Summer’s end signals the last days of warm weather in most areas. But it also means the return of fall’s dazzling colors in full display as trees begin to turn for the season. You can plan entire trips around leaf peeping whether it’s heading to a national park for unimpeded foliage or planning a drive to take in the dazzling orange, red, and yellow hues that dominate the landscape.
And while the pastime is popular enough to drive crowds to well-known viewing destinations, there are still plenty of under-the-radar options fbluor getting your fix. Read on to see which secret places in the U.S. are the best to see fall foliage.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
While Shenandoah National Park is only a 75-mile drive from America’s capital, it’s a world away from the Washington, D.C. metropolis. The Virginia national park is filled with over 100 expansive miles of countryside. And as autumn approaches, the foliage across the landscape turns into stunning red, orange, and yellow hues. The best time to see the stunning sight is from September through October. This national park also has a fall color webcam that shows the changing leaves virtually on a week-to-week basis through the peak of the season.
One of my favorite places in Green Mountain State is the town of Stowe. If you’re driving to Stowe from I-89 you will exit off the Interstate and pass through Waterbury and Waterbury Center. Don’t miss Ben & Jerry’s along the way. A little further up the road in Waterbury Center is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. You should plan a stop at Cold Hollow for some fresh apple cider and freshly made delicious cider donuts.
Stowe’s Main Street features several small stores, restaurants, and of course the subject of many scenic photos and artwork—the Stowe Community Church.
Make a trip up the Mountain Road to the Trapp Family Lodge, a unique mountain resort featuring Austrian-inspired architecture and European-style accommodations. The Lodge offers stunning mountain views along with activities for every season.
Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway, North Carolina and Tennessee
The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokees and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.
The leaves begin changing color as early as late September in the higher elevations and continue through mid-November in lower elevations. The dogwoods, poplars, and sourwoods are some of the first to transform. The red oaks, hickories, and white oaks change later and often hold their leaves until late fall.
In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is aglow with gold, green, auburn, and scarlet shades come autumn. Peruse the local boutiques lining Main Street before attending seasonal festivals such as the 42nd Annual Oktoberfest from September 30-October 2, 2022, or the 32nd Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest on October 22. For prime gold, red, green, and copper maple leaf-viewing, visit Lost Maples State Natural Area, about an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Fredericksburg. After soaking in the scenery, kick back at one of the Hill Country’s RV parks and campgrounds.
Not all fall foliage escapes require getting out into nature—leaf peepers can also head to Boston for a city getaway. The city experiences its peak foliage throughout October with its best colors appearing around Halloween. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to where they can see the changing seasons including Boston Common, Back Bay Fens, and tree-lined neighborhoods like the North End and Beacon Hill.
Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah
Fish Lake Scenic Byway (SR-25) bookends Fishlake National Forest, an often-missed oasis featuring three mountain ranges broken up by desert canyons. Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, scenic drives, trails, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing. Fish Lake, Utah’s largest natural mountain lake lies in a down-faulted valley (technically known as a graben) at an elevation of 8,843 feet. The 5.5-mile-long lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state attracting as many as 7,000 visitors on summer weekends.
Lakes Region of New Hampshire
If you’re looking for a fall RV vacation destination that might have slightly fewer visitors in September and October, consider the Lakes Region. This area in the central part of the state is home to Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest body of water. Here you’ll also find scenic Squam Lakes where On Golden Pond was filmed. Whether you’re driving around the lakes, strolling through small towns like Meredith or Wolfeboro, seeking out covered bridges, taking a scenic boat cruise, or hiking in the area’s mountains, you’ll likely be able to enjoy pretty changing leaves.
Heritage Driving Tour, Indiana
The 90-mile Heritage Trail Driving Tour winds through Amish Country taking you down rural highways, country lanes, and charming main streets. Stop in Shipshewana to stroll the shop-lined streets where you’ll find handcrafted items, baked goods, and the Midwest’s largest flea market. Enjoy a delightful Amish meal at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury or Amish Acres in Nappanee.
Newport, Rhode Island
There’s no wrong time to visit Newport. But perhaps the best time is those magical few weeks at the end of October when the leaves change colors and the Newport Mansions put on their spookiest Halloween shows. While visiting, drive down Ocean Drive, a glorious coastal stretch that will leave you in awe.
Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia
When you think of places to see fall foliage, New England destinations probably come to mind but southern parts of the country have colors that are just as beautiful. A road trip through Georgia’s the Blue Ridge Mountains offers stunning foliage without the cold weather you’d find up north.
Start at the Russell Brasstown Scenic Byway in the northern part of the state which takes you through the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Chattahoochee River. Stop in Helen, a mountain town modeled after a quaint Bavarian village, and at Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in Georgia and the ultimate foliage viewing vantage point.
Make a pit stop in Clayto, an old mountain town with antique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Take a hike in the nearby Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest or visit wineries and vineyards in Georgia Wine Country. Then head east to the Tallulah Gorge State Park where you can explore a 1,000-foot chasm carved over millions of years by the Tallulah River.
Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.
—Emily Brontë, Fall, Leaves, Fall