It's that time of year again. We'll be deep in the heart of leaf-peeping season before you know it and the leaves, they are a-changin'. Whether you're a fall foliage fanatic or just in the mood for a scenic drive—or train ride—through the fabulous fall scenery, you won't want to miss these great seasonal spots.
It's the most colorful time of the year! Here in the northeast, we're surrounded by beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow as leaf-peeping season kicks into full swing—but you don't have to be in just one region to appreciate all the fall foliage. We've got 11 great seasonal spots around the country—and one in eastern Canada—where you can see the leaves in all their colorful splendor, whether by car, train, boat, or by going for a nice, long walk in the crisp fall air. If all else fails, you can always choose to live vicariously through our Fall Into Foliage board on Pinterest.
It goes without saying that Vermont is one of the most well-known places in the U.S. when it comes to fall foliage—especially in the central and southern parts of the state, the Lake Champlain Islands, areas near Burlington, and in the beautiful Green Mountains. As of right now, most of the state is already seeing the first hint of fall colors, with late, more subtle changes in color still slated to happen over the weekends of October. Up for a scenic fall foliage drive? Vermont's Tourism website offers a printable list of more than 20 drives around the state ranging anywhere from 30 to 210 miles long, as well as regional and historical points of interest, apple orchards, and popular local attractions you shouldn't miss along the way.
WHERE TO STAY Eddington House Inn, an adorable B&B located in Bennington, Vermont. Rates from $159 per night thru Oct. (from $139 per night Nov. thru June), include complimentary WiFi, breakfast, parking, and sweet treats like locally made chocolate truffles.
2. NEW YORK
Whether you're planning to venture upstate in search of fall fun or opt to stay in the big city, New York gives you plenty of options—visit this website for a detailed list of all the great spots within the state to view fall foliage as peak levels tend to change depending on where you are. Baseball fans will want to visit Cooperstown, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, while other outdoorsy leaf-peeping activities include renting kayaks on Lake Otsego or hiking among the gorgeous fall colors at Glimmerglass State Park. For an exciting day trip, bring the family to Barton Orchards now through Nov. 2nd, located about a 90-minute drive north of the City in Poughquag, New York, and home to hayrides, train rides, a corn maze, haunted house, and the chance to pick perfect farm-fresh apples, pumpkins, corn and other seasonal vegetables to take home as delicious fall souvenirs. Don't miss the Farm Bakery & Market where you can pick up maple syrup, seasonal mixes and spices, baked pies and desserts, fudge, and best of all, cider donuts. (Activity wristbands are available for $12.50 and include a $3 general admission fee. Prices for fresh-picked apples, pumpkins, and veggies vary by quantity. Please note that no outside food or beverages are allowed on the farm, but feel free to bring your own wagon). Or if you'd rather stay in the heart of the Big Apple, go for a stroll around Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, or Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx in the fall for vibrant color changes during the last few weeks of October into November—pick any spot in the park for a fall picnic, just don't forget to bring your camera!
WHERE TO STAY The Wyndham New Yorker Hotel has a great vacation package now thru Dec. 29, 2015, that includes overnight accommodations from $169 per night, continental breakfast, and free tickets to the Empire State Building.
While there are definitely enough places in Canada to warrant its own fall foliage report, we'd like to point out one of our favorite spots in Québec for the purposes of this story: Mont Tremblant, an exquisite ski town roughly two hours outside of Montréal that always has something fun going on no matter what season we're in, and fall is no exception. Hop a quick flight on Porter Airlines from Newark, Washington D.C., Burlington, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, or from any of 12 connecting Canadian cities to reach this beautiful ski town nestled in the heart of Canada's Laurentians (they even serve wine onboard—for free!). In Tremblant, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy while you're admiring the fall colors showcased on the mountains around you: play a round of golf on one of the area's two championship golf courses, treat youself to a 60-minute cruise on the 7.5-mile long Lake Tremblant ($24 for adults; $19 for seniors ages 60 and up; $8 for children ages 2-12, free for children two and under), rent a bike for the afternoon (prices vary), explore the mountain on one of 12 hiking trails, or take a ride to the summit on the panoramic gondola (Adults pay $19.99 per ride; children ages 6-12 pay $15.99; children ages 3-5 pay $4.19, and those under age 2 ride for free; Gondola tickets must be purchased online at least two days in advance). After a long day outside, try your luck at the Casino de Mont-Tremblant (a free shuttle is available every 30 minutes between the casino and the pedestrian village), relax your tired muscles at the nearby Scandinave Spa Mont-Tremblant (access to the Scandinavian Baths for $48 per person; 60-minute Swedish Massages from $130 per person including access to the baths. Take advantage of their fall special—$35 Scandinavian Bath access or $95 for a 60-minute massage with baths), or check out one of the special fall sales happening at Tremblant's many boutique shops.
