RVing through the Seasons: Tips and Considerations

Traveling in an RV is an unparalleled experience. There’s almost no bad time of year to travel.

Some consider RVing to be a seasonal activity. Many part-time RVers de-winterize their RV as things warm up in preparation for the summer vacation season. After a fun season of RVing, they winterize and store the RV again when the weather turns cooler.

But RVing can continue throughout the year. Each season has its beauty and unique draws. There are special things to see and do in each season that can only be experienced during that time of year. But along with those fun experiences also come some considerations to keep in mind. Various tips and tricks can enable you to get the most out of RVing through all the seasons.

Whether you are a full-timer or take your RV out on a part-time basis for fun adventures, I hope the information below helps you enjoy RVing throughout the year.

Spring wildflowers in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring

Ah, springtime. When the warmer weather comes, the travel itch isn’t far behind.

Spring is an amazing time to hit the road in your RV. The bugs aren’t in full force yet. The days are warm and the evenings cool—which is perfect for campfires. The waterfalls are at their most powerful. And the campgrounds aren’t packed yet. 

Springtime is a time of growth and renewal with a lot of exciting things to see and experience. As many RVers leave their winter destinations or bring their RVs out of storage if not full-time, it’s an excellent time to do some inspection and care of your RV and continue to hit the road for more adventures.

Spring wildflowers in Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring tips & tricks

Spring is a time to de-winterize your RV if applicable and check for any new leaks that have potentially formed over the winter. Even if not, it is an opportunity to do some spring cleaning inside and out and take time for routine or annual maintenance.

Watch out and be prepared for the severe weather that occurs in some areas in the spring. With winter thawing and springtime rains encountering mud or flooding is more common.

Mexican poppies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for spring travel

View Mexican poppies and other wildflowers in southern California and Arizona, bluebonnets in central Texas, tulips in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington, and cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.

It was 1947 when the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants first decamped to Arizona for pre-season warm-ups in spring, kicking off a tradition that now brings 15 MLB teams to take up temporary residence in the Phoenix area.

After Washington, DC’s famed cherry blossoms have peaked, you can still get your flower fix with a trip to Virginia’s stunning Shenandoah National Park with its 850 species of wildflowers.

Prairie dogs, white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, elk, and bighorn sheep roam free in South Dakota’s Custer State Park. Come spring, you may even cross paths with the newest additions to the park—baby wildlife.

>> Read more on RV travel in spring:

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer

Summertime means summer travel, especially among the RV-loving set. These three bright, beautiful months offer some of the very best motorhome and travel trailer adventures possible.

Summer is all about hitting the road with your friends or family to explore somewhere new.

If you’re planning an RV getaway with family, summertime may be the best option. After all, the kids are on vacation and the warm weather gives you and your family more opportunities to have fun. How does a water-themed RV vacation sound? 

Taking an RV vacation during the summer months also gives you and your family a great chance to visit fun amusement parks during the journey. Also, if you plan well, you can prepare a travel route that also includes stops at concerts, music festivals, or sports events that the entire family can enjoy.

If you do plan to camp in your RV during the summer be prepared for crowded campgrounds and RV parks. Be sure to plan your trips early and make reservations before the campgrounds become full.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer tips & tricks

It’s always a good idea to make certain preparations ahead of time including a basic itinerary, securing camping sites, and ensuring you’re up to date with your regular maintenance schedule.

Once you’ve got the maintenance out of the way, move on to your packing list. What do you need to bring aboard? Summer heat means fun activities like paddling, cycling, or hiking. Be sure to add whatever gear you need to make it happen to your packing list whether that means big equipment like a kayak or bicycle, or just your best pair of lightweight trail shoes and a wide-brimmed hat. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

A consideration for summer is that humidity can be very high during this season depending on where you recreate.

Don’t underestimate the power of a fan which helps to move the air around. This can make you feel cooler as can a cold drink. Keep the ice cubes stocked in your freezer or buy a countertop ice maker. A cool beverage can do wonders.

To maximize your outdoor shade space you can add an awning screen or room. This helps when you want to be outside at a time when the sun may be shining at an angle that your awning doesn’t block.

Kemah Boardwalk, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for summer travel

Take your family for a swim at a beach and play in the sand or get in a kayak or on a paddleboard.

Summers in Texas can be hot and humid but the cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico are inviting all year long. Galveston Island features 32 miles of beaches for those looking to relax in the sun. But the barrier island is also home to historic architecture, a vibrant art scene, excellent seafood restaurants, and fun, quirky shops.

Pigeon Forge is a family-friendly destination with something to offer visitors of all ages. Options include off-road trail rides, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, and go-karting. And when you’re ready to stretch your legs and take in some scenic views, head over to Great Smoky Mountain National Park where you’ll find hundreds of miles of hiking trails and endless roads to explore.

West Virginia is an underrated summer RV destination. The town of Fayetteville is a great place for RVers looking for outdoor adventures. One of the biggest attractions in the area is one of America’s newest national park, New River Gorge.

Banff and Jasper National Parks in Western Canada offer some of the most breathtaking scenery and impressive hiking in the world.

>> Read more on RV travel in summer:

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall

While summer is the peak season for most campers and RVers, fall might be a better time to hit the road. From mid-September through early November, temperatures are milder, humidity is lower, campgrounds and RV parks are less crowded, fall foliage is ablaze, and pesky bugs like mosquitos and black flies are not as prevalent.

Additionally, water temperatures are still warm and fishing conditions improve. The weeks after Labor Day (the unofficial end of summer) are an excellent time to travel in your RV. Also, Halloween presents some very attractive options during this season. 

For many RVers, autumn is considered the perfect season for RVing. During this well-loved season, the leaves change colors and fall to the ground as the air becomes crisper with cooler temperatures that are just right for traveling in an RV. It’s also typically less busy than the summer travel season allowing many to avoid crowds and long lines. If you’re looking for a great time to take your family on vacation, fall is definitely it!

Stowe Community Church, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall tips & tricks

Fall can best be enjoyed by just making a few adjustments to maximize your enjoyment of RVing during cooler weather. Get out your cooler weather clothes as the season changes.

A couple chairs, a cozy blanket, and a campfire are all you need to sit outside for hours.

Some may say it’s not a campfire if it’s not a wood fire but a propane fire pit can be a game changer. A propane campfire can be turned on or off at a moment’s notice and campfire smoke is never a problem.

Slow cookers are useful for RVers year-round but are especially handy in cooler weather when we have the urge for warm soups and other hearty meals. After a full day of exploring the fall foliage come back to your campsite and an RV already smelling amazing from an almost ready slow-cooked meal.

Be sure to check ahead on any campgrounds you plan to stay in as fall progresses. Make sure they remain open and haven’t turned off the water if you are planning on needing that.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for fall travel

The northeast is an easy answer for where to RV in the fall with its vibrant fall leaves in all colors. Not only does the northeast do fall colors right but the covered bridges and maple syrup farms and products feel quintessentially fall.

Head to Acadia National Park in Maine but leave enough time to sufficiently explore Vermont and New Hampshire as well. Visit a sugar house such as Sugarbush Farm to try their maple syrup. Come back in the spring to see the full maple season production but the sugar house is open all year. Read exhibits and take a walking path through the woods. Here you will see how the trees are tapped and the sap lines are run.

Colorful falls are certainly not exclusive to the northeast. You could follow the colors south along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains for more fall colors.

Whereas the above mentioned areas showcase leaves of all colors, there is just something about the bright yellow aspen leaves of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. You will be treated to a sea of gold as the hillsides are blanketed in golden leaves.

Wherever you travel, there are apple or pumpkin orchards, farms, and farmers markets with fall’s harvest bounty, corn mazes, and other fall festivities to be enjoyed.

>> Read more on RV travel in fall:

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter

Snowflakes falling, blanketing the landscape in white, puffy coats, warm hats, and hot chocolate all come to mind when thinking of winter. There is a reason for the term winter wonderland. Winter can be beautiful but in an RV it can often present the most challenges.

Winter tips & tricks

In winter, all things are made easier if you can avoid the extremes and have an RV that is at least somewhat capable of cold-weather camping.

If you camp in the cold, you’ll need to prepare for it. If you’re hooking up to city water, you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your campsite. A heated hose keeps water from freezing at the source while it’s flowing into your RV. 

Because hot air rises and cold air sinks, floors often feel extra chilly, especially in the morning. Fortunately, there are several ways to insulate under your feet such as interior rugs and runners, carpet tiles, and floor mats.

Your propane furnace is the most efficient way to heat the inside and underbelly of your RV. Another option is a portable electric space heater. Electric heaters can supplement your RV furnace if you’re plugged into AC power. They can conserve propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

And many RVers escape the cold like a snowbird and have some fun in the sun.

Snowbirds head south for winter. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for winter travel

Winter favorites for RVers include Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas. Each snowbird destination has pros and cons. For example, during winter the Southeast enjoys a humid, warm tropical climate but in return for that shorts and sandals weather you will get to deal with humidity and fire ants. On the other hand, Western snowbirds will pay for sunny afternoons with prickly plants, wind storms, dust, and chilly nighttime temperatures.

Before choosing a destination, consider the type of climate and landscapes you enjoy as well as the environmental conditions you are most and least willing to tolerate.

