Who can argue that autumn is one of the most colorful times of year?
That was a rhetorical question.
Fall is pretty, mostly because of the glorious displays put on by the fall leaves changing color. This phenomenon occurs all over the United States, but some spots offer better views than others. Grab your camera and a road atlas and take a day trip to one of the 11 best fall foliage sites in America.
11 Places To See Fall Leaves
1. Acadia National Park – Maine
Of course anywhere in the North East is going to boast spectacular fall foliage. The Acadia National Park offers gorgeous views and extensive Ranger-led educational programs so that you can learn more about what you’re staring at. Make sure to head to Bar Harbor Maine before the end of October to take full advantage of the sights and services available.
2. Oak Mountain State Park – Alabama
Oak Mountain State Park is Alabama’s largest state park. This nearly 10,000 acre forest is featured on several sight seeing lists. Admission is only $3 for adults on weekends and holidays. You can visit the park for fall foliage viewing from 7am to sundown.
3. Mt. Washington – New Hampshire
While it’s typical to see fall foliage while you’re driving, the Mount offers guided cruises on the M/S Mount Washington. Starting Sunday, September 27, the Mount will offer Fall Foliage Dinner Cruises from 4:30 to 7 p.m. each Sunday through mid-October. The cruise departs from Weirs Beach, boarding at 4 p.m. Cost for adults is$43. Visit Cruise Mount Washington for more information.
4. Aspen – Colorado
It’s no surprise that Aspen, Colorado is the perfect place to watch the Aspen trees change colors with the seasons. San Isabel National Forest offers extensive trails for viewing of some of the most fabulous aspen trees in Colorado.
5. The Catskills – New York
The Catskills and Hudson Valley region is about a two hour drive from New York City. One of the unique features of this area is that the color changing season lasts about six weeks, with colors rivaling those of its North Eastern neighbors, Vermont and Massachusetts.
6. Columbia River Gorge – Oregon
The Columbia River Gorge winds through the Cascade Mountains, forming the border between northern Oregon and southern Washington. Leaf peepers can choose to drive, hike or kayak through the scenery – although I wouldn’t recommend taking an expensive camera on your white water rafting trip.
7. Denali Highway – Alaska
Located in south central Alaska, the Denali Highway is where you’ll find the least amount of trees on the fall foliage list. But the signs of fall are still evident in the red, orange and purple terrain. Of course, you have to go to Alaska to see it. But if you can make the trip, you may also be rewarded with moose sightings!
8. Tahquamenon Falls – Michigan
Tahquamenon Falls is one of the largest waterfalls west of the Mississippi River. It’s located along Michigan’s upper peninsula, and offers a unique chance to see white water rapids surrounded by blazing orange and red trees. (Which, sadly, are not pictured here, of course.)
9. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Wisconsin
Kettle Moraine State Park is located about 45 minutes north of Milwaukee. The park offers 30,000 acres of hills, forests, lakes and grasslands – giving you a variety of ways to capture the colors of autumn.
10. Mohawk Trail – Massachusetts
The Mohawk Trail may be the most well known of the country’s fall foliage scenic drives. It covers 63 miles from the Massachusetts-New York border to the Connecticut River. Attractions in the region include Mount Greylock, The Bridge of Flowers, Glacial Potholes, a natural marble bridge formed by erosion, state forests, and old Indian hiking trails.
11. Glacier National Park – Montana
Glacier National Park in Montana boasts over 700 miles of hiking trails. While sections of the park are available for driving, the best way to experience the colorful fall vistas at Glacier National Park is on foot.
When is the best time to head out on your fall foliage expedition? Technically, the leaves change with the weather and not the calendar. And of course, each area’s “leaf peeper” season will vary slightly. Generally, the best time to see the colors of fall leaves is from mid September to mid October.
Photo Credits in order of appearance: liza31337 on Flickr, Southernpixel on Flickr, kla4067 on Flickr, brianna.lehman on Flickr, Randy OHC on Flickr, SarahMcD on FlickR, Alaskan Dude on Flickr, Aunt Owwee on Flickr, chefranden on Flickr, banspy on Flickr, Barbara Jones with permission