A cheap and simple way to enjoy the outdoors and see the majesty of the country, leaf peeping is a time-honored tradition from coast to coast. Here are our six favorite places to do it.
Don’t mourn the end of summer. Swap out that bathing suit for a sweater, ice cream for apples, and make a date with mother nature to ponder the stunning colors of America’s fall foliage.
Given the overwhelming number of parks, mountains and forests to choose from, finding the right time and place to see these vibrant displays may seem overwhelming. To get you started, we’ve rounded up six of the best places to enjoy fall’s impressive hues. And though there is an estimated time for peak viewing, it’s all about the weather, so you may want to check the Farmer’s Almanac and The Weather Channel for a quick update before you head out.
New York is one of the most popular states to get a full glimpse of seasonal colors. And this mountain range in the state’s southeast corner is close enough to New York City to drive, train or bus to in just a few short hours.
The optimal viewing time in the Catskills is the end of September through October and though you can’t miss the breathtaking changes wherever you end up, we suggest a drive to the Kaaterskill Clove Experience, a hike to Mount Utsayantha or a trip aboard the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Weekend events, like the Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest and the Taste of the Catskills, are a great way to extend your foliage excursion and mix it up with both locals and tourists.
Combine your autumn viewing with some American history this season and head to Gettysburg around the third week of October until mid-November to enjoy peak foliage. The Gettysburg National Military Park and the top of the battlefield Little Round Top affords flamboyant views all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
You can also choose to see the changing leaves on horseback from the National Riding Stables Horse Rescue or Hickory Hollow Farm, take a drive through Pennsylvania’s Apple Country or visit the Hauser Estate Winery for a taste of wine and hard cider, as well as a view from one of the region’s highest points. The National Apple Harvest Festival runs through the first two weekends of October and will give you a good reason to stay and enjoy the food, crafts, entertainment and, you know, all those apples.
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, NM
The mountains of northern New Mexico are a highlight for leaf gazing aficionados during the first few weeks of October, and this dreamily named route provides an 83-mile loop of what the southwest autumn has to offer. The drive is approximately three hours, though you’ll want to factor in time for stops along the way. The byway begins and ends in the artists’ colony Taos and makes its way through Questa, Red River, Eagle’s Nest and Angel Fire.
The sundry scenery includes Taos Pueblo, which houses the country’s first memorial to Vietnam vets, as well as Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s tallest point, and Taos Ski Valley where you can enjoy the vivid views on a hike, bike or ski lift.
Lake of the Ozarks, MS
Mid- to late-October is the best tome to see the Ozarks hardwood forests and rolling hills burn with scarlet, ginger and gold on this vast shoreline – though it could easily stretch into November with an abundance of cool sunny days. Unfolding across four counties, this summer getaway comes alive in the fall, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the brilliant scenery in the surrounding Ozark Hills.
Take a drive through the Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest, stop at the Ameren Scenic Overlook, survey the surroundings with a round of golf at the Margaritaville Lake Resort or hop on a boat at Celebration Cruises to see the sites from the water.
Columbia River Gorge, OR
With over 80 miles of brightly tinted forests to gawk at, this scenic area located along Interstate 84 is at its peak for fall foliage from mid-September to mid-October. The drive is parallel to the Columbia River, but be sure to stop at the Crown Point Vista House for more expansive views of the Cascade Mountains or consider a hike on the popular Dog Mountain Loop.
Take a cheeky break for a beverage and panoramic vistas at one of the Gorge wineries or breweries or book a white water rafting trip down the Columbia River to liven things up.
Kancamagus Highway, NH
This 34-mile drive, nicknamed the Kanc by locals, provides an explosion of brilliant colored leaves come mid-September and lasting through early October. Because this highway cuts through the White Mountain National Forest, there are plenty of points to pull off and enjoy the breathtaking views.
The Sabbaday Falls includes a 45ft drop and perfect picnicking options and you can stop at the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves to wander off on a hike. Or hop on the 80-passenger cable car at the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway to see the spectacular foliage from the air – all the way to Maine, Vermont and Canada.