Best spots for fall foliage in the mid-west
In Northeast Kansas, the Glacial Hills Scenic Byways runs through a distinct landscape named for the rolling hills and the rock-strewn valleys. Its name reflects the receding ice, which left highly fertile farmland.
In Southern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest is a hiker’s paradise, seated between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and with paths meandering through canyons under forest canopies. Its crown jewel, Garden of the Gods, overlooks views of towering sandstone outcroppings formed millions of years ago. In the central part of the state, the Grandview Drive is considered to be one of Illinois’ most scenic routes.
An hour from Indianapolis, Brown County State Park resembles the Great Smoky Mountains but Indiana’s largest park is fall color hot spot, with nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads and many scenic vistas overlooking miles of uninterrupted forestland. The 2,300-acre O’Bannon Woods State Park is surrounded by beauty located within the foothills of Southern Indiana and bordering the Ohio and Blue rivers.
Yellow River State Forest in Harpers Ferry makes for a good fall jaunt. Its Backpack Trail was named Iowa’s best hiking trail by Outdoor magazine in 1996, while Paint Creek Unit is quite the recreational hiking loop. Or catch some fall color via kayaking or canoeing on The Upper Iowa River in Northeast Iowa that can be accessed at Kendallville, Bluffton and Decorah.
The North Shore “All-American” Scenic Drive stretches 154 miles along the shore of Lake Superior is aligned with yellow aspen, birch trees and scarlet maples. And the Minnesota Great River Road follows the Mississippi River and passes through Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park and Frontenac and Great River Bluffs state parks.
The Rendezvous Region in northeast North Dakota is home to the wooded Pembina Gorge and Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area; hike on marked trails or rent a kayak to paddle along the Pembina River. Next, head west on the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway and stop at Coghlan Castle and Lake Metigoshe State Park in the Turtle Mountains along the U.S/Canadian border.
The Talimena National Scenic Byway is a 50-mile drive partly through southeastern Oklahoma and touches upon Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest. Also in this region, Beavers Bend State Park is adorned with forests of pine and hardwood plus rugged terrain and waterways for seeing on foot.
Custer State Park is not only known for its free-roaming resident bison -- it also produces vibrant fall foliage at every turn. The Needles Highway has views of the Cathedral Spires, among birch, aspen and ponderosa pines while the Wildlife Loop leads towards Mt. Coolidge, where burr oak tree leaves burst in orange. On the northern edge of the Black Hills, Spearfish Canyon offers waterfall views from a spruce, pine, aspen, birch and oak tree forest.
It's Fat Bear Week in Katmai National Park
September 30 - October 6 is annual Fat Bear Week in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Each summer, bears work to become as fat as possible to survive hibernation in the long winter. Survival in the winter depends on each bear accumulating ample fat reserves to keep them warm and nourished. Bears spend the summer gluttonously eating salmon and other foods, which are ample in Katmai. Each year, Katmai National Park lets the public vote on Fat Bear Week - each day you can vote for the chonkiest bear - until there is only one winner of Fat Bear Week! Click here to vote.
These are fall's most popular US camping destinations, according to Campspot
For insight into where travelers are heading as the leaves change colors, the platform Campspot consulted the booking data for its roster of family campgrounds, RV resorts, glamping sites, and more to determine the most in-demand destinations for autumn camping, based on the number of reservations from just after Labor Day through October. In no particular order, here are the top 10 places Campspot campers are flocking this fall. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Near Cape May, Big Timber Lake is an RV resort with plenty of amenities © Tyler D. Way/CampspotCape May, New Jersey Less than 20 miles from the family-friendly beaches, old-school boardwalks and historic painted Victorians of Cape May is Big Timber Lake RV Camping Resort, a sprawling site with basketball, volleyball, bocce, and shuffleboard courts, kayak rentals, mini golf, an arcade, and a 2,000 square-foot pool. Holiday seekers can get into the spirit of the season in Santa Claus, Indiana @ Sun RV ResortsSanta Claus, Indiana It’s never too early for Christmas in southwestern Indiana’s Santa Claus, and its Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort has Christmas cabins and holiday cottages, not to mention Santa's Splashdown Waterpark, which has two big tube slides and a reindeer-themed water playground. Camping in Quarryville offers a front-row seat for the fall-foliage action © CampspotLancaster County, Pennsylvania Southeastern Pennsylvania’s fall foliage rarely disappoints, and Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: Quarryville offers a front row seat for the action. It’s situated on 65 wooded acres abutting a 100-acre county park, but it’s more resort than camp, with two swimming pools, two hot tubs, a water zone, and a giant inflatable jumping pillow, plus laser tag and escape rooms for an extra charge. