday season. Fall is actually an awesome time to go on short weekend breaks just to see the leaves on trees transform from green to rich red-gold. Thankfully, the US has plenty of places where you can view autumn foliage, and here are our picks for the best leaf peeping destinations in the US to check out this fall.
New York City, New York
Most city dwellers travel away to the country to see some glorious fall foliage. Not so New Yorkers; all they need to do is to spend some time enjoying fiery autumn colors in Central Park or wander about the Hudson’s shores for some romantic sunsets by the water. Autumn in New York is a time for romance—they even made a movie about it—and there are just so many things you can do in this city if you do get tired of leaf peeping.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor tops many lists of small-town leaf peeping destinations in the US for its dramatic scenery and cozy atmosphere. This quiet Maine community is right on the doorstep of Acadia National Park, which is famous for its seaside cliffs and its lush green forests that turn flame-colored in autumn. Bar Harbor is also an excellent place to sample New England cuisine, and don’t forget to visit its galleries and quaint shops.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway was designed to connect Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But in autumn, you can enjoy Blue Ridge Parkway as a destination of its own. The mountains’ forest covering bursts into bright colors come September—evergreen Appalachian conifers providing contrast with the red maples and sourwoods, the brown oaks, the orange sassafras, and the golden poplars. You can take all these bright colors as you drive slowly down the Parkway, and you can even stop at the shoulder to admire the view if you want to.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is breathtaking from September to early October. This is when the hardwood trees up in the mountains—mainly maples and oaks—turn scarlet and gold against the blue-green foliage of the evergreen pines. These dramatic sights are best enjoyed while hiking or riding a bike. But while Michigan’s UP area is considered to be one of the best leaf peeping destinations in the US, visiting the area requires some careful planning. The weather there can be variable and can either delay or speed up the appearance of the fall colors.
Taos, New Mexico
Whenever September rolls in, the mountains and canyons of Taos become awash with bright golds and ambers as the aspens put on their autumn foliage. Their brightness can look stunning against the evergreen ponderosa pines sharing space with them. The best way to enjoy leaf peeping in Taos is to drive the 85-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. Or you can explore the numerous hiking and biking trails surrounding Taos. And if you love craft beers, you can time your visit so you can enjoy Oktoberfest while you’re there.
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is an excellent vacation spot you can enjoy any time of the year, but you’ll have a special treat waiting for you if you go there in autumn: the awe-inspiring fall colors. Drive, hike, or bike anywhere around Lake Tahoe and you can feast your eyes on aspens and cottonwoods changing their verdant summer foliage to brilliant golds and yellows. What makes autumn in Lake Tahoe even more special is you get to witness the spawning of kokanee salmon in Taylor Creek, one of the southern tributaries of Lake Tahoe.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington
The scenic Columbia River Gorge is another destination you can head to any time of the year. But come autumn, the scenes can be heartachingly beautiful. On both sides of the river, you’ll find landscapes painted with brilliant greens from the evergreens, scarlets from the oaks and maples, and gold from the aspens. Hiking is one of the best ways to experience this one of the top leaf peeping destinations in the US, though you can also go horseback riding.
Your fun holidays need not end when summer ends. Visit one of these popular leaf peeping destinations in the US and become immersed in the beauty of nature as you travel.