Fall is a welcome reprieve from summer’s seemingly endless heat and packed weekends of travel sports in far-flung suburbs. The changing leaves signal that it IS time to change: wardrobes, thermostat settings, sports, even clocks. Why not change how you view the season ? – from the impending approach of winter…to a celebration of Nature’s colorful display.
Whether you call it fall, autumn (or even the coming of winter), Nature paints a beautiful palette this time of year. From long, winding drives through the country, national parks with cliff-hanging turnouts or jaw-dropping, color-blazed mountain ranges – be sure to get out and enjoy the colors of the season. Here are 5 ideal areas for viewing fall foliage, also known as “leaf peeping.”
Elevation is everything in the beautiful Taconic Mountains that span New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Adirondacks Mountains are also a strong contender for long weekends of leaf peeping. Fall foliage begins at the last week of September in the higher peaks and continues with the lower elevations through the end of October.
Just 80 miles north of Chicago, prime leaf peeping opportunities are abound in Door County, Wisconsin. Within a car drive are Hocking Hills in Ohio, Starved Rock in Illinois and Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in Michigan – each site bursts with color beginning in mid-September and extends through October. The combination of quaint, friendly towns as well as access to multiple state parks make the Midwest the area to fall for.
Leaf peeping takes its time in this region, so plan for mid-October fall color in Kentucky and Tennessee, and a late October/early November peak in: northern Alabama, the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, Virginia’s Coastal Plan, the North Carolina Piedmont and the South Carolina mountains.
This year’s drought means an earlier, shorter fall color season, so plan for prime leaf peeping in mid-to-late September. Highlights: Colorado’s Peak to Peak Highway is perfect for aspen lovers; Maroon Bells and Steamboat Springs are regional favorites for all-around color; North Dakota’s Turtle Mountains, Fort Ransom State Park and Red River Valley offer beautiful bouquets of fall foliage.
Late October is an across-the-board leaf peeper’s delight from California to Washington. Yosemite National Park is always a breathtaking option, as is Oregon’s historic Columbia River Highway. Washington’s Mount Walker, Northern Cascade National Park and Wenatchee Valley make for truly memorable weekend getaways.
Three things before you hop in the car:
- Make sure to have a great place to stay. From quaint inns to luxury hotels, shopyourway.com/hotels offers 400,000 hotels globally and an average of $50 CASHBACK in points per stay. Search by rating and reviews, distance from your destination, by rates, and even by CASHBACK in points to be earned.
- Find the best gas prices — and be rewarded for that drive – by using GasBuddy.
- Weekends (and two-lane roads) get crowded in prime leaf-peeping locations. If possible, opt for a midweek excursion or a Sunday-to-Monday option.
And… don’t “leaf” anyone hanging: what’s your favorite fall foliage location? Comment with your pictures, opinions and Shop Your Way hotel recommendations. Happy peeping!