The Best Places To Go To See Fall Colors In The U.S., According To Your Travel Style
Welcome to fall. It’s time for bright, colorful trees and crunchy leaves underfoot. We might venture to say it’s the best season for travel since there’s a little nip in the air making it sweater weather and the perfect time to spend some time outside. And we know your priorities are leaf-peeping and soaking up that autumn glow — and eating apple cider donuts, obviously. So here are the best destinations to see fall colors in the U.S., according to your travel style.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
This stretch of New Hampshire highway is so famous for fall travel that it’s nicknamed “the Kanc.” What are you doing this weekend? Oh, we’re going to hit the Kanc’s 43.5 miles of scenic byway for some unbeatable views of nearby rivers, waterfalls and forested mountains.
The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
An 83-mile loop around Wheeler Peak (the highest mountain in New Mexico), this magical route has a wide variety of landforms you might not find in New England. The southwest fall spot features mesas, valleys and the towering Rocky Mountains.
Gold Coast, Michigan
There are nearly 300 miles of shoreline to explore on Michigan’s Gold Coast, meaning you’ll have more than ample leaf-peeping opportunities. We’d suggest starting in Grand Rapids, AKA Beer City USA, to pick up some fall brews for a picnic later down the road in one of the state’s many forested parks.
Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park’s Old Rag Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the park for its amazing views and challenging route. The hike is 9 miles long, takes about seven hours to complete and includes portions of rock scrambling. But the view at the top is well worth the effort (and the danger).
The Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Vermont
This 3-mile hike near Burlington takes trekkers through heavy forest — meaning brilliant fall colors — all the way to the top of a gorgeous mountain ridge. The best news? It’s not a hard trail, meaning you can take it easy on the way up and at the summit.
Maroon Bells, Colorado
Aspen’s most popular photo opportunity has multiple hiking trails offering views of the Rocky Mountains reflecting in a stunning alpine lake. There’s a loop as short as 1-mile roundtrip, as well as tough, mostly uphill 6-mile journeys. But the sight of the lake and surrounding yellow trees will make any hike a favorite memory.
Best Train Route
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, North Carolina
Following the Nantahala and Tuckasegee rivers, you can take day trips through North Carolina’s best fall foliage areas. The Nantahala route includes a picnic by the river ($96 with lunch, $50 without) and the Tuckasegee route goes through cute small-town Dillsboro, where you can stop for train ride snacks ($55).
Essex Steam Train, Connecticut
Starting in a 1800s-era train station, the Essex Steam Train ($20) brings passengers through the Connecticut River Valley’s peaceful forests and panoramic valleys. It’s a two-hour ride on the old-fashioned train, past tidal wetlands and small New England towns. And in the fall, it’s awash in fall foliage.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Colorado and New Mexico
This National Historic Landmark carries leaf-peepers over 64 miles of mountains, canyons, desert and fields. And all these environments start to change color in the fall. A ticket to enjoy the western views ($105) comes with a buffet lunch right on the train.
Best Canoe Trip
Lake Placid, New York
In the heart of the Adirondacks, you’ll find Lake Placid. While the entire region has more than 2,300 lakes and ponds to choose from, we’d suggest Placid for foliage viewing. Rent a boat from an outfitter in town and hit the water.
Boundary Waters, Minnesota
Minnesota’s northern waters offer some of the best wild country in the U.S. The lake- and river-filled region is crisp and colorful in the fall, but it doesn’t have the hordes of visitors that hit New England’s autumn offerings. You can take a guided tour or rent a boat to make your own adventure.
Eleven Point National Scenic River, Missouri
This river in the Ozarks is a serene way to take in the fall foliage. You’re not really going to hit any dangerous rapids or have to portage your canoe by land. Instead, you can float on down the wide river, pretty cliffs and calm forests.
Best Bike Ride
Delaware Canal Towpath, Delaware
This 60-mile path through Delaware could be one long bike ride or broken into sections for a day trip. But any way you slice it, the route goes through pleasantly rural and small town countryside, with lush greens turning to yellows and oranges on the trees.
Cape Cod Rail Trail, Massachusetts
Crossing through multiple state and national parks, this trail runs through Massachusetts’ most famous coastal region. That means the views are unmatched anywhere else in the state and you can enjoy them on paths reserved for bikers and rollerbladers — no cars allowed.
For those looking to go a little rougher, try mountain biking in Fruita. It’s one of the best mountain biking spots in the entire country and, during the fall, the desert plateaus and hills start to shift to an even more red hue than nearby red rock destinations in Utah.
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