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Fall Leaf Peeping Ideas

Fall is my favorite time of year and not only because my birthday is in October. The weather turns cool, but not cold and the trees blaze forth in scarlet and gold. Living in Texas, with its unchanging seasons, I have to travel to find autumn. The picture above is from Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. Here are some of the best places in the U.S. to see fall foliage.

1. New England - New England is the quintessential place for fall leaf-peeping. Whether you rent a car and drive or take one of the many fall cruises, fall in New England can't be beaten. The White Mountain Trail in New Hampshire, the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, and the Green Mountain Byway in Vermont meander through quaint villages. Acadia National Park is also stunning in the fall. The foliage usually peaks in late September through mid-October.

2. Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway, Utah - The drive from Park City to Midway in the Heber Valley takes less than one hour by car, but during autumn expect to spend longer to make the most of the numerous scenic turnouts and photo ops along the way The best time to visit is late September to early October.

3. Aspen, Colorado - Aspens, from which the town takes its name, leaves turn a rich yellow hue in the fall and shimmer in the breeze when the sun hits them. The gold tones of aspens in autumn make for a picture-perfect contrast with the evergreens and craggy mountain peaks The best time is Mid-September to early October.

4. Brown County State Park, Indiana - As a part-time resident of Indiana, I have to put in a plug for Brown County. Often called the Smokey Mountains of Indiana, the park provides sweeping vistas that are unexpected in a state known for its flat topography. The artisan town of Nashville just outside the park is a great place to wander, shop, and dine. In nearby Indianapolis, zipline through the fall trees at Eagle Creek Park, canoe past vibrant reds and yellows along the White River, or bike beneath the tree canopy of Monon Trail to get immersed in the seasonal displays throughout the city. The color usually peaks in mid-October.


5. Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico - The 83-mile loop starts and ends in Taso and is another great location for aspen aficionados. Here, the aspens turn not only yellow but also dark orange. The route encircles 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's highest point, and the mesas and mountain vistas offer a unique southwestern perspective on autumn color. While aspens steal the show, there are also purple cinquefoil and cottonwoods in fiery shades ranging from bright red to yellow. The color is best in late September to mid-October.

6. Laural Highlands, Pennsylvania - Frank Lloyd Wright was so taken by this region of Pennsylvania that he built his masterpiece, Falling Water, as well as several other buildings. The covered bridges, rolling hills, and picturesque small towns make this a destination for everyone. Harvest festivals and autumn wine tastings are set among a backdrop of bright reds, oranges, and yellows from the changing dogwoods, black gums, and scarlet oaks. Peak color is usually in mid-October.

7. Upper Penninsula, Michigan - Michigan's state forest system is one of the largest in the U.S., encompassing nearly 4 million acres. There are 20-plus forested state parks. Ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarack are the stars of this densely forested peninsula sandwiched between three Great Lakes. The tranquil waters, ranging in color from azure to navy, visually enhance (and reflect) the trees’ already brilliant fall colors. Mid-September to early October is usually when the colors peak.

8. Glacier National Park, Montana - This is one of the best places to see larch trees—deciduous conifers that turn bright gold in the fall before losing their needles. Yellow larch intermingled with evergreens set against the backdrop of the massive snow-covered peaks of the Continental Divide make for perhaps the most dramatic autumn scene in the U.S. Plus, wildlife abounds, with elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears making their preparations for winter. September is the best time to visit.

9. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina - This parkway leads travelers along a scenic byway along the Blue Ridge Mountains as it stretches 469 miles between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The road ignites in an intense palate of bright yellow, vibrant red, and brilliant orange as the dogwoods, sassafras, and red maples begin to change hues. Many towns along the way offer quaint spots to stop for photo ops, but the charming town of Asheville has countless festivals, apple orchards, wineries, and hiking options.

10. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon - In the fall, the Columbia River Gorge is breathtaking. The firs, cottonwoods, big-leaf maples, Oregon ash, and twisted pines start to show their colors. Visitors can choose to take in the golden and bronze hues while driving along the Columbia River, hiking a variety of trails, or rafting and kayaking down the river.

Where is your favorite place to experience the beauty of fall? Contact me if you are ready to plan your fall vacation.