Ahhh, there’s nothing like autumn in America. Hot drinks in the cool weather, the scent of a wood fireplace coming from a far off chimney, and the gorgeous colors of changing leaves. That last one is quintessential fall, but where can you go in the United States to see the best display of autumn leaves? Yes, of course, New England is undeniably beautiful during fall; however, the region doesn’t hold the patent on fall foliage. There are loads of other areas of the U.S. where Mother Nature puts on a fiery festival of colors to admire before winter sets in.
Here’s a look at 10 fall foliage destinations that are NOT in New England!
The hilly and rural far northeastern corner of Alabama is lovely place to visit during the autumn months. DeSoto State Park, Little River Canyon National Preserve and along the Lookout Mountain Parkway. A homey base for your time is the tiny little mountain town of Mentone – the highest elevated incorporated town in the state. An ideal time to go for the most vibrant foliage displays are the end of October and first week of November.
With a range of elevations, some of America’s biggest National Parks and expanses of wilderness running from the southern border to the northwest coast, California offers “leaf lookers” loads of scenery to admire. As early as mid September, hardwoods around June Lakes and Mammoth Lakes start to turn. Not much later than that Yosemite National Park glows with gold and orange foliage.
They don’t call this mountain state Colorado for nothing! Giant Rocky Mountains and vast untouched Aspen forests beckon nature lovers to behold the scenic wonder. Among the Colorado‘s best beauty spots to visit in September and October are Rocky Mountain National Park and the San Juan Skyway.
Late September and early October are good times to explore the unspoiled lands of Idaho. “City of Trees” Boise is as pretty as an urban area can be in the fall. It gets even more gorgeous in Sun Valley and farther north along the Selkirk Loop.
Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula is perfect to vibrant shoreline drives during early October with tens of millions acres of forests and friendly small towns to visit along the way.
Mid-September to mid-October is when you want to be in Minnesota to see the leaves turn in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Arguably the most resplendent displays are along Highway 61 near the north shore of Lake Superior around early October. With this “All American Drive” from Duluth to Grand Portage and its lake views, wild rivers, waterfalls, trails and panoramas, the argument is a strong one!
The mountains around Santa Fe – and indeed, even the city itself – are an excellent example of pretty fall foliage in the Southwest. Santa Fe National Forest has more than a million and a half untouched aces to explore while Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, is majestic setting to survey all the colors of autumn.
Home to the largest chunk of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (with the rest in Tennessee), North Carolina is possibly the prettiest place for fall foliage in the southeastern U.S. Mid October to early November are the right times to visit for the most spectacular show of colors, and Asheville is a pleasant and welcoming base. Beyond the Smokies, the Nanthala National Forest, Pisgha National Forest, and Cherokee Nation Forest wow as well during the fall.
Eastern Tennessee – and in particular its section of the Smoky Mountains and its border with North Carolina – is another southern state that likes to put on a show before winter settles in.Home of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a fun town to check out in the fall especially if you’re into college football. Higher up in elevation, the family-friendly resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge make the most of the season with festivals and events throughout September, October and November.
Red Virginia creeper, golden hued hickory and a bold palate of fall colors shine in the Shenandoah Valley, the Roanoke Valley, and across much of Virginia. Mid October is usually primetime for leaf spotters. Only about an hour or so out from D.C., the 100-mile Skyline Drive running the length of the Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Virginia is one of the top seasonal drives in the country!
Where do you go for nature’s best color show come autumn? We’d love to read your recommendations for awesome autumn travels.