Photo: DenisTangneyJr, Getty Images.
Fall isn’t always the ideal season for weather, but it certainly is the most beautiful. From mid-September to mid-October, trees in regions all across the United States turn into bold golds, fiery reds, and copper orange hues. Taking in the fall colors is a perfect excuse for a getaway, whether that involves a scenic drive, a hiking expedition, or quietly admiring nature’s glory from a cabin porch. These serene destinations maximize leaf-peeping opportunities and offer accommodations ranging from rugged to sophisticated. Cross-check your travel plans with a foliage map, though, because the fall colors are fleeting and plenty of people are vying for a view from these majestic locations.
Adirondack Region, New York
If you procrastinate too long, you might miss peak leaf-sighting times, but not if you vacation in the Adirondack Region, which enjoys one of the longest fall foliage seasons nationwide. In addition to the majestic mountains and jaw-dropping fall colors, the Adirondack region features plenty of wineries, breweries, and activities all autumn long. The Flaming Leaves Festival in Lake Placid on October 7th and 8th features BBQ, blues music, and beer. Ride the 120-meter ski jump for a bird’s eye view of the leaves or explore any number of the 2,000 miles of hiking trails in the region.
If sleepy New England towns are your jam, put the artsy, history-rich destination in the valley of the Green Mountains on your autumn itinerary. An easy drive from either Boston or New York City, Manchester, Vermont is a quaint getaway. Stay at a rental cottage, inn, or boutique hotel. Many lodging options offer fall specials like farm-to-table add-ons, orchard tours, and complimentary cider or donuts. If you want an expert-led leaf-scoping expedition, try Backroad Discovery Tours, where you and a few friends can book an afternoon foliage trip that’ll take you off the beaten path. When you tire of nature (as if that were possible), visit some of the historic landmarks in the area, including Hildene, the Lincoln Family home.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Who would’ve thought Michigan would be one of the most popular destinations for leaf lovers? It makes sense, though, given that it boasts seven million acres of trees. In addition to hardwood forests, you’ll gape at the gorgeous shorelines of Great Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior. The Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association’s has ten suggested fall color routes throughout the region for those who want to make a day of it. If you only have time for one quick drive, the Brockway Mountain Drive in Copper Harbor is it. Ten miles long, the paved road connects the Alleghenies and the Rockies, with two nature preserves along the way. From the summit, you’ll get a 360-degree view of Lake Superior. If the clouds behave, you may even be able to spot Isle Royale 50 miles away.
Lake Vermilion, Minnesota
If you want to fly under the radar and get some fishing done while admiring leaves, head up North to Lake Vermilion in Minnesota. Strong sunshine, crisp air, and deep blue waters are the backdrop for the changing fall colors. Stay at a resort or hotel, erect a tent on a campground, or rent a vacation home or house boat. Lodging is discounted in September and October months, meaning you can extend your vacay. If fishing isn’t your sport, there’s also hiking, biking, boating, and golfing to partake in. If you really just want to sit on your duff, hop in your car and drive the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, which will take you along the Iron Range to the North Shore of Lake Superior, a 54-mile journey that shows off the best of autumn’s grandeur.
Estes Park, Colorado
When leaf-lovers flock to Colorado, they typically head to Aspen. But why would you want to go somewhere crowded and commercialized when you could have a more rugged adventure at Estes Park? While it has been known to snow in this area of Colorado in fall, you’ll more likely experience wildlife wonders like bugling elk and butting bighorn sheep in addition to the fall colors. The YMCA of the Rockies offers lodge rooms and cabin rentals at reasonable rates right in the middle of the wilderness. Trail Ridge Road is notorious for its leaf-peeping opportunities; the paved road takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park at a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet. Stop into the Rocky Mountain Conservancy for guided hikes within the park.