It’s that time of year: the days are getting shorter and chillier, but the new season brings with it one of the most stunning natural cycles: the turning of the leaves. Bundle up, grab a camera and visit any of these gorgeous spots in the United States – from Vermont to Colorado – to view fall colors at their best.
Stowe, Vermont, is widely regarded as the nation’s best place for viewing fall colors. The town is always prepared to show off nature’s gift with special deals and many viewing options, including river and lake tours, winery tours, carriage and wagon rides, ghostly lantern tours and gondola rides. Route 100 is an excellent scenic drive in the area, and Vermont’s highest mountain, Mount Mansfield, supplies incredible vistas if you’re willing to hike to the top. A few other areas with beautiful hiking trails include Wiessner Woods, Kirchner Woods, Moss Glen Falls and Bingham Falls.
Way up in the northeast, across the Atlantic from Nova Scotia, Bar Harbor is a charming resort destination on Mount Desert Island, complete with incredible views. Check out Bar Island Trail, or walk along Frenchman Bay between mansions and the Atlantic Ocean to see them interact with the changing trees. The best place to view fall foliage, though, is in Acadia National Park. Drive the scenic Park Loop Road and tackle Gorham Mountain for colorful views of the harbor below.
With more than 100 different species of native and mostly deciduous trees, the Great Smoky Mountains offer an incredible fall show. Due to elevation affecting weather, the higher parts of the mountains begin to change colors first, slowly making their way down. Recommended scenic drives include Clingmans Dome Road, Blue Ridge Parkway, Foothills Parkway and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. On foot, enjoy the fall foliage while exploring the Appalachian Trail, Inspiration Point on the Alum Cave Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail, Look Rock Tower and Sutton Ridge Overlook.
Nestled in the Mount Washington Valley, North Conway takes advantage of its surroundings and offers a dozen ways for leaf peepers to enjoy the views, including from a gondola, zip line, hike, dogsled, rollercoaster or boat. Recommended scenic drives, such as West Side Road, Cathedral Ledge Road, Jackson Loop, Eaton/Madison, Kancamagus Scenic Byway, Bear Notch Road and the Notches, will provide the vistas from the warmth of your vehicle. Just be fair to your fellow viewers, and avoid accidents by switching drivers from time to time.
One of the many cities in the Berkshires, Lenox is part of an entire region well known for its fall color – after all, it hosts Massachusetts’ largest state forest (October Mountain State Forest). Mount Greylock is an excellent viewing area with a plethora of hiking trails and a scenic byway. With natural wonders, such as Bash Bish Falls, throughout the area, it’s easy to discover fall foliage hotspots, most notably Bartholomew’s Cobble and Woods Pond.
Another area with incredible natural surroundings, the Poconos offer everything from fall foliage train excursions and air tours to vineyard tours. When it comes to scenic driving routes, Route 507 near Lake Wallenpaupack is the way to go. Bushkill Falls offers four hiking trails and up to eight waterfalls, which only add to the fall colors’ brilliance. Keep up to date with the Poconos Fall Foliage Forecast so that you know when and where to go for optimal autumn splendor.
In southeastern New York State, the Catskill Mountains offer another incredible opportunity to surround yourself with the temporary brilliance of fall. Other than the always stunning Catskills waterfalls, don’t miss the Catskills Scenic Trail, Frick Pond Loop, Buttermilk Falls at Peekamoose and Hunter Mountain Fire Tower.
Picking up around the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Southern Rockies) in New Mexico, Taos comes with beautiful vistas and creative ways to enjoy them. Points of interest for fall foliage include the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, the High Road between Taos and Santa Fe, and Highway 64, as well as the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Hiking trails such as Williams Lake Trail #62, Wheeler Peak Summit Trail #67 and Goose Creek Trail #65 are excellent options. The Columbine Trail is particularly popular, and those less interested in hiking can opt for the Chile Express chairlift at Angel Fire Resort.
Aspen, Colorado, is a city named after a deciduous tree, so of course it made this list. The Maroon Bells are a popular spot for a view of the golden Rockies. For scenic drives, check out Maroon Creek Road, Castle Creek Road and Independence Pass. If you’d prefer to get out and walk among the stunning scenery, the Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek and Crater Lake trails are excellent choices. Can’t make it out to Colorado?