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Myrtle Beach is a party town at the height of summer, and though it’s more low-key during the cooler months, there’s still plenty to do. Guests at Carolina Pines RV Resort may not want to leave the premises – there’s a bistro and a yoga studio on-site as well as a mini golf course and an arcade – but for those who prefer to get out and explore, the beaches and trails of Myrtle Beach State Park are just 20 minutes away. The restorative scenery of Shenandoah National Park is less than two hours from the nation's capital © CampspotShenandoah National Park – Washington, DC An hour and a half west of DC, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is an easy day trip from the nation’s capital, but it feels a world away. The Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in nearby Luray, Virginia, provides the chain’s signature amenities, from mini golf and gem-mining to pools and water slides; accommodations include pet-friendly cottages, RV sites, and primitive tent camping. Central Michigan The lakes of Michigan are a picture-perfect setting for a summer getaway, but they’re not too shabby in fall colors either. Central Michigan’s Cedar River plays host to Gladwin City Park and Campground, a back-to-basics set-up with rustic cabins and sites for tent and RV camping, while Beaverton’s Calhoun Campground has Ross Lake-facing rustic, electric, and full hookup sites. Accommodations at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Western New York include this two-bedroom A-frame chalet with cable and WiFi @ Sun RV ResortsBuffalo, New York In a few months, only the hardy will be taking camping trips in upstate New York, but for now, the region that boasts natural beauties like Niagara Falls and Lake George is a solid option for leaf-peeping. About an hour outside of Buffalo, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: Western New York has chalets, cabins, wooded and open tent sites, and full-hookup RV sites, all pet-friendly with WiFi access. In Paso Robles, the Wine Country RV Resort has RV sites as well as chalets and cottages © Sun RV ResortsPaso Robles, California There’s nothing like winery-hopping on a brisk sunny day, and between the shopping, the golf, the wining, and the dining, San Luis Obispo County's Paso Robles region has more than a few options for oenophiles. Wine Country RV Resort is centrally located, with pull-through and back-in RV sites as well as chalets and cottages. Arches National Park – Moab, Utah The red sandstone of Arches National Park creates a stunning setting for one of nature’s biggest playgrounds, and nearby Moab serves as the gateway for outdoor adventures in the vicinity. Six miles south of the park gates (and less than 40 miles east of Canyonlands) is CanyonLands RV Resort & Campground, where the region’s signature red rocks overlook the swimming pool. Tent and RV sites are available, as are cabin rentals. The Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Gardiner serves as a base of operations for exploring the Hudson Valley's Minnewaska State Park Preserve @ CampspotMinnewaska State Park Preserve – Kerhonkson, New York A 22,275-acre park in the Hudson Valley, Minnewaska draws outdoorsy types year-round for everything from rock climbing to snowshoeing. Six miles away, the sprawling Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Gardiner has rustic tent sites and premium cabins, as well as luxe lodges and full houses for rent.
Would you dare baptism in the Devil's Bathtub?
Close my eyes and count to three as I anticipate to dive into the deep, ice cold pool of water - The Devil’s Bathtub, located in Southwest Virginia. Jumping in is not recommended for the faint of heart. I stare into the aquamarine abyss and question the life choices that led me to this. Deciding if I have the courage to jump into the Devil's Bathtub. Photo by Maddie Luchsinger. The Devil’s Bathtub is a place that no person can stay for very long - it is wicked in the way its cold can take the breath away of the people who dare to jump in. It is the type of cold that sucks the breath right out of your lungs and frightens every skin cell of your body. It is a bathtub-sized pool that is, perhaps, 25 feet deep, full of the fresh spring water falling off the mountains. You’ve hiked 2.5 miles up a mountains, crossing a river 17 times. Your muscles are sore. So jump into the Devil’s Bathtub and find out what happens when you dunk them in ice. After I was baptized by the Devil in southwest Virginia, I felt cold for days. It was a deeply guttural coldness, like I was thawing slowly from the inside out. Photo by Maddie Luchsinger In all the time I’ve spent exploring the world, there are only one of a handful of times I can remember being this cold - in the middle of the night, camping in the desert in North Central Mexico. I was there on a church trip, to build houses in the slums of Tijuana. This was something the church of my youth did a lot in the 1990s/2000s - took groups to do manual labor rural parts of Mexico. That year, in the desert of Baja California, El Nino brought on exceptional rains that flooded our campsite and soaked my belongings. The temperatures at night would reach just above freezing, and the lumber that kept our campfires roaring was wet and ineffective. I have this memory of huddling around the dwindling embers of a dying campfire, desperate to get warm, under a deep sea of stars. I remember feeling like I would never feel warm again. The second time I’ve felt that cold was whitewater rafting the Upper Youghegheny River in