>> Read more on RV travel in winter:

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 General tips for all seasons

There are a couple of additional tips for RVing throughout the year that apply to all seasons and not already mentioned above.

A weather app that you can have access to on your phone is useful year-round to be aware of weather and be notified of storms and any severe weather. This can help you decide whether to travel to an area if it is time to leave or even immediately seek safe shelter.

Make sure that your RV and other vehicles are up to date on their maintenance and care ready for the season and safe traveling. You don’t want your home-on-wheels or mode of transportation to break down on the way or present safety issues to you or your family.

Check out the seasonal and regional food in the areas you travel. Each time of year brings in-season fruits and vegetables that are fresh and flavorful and special dishes and treats are often available to enjoy local and seasonal specialties.

Look for season-specific and themed festivals and events as you travel. This may help to determine which time of year to visit a place so that we are there in time to enjoy a certain experience.

Conclusion

I could go on and on about the benefits of RVing in each of the seasons, ways to maximize your RVing throughout the year, and list out wonderful places to visit. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for your RV trips or maybe made you want to see a part of the country in a season you hadn’t previously considered.

Worth Pondering…

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Leaf Peeping Map 2023: Plan Your Fall RV Trips

Plan your perfect fall foliage getaway with this interactive leaf color map! It’s the ultimate visual planning guide to the annual progression of changing leaves.

It may not have officially arrived yet, but fall is certainly in the air: Pumpkin spice beverages abound at coffee shops, school is back in session, and cooler temps are right around the corner. That means peak leaf peeping season is nearly here and the foliage map from SmokyMountains.com is the perfect tool to help you plan a colorful fall trip.

Discover the best destinations to experience nature’s spectacular show as the leaves change color this season. Simply explore this interactive map to find where red, orange, and yellow hues will peak near your travel dates.

Fall colors at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The prediction map—“meant to help travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak color each year”—tracks the entire United States as various regions go from no change in leaf color to minimal, partial, near peak, and finally peak coverage. There isn’t much happening yet, but you can check out the map here to bookmark for later in the season and even submit foliage information about your area to help improve the predictions.

The map provides a visual guide to follow autumn’s colorful transformation across North America. View precise predictions of the fall foliage season from week to week. Get ideas for your RV route and plan to hit the road when the scenery will be at its most breathtaking.

Fall colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spend your fall trip immersed in nature’s vibrant beauty thanks to this easy planning tool. Start discovering your next leaf-peeping adventure today.

Leaf peeping is travel jargon for viewing, photographing, or simply enjoying fall foliage.

As you know from many of my posts, I can never get enough of fall foliage. Every year, landscapes transform as if God decides to get out his paintbrush and remind us of the surrounding beauty.

Leaf peeping has become so popular that many RVers plan road trips around the changing leaves. Fortunately, there’s an amazing interactive tool to help you do just that!

Fall colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall foliage prediction map

The fall foliage prediction map or leaf peeping map gives you a nationwide view of the changing leaves. You can check travel dates by using the slider bar at the bottom. The different colors denote different stages.

Green denotes no change yet and brown means that the leaves are past their peak. The colors in between show the colorful progression of fall.

It’s so easy to use, and frankly, it’s fun! I couldn’t help sliding the bar back and forth to see the colorful flow overtake parts of the country.

Fall colors in Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How accurate are its predictions?  

Just like you can’t completely predict the weather, leaf predictions can never be 100 percent accurate. However, SmokyMountains.com has published this predictive leaf-peeping map for nearly a decade.

It started as a fun project to meet the needs of their customers. SmokyMountains.com offers 2,000+ cabins and vacation rentals in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. So, it’s easy to see how the leaf peeping map could benefit their customers.

But what started as a fun project for their clientele rapidly grew into a top fall resource that tens of millions of people use annually.

The founder of SmokyMountains.com and creator of the map, David Angotti, is also an Airline Transport Pilot. As such, he was required to fully understand weather patterns and was highly trained in to use of meteorological tools. The combination of his expertise and love for travel led to this highly accurate tool.

Fall colors in Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What data does the map use?

I love to know how things work and algorithms, in particular, impress me. The algorithm SmokeyMountain.com created analyzes several million data points including:

  • NOAA historical temperatures
  • NOAA historical precipitation
  • NOAA forecast temperatures
  • NOAA forecast precipitation
  • Historical leaf peak trends
  • Peak observation trends
  • Historical model outputs from previous years

It outputs approximately 50,000 predictive data pieces that forecast county-by-county the precise moment when peak fall will occur.

And last year, they announced how it’s more accurate than ever with mid-season updates.

“Due to the complexity of applying a humongous, multi-faceted dataset, we have historically published our map annually without mid-season updates,” creator David Angotti explains. “However, for the first time we plan to release a mid-season update in late September. By applying the mid-season update, we believe the accuracy and usefulness of the tool will be increased.”

Fall colors near Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How is the fall foliage prediction map useful?

Get there at the right time.

As RVers, you probably instantly see the usefulness for travelers. We’ve all too often mistimed our road trips and begrudgingly enjoyed the leftovers. A tool like this changes that.

Now, you can perfectly time your trip for the:

It’s also a great opportunity to check out my Ultimate Guides for:

Even if you’ve been to the above places before, it’ll be like visiting a whole new place if you go at peak leaf pepping times.

Fall colors in Jacksonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unexpected uses

However, clever folks have used the fall foliage prediction map for more than travel.

“The vast majority of individuals use the leaf map to simply check when leaves will peak near their home or use it to plan a leaf peeping trip,” David Angotti says. “However, through the years, we have heard some fascinating stories about how the tool was leveraged.”

He goes on to share some of the favorite stories from leaf peeping map users.

One example is a bride in the northeast changing the date of her outdoor wedding. Another is a director scheduling a movie shoot on location based on our predictions. Even school teachers have used the map to plan field trips and add to their lesson plans.

Fall colors at Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other nifty leaf peeping resources

SmokyMountains.com also offers some helpful information and fun resources on its fall leaf map site.

You can see a scientific overview of why leaves change colors, colorful illustrations, fall coloring sheets for kids, and a list of the Top Places to See Fall Foliage in All 50 States.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

—Albert Camus

Preparing for Sweater Weather

The fall equinox arrives on Saturday, September 23, 2023

Autumn has caught us in our summer wear.
—Philip Larkin, British poet (1922–86)

It’s officially the last day of summer which means that pumpkin spice and sweater weather are basically upon us. Rather than bemoan the end of one season, I’m looking forward to everything autumn brings with it—including crisp morning air and apple cider. Consider today’s post your fall kickoff complete with a leaf-peeping guide and some great road trips for the season.

Saying farewell to the long, warm days of summer can be bittersweet but the sheer majesty of the changing fall foliage makes the transition a little bit easier. As autumn’s cooler temperatures and shorter days set the trees ablaze with color, now is an ideal time to plan a leaf-peeping road trip, hike, or other excursion to take in the views.

It is the summer’s great last heat,
It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.
—Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fall season officially begins on Saturday, September 23. This date marks the autumn equinox or the date between the summer and winter solstices when day and night are nearly equal lengths. (We also know it as the first day of the year when you can order a pumpkin spice latte with no shame.)

During an equinox, the Sun crosses what we call the celestial equator—an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line.

After the autumnal equinox, days become shorter than nights as the Sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. This ends with the winter solstice after which days start to grow longer once again. 

The word equinox comes from Latin aequus, meaning “equal” and nox, the Latin word for “night.” On the equinox, day and night are roughly equal in length.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But why do leaves change color in the fall?

Autumnal leaves in vibrant hues are a beautiful part of the season but those leaves are also a vital part of keeping trees alive. The trees with leaves that change color in fall are deciduous. (Evergreen trees with needles which stay green to continue the photosynthesis process through the winter are coniferous.) Deciduous trees usually have large, broad leaves.

Most of the year, these leaves are green because of the chlorophyll they use to absorb energy from sunlight during photosynthesis. The leaves convert the energy into sugars to feed the tree.

As the season changes, temperatures drop and days get shorter. Trees receive less direct sunlight and the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down.

The lack of chlorophyll reveals yellow and orange pigments that were already in the leaves but masked during the warmer months. Darker red leaves are the result of a chemical change: Sugars that can get trapped in the leaves produce new pigments (called anthocyanins) that weren’t part of the leaf in the growing season. Some trees like oaks and dogwoods are likely to produce red leaves.

Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When do fall leaves change color

Leaves can change their color from as early as mid-September through early November. Typically, the second and third weeks of October are the peak times but it shifts depending on your location and your local weather conditions.

Foliage starts to change in the northern-tier states out West and in the Midwest by late September. By October 2, the leaves in some areas will be past their prime. 

Much of New England as well as the Pacific Northwest will be at or near peak fall color by October 9. 

A little further south in the Blue Ridge Mountains, mid-October is your best bet.

