Summer is nearly over, which means that fall is almost here. Goodbye heat and humidity! Hello fall festivals, cooler weather, fall produce (including pumpkins and gourds!), and fall foliage. It is a spectacular sight to see how nature handles the transition from summer to fall. Leaves change to bright hues of red, yellow, orange, and purple. While there are many places you can see this phenomenon, these are the best places to see fall colors.
Note: This is a condensed review of these places and events. The complete report revealing the best places (and peak times) to see fall colors and fun fall festivals can be downloaded for free at https://terrancezepke.com/shop/.
- Acadia National Park (Maine) is a great place to admire the fall colors. The park contains thousands of acres of trees boasting leaves of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Take the 27-mile scenic loop drive that begins at the visitor center or hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain and you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view. Visitors can choose from a variety of park activities, such as scenic cruises, bike tours, cool kids programs, and ranger presentations. Complete your experience by going to Thurston’s to enjoy a classic Maine lobster dinner after taking a carriage ride with Wildwood Stables. Be sure to sample blueberry soda while in this region. Fall foliage usually occurs late September – mid-October. Check out www.mainefoliage.com for peak chart. Tourism is higher in the fall than in the summer months, so be sure to make reservations. https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm and http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/projects/fall_foliage/whenandwhere/index.html
- Aspen (Colorado) is named after the Aspen tree, whose leaves turn a brilliant and beautiful golden color. There are many great places to see the colors, including Cathedral Lake and Maroon Bells. Best time is usually late September, but it depends on where you go. http://www.colorado.com/articles/aspen-viewing-drives-see-fall-leaves-colorado
- The Berkshires (Massachusetts) is arguably one of the best places to see fall colors, as well as shop for antiques, art, or enjoy a spa treatment. It is also home to the Norman Rockwell Museum. Fall is a special time with the Berkshire Botanical Garden Harvest Festival featuring more than 130 food vendors, crafts booths, and family activities. http://berkshires.org/
- Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (KY & TN) is a great place to admire the fall colors due to its 125,000 acres of trees, sandstone bluffs, and scenic gorges. The best time is usually the second week of October through late October. https://www.nps.gov/biso/index.htm
- The Catskills extend 6,000 miles across southeastern New York. They are home to six rivers and thirty-five mountains. There are lots of fun fall festivals, including the Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest (mid-September – mid-October). http://www.visitthecatskills.com/ and http://www.visitthecatskills.com/events
- Columbia River Gorge, Oregon is serene and picturesque with eighty miles of firs, pines, Oregon Ash, and maple trees exploding with vibrant colors of gold, crimson, and bronze. Check out the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest in October. http://www.visitcolumbiarivergorge.com/ and http://gorgeevents.com/
- Coopers Rock State Forest (West Virginia) offers leaf peepers more than 12,000 acres of woodlands featuring a wide variety of trees and colors. The best time is typically late September. https://wvstateparks.com/park/coopers-rock-state-forest/
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN & NC) is the most visited park in America with an average of ten million visitors a year and many of these are in the fall. This is because there are eight hundred miles of scenic roads and trails boasting sweetgums, hickories, pines, maples, and scarlet oaks. The best time to enjoy this phenomenon is early October to late-October, depending on the elevation. While there, by sure to check out the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, Gatlinburg Craftsman’s Fair, and A Taste of Autumn. Also, nearby Dollywood in Pigeon Forge offers plenty of fall fun including Great Pumpkin LumiNights. http://www.dollywood.com/themepark/festivals.aspx and
- Green Mountain Byway (Vermont) is an eleven-mile highway that runs from Waterbury to Stowe. Along the route are Little River, Smugglers Notch, and Waterbury Center state parks, as well as Mount Mansfield and Putnam state forests. Don’t miss Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory or the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. https://www.vermontvacation.com/landing-pages/byways/green-mountain-byway
- Ozarks (Missouri) is another wonderful place to see colorful leaves, as well as lovely lakes and mountains. Glade Top Trail is twenty-three miles of scenic trails and vistas, including Springfield Plateau and St. Francois Mountains. There are many fall events, including Mountain Music Festival, County Fair, and Pickin’ on the Square. The best time is late October. http://ozarkgateway.com/
- Shenandoah National Park is a lovely place to view the fall colors because the park includes part of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. There are dozens of options, including a scenic drive along Skyline Drive, hiking Mary’s Rock Summit Trail, Dark Hollow Falls, rappelling, canyoning, and exploring part of the Appalachian Trail. Every September brings the Annual Apple Butter Celebration featuring wine tastings, apple cider tastings, pony rides, kids’ crafts, live entertainment, and fantastic food (think Apple Strudel and chicken or pork sandwich with Bacon Apple BBQ Sauce) . The best time for fall colors is mid-October to late-October. https://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm
- Upper Peninsula of Michigan is home to one of the largest forest systems in the eastern U.S. Plus, there are close to two dozen state parks to choose from in the Great Lakes region. These parks are full of Aspen, Ash, Beech, Birch, Maple, Sycamore, Tamarack, and Oak trees. http://www.uptravel.com/
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