America’s Best Fall Foliage Drives

September 5th, 2016 by

With Labor Day marking the unofficial end of summer, we start to look forward to the things we love about fall. Drinking hot cider, picking pumpkins, and enjoying the outdoors as the crisp fall air moves in are just a few things we love. Another fall activity that tops the list is going for a drive to enjoy the fall foliage as the leaves change colors. Plan a trip and don’t forget to take your camera along with you for these breathtaking views. 

Aspen

Courtesy of Mike Norton

Aspen, Colarado

When to go: Mid-September through the first week of October
When a world-famous town is named after a tree, you know it’s an extraordinary specimen. Aspen leaves turn a rich yellow hue in the fall and literally shimmer in the breeze when the sun hits them. The gold tones of aspens in autumn make for a picture-perfect contrast with the evergreens and craggy mountain peaks. While the ritzy ski resort town of Aspen is the place to see and be seen in the winter, it mellows during the autumn months.

 

 

Catskills

Courtesy of Colin D. Young

The Catskills, New York

When to go: Mid-September through mid-to-late October
The 6,000 square miles in southeastern New York known as the Catskills are home to six major river systems, thirty-five mountain peaks over 3,500 feet, and the famed Woodstock festival. A year-round destination, the Catskills are at their most vibrant in the fall when yellows, oranges, and reds electrify the thickly wooded hillsides. Locals and visitors alike savor the fall harvest, when many of the region’s historic villages host festivals and craft fairs alongside the bountiful farmers’ markets and pick-your-own orchards.

 

Berkshires

Courtesy of Sarah Hoffman

The Berkshires, Massachusetts

When to go: Late September through Mid-October
The essential escape for urbanites in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, the Berkshires provide world-class foliage viewing alongside notable art and culture. Narrow winding roads connect mountain hamlets set against a forested backdrop of crimson, yellow, and every hue in between, making for the most beautiful gallery-hopping or antiquing trip of your life. Or, spend the weekend at one of the region’s storied spas, soaking in the sweeping autumn views.

 

 

ColumbiaRiver

Courtesy of Bill Perry

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

When to go: Mid-September through Mid-October

Cut into the Cascade Mountains and forming a natural border between southern Washington and northern Oregon, the eighty-mile Columbia River Gorge is already a sublime sight. Come fall, when the firs, cottonwoods, big-leaf maples, Oregon ash, and twisted pines start to show their colors, it’s absolutely breathtaking. Visitors can choose to take in the golden and bronze hues while driving along the Columbia River, hiking a variety of trails, or rafting or kayaking down the river.

 

 

GreenMountainByway

Courtesy of Howardliuphoto

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont

When to go: Mid-September through the first week of October
The maple, birch, and beech trees lining this eleven-mile route bisecting Vermont put on one of the most dazzling displays of color in New England. The drive from quaint Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, to Stowe, one of the most famous ski resorts in the east, passes through two state forests and three state parks. In Stowe, the ski area gondola offers a bird’s-eye view of the forested slopes and easy access to hiking.

 

 

GreatSmokyMountains

Courtesy of Nataliya Hora

Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee

When to go: Early October through early November
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. for good reason. There are more than 100 species of native trees, including scarlet oaks, maples, sweetgums, and hickories, which put on a jaw-dropping autumn display of gold, orange, crimson, and purple. With 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails, you could spend days exploring these stunning forests.

 

 

UpperPeninsula

Courtesy of John McCormick

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

When to go: Mid-September through Mid-October
Michigan’s state forest system is the largest in the eastern U.S., encompassing nearly 4 million acres. Take your pick from one (or more) of the Upper Peninsula’s twenty-plus forested state parks. Ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarack are the stars of this densely forested peninsula sandwiched between three Great Lakes. The tranquil waters, ranging in color from azure to navy, visually enhance (and reflect back) the trees’ already brilliant fall colors.

 

 

LakeOfOzarks

Courtesy of Gary L. Brewer

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

When to go: Mid-to-late October
Central Missouri’s popular summertime lake getaway becomes even better in the fall when the crowds disperse and the temperatures pleasantly drop into the sixties. The surrounding Ozark Hills are at their most scenic come fall, when the forests ignite in shades of scarlet, gold, mahogany, and russet. Experience the color explosion while hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding at Missouri’s largest state park. Or take in the fall foliage on a yacht, at the wineries, during a round at one of the lake’s championship golf courses, or on a twenty-five-mile scenic drive.

 

 

GlacierPark

Courtesy of Krishna Wu

Glacier National Park, Montana

When to go: Mid-September through early October
For the ruggedly self-sufficient, Glacier National Park is a dream fall foliage destination. By the end of September, all the park’s concessions have closed for the season, guests have gone home, and you pretty much have the entire park to yourself. This is one of the best places to see larch trees—deciduous conifers that turn bright gold in the fall before losing their needles. Yellow larch intermingled with evergreens set against the backdrop of the massive snow-covered peaks of the Continental Divide make for perhaps the most dramatic autumn scene in the U.S. Plus, wildlife abounds, with elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears making their preparations for winter.
Source: Fodor’s Travels

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