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina/Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See below for times of the year of peak foliage around the country:

  • Oregon: Best viewed while driving along scenic highways from mid-September through mid-October; however, color conditions vary daily based on humidity and fog density. 
  • North Carolina: North Carolina’s leaf patterns move east across the state. The first leaves in the western part of the state begin to peak the week of October 9. By October 23, the entire state should peak and the show will be pretty much over by November 1.
  • Vermont: Optimal viewing from September 18 through October 2 although the leaves will begin to change in early September.
  • New Hampshire: Leaves in New Hampshire will be at their best the last week of September. By October 16 most of the state will have changed.
  • Washington: Washington State leaves normally hit their peak the week of October 9 and past their peak by October 23.
Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top destinations for viewing fall leaves

Here is a list of my picks for the most idyllic spots in the U.S. for viewing fall leaves. Some are off the beaten path, some are on more popular, scenic routes for you to enjoy whether on foot or by vehicle. I’ve also included the dates for peak foliage viewing for each location.

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Peak Viewing: October 9-28

Virginia’s Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway that runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The speed limit is 35 mph with 75 overlooks to pull over and enjoy the sights of the Shenandoah Valley below. Often called one of America’s favorite mountain drives, Skyline Drive is “good for the soul.” 

La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moab, Utah

Peak viewing: Mid September to mid October

Aside from aspens, cottonwoods, and other deciduous trees making the slow turn to brilliance, the abundant sandstone rocks change colors here, too. Shorter days and angled fall light combine to give Moab’s signature sandstone deeper, more varied colors than usual. Several different leaf-peeping routes include the La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway, the Gemini Bridges Trail, the Poison Spider Mesa Trail, and the Moab Rim Trail. Jeeps are required on all routes except the La Sal

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Peak viewing: Mid to late October, depending on elevation.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any terrain more perfectly orchestrated for fall color viewing than the Great Smoky Mountains. Lots of sumac adds to the brilliant reds but the Park boasts an amazing diversity of trees and terrain that add to the color spectrum—some 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies. To enjoy them, drive the Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway. 

Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kancamagus Scenic Highway, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Peak viewing: September 25-October 7

The Kancamagus Scenic Highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire known by the locals as The Kanc provides some of the most spectacular fall foliage viewing in New England. The Kanc’s 35-mile scenic pass that connects Lincoln to Conway (Route 112) has some tricky hairpin turns and no gas stations so be prepared. It does have plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the grandeur of the vistas. 

Julian apples © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian, California

Peak viewing: Early to mid-November.

In Julian, autumn is the grandstand season both for apple-pie eating and leaf-peeping. Sample the town’s homemade apple confections then watch black oaks do their color-changing trick at Lake Cuyamaca in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. A scenic 45-minute drive leads to Palomar Mountain State Park where you can put some miles on your feet while you admire bracken ferns and leafy oaks on the Thunder Ridge and Chimney Flat Loop. Or hike the Five Oaks Trail at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, home to some of the oldest and largest black oaks in San Diego County. 

Worth Pondering…

It’s the first day of autumn! A time of hot chocolatey mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves!

—A. A. Milne

State-by-State Guide to Fall Colors

Fall foliage paints the landscape with vibrant yellows, oranges and reds, creating picturesque settings

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year and the U. S. offers a spectacular show of fall foliage with vibrant displays of gold, scarlet, and orange. With hundreds of state parks and forests around the country, it might be overwhelming to pick the best place to view the displays. To narrow your search, this list includes information on fall foliage peak times and colors around the country.

Keep in mind that it’s difficult to predict exactly when the leaves will turn in any given location. The best strategy is to select your travel dates in advance but not your destination. Then before heading out, check official state tourism websites and state park websites for up-to-date reports on fall foliage.

Alabama

Dominant colors: Gold, orange, and red

Peak time: Fall colors begin in the mountains of northern Alabama in early October and then sweep across the region. Colors peak from late October to early November. 

Alaska

Dominant colors: Red and orange

Peak time: Fall colors last only a few weeks and hues change daily. Taking a train from Denali National Park to Anchorage is a fantastic way to see fall foliage.

Arizona

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: The best time to view autumn leaves in northern Arizona is from early to mid-October. Fall colors in the Sonoran Desert can be seen from late September to late October.

Arkansas

Dominant colors: Gold, orange, red, and purple

Peak time: Visit Arkansas in the last few days of October and the first few days of November for the best colors.

Fall colors in Lassen Volcanic Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California

Dominant colors: Gold and red

Peak time: Mid- to late October is the best time to view fall color, starting from the higher elevations in the Shasta Cascade region down to the foothills and coast.

Colorado

Dominant colors: Yellow and gold

Peak time: September is the ideal time to witness this gilded spectacle but you have to time it right—the color is fleeting, lasting only about a week in most places. 

Connecticut

Dominant colors: Yellow, orange, and red

Peak time: Fall foliage season begins in mid- to late September and extends through early November. 

Delaware

Dominant colors: Red and gold

Peak time: The color and intensity change quickly, but your best bet to see peak colors is from mid-October to earl

Florida

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Being farther south, leaves in Florida don’t peak until early November.​

Fall colors at Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia

Dominant colors: Orange, red, yellow, and gold

Peak time: Early to mid-November is the best time to see fall foliage in Georgia.

Hawaii

Dominant colors: Varies

Peak time: Because Hawaii’s climate is tropical, seasonal changes are minimal compared to the mainland United States. You won’t find the traditional fall colors here but that doesn’t mean Hawaii is less colorful. This time of the year instead look for colors produced by the plants and trees in bloom such as the African tulip, chorisia speciosa, timor, royal poinciana, and rainbow shower. 

Idaho

Dominant colors: Red, orange, and gold

Peak time: Peak colors are usually in early October in northern, central, and eastern Idaho. By mid-October, colors in southern Idaho reach their height of color.

Illinois

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: In northern and central Illinois peak viewing time is mid-October. Southern Illinois peaks from late October to early November.

Fall colors in Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana

Dominant colors: Gold, orange, and red

Peak time: Northern Indiana reaches peak color in early to mid-October whereas the southern part of the state peaks in mid- to late October.

Iowa

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Peak fall color occurs in northeast Iowa on the weekend closest to October 10 on average. Peak fall color occurs later in the more southern parts of the state. 

Kansas

Dominant colors: Red and orange

Peak time: Northern Kansas colors peak from early to mid-October. Southern Kansas peaks mid- to late October.

Fall colors in Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky

Dominant colors: Yellow, orange, and red

Peak time: Peak fall color for the state occurs from late October to early November. 

Louisiana

Dominant colors: Red and brown

Peak time: Late October to early November is when to expect fall colors in Louisiana.

Maine

Dominant colors: Red, purple, and yellow

Peak time: Southern Maine and coastal areas typically reach peak colors in mid-October whereas western mountain areas peak earlier in the month.

Maryland

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: In southern and central Maryland peak colors are on display in late October and early November. If you can only visit during early October, visit parks around Garrett County. 

Massachusetts

Dominant colors: Orange, yellow, and green

Peak time: During the first week of October, plan a visit to the western and southeastern regions for foliage. Peak foliage occurs mid-October for the central area and eastern regions.

Michigan

Dominant colors: Red and orange

Peak time: The far western quarter of the Michigan Upper Peninsula peaks from mid-September to early October whereas all other areas in the UP peak from late September to mid-October. The expected peak color for the Lower Peninsula is from late September to late October.

Minnesota

Dominant colors: Red and orange

Peak time: On average fall foliage peak times in the northern third of the state occur mid-September to early October. The central third of the state is most colorful between late September and early October. Southern Minnesota trees reach their peak late September to mid-October. One exception is the North Shore of Lake Superior where peak fall color arrives roughly one week later than inland areas.

Mississippi

Dominant colors: Yellow and gold

Peak time: Plan for fall leaves in Mississippi to turn in late October to mid-November.

Missouri

Dominant colors: Orange, yellow, red, and purple

Peak time: Colors start to change in late September and peak in mid-October. Fall colors begin in the northern part of the state and move south to the Ozark Mountains. 

Montana

Dominant colors: Yellow and gold

Peak time: Watch for fall colors in central Montana in late September to early October. Western Montana peaks in early to mid-October.

Nebraska

Dominant colors: Orange, red, and yellow

Peak time: Leaves peak in Nebraska in mid to late October.

Nevada

Dominant colors: Orange, yellow, gold, and red

Peak time: Fall colors in Nevada peak in mid- to late October.

Fall colors in the White Mountains, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Hampshire

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Generally, the best times to view the fall colors are near the end of September in the far north, the beginning of October in the White Mountain region, and the middle of October in the south.

New Jersey

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Fall foliage peak viewing for inland New Jersey is from mid-to late October. Late October to early November is the best time for foliage in coastal areas of the state.

New Mexico

Dominant colors: Yellow and orange

Peak time: At higher elevations peak viewing is in early to mid-October. Lower elevations peak from mid-October to early November.

Fall colors in Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New York

Dominant colors: Red, orange, and yellow

Peak time: New York is known for great foliage so plan your trip sometime between the last few days of September through the month of October. The Adirondacks and Catskills provide the most opportunities for viewing vibrant fall colors.

North Carolina

Dominant colors: Red and orange

Peak time: Inland areas of the state can expect fall foliage peak time around mid- to late October. The coastal regions of North Carolina typically hit their peak from late October to early November.

Fall colors in Theodore Roosevelt Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Dakota

Dominant colors: Green, gold, rust, and brown

Peak time: North Dakota leaves peak with fall colors in early to mid-October.

Ohio

Dominant colors: Yellow and orange

Peak time: Most trees peak during the second and third week of October. Late in the month tends to be an ideal time to visit the southernmost areas of the state.