Upper Pennsylvania in the early spring. My group spent the entire weekend camping in a pouring rainstorm, on 50 degree days, and then rafted a flood-stage river of class IV-V rapids. I fell out twice, and swam down a class IV+ rapid called the Meat Cleaver. I remember feeling cold for days after, and vowing to never go whitewater rafting again. When I jumped into the Devil’s Bathtub, these were the memories that came flooding in. This was a uniquely painful kind of cold. And the thing that was so devilish about it - it was an enjoyable pain. Maybe I’ve cursed myself, jumping into the Devil’s Bathtub. but in 2020, who can tell the difference? _______ Photo by Maddie Luchsinger How to find the Devil’s Bathtub — At the end of Highway 619 just outside of Duffield, Virginia. Duffield is located less than 2 hours from Knoxville, about an hour North of Kingston, Tennessee. This is a popular hike with an established parking lot at the trailhead. Hikers can choose to go left when the trailhead splits for a 4 mile roundtrip journey to the Devil’s Bathtub, or take a right for a 7-mile loop through the mountains. The trail is clearly marked with a yellow square tag. Plan for the trail to take an hour per mile, and wear shoes that can get wet. You have to hike across a river 17 times, and you are almost certain to get wet. There are a few areas of treacherous terrain and sharp drops, so keep an eye on young children and dogs at all times. The hike can be found near Duffield, Virginia, about an hour north of Kingston, TN. I recommend camping at Natural Tunnel State Park, less than an hour away. NTSP has a well maintained and safe campground, good for car campers or RV tows. Natural Tunnel is a rock formation that has naturally formed in the mountains, created a naturally carved train tunnel. The park offers a fun chairlift to the bottom, a fun activity for families or tired hikers.
Rediscover the San Juan Islands: Adventure-seekers will love this Northwest destination.
The journey starts with either a ferry or a floatplane—there are no bridges to the San Juans Islands. Leave stress behind as you board in Anacortes and set sail on the marine segment of the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. You can relax, you’re on island time now. The San Juan archipelago in Washington State is nestled between three great cities for visitors – Seattle, Vancouver B.C., and Victoria B.C., surrounded by the Salish Sea. Of the 172 named islands in the San Juans, three of them – Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan – have accommodations, attractions, and amenities for visitors. The archipelago is blessed with a temperate marine climate and life in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains means an average of 247 days with sunshine annually and about half the rainfall of the Seattle area. San Juan County has more than 400 miles of shoreline punctuated by rocks, bluffs and beaches. The arts, historic preservation and environmental stewardship flourish in the Islands. San Juan County is considered an “Arts Hot Spot” by the Washington State Arts Commission for the number of artists and galleries in the islands. It is also the first county in the USA to be designated a voluntary “Leave No Trace” area. Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the archipelago’s only incorporated town, was named a Destination of Distinction by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. No matter your style of vacation, you’re bound to find it in the San Juan Islands. For nature enthusiasts, there’s world-class wildlife watching including orcas, humpback whales, bald eagles, Steller sea lions, and red foxes. And there’s a variety of ways to see it: along a network of waterfront hiking trails, from shoreline parks, from tour boats and private vessels. For adventure seekers, beautiful landscapes and a calm inland sea make the San Juans a prime sea kayaking spot. Paddle your own kayak or set out with one of the many knowledgeable kayaking outfitters on San Juan, Orcas, or Lopez Island for three-hour to three-day tours. For foodies, find quality local products, and experience the sense of community shared by island chefs, growers, winemakers, distillers, brewers, and other agricultural artisans. Some local farms even offer stays for guests who want to get up close and personal to the islands’ bounty. If art’s your thing, you’ll find a gem in the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, with three to four first class exhibitions a year. The San Juan Islands Sculpture Park at 20-acres is one of the largest outdoor sculpture parks in the Pacific Northwest. Humpback calf 'Slate' breaching by Jeff FriedmanFind variety, beauty, serenity ... day after amazing day. As we navigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we are following the guidelines set by the Washington State Department of Health and Governor Inslee’s office. San Juan County is currently in a modified Phase 2 of Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan. Accommodations are open at 100%, and restaurants vary between curbside pickup, delivery, and limited indoor and outdoor seating. Face coverings are required to enter all businesses and public spaces. Editor's Note: we are working with local tourism boards to highlight destinations that are ready for tourists. Given the ever-evolving situation on COVID-19, please make sure you check the tourism website for the most up-to-date planning information. From Nature to Nurture the San Juan Islands provide inspiration for the senses (www.visitsanjuans.com).