As we head into fall, nature’s paintbrush comes to life in most parts of the country, showing off a spectrum of hues from vibrant golds to deep ambers. For many, this long-awaited time of year means venturing out to capture a glimpse of the beautiful fall foliage while it lasts.
If a few days of leaf-peeping are on your list of to-dos this autumn, these five locations are ones you won’t want to miss.
1. Lake Placid, New York
With foliage ranging from scarlet reds to fiery oranges, it’s no wonder autumn is called the season of flaming leaves in the Adirondack Mountains. Here, you’ll see the fall colors burst forth on the sugar maple, yellow birch, American beech, and other deciduous beauties. The little resort town of Lake Placid makes for the perfect weekend getaway, with a variety of festivals and activities to check out after a full day of leaf-peeping. Drive or cycle the 56-mile Ironman Loop to view the foliage against the Ausable River and Cascade Lakes.
2. Aspen, Colorado
Snow-capped mountains cradled by an ocean of golden-hued Aspen trees are what you’ll find in the small town of Aspen, Colorado in mid to late September. For the most pristine views and photo ops, visit the Maroon Bells — a series of peaks situated just 10 miles southwest of Aspen — which are notably the most photographed peaks in North America. Car access to the Maroon Bells is limited from June to October, but sightseers can take the shuttle bus that runs during the day or reach the peaks by foot or on bike.
3. Stowe, Vermont
For years, people from all across the globe have traveled to the historic mountain town of Stowe, Vermont to witness its magical autumns. Tucked in a valley between Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and the Worcester Range Mountains, Stowe is a prime location for some of the best fall foliage in the U.S. Visitors can typically expect to see foliage at its peak from the last week of September through the first two weeks of October. Be sure to book your stay well in advance as this popular village fills up quickly this time of year.
4. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee & North Carolina
Rich colors of reds, purples, oranges, and yellows cascade down the wavelike mountain ridges of the Smokies in autumn, the color combinations a result of its 100 native tree species. Spanning the Tennessee and North Carolina border, the Great Smoky Mountains offer an abundance of opportunity for leaf-viewing. Higher elevations reach their peak first, around early to mid-October, and the lower elevations follow suit between mid-October and early November. Take in the splendor of the mountains with a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a hike on the Appalachian Trail, or a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
5. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
In the heart of the Pacific Northwest lies the Columbia River Gorge, an 80-mile canyon that carves through the Cascade Mountains. Abundant with waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, and numerous hiking trails, the Gorge glows with fall color from mid-September to mid-October. Capture stunning photographs by hiking to Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall waterfall, or drive along the Columbia River Highway to see colorful maple, oak, and cottonwood trees mixed in among the evergreens.