Oklahoma

Dominant colors: Gold, crimson, and yellow

Peak time: Fall foliage in Oklahoma is at its best in late October through early November.

Fall colors in Jacksonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oregon

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Mid- to late October is peak foliage time for Oregon.

Pennsylvania

Dominant colors: Red, orange, and yellow

Peak time: Peak color is during early October for the northern region of the state. The central region typically reaches full color in mid-October. For southeastern Pennsylvania peak color occurs during the last two weeks of October.

Rhode Island

Dominant colors: Red and orange

Peak time: Peak viewing for Rhode Island is from mid-to late October.

Fall colors in Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina

Dominant colors: Yellow and orange

Peak time: Late October to early November is the best time to view the stunning foliage South Carolina has to offer. 

South Dakota

Dominant colors:  Crimson, gold, orange, and burgundy

Peak time: Plan a trip to South Dakota in early to mid-October to see the leaves at their peak.

Fall colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tennessee

Dominant colors: Red and yellow

Peak time: Typically the northeastern mountain regions see their peak during the last two weeks of October. Across the state colors peak from mid-October to late November.

Texas

Dominant colors: Red and yellow

Peak time: The entire month of October is prime time for spotting fall foliage but the peak time is typically from mid-to late October. Prime spots for foliage viewing are McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and the area around Winnsboro in East Texas.

Fall colors at Fish Lake, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Utah’s fall color season gets underway in early September at higher, northern mountain locations and continues into November in lower, southern areas. Scenic drives are one of the best ways to see the beauty of fall in Utah.

Vermont

Dominant colors: Orange, purple, and red

Peak time: Northern Vermont reaches its peak between the last week of September and early October. Early to mid-October is peak time for southern Vermont.

Vermont is well-known for stunning foliage and state parks are a great resource.

Fall colors in Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia

Dominant colors: Yellow, orange, purple, and red

Peak time: Inland Virginia reaches peak foliage from mid- to late October. Coastal Virginia typically reaches its peak from late October to early November. Shenandoah National Park is a fantastic place to view the foliage of autumn. Scenic drives such as the Blue Ridge Parkway are another great option for foliage viewing.

Washington

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Fall color in Washington typically begins in mid-September and peaks in mid-October.

West Virginia

Dominant colors: Orange, yellow, and red

Peak time: The state reaches peak color from late September to late October.

Wisconsin

Dominant colors: Orange and yellow

Peak time: Early to mid-October is peak fall foliage time in Wisconsin.

Wyoming

Dominant colors: Yellow and red

Peak time: Peak Wyoming colors can be seen from early to mid-October.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

—Albert Camus

Highlights of a Fall Adventure to Custer State Park: Needles Highway and Bison Roundup

When the Black Hills turn golden, magic happens

Few truly wild places remain in the U.S. Custer State Park is one of them. Nearly 1,300 bison wander the park’s 71,000 acres which they share with pronghorn antelope, elk, mountain goats, and a band of burros. Trail rides, scenic drives, bike rides, and safari tours are perfect ways to explore this impressive South Dakota attraction

Below are two highlights of a fall visit to Custer State Park: Needles Highway and the legendary Bison Roundup.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Needles Highway

The Needles Highway is a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains.

As names go, Needles Highway does the job well. Along this winding 14-mile stretch of South Dakota Highway 87 in South Dakota’s Custer State Park, eroded granite spindles and pillars tower all around, hundreds of rocky splinters stitching the sky. 

The Needles Highway is more than a 14-mile road—it’s a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains. The road’s name comes from the needlelike granite formations that seem to pierce the horizon along the highway.

Needles Eye © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On foot and horseback in the early 20th century, South Dakota Gov. Peter Norbeck mapped out the entire striking, spiking passage of what is now known as the Needles Highway. All you need are four wheels. Set aside an hour for a scenic drive through forests of ponderosa pine and spruce, past meadows of aspen and birch, around hairpins, next to rock walls, through tight tunnels.

Visitors traveling the highway pass Sylvan Lake and a unique rock formation called the Needle’s Eye, so named for the opening created by wind, rain, freezing, and thawing. The route includes the not-quite-9-foot-wide (8 feet 9 inches wide by 9 feet 8 inches high) Needles Eye Tunnel; creeping through it feels like threading its namesake.

Cathedral Spires Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take it easy

Winding drives throughout the park are most enjoyable at a slower pace. Allow ample time to travel at a safe speed—generally 25 miles per hour or slower. Expect a travel time of about 45 to 60 minutes to enjoy Needles Highway.

If a coveted parking spot remains at the cramped Cathedral Spires Trailhead near the tunnel, grab it. Even the view from the lot is pretty but sure-footed visitors can get even bigger, more dramatic vistas from the trail. 

This trail features areas unique to the Black Hills area such as the Cathedral Spires/Limber Pine Area, a Registered National Natural Landmark. This is a one-way trail and does not connect to the Black Elk Peak Trail System.

The 2.3-mile out-and-back starts gently enough. Soon, though, hikers encounter steps, switchbacks, and steep scrambles. The trail ends in a flat mountain valley, spires rising like a Gothic holy place—albeit the kind with mountain goats flaunting their fleet feet. Keep a camera close at hand. Goats give great faces, their spindly little horns right on brand with the well-named scenery.

Sylvan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Sunday Gulch Trail offers perhaps the most unique scenery of all the park’s hiking trails. Descending into Sunday Gulch the trail crosses the stream several times while passing over large boulders and near magnificent granite walls. Sunday Gulch presents a variety of unique plants rarely seen in other areas of the park. Spruce, pine, and a mixture of hardwoods line the trail.

The Sylvan Lake Shore Trail offers passing motorists an opportunity to stretch their legs on a leisurely walk the whole family will enjoy. This trail makes a complete loop around Sylvan Lake and is among the easiest trails in Custer State Park. Enormous granite formations line portions of the lake making it one of the most picturesque in the Black Hills. While most of this trail is relatively flat, a portion contains steps and crosses exposed rocky areas. Sections of the trail are not suitable for strollers.

The Needles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take it slow

Don’t worry about cramming everything at Custer State Park into one day. A $20 park pass allows entry for seven consecutive days. Annual passes are available too.  The park’s lodging offers a choice of four resort areas with plenty of activities and camping sites.

Take it steady

Mountain goats have four appendages helping them stay upright in this craggy landscape. No shame in doing the same with a good pair of hiking poles.

Bison Roundup © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bison Roundup

On a fall trip to South Dakota, feel the thunder of bison on the move at Custer State Park’s annual buffalo roundup and arts festival.

It is the quiet before the thunder. The morning sun has further gilded the golden grasslands of Custer State Park, spread over more than 70,000 acres in western South Dakota. Cowboys and cowgirls mill on their mounts, dotting ridgelines above a sprawling valley. Riders chat; horses whiny. Most eyes fix on the sight below—hundreds of cocoa-hued bison, grunting, wandering, and waiting. 

Bison Roundup © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, a hoot. A whipcrack. More shouts. Riders begin to move in an annual choreography to gather the herd from the open range, check its health, and chart its future.

The annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival attracts more than 20,000 spectators who edge the vistas the last Friday of each September (September 28-30, 2023) to watch riders corral the beasts. But this isn’t herding cattle. (And, if we’re getting technical, they aren’t buffalo.) The bison is North America’s largest mammal. Bulls can weigh up to a ton and reach 6 feet tall. And they can move, running 35 mph with the ability to turn on a dime.

Around 1,300 head of bison call the park home. But they don’t just live here. They are the lifeblood, the heartbeat of this place. Once 30 million strong and the cornerstone of life for Native Americans who used them for food, fuel, shelter, and spiritual celebration, bison were driven to the brink of extinction by settlers.

Bison Roundup © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer bison descend from the private herd of a South Dakota rancher named James Scotty Philip whose wife was part Cheyenne. Philip and his family worked at the turn of the 20th century to rescue the dwindling species and eventually sold a few dozen animals to the state of South Dakota.

More than a century later, the herd thrives, freely and at home on this range in the Black Hills, a sacred landscape to the Lakota, Cheyenne, and other peoples. However, the park holds only so much grass, disrupting the bison’s instinct to roam. With bulls consuming dozens of pounds a day, it’s critical to manage the population so that all have enough to eat. 

Riders work in teams to guide the animals, collecting wayward groups and stragglers. The crews are alert and watchful, striving for balance. Pushing but not driving. Finding flow, not forcing it. Hundreds of hooves pound the ground in a musical rumble. The bison move as one, like flocks, like fishes. Dust rises, billows, drifts. 

Bison Roundup © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After several miles and several hours, the herd is contained and visitors can gather at the corrals outside the new-in-2022 Custer State Park Bison Center to watch crews work. Calves get shots, ear tags, and brands. Cows are checked for pregnancy. A few hundred heads depart for auction. After a few days, the remaining animals are released. 

The sun is now bright overhead, the dust continues its unhurried return to the earth. But the history here still thrums, long after the thunder has quieted.

Bison Roundup © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Game plan

Before you go, decide on the North or South viewing area—they’re both great but not close together. Arrive early to stake out a good spot. Parking lots open at 6:15 a.m. and the roundup starts around 9:30.

What to eat

You can buy breakfast and lunch on-site: pancakes and coffee in the viewing areas and a hearty chuckwagon-style lunch at the corrals.

