If you live in a big city like me, you find yourself craving a glimpse of some of those fall colors you remember from growing up in the suburbs. With peak fall foliage season approaching, it’s time to get out there and explore some of the stunning vistas and activities that embody the autumn season. So sit down, relax and take in a nice cup of warm apple cider while we whisk you away to some of our favorite fall foliage destinations nationwide.
This isn’t your grandma’s fall foliage anymore! Extensive hikes, camping or rafting excursions are the perfect activities for adventurous travelers. For the more laid-back traveler, the fall brings tons of food or craft festivals, not to mention it’s an ideal time to tour a vineyard or play a round of golf.
Man, it seems like they have everything — great skiing in the winter and arguably the best fall foliage this time of year. Speaking of skiing, one of the best ways to see the colors in Vermont is to take a drive along some of the country roads and through famous covered bridges that connect some of the major resorts. Route 100 is one such scenic drive that winds through the Green Mountains, connecting Ludlow and Rutland. Some of the resorts open up their lifts, like Killington’s K-1 Gondola Ride. The ride up the 4,241-foot Killington Peak offers unique views of the changing leaves, and the summit provides the entrance to 45 miles of hiking and biking trails.
After taking in the scenery, check out the Giant Pumpkin Regatta on October 7 in Burlington. Teams of varying ages race in giant hollowed out pumpkins, think over 1,000 lbs., on Lake Champlain. It’s sure to be a nice change of pace from Sunday afternoon football.
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Having traversed the scenic Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, I can speak from experience that it is truly one of the most spectacular natural views on the east coast. Though the drive is only 105 miles, it takes about 3 hours as most drivers tend to go the speed limit so as not to miss the beautiful colors along the way. Ditch the car and bike through, or grab your hiking boots to walk along the 100-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail running through the park.
If you visit towards the end of the season, don’t miss the Woodstock Autumnfest on Oct. 20, which hosts a barbeque championship (and yes, there are samples). For something less heavy, visit one of the many orchards in the area for apple picking, hayrides and freshly-baked treats (apple cider donuts are my personal favorite).
Finger Lakes and Catskills, New York
Yes, I’m partial to the east coast, but it’s not my fault we have some of the best fall foliage around. Having reached this far in reading my post, you are likely a bit tired of scenic drives, so how about a balloon ride instead? Climb high above the trees in Letchworth State Park for a birds-eye view of the waterfalls and fall colors from a hot air balloon. Alternatively, thrill-seekers can take a 20-minute ride on a hang glider. If, like me, you prefer something a little closer to the ground hike, bike or even boat through some of the great scenery New York has to offer. The Finger Lakes tourism website features an exhaustive list of over 70 different trails for biking and hiking.
With Halloween right around the corner, make sure to visit the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, named #1 haunted attraction in the United States by the Weather Channel in 2011. Following your visit, ward off all the vampires by attending the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival (Sept. 29-30). If you head to the Finger Lakes instead, visit any of the boutique wineries for a tour and sample, you will not be disappointed.
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Finally making our way from the east coast out west to the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is not only the home to ice-cold refreshment, skiing and now Peyton Manning, in fact some of the best fall colors can be observed there. Although you won’t see any red, the trees in the mountains turn a bright yellow making for a unique look relative to the northeast. Rocky Mountain National Park has tons of hiking and biking trails, or drive along the Peak-to-Peak Scenic and Historic Byway.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Nearly 300,000 acres and over 90 stunning waterfalls make up this massive area nestled on the Oregon/Washington border. Visitors can drive along Interstate 84 or the Historic Columbia River Highway to get a glimpse of the colors or venture into the park itself for hiking. One of the highlights is the 611-foot tall Multnomah Falls, in fact it is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. The best view is from the bridge that is located between the upper and lower cascade.
Waterfalls make for the ideal conditions for exhilarating whitewater rafting. Conditions range from beginner to advanced, so first timers need not be hesitant to give it a try. Unwind afterwards at one of the 30 wineries that offer tastings and tours.
That wraps up my top fall foliage destinations, but we are eager to hear about yours! Where will you be taking in the beautiful colors of autumn?
If you are ready to hit the outdoors, Travelzoo put together a great list of deals for fall foliage deals up to 60% off.
Featured Image: Winding Road Curves Through (Shutterstock.com)