Fall is just around the corner and a majority of the country’s landscapes will soon start to transform into breathtaking views that are filled with a variety of vibrant colors. Everywhere from New England to the Pacific Northwest will showcase displays of color that will turn an ordinary drive into a romantic adventure. The fall is the best time to go leaf hunting in search of some of the best fall foliage.
Here are some of the top areas in the country to enjoy views filled with fall foliage. This list will help you plan upcoming fall road trips and/or leisurely afternoon drives during the fall months.
During the fall, the dark green trees of Aspen lighten up as they transform into rich shades of yellow and gold tones. Between the dark evergreens and mountain peaks, golden trees sparkle throughout the area during the fall. Hosting one of the shortest fall color seasons in the country, Aspen starts its transformation in mid-September and ends the first week in October, when the leaves start falling to the ground.
The Catskills, New York
Vibrant colors including yellow, orange and red fill the landscape of the Catskills during the fall months. With 35 mountain peaks, dense woods and rolling hillsides, this area offers a unique backdrop for both locals and visitors. Home to the Woodstock festival, this area also hosts several fall festivals, including farmers’ markets, harvest festivals and craft fairs.
This is the perfect area to spend the morning shopping at the farmers’ market and the afternoon driving through the mountains enjoying the fall landscape. Couples looking for a romantic getaway can spend the night at one of many bed and breakfasts in the area.
Some of the most northern points along U.S. Route 1 are home to beautiful mansions, lighthouses and amazing fall foliage. This seaside area is the perfect place for couples looking to explore historic buildings that are nestled among lush landscapes with a dense forest backdrop. There are many parks and paths where you can go hiking and settle in for an afternoon picnic by the water. The waters of the area will reflect the many colors of fall, including vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, enhancing your picnic view.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Follow the border of southern Washington and northern Oregon along the 80-mile Columbia River Gorge. There you will see the beautiful colors of fall as many of the trees, including cottonwoods, big-leaf maples and Oregon ash, start to show their fall colors. These vibrant colors complement the natural green landscape of both the fir and pine trees that fill the dense forests.
When you get to the area, park the car and experience the fall colors of this area up close and personal. There are many hiking and biking trails throughout the area, plus plenty of places to enjoy a romantic picnic complemented by a colorful background.
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
Put the convertible top down or hop in the motorcycle for a drive along the 83-mile loop of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. This loop begins and ends in Taos and shows some of the best fall landscape in the Southwest. You will see the bright orange and yellow colors of aspen trees as you drive up to Wheeler Peak and around mesas and mountain vistas. Other colors of fall in the Southwest include deep purple and fiery shades of red.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Head out into the rugged regions of Glacier National Park, where you will see some of the country’s brightest fall foliage. Trees start turning in late September, bringing colors of bright gold, red and yellow to the region. Explore the park by hiking along one or more of the many paths, where you will not only enjoy seeing the fall colors, but may also see bears, big horn, elk, mountain goats and sheep frolicking around the aspen, birch, cottonwood, huckleberry and maple trees. This are offers perfect photo opportunities for nature lovers.
Great Smoky Mountains
There are many reasons why the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country. One of the top reasons to visit the park is for the views you will see along the 800 miles of roads and hiking trails. Foliage will start displaying colors of gold, crimson, purple and orange as native trees to North Carolina and Tennessee begin their fall transformation in mid-September. This area is home to more than 100 species of native plants including hickories, scarlet oaks, maples and sweet gums, all of which add to the breathtaking landscapes during the fall.
The lake region of the Ozarks is one of the first destinations that come to mind when looking for a summer getaway. However, this area is one of the best locations to explore during the colors of fall. As temperatures comfortably drop into the 60s, the greenery will start to transform into various shades of gold, mahogany, russet and scarlet. The best way to explore these colors is by going hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding.
Other great fall foliage viewing opportunities in the Ozarks include sitting on the balcony of a local winery or while riding along in a boat through the area’s waterways which reflect the colors of fall in the ripples of the water.
Upper Michigan Peninsula
One of the largest forest systems in the eastern portion of the country covers close to four million acres and can be found in the upper peninsula of Michigan. This area is filled with aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore and tamarack trees, all of which add unique colors to the fall landscape. The waters of the three Great Lakes magnify the beauty of this area in the fall as the blue waters reflect the vibrant colors.
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
Explore the more than 5,000 square miles of the Olympic Peninsula where you will be able to see a variety of native wildlife. The Olympic National Park is home to elk, cranes and sea otters which can be seen running in and out of the dense forest. In the fall, this area transforms into something right out of a painting, with bright shades of red, orange, yellow and purple littering the landscape. The best views in this area can be found along Hurricane Ridge in the national park.
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The changing colors of trees in the fall can help make an afternoon drive very romantic. The two of you will be able to explore mountainsides, rolling hills and national parks as you search for the perfect landscape accented with the many colors of the season. The next time you are looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, consider packing a picnic lunch and driving through some of the country’s top areas for viewing fall foliage.
Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.