Keep your distance

Don’t be the one who goes viral for trying to befriend a bison. Admire these huge animals from afar.

Enjoy the fest

An arts fest lasts all weekend. Sip a beer and browse bison-themed art, hand-woven bullwhips, and turquoise jewelry.

Pronghorns along the Wildlife Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your fall trip

There is much more to see and do in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Let’s explore further:

Worth Pondering…

My first years were spent living just as my forefathers had lived—roaming the green, rolling hills of what are now the states of South Dakota and Nebraska.

—Standing Bear

The Best Arizona Fall Road Trip: Wineries, Hikes, Train Rides, and More

Arizona hikes, rides, tours, and a local winery or two

All through the summer, Arizona has bounced between extremes—going from record-breaking heat to a deluge of monsoon storms. Since fall is not a season prone to anything quite that intense things should calm down. Autumn comforts even as it calls locals and returning snowbirds outside to play. Basking under big blue skies while reveling in mild sunshine, fall is a perfect time to go exploring.

For an incredible fall road trip, take the drive to the geographic center of Arizona, the Verde Valley. The wide valley stretches from Mingus Mountain to the Mogollon Rim, a lush transition zone separating the Sonoran Desert from the high country and slashed by the winding Verde River.

Scenic small towns full of personality are sprinkled throughout the valley just a few miles apart creating plenty of easily accessed options. Here are a few.

Out of Africa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Out of Africa Wildlife Park

Nestled in the high desert of Camp Verde, Out of Africa Wildlife Park provides a sanctuary for hundreds of exotic animals and features dozens of large predators. The preserve spreads across 100 acres of rolling terrain on the slopes of the Black Hills. The large natural habitats eliminate stress-induced behavior.

Tiger Splash is Out of Africa’s signature show. There is no training and no tricks. The daily program is spontaneous, just animals frolicking with their caretakers. Fierce tigers engage in the sort of playful activities every housecat owner will recognize. It’s just the grand scale that makes it so impressive. Visitors can also take a narrated African Bush Safari and attend the Giant Snake Show.

Outside the park is Predator Zip Line which offers a two- to three-hour zip line tour across five lines and a suspension bridge high above the animals.

Old Town Cottonwood

Wine Tasting in Cottonwood

Not long ago, Cottonwood was a sleepy little burg with much of its small downtown sitting vacant. Everything changed when vineyards and wineries sprang up on nearby hillsides with rich volcanic soil.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine-tasting rooms opened, one after another, and soon restaurants, shops, galleries, and boutique hotels followed. The businesses filled the Prohibition-era buildings fronted by covered sidewalks along the three blocks of Old Town.

Related article: Five Fall Road Trips in Arizona

Such a picturesque and compact setting makes Old Town Cottonwood a popular destination for lovers of wine and food since so much can be sampled by walking a block or two.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk the Streets of Jerome

Most everybody knows about Jerome, the mile-high town clinging to the steep slope of Cleopatra Hill. It was once known as the Billion Dollar Mining Camp for the incredible wealth pulled from the ground.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the mines closed it became a rickety ghost town saved by enterprising hippies who turned it into a thriving artist community with fine art and crafts studios and galleries, cool boutiques, mining museums, historical buildings, eclectic inns, and B&Bs, and memorable restaurants and bars lining its narrow, winding streets.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the high perch of Jerome, views stretch across the Verde Valley to the sandstone cliffs of Sedona. Music spills from saloons and eateries as visitors prowl the shops moving from one level of town to the next, pausing to read historic plaques and admire the Victorian architecture. Jerome feels cut off from the rest of the world. It’s one of those towns where it always feels like you’re on vacation.

Verde Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ride the Verde Canyon Railroad

Go off-road the old-fashioned way when you climb aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad and rumble into scenic backcountry. The train departs from the station in Clarkdale and travels into a high-walled canyon carved by the Verde River.

Cottonwood trees canopy the water and turn golden in the waning fall days. Such a rich riparian habitat lures a variety of wildlife, notably eagle, hawk, heron, mule deer, javelina, coyote, and beaver.

Verde Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vintage FP7 diesel locomotives provide the power. All passenger cars have panoramic windows and allow access to open-air viewing cars, where you’ll likely spend most of your time savoring fine fall days.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hike in West Sedona

If you want to enjoy red rock scenery while avoiding some of the crowds and traffic issues, hike a few trails on the far edge of West Sedona.

Related article: Family-friendly Road Trips Through Arizona: Sedona and the Verde Valley

The Western Gateway Trails at the end of Cultural Park Place weave together a series of interconnected pathways across juniper-clad slopes above Dry Creek. Signs with maps at every junction make for easy navigation.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The gentle Roundabout Trail, a 2-mile loop, provides a quick introduction to the area as it branches off from the paved Centennial Trail and swings through shady woodlands and past a couple of small boulder fields. Curling back, it traces the edge of the mesa overlooking Dry Creek with views north of Cockscomb, Doe Mountain, and Bear Mountain.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can create a slightly longer loop (3.3 miles) by combining the Stirrup and Saddle Up trails. After crossing an arroyo the route climbs to the top of a plateau where the views stretch to Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock at the other end of town.

If you want a little more of a workout, the Schuerman Mountain Trail can be accessed across the road from Sedona High School. It climbs at a moderate uphill slant to the top of an old volcano, now eroded into a rangy mesa.

Cathedral Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a great view of Cathedral Rock from the first overlook. It’s a 2-mile round-trip if you make this your turnaround. If you’re in a rambling mood, the trail continues across the broad back of the mountain, golden grasslands dotted with juniper and pine trees.

Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apartment House of the Ancients

Sinagua built the five-story, 20-room structure about 1150 but abandoned it in the early 1400s. Montezuma Castle is built into a deep alcove with masonry rooms added in phases. A thick, substantial roof of sycamore beams, reeds, grasses, and clay often served as the floor of the next room built on top. The placement of rooms on the south-facing cliff helps regulate summer and winter temperatures. The series of long pole ladders used to climb from the base of the cliff to the small windows and doorways high above could be pulled in for the night.

Related article: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip: 16 Places to See & Things to Do

Beaver Creek at Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short self-guided loop trail leads from the visitor center past the cliff dwelling through a beautiful grove of Arizona sycamores and catclaw mimosa trees along spring-fed Beaver Creek. Benches along the path offered the perfect spot to view the massive structure.

The white-barked Arizona Sycamore is one of the most distinctive sights at Montezuma Castle often reaching heights of 80 feet. This tree once blanketed Arizona 63 million years ago when the climate was cool and moist. As the weather became drier these deciduous trees thrived only in areas close to permanent water, such as the perennial streams and canyon bottoms.

Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive 11 miles north to see the Montezuma Well which is part of the national monument. Along with the limestone sinkhole, cliff dwellings, and irrigation channels are characteristic of the prehistoric people who lived in the area. The water in the well which is 386 feet across has high levels of arsenic and other chemicals but it still supports endemic species such as water scorpions, snails, mud turtles, and leeches.

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Ancient Village on the Hill

Built atop a small 120 foot ridge is a large pueblo. Tuzigoot is Apache for crooked water; however, it was built by the Sinagua. With 77 ground floor rooms this pueblo held about 50 people. After about 100 years the population doubled and then doubled again later. By the time they finished building the pueblo, it had 110 rooms including second and third story structures and housed 250 people. An interesting fact is that Tuzigoot lacked ground level doors having roof-accessed doors instead.

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The site is currently comprised of 42 acres that includes the hilltop pueblo, cliffs, and ridges in the valley and the Tavasci Marsh, a natural riparian area surrounding an old curve of the Verde River. A paved, fully accessible trail takes you through the pueblo giving you a good idea of what it would have looked like. Though the views from the ruins alone are worth the walk, one room is reconstructed and you can enter it and see what it would have looked like when inhabited.

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tuzigoot can be found in Clarkdale, Arizona, just west of Montezuma Castle and just north of Jerome. Visiting Tuzigoot is definitely worth your while!

Related article: Most Scenic Towns in Arizona

Worth Pondering…

To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

The Best Stops for a Fall Road Trip

Whether you park for ten minutes or ten days, what destinations do you pull off the highway for?

At some point, everyone starts to think about their dream road trip. For some, it’s a jaunt to the Grand Canyon or touring the Mighty Five in a decked-out RV. For others, it’s traveling Historic Route 66 or the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the destination, though, everyone needs to make stops on the way. What are some of your favorites?

For my purpose, a stop is anything from a national park to a state park or a roadside attraction to a Texas BBQ joint. Anything that gets you to pull off the highway, turn off your engine, and stretch your legs a bit—whether it’s to hike a mountain trail or tour a living history museum is up to you.

My vote for the perfect road trip stop is multifaceted and an ongoing list as I travel to new places and explore America’s scenic wonders.

Smitty’s Market, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas BBQ, Lockhart, Texas

Houston and Austin can quibble all they want about who has the best barbecue, but the clear winner is Lockhart. This small town 35 miles south of Austin is the Barbecue Capital of Texas—and that’s not just a municipal marketing ploy. The Texas State Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 officially giving Lockhart the title. Hundreds of thousands of people make the trek to Lockhart every year where four barbecue joints cook up mouth-watering meats made by legendary pitmasters. Here, meat is served in boxes by the pound and eaten off butcher paper on long, wooden tables.