WHERE TO STAY The Residence Inn Mont Tremblant Manoir Labelle offers rooms from $157 per night and is within walking distance of most area attractions.
Estes Park is the perfect place to view not only fall foliage, but also elk and other area wildlife this time of year. Nature lovers can go fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding in nearby Estes Valley, or even participate in flood recovery efforts. For a spookier fall experience, try one of the Ghost & History Tours at the Historic Stanley Hotel, also known for having paranormal investigators and psychics onsite. Autumn is also the best time of year to take a drive on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, one of the prettiest drives in Colorado, if not the whole U.S. Other scenic leaf-peaping hot spots in Colorado include Kebler Pass near Gunnison-Crested Butte, the 236-mile loop of San Juan Skyway, The Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, Trail Ridge Road, and Rocky Mountain National Park, among 25 scenic and historic byways that typically showcase the state's world-famous golden Aspens. A ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad is also a memorable way to see the fall colors and learn a little about the area's mining history. (Tickets are from $25.95 for adults; from $18.95 for children ages 3-15).
WHERE TO STAY The Rocky Mountain Park Inn offers rooms from $129 per night—their Dine & Dash package includes overnight accommodations with dinner and drinks for two at their restaurant, Longz Bar & Grill, from $110 per night.
5. WEST VIRGINIA
Grant County is home to some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the country, and the best way to see it is by train. For one night only, Oct. 16th, the Autumn Splendor Dinner Train will travel through Petersburg, West Virginia, just in time for the red and gold leaves to make their debut. You'll start by sampling local delicacies during a food and wine tasting at the South Side Depot in Petersburg while you wait for your train, and enjoy a West Virginia-made dinner of beef brisket, shrimp, potatoes, green beans, and your choice of homemade chocolate fudge turtle cake or pumpin cheesecake for dessert, all while admiring the view. (Tickets are $60 per person for adults only; reservations required).
WHERE TO STAY For a fun vacation option, stay at the Smoke Hole Caverns & Log Cabin Resort located in Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area near Seneca Rocks, WV. Rates at the Log Motel range from $69-$119 depending on which day you go, while cottages are available from $129 per night.
In Tennessee's southeastern corner about two hours from Nashville lies Chattanooga, the state's fourth-largest city nestled alongside the Tennessee River, and a prime spot for viewing fall foliage. The best part: not only is Chattanooga known for having a teriffic network of hiking, biking, and nature trails, but you also have the unique opportunity to view fall foliage by boat. Enter the Southern Belle Riverboat, sailing several times a day from Pier 2, with dinner cruises, lunch cruises, sunset cruises or 90-minute sightseeing cruises up and down the gorgeous Tennessee River. Prices for their three-hour Fall Leaf Cruise—available daily from Oct. 1st thru Nov. 15th—start at $35.95 for adults and $17.95 for children ages 3-12.
WHERE TO STAY Several hotels in Chattanooga are offering fun specials including two-night/three-day packages with tickets to area attractions like Ruby Falls and Rock City Gardens.
If you're looking for the ultimate scenic fall drive, Branson and the Ozarks are home to three of the area's best fall foliage driving tours (and one walking/jogging tour) aimed to please any leaf-peeping enthusiast. Stop by the Welcome Center located at Highway 65 and State Highway 248 for free maps and tips about local attractions, then set off on your fall road trip adventure. The first driving tour takes you on a 90-minute loop around Table Rock Lake and Kimberling City, while the second takes you on a 70-minute loop from Downtown Branson around Forsyth and Rockaway Beach. The third, more in-depth fall foliage drive is a four-hour long journey through Bull Shoals, Peel Ferry, and Mark Twain National Forest, while the walking/jogging tour just takes you on a 1.5-mile tour of Branson Landing and Downtown Branson along Lake Taneycomo, home to Main Street Lake Cruises, another fun way to get a unique look at the region's fall colors. (Tickets are from $26.50 per person. Check the website for more details on pricing and scheduling. Must reserve at least 72 hours ahead).
WHERE TO STAY Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing offers rates from $129 per night to stay in the heart of town.