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Montpelier, Vermont

Vermont Maple has been the standard by which all syrups are judged. I think you can taste eight generations of experience in Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. The Morse Family has been making maple syrup and related products in Vermont for 200 years. And their folksy maple farm is an interesting place to visit any time of year.

Nestled on a hilltop just 2.7 miles outside of Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the U.S., Morse Farm is a throwback to a simpler, quieter time when generations of the same family worked together to carve out a living on the land.

Related article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Fall

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll hear an informative and fascinating presentation about the history and operation of the farm and you can take a stroll on the trail among some of the sugar maple trees. There are farm animals to feed and of course there is a gift shop with a wide assortment of the farm’s products for sale.

Open daily, with slight variation in hours by season. No admission charge. Harvesting season is mid-March to Mid-April. Ample parking is available, including pull-through parking for RVs.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat, Utah

Drive the 17-mile dirt road through Valley of the Gods and you’re left wondering why its more famous neighbor, Monument Valley, attracts visitors in almost infinitely greater numbers. Valley of the Gods features spectacular mesas, buttes, and spires, but none of the crowds; it’s possible you won’t see another vehicle as you make your way past rock formations such as Lady In A Tub, Setting Hen Butte, and Seven Sailors.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The west entrance is situated on Utah Hwy 261, 10 miles north of Mexican Hat; the east entrance begins on US Hwy 163 about 7 miles east of Mexican Hat. The road through the park is level-graded dirt; a high clearance vehicle is generally recommended.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 1,400 years ago, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde as their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late 1200s, they left their homes and moved away in the span of a generation or two. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bardstown, Kentucky

It’s no surprise that Bardstown has been named one of the most beautiful small towns in America more than once. With several well-known bourbon distilleries, wineries, and historic sites, Kentucky’s second-oldest town has a lot to offer the traveler.

Barton 1792 Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’re here for the bourbon, right? Start your tours with a trip to the oldest fully functioning distillery in Bardstown, Barton 1792 Distillery, famous for its signature 1792 Bourbon. Visitors can tour the property’s 196 acres, which showcase more than 25 barrel-aging warehouses, a picturesque stillhouse, and an award-winning distillery. Tours are complimentary and so are the tastings at this local distillery.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo, Georgia

Located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, this remote park offers access to the breathtaking wealth of flora and fauna of America’s largest black water swamp. Reserve a place on one of the guided pontoon boat tours and enter a primeval world of moss-draped trees, ibis, storks, turtles, and of course the American Alligator, an estimated 12,000 of which live within the refuge. A boardwalk trail next to the boat dock makes it easy to explore a small area of the swamp on foot.

Related article: Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Stephen C. Foster State Park is a certified dark sky park allowing guests to experience some of the darkest skies in the southeast. Nine cottages are available to rent, and there’s a campsite for tents, trailers, and motorhomes.

Hubbell Trading Post © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, Arizona

Famously known as the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation (it’s been here since 1876), Hubbell Trading Post is a part historic site, part museum/gallery, and part thriving retail operation specializing in authentic Navajo rugs, jewelry, and pottery. A visit to the adjacent Hubbell family home with an impressive collection of Southwestern art and Native American arts and crafts is recommended.

Mission Concepcion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission Concepcion, San Antonio, Texas

A functioning Catholic church intermittently since 1731, Mission Concepcion is a picturesque historic structure that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, only a short distance from San Antonio’s most famous mission, The Alamo. It’s worth dropping by for a look and some photos. In particular, keep an eye out for the remnants of the frescoes that were painted on the building when it was constructed, but have badly faded over time.

Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Near the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, established in 1607, Jamestown Settlement preserves and recreates life at the time. There are four components to the complex. As you enter, there are museum exhibits featuring artifacts and interpretations of the lives of the colonists, the natives, and the Africans who were forcibly brought along.

Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing outside, you come to a recreated Powhatan village; farther down the path, you come to a recreated colonial fort; then on down to the water, you’ll see, and be able to board, replicas of the three ships that brought the settlers. In each of these outdoor locations, there are interpreters attired in appropriate garb to answer your questions and demonstrate period skills, from cooking to preparing an animal hide to firing a rifle.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Martin Swamp Tours, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Swamp tours are a must-do for anyone visiting Louisiana and Lake Martin is home to one of the state’s most impressive collections of wildlife. No one can make guarantees where nature’s concerned but a trip out onto this beautiful, man-made lake is likely to bring close-up views of birds including egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, and eagles as well as the ‘gators for which the region is famous. Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours offer trips out into the cypress swamps every day. Their guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and full of character.

Related article: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Navajo Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navajo Bridge, Page, Arizona

The two beautiful Navajo Bridges that span the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon may look identical but they were built more than 65 years apart. The first bridge opened to traffic in 1929 and was, at the time, the highest steel arch bridge in the world. However, it was not designed to carry modern day traffic and its replacement more than twice as wide opened in 1995. Rather than dismantling the original bridge, they left it in place to allow pedestrians to enjoy the spectacular view of the river 467 feet below. Take time to visit the interpretive center on the west side of the bridge.

Wilson Arch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wilson Arch, Monticello, Utah

One of the pleasures of driving this part of Utah (in particular the section of US Route 191 running north from Bluff through Blanding, Monticello, and Moab) is happening upon the incredible rock formations that seem to appear around every corner. This one, Wilson Arch, was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley. It’s an easy hike up to the arch and makes for great photos.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg, Texas

Step back in time to learn about Fredericksburg’s German heritage at Pioneer Museum. The 3.5-acre site gives a glimpse into the lives of the early German settlers in the frontier town of Fredericksburg from the 1840s to the 1920s. Visit the National Museum of Pacific War, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Theater during World War II. With interactive exhibits and endless galleries and stunning grounds, the museum will inspire all generations.

National Museum of Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy Fredericksburg’s diverse culinary scene. From German food to burgers to fine dining, Fredericksburg has something for everyone’s taste. Sip wine at any of the more than 50 wineries in the Fredericksburg area, enjoy a self-guided trip down Wine Road 290 on your own or opt for a wine tour with any of our local wine tour companies. 

New River Gorge Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge Bridge, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

At 3,030-feet this is the world’s third longest single arch bridge. At 876 feet above the river, it is also one of the tallest. The visitor center has picnic areas and hiking trails with spectacular views of bridge and gorge. White water rafting and hiking are popular in summer.

Bridge Day, on the third Saturday in October (October 15, 2022), features B.A.S.E. jumpers and rappellers in a festival atmosphere. New River Gorge Bridge is located on U.S. Highway 19 between Summersville and Beckley.

Historic Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic Oatman, Arizona

Once a thriving mining town, then a virtual ghost town when Route 66 was bypassed, Oatman has been reborn as a popular tourist destination for its Old West flavor. Many of its historic buildings still stand including the Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent a night of their honeymoon and where the lobby is covered by thousands of dollar bills that tourists have attached to the walls and ceilings.

Related article: 10 of the Best Small Towns to Visit this Fall

Historic Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are cowboy shootouts and gift shops galore. But above all, there are the burros, descendants of animals released in the hills by miners. They function today as the semi-official stop lights wandering the narrow streets and poking their heads into car windows looking for handouts.

Hurricane © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hurricane, Utah

Despite its name, you’re likely to find beautiful weather in Hurricane. And that’s a good thing when you consider the outdoor adventures available just a stone’s throw from the small town. Take advantage of the proximity to Sand Hollow Reservoir and Sand Hollow State Park. Of course, Hurricane is also a home base for many travelers to Zion National Park, so you’ll want to bring your hiking boots for the park’s most notable trails, like Angel’s Landing, Emerald Pools, and The Narrows.

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

10 Most Beautiful Places to See Fall Foliage in 2022

Plan a weekend escape or an extended getaway to see autumn’s peak foliage

There might be a lot of people out there who are not ready for summer to end but it’s not all bad news. It’s time for sweater weather, hot apple cider, and best of all, seeing the leaves change from the lush greens of summer to the bright golds, oranges, and reds of autumn so we’ve rounded up the best places to see fall foliage around the country.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next few months, each state will experience its unique view of fall. While many people associate watching the leaves change with weekend getaways to the Northeast, there are plenty of places to see the stunning seasonal views throughout the country. Classic leafy views in New Hampshire and Vermont are always a great go-to but you can also find amazing leaf-changing action in states like Virginia and Georgia.

Oak, ash, maple, and hickory trees transform before your very eyes all over the United States. And every landscape looks like a perfect postcard.

Nature lovers can revel in some wonderful scenery and even better activities throughout the fall in national parks and state parks. As the weather gets colder, leaf peepers can enjoy places like the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, and the White Mountains even more.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The crisp fall winds are already starting to blow, so it’s no wonder people are itching to get in their cars for some scenic driving. Luckily, peak leaf-peeping season is coming sooner than you might think.

Related article: The Best National Parks for Fall Foliage—and When to Visit Them for Peak Leaf-Peeping

Perhaps it’s time to start packing the binoculars, strapping on the hiking boots, and firing up the Instagram feeds for some autumn adventures.

White Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Mountains of New Hampshire

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are probably the Granite State’s most famous spot for viewing fall foliage—for good reason. The scenic drive along the Kancamagus Highway is among the country’s most gorgeous areas for admiring blankets of bright orange, golden yellow, and fiery red leaves in autumn.

Whitehall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whitehall, New York

With stunning views from land and water, you will definitely need your camera when you visit Whitehall. Located just outside of the Adirondacks, Whitehall sits on the southern end of Lake Champlain. Its strategic location on the New York-Vermont border allowed the town to become the “birthplace of the US Navy”. Take a trip up to The Skene Manor, affectionately known as “Whitehall’s Castle on the Mountain.” This symbol of turn-of-the-century wealth overlooks the harbor and offers additional views of the region that can be missed at lower elevations.

Bibb Graves Bridge at Wetumpka © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetumpka, Alabama

The name, Wetumpka, is a Creek Indian word meaning “rumbling waters” describing the sound of the nearby Coosa River. The Coosa River flows through the middle of the city dividing the historic business district from its residential counterpart. Bibb Graves Bridge, a focal point of the City was built in 1937. Proceed across the Bridge to the largely residential west side and discover a number of historic and beautiful homes and churches within a five-block area mainly on Tuskeena Street. On the largely historic business district east side, the Wind Creek Casino overlooks the beautiful Coosa River.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

This winding road covers almost 470 miles to connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. While you drive, you’ll pass split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows, and scenic overlooks. Stop along the way at the numerous hiking trails in either a national park or visit a local farm to grab some autumnal produce.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga, New York

Fall foliage in Saratoga County is a spectacular sight to see as the trees come alive with vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. This season is the ideal time of year to take a relaxing drive down country roads and to impressive overlooks and colorful forests.

Related article: Plan Your Autumn Getaway around Fall Foliage

Saratoga National Historical Park has public hiking trails and a Driving Tour Road that will take you to unique historic sites and scenic overlooks with wide-sweeping views of the fall foliage.

Blue Ridge Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charlottesville, Virginia

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, Charlottesville offers spectacular scenery that’s perfect for viewing fall’s vivid hues. Mid-to-late October is when you’ll usually see the most dazzling red, orange, and yellow leaves but the colors can linger into early November depending on the weather. Some of the best viewing spots with scenic overlooks are along the neighboring Blue Ridge Parkway and the connecting Skyline Drive in nearby Shenandoah National Park.

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots in the Smoky Mountains National Park and it’s not hard to see why. Visitors can explore hiking trails, historic sites, and an auto tour. During the fall season, Cades Cove comes alive with gorgeous colors and becomes an even more magical place to visit. But be aware that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper, especially on weekends. Late October into November is when the gorgeous fall foliage can best be seen in Cades Cove. Be sure to bring your camera when you visit—there are plenty of picture-perfect opportunities throughout Cades Cove!

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway climbs up Parowan Canyon’s white, gold, red, and yellow rock pillars and cliffs traveling between its two town anchors, Parowan and Panguitch. As you travel this rolling route through varying elevations, note the distinctive combination of colorful scenery and ancient history. For a relaxed afternoon, go fishing in Panguitch Lake from which the byway gets half of its name.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you continue along your way, a section of the route brushes the top of Cedar Breaks National Monument, an amphitheater canyon eroded out of the western edge of the Markagaunt Plateau. Dixie National Forest is home to Brian Head Peak, which reaches 11,315 feet and gives the byway the other half of its namesake.

Related article: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Southern Willamette near Medford © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Willamette Valley of Oregon

Fall colors in the Southern Willamette Valley are a special kind of show when the leaves of maples, magnolias, and oaks turn vivid shades of yellow and red, contrasting against Oregon’s signature evergreens. Use Eugene or Medford as a home base—both are home to quirky shops, restaurants, and stays. Enjoy the foliage with a climb up Spencer Butte, just a quick trip from downtown Eugene, or on a drive to explore the 20 covered bridges in Lane County. Better yet, pay a visit to one of the valley’s wineries—the vines also turn when the weather cools.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience Jacksonville, dubbed “One of America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns” by Frommers.

A short drive from Medford, life slows a pace or two in quaint, historic Jville. Steeped in history, the entire town is designated a National Historic Landmark. Explore the roots of the area from the days of the 1850s gold rush to now through a variety of historical tour options including a self-guided walking tour as well as trolley, haunted history tours, walking tours, and more! A quintessential western town, you’ll find yourself enthralled in how things used to be!

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Worth Pondering…

I love the fall season. I love all the reds, gold, and browns, the slight chill in the air, and watching the geese fly south in a V.

10 Amazing Places to RV in October 2022

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in October

I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention…To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.

—Henry Rollins

To iconic punk artist Henry Rollins being stagnant and unimaginative is among the biggest transgressions one can make in life. From his time as the frontman for the pioneering hard-core band Black Flag to his work as a vocal advocate for social change, Rollins is constantly challenging himself and others to break the mold. As a musician, poet, radio host, and actor, he is known for his passion, intensity, and refusal to stop creating. With these words from his 1997 collection of writing, The Portable Henry Rollins, Rollins challenges us to travel down life’s unbeaten paths, do things our way, and embrace the qualities that make us unique.

Going down the path less traveled or choosing to go off the beaten path involves taking risks, choosing a different journey, and pushing your comfort zone.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in August and September. Also, check out my recommendations for October 2021 and November 2021.

San Antonio Riverwalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Escape to San Antonio’s Riverwalk

A century ago it started as a flood management project, but today San Antonio’s Riverwalk is a flourishing urban waterway and one of the most cherished attractions in Texas. Visitors can drift underneath cypress trees by hopping on board one of the iconic riverboat tours that ply the nearly 15 miles of waterway. The banks of the river come alive all day (and all night) with musical performers, endless shops and boutiques, and numerous dining options. Plan your visit during the week of July 4th to experience the Bud Light Stars, Stripes, & Light exhibition when one thousand American flags will line the banks of the river. 

Get more tips for visiting San Antonio’s Riverwalk

Canyonlands National Park

Wilderness of Countless Canyons and Buttes

Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park preserves one of the last, relatively undisturbed areas of the Colorado Plateau, a geological province that encompasses much of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Carved out of vast sedimentary rock deposits this landscape of canyons, mesas, and deep river gorges possess remarkable natural features that are part of a unique desert ecosystem. With elevations ranging from 3,700 to 7,200 feet Canyonlands experiences very hot summers, cold winters, and less than ten inches of rain each year. Even daily temperatures may fluctuate as much as 50 degrees.

Get more tips for visiting Canyonlands National Park

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville

Located on the outskirts of Medford in southern Oregon, Jacksonville is both a scenic small town and a National Historic Landmark. Gold deposits brought prosperity and settlers before Oregon officially became a state, but today, Jacksonville is better known for its yearly Britt Music & Arts Festival and a plethora of antique shops. The Jacksonville Trolley provides a 45-minute tour of the area’s unique history and architecture in the summer months. Or, come in October and get the haunted version.

Get more tips for visiting Jacksonville

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Marys Seafood Festival

Located on the easternmost fringes of the Florida-Georgia line, the city of St. Marys is perhaps best-known as the launching point for those visiting Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s idyllic seaside isles. Though Cumberland’s sprawling sandy beaches and centuries-old ruins are truly a sight to behold, St. Marys is fully capable of holding its own as a fascinating destination packed full of historic landmarks, museums, wild horses, and dining venues.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The St. Marys Seafood Festival returns on October 1. The festival brings a full day of family fun in St. Marys including a 5K and 10K run, a themed 10:00 a.m. parade featuring floats, fire trucks, tractors, golf carts, and, of course, seafood concessionaires. You’ll also find entertainment, demonstrations, arts and crafts vendors, and more

St Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A favorite part of the day will be the food! The restaurants will be offering seafood festival specials and there will be food trucks and vendors with sensational seafood fare.

The festival is on the waterfront in St. Marys historic district and offers visitors a relaxing small-town feel. Cumberland Island National Seashore celebrates 50 years this month.

Get more tips for visiting St. Marys

Hidalgo Pumphouse

The Killer Bee of Hidalgo

Located across from Reynosa, Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley, Hidalgo has a rich, multicultural history and a vibrant community. It has two of the largest annual events in South Texas: the music, culture, and heritage festival Borderfest (early April) and the holiday show Festival of Lights in December. Also, it is home to the day trip-worthy Old Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum & World Birding Center.

Hidalgo Killer Bee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But in terms of the town’s enduring symbolism, it is hard to beat the 2,000-pound Killer Bee statue that inhabits the entrance to Hidalgo’s City Hall. How did this large insect sculpture come to stand in Hidalgo? And perhaps more importantly, why?

The buzz started in 1990 when the first colony of “Africanized” killer bees was found to have reached the United States via Brazil—the outcome, literally, of a scientific experiment gone wrong. The bees decided to settle just outside of Hidalgo upon arrival where news of the event provoked widespread panic among many.