One of our favorite places to write about is Door County, a bucolic peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay not only known for its lakes, art, and cherries, but also as a fall foliage viewing destination. Be sure to check the Fall Color Report for the latest leaf-peeping updates. Embrace changing seasons with any number of available outdoor activities ranging from cruises on the lake, horse-drawn wagon rides around town, to even a scenic airplane ride over the area, or stick to golfing, sailing, fishing, horseback riding, sightseeing, and hunting for that perfect antique souvenir to bring back home. The best part about visiting Door County this time of year: all the roadside stands and farmers' markets selling fresh, hot apple cider among other farm fresh produce and wines from local vineyards.
WHERE TO STAY The Lodgings at Pioneer Lane in Ephraim, Wisconsin, offers a small suite from $90 per night year-round and your choice of six larger suites from $109-$139 Nov. thru mid-June and from $169-$199 from mid-June thru Oct 31st.
Located about an hour and 45 minutes outside of San Antonio near the town of Vanderpool is Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of best spots for fall foliage in all of the Lone Star State. Spend some time admiring the colors of nature during a fall hike, camping trip, bird watching adventure or treat yourself to a fall picnic in the park. In this part of the country, the leaves tend to change color closer to early-to-mid-November, so there's still plenty of time to get in on the action—check the Fall Foliage Report, updated weekly from October thru November, just in case. Keep an eye out for vibrant red, orange, and golden colored leaves near Daingerfield, Martin Creek, Lake Bob Sandlin, and Martin Dies Jr. State Park in East Texas, known for its oaks, elms, and sweetgums. You'll also find golden and bright yellow cottonwoods throughout Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon State Park, as well as rusty-colored leaves that contrast with a swampy, Spanish moss-covered Caddo Lake State Park.
WHERE TO STAY Foxfire Cabins in the Vanderpool area offers cozy two-bedroom log cabins from $90 per night.
In the greater Portland and Columbia River area, fall foliage is served up with a side of waterfalls, majestic gardens, dramatic river gorges, and no shortage of local wineries. Take a drive down the scenic Columbia River Highway for views of 900-foot tall cliffs and steep flowing waterfalls overlooking the vast valley. Fall colors can be seen throughout the vineyards of Willamette Valley, where grape vines light up in a variety of reds and yellows. Hiking enthusiasts should make the scenic 1.2-mile, 600-foot ascent to Multnomah Falls for stunning views of the valley below.
WHERE TO STAY Comfort Inn Columbia Gorge Gateway offers rates from $85 per night and puts you right in the heart of the action just a 20-minute drive from Multnomah Falls along the scenic Columbia River.
Yosemite is a wonderful place to celebrate fall and an ideal time of year to visit without having to worry too much about crowds and high hotel prices. Mono County, in California's Eastern Sierra region, is also known for its colorful mix of evergreens, big-leaf maples, Pacific dogwoods, black oaks, and other trees that usually reach their peak colors in mid-to-late October.
WHERE TO STAY We love the Yosemite Naitonal Park hotel package from the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chowchilla—Yosemite Park Area. You'll get overnight accommodations, a park entrance pass valid for seven days for one vehicle full of people, two tickets for the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad steam train, and other perks, from $158 per night.
12. SOUTH DAKOTA
Each year the area is draped in color, from the yellow Aspens, elm, ash, and oak trees, to the bright reds of the sumac and maple trees. It's easy to work these scenic drives in as a way of traveling between sites and cities—one of the most scenic, Iron Mountain Road, is a 17-mile road that winds its way through the Black Hills between Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, both of which are definitely worth visiting in their own rite. Drive the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, another twisting mountain road that features six rock tunnels and views of the area's mighty Aspens. Hiking and biking enthusiasts can enjoy the 109-mile long Mickelson Trail that runs through the Black Hills with 15 trailheads to choose from. The Spearfish Canyon State & National Forest Service Scenic Byway is also worth a look, as it offers beautiful forest views and all the colors of its spruce, aspen, pine, oak, and birch trees as it winds its way along the Canyon's limestone cliffs.
WHERE TO STAY Any of the great hotels mentioned in this story about the perfect South Dakota road trip, including Frontier Cabins in Wall (near Badlands National Park, from $74 per night), Springhill Suites by Marriott in Deadwood (from $79 per night), State Game Lodge in Custer State Park (from $115 per night), or the Adoba EcoHotel Rapid City (from $101 per night).