The Killer Bee of Hidalgo or “The World’s Largest Killer Bee” as it’s advertised was commissioned by the City of Hidalgo. The black and yellow sculpture reaches to about 10 feet tall and 20 feet long, not including its ominous antennae.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home of Champions

Astonishing biodiversity exists in South Carolina’s Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees. Prehistoric foragers hunted the area and fished its waters.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attempts to make the land suitable for planting as well as grazing continued through 1860. The floodplain’s minor changes in elevation and consequent flooding stifled agricultural activity but the intermittent flooding allowed for soil nutrient renewal and enabled the area’s trees to thrive.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bald Cypress, in particular, became a target for logging. By 1905, the Santee River Cypress Lumber Company owned by Francis Beidler had acquired much of the land. Poor accessibility by land confined logging to tracts near waterways so that logs could be floated down the river. In the perpetual dampness, though, many of the cut trees remained too green to float. Operations were suspended within ten years leaving the floodplain untouched.

The Boardwalk Loop is a must when visiting Congaree. It is 2.4 miles right through the swamps and jungle-like forests.

Get more tips for visiting Congaree National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s Most Visited National Park

Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World-renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. Feel the cool spray of a waterfall. Camp under the stars. Explore a historic grist mill. There’s plenty to see and do in the park!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps in the 20th century. The park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park which encompasses over 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park’s amazing diversity of plants and animals. Over 17,000 species have been documented in the park: Scientists believe an additional 30,000-80,000 species may live here. Why such wondrous diversity? Mountains, glaciers, and weather are the big reasons.

Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is the largest federally protected upland landmass east of the Mississippi River. Dominated by plant-covered, gently contoured mountains the crest of the Great Smokies forms the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina bisecting the park from northeast to southwest in an unbroken chain that rises more than 5,000 feet for over 36 miles. Elevations in the park range from 875 to 6,643 feet. This range in altitude mimics the latitudinal changes you would experience driving north or south across the eastern United States say from Georgia to Maine. Plants and animals common in the southern United States thrive in the lowlands of the Smokies while species common in the northern states find suitable habitats at the higher elevations. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago. They are unique in their northeast to southwest orientation, which allowed species to migrate along their slopes during climatic changes such as the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. The glaciers of the last ice age affected the Smoky Mountains without invading them. During that time glaciers scoured much of North America but did not quite reach as far south as the Smokies. Consequently, these mountains became a refuge for many species of plants and animals that were disrupted from their northern homes. The Smokies have been relatively undisturbed by glaciers or ocean inundation for over a million years allowing species eons to diversify. 

Get more tips for visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Vermont State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tour through Vermont History

Against its backdrop of wooded hills, the Vermont State House is one of the most picturesque statehouses in the country. This State House is Vermont’s third and was built in 1859 on the same site as the second. It was reconstructed with a similar plan but on a larger scale and with a distinctly different ornamental scheme reflecting the Renaissance Revival style popular at the time. The State House was rebuilt in two and a half years and cost $150,000. It remains one of the nation’s oldest and best-preserved state capitols still in use. On the front portico which is the only remaining portion of the earlier Greek Revival, State House of the 1830s stands a statue of Ethan Allen, fabled leader of the Green Mountain Boys.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Daughter of the Stars

Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—take a hike, meander along Skyline Drive, or picnic with the family. 200,000 acres of protected lands are a haven to deer, songbirds, the night sky…and you.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to experience Shenandoah is on Skyline Drive. It’s one of the most incredible drives in America. When you enter from the north, you start by descending into an old-growth forest and then climb the ridge with its sweeping curves that feature scenic vistas of rolling, forests, and mountains on either side of the road. When you reach the end of the road, you’ll want to hook up with the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby to keep the great views rolling. Plan a Shenandoah escape today!

Get more tips for visiting Shenandoah National Park

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Refresh and Relax at Patagonia Lake

Whether it’s an ocean, river, or lake, water is the break everyone needs from the hot Arizona sun. Patagonia Lake State Park is an escape offering shade, water, boating activities, camping, picnic tables, and grills for summer barbecuing. The park has fully equipped cabin reservations available but these sell out fast. If you’re late to the reservation game, check out their boat-in campsites or pick from 105 of their developed campsites.

Worth Pondering…

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!

―Rainbow Rowell, Attachments  

Here’s Where to See Fall Foliage for the Ultimate Leaf Peeping Road Trip

This view and a pumpkin spice latte are all I need

One of the most magical things about the fall season is watching the leaves turn into gorgeous golden hues of red, orange, and yellow. It’s as if the whole landscape is welcoming you into the coziest time of year calling you to sip on a warm pumpkin spice latte as you breathe in the crisp autumn air.

Taking a road trip down the scenic route to a charming town is the best way to experience the lush foliage from mid-September through November and there are so many leaf-peeping places to see before the leaves fall to the ground for good. Keep scrolling to uncover gem destinations and the best places to see fall foliage in 2022.

Toad tripping in Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you love scaling a mountain hike to catch an epic view of the landscape, driving down a scenic highway, or simply chilling on a quiet bench under the bright leaves, it’s important to plan your fall foliage tour with perfect timing for catching all the colors. These special leaf peeping spots in the U.S. start turning orange at different times in the season depending on their location like elevation and latitude. It’s ideal to anticipate an October road trip through the leaves where you can stop at an apple orchard or pumpkin patch along the way as Halloween creeps up.

Fall is here, so throw on your flannel, dust off your hiking boots, and start planning your outdoor excursions before the frigid cold blows in for winter.

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

Nestled at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, Stowe is one of the most picturesque villages in New England. It’s also one of the best places to view the annual fall spectacle with colors changing from mid-September through the end of October.

Related article: Plan Your Autumn Getaway around Fall Foliage

Vermont is 76 percent forested with the largest concentration of sugar maples in the U.S. so there are typically vibrant displays of red, orange, and yellow leaves across the state. One of the prettiest drives to see the foliage is along Smugglers’ Notch pass through the Green Mountains in Smugglers’ Notch State Park.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re planning for several days of leaf-peeping activities, reserve a room at the Austrian-inspired Trapp Family Lodge. Then, go horseback riding, rent a canoe or hop on the Gondola SkyRide to the summit of Mount Mansfield for unparalleled views of the surrounding scenery. Back in town, check out local breweries including The Alchemist and von Trapp Brewing Bierhall.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

With towering forest giants, exciting hiking trails, and scenic water bodies, Bernheim Forest is a great place for nature lovers. During fall, the forest transforms into a magical wonderland making the natural attractions even more interesting and appealing. With leaves turning yellow and orange and running on the forest floor, hiking is a pleasant and scenic experience. The Canopy tree walk is one of the best places to witness the scenery of this forest as it places one at the height of up to 75 feet above the forest floor.

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fall is one of the most picturesque times to visit what’s known as “The Scenic City.” Chattanooga is situated along the Tennessee River between the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau providing plenty of options to view the splendor of colorful forests. Peak season usually in early November features trees showcasing brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows.

Nearby hiking trails offer some of the best close-up views such as Rainbow Lake Trail on nearby Signal Mountain. For panoramic vistas overlooking the Tennessee Valley ride the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. You can even book a sightseeing riverboat cruise along the Tennessee River on The Southern Belle.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holmes County, Ohio

Set in Ohio’s Amish Country, Homes County erupts with golden and amber hues cast off of oaks, maples, and buckeyes come autumn. Take in the changing landscape at Mohican Valley where you can hike, bike, camp, and boat, or check out the Holmes County Park District. Another way to take in the brilliant colors: Cruise along the area’s scenic backroads. Breaks from leaf-peeping can include filling up seasonal pastries, pies, and other goods.

Related article: Fantastic Fall Foliage…and Where to Find It

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Set in New Hampshire’s the White Mountains, Bretton Woods is one of the top destinations in the state to view fall foliage. Leaf season typically peaks in late September to early October. This is when the most vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds will paint the landscape across the mountains.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To enjoy the spectacle for several days, make reservations at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. This historic property sits at the base of the highest peaks in the Northeast where you’ll have a front-row seat to see the show. During your stay dash through the treetops on a zipline canopy tour, enjoy a scenic horse-drawn carriage ride, or take a thrilling trip on the Mount Washington Cog Mountain Railway. You can also take in the sights from high in the sky on a gondola ride and have lunch at the top of the mountain. Back on the ground, book a signature spa treatment and relax with expansive views of the Presidential Range, Crawford Notch, and Mount Washington from the therapy rooms.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian, California

A trip to Southern California doesn’t necessarily have to be all about palm trees and the beach. Inland areas of the state also have an autumnal charm of their very own especially in the mountain town of Julian.

Julian is famous for its delicious fresh-baked apple pies as well as orchards where you can pick your apples. Anywhere you step in this town, you are surrounded by the beautiful hues of fall even if you decide to just enjoy them from the window of a cute log cabin cafe.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Most commonly known for the famed Civil War battle, Gettysburg has a rich history best experienced in the fall. Wait until October for cooler temperatures and spectacular views of leaves bursting with a carnival of color.

Related article: 12 of the Best State Parks for Fall Camping

Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Apple country, The National Apple Harvest Festival celebrates the fall season with beautiful handmade crafts, delicious food, and jam-packed entertainment. The Festival has something for everyone with special attractions ranging from steam engine displays, live music, antique cars, orchard tours, pony rides, tastings, and craftsman demonstrations. The Apple Harvest Festival is during the first two weekends in October (October 1-2; 8-9, 2002)

Pennsylvania Apple Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooler temps, cozy blankets, sweet s’mores, campfires, and more! Fall is one of the best times to enjoy camping with family and friends. Plan your fall adventure now!

Worth Pondering…

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.

―Lauren DeStefano, Wither