A seasonal color palette of russets, crimsons and golds eases the pain of losing those warm alfresco summer evenings and days spent exploring under sunny blue skies. As autumn creeps back in, the seasons makes itself known through stunning displays of fiery foliage across the U.S. If you want a first-row seat to Nature's show, here are eight places in the U.S. where you can see leaves change color this fall.
New York Botanical Garden, New York
The collection of trees in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx outclasses those of Central Park. Both are at their best in October and November when the leaves are on the turn. But don’t think you have to pay fancy city prices; grounds admission to the New York Botanical Garden is free all day on Wednesdays for those who aren’t residents, though you’ll still need to cough up if you want to visit the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Visit the Thain Family Forest, bisected by the Bronx River, the largest uncut acreage of New York’s original woodland, and stand on the Hester Bridge for the biggest impact.
The aspens which give this famous resort town its name turn to pure gold in the fall. A plethora of hiking trails suits visitors of all abilities and fitness levels – try the Woody Creek, Castle Creek Valley and Snowmass trails. Casual mountain bikers will appreciate the gently sloping Rio Grande Trail, while those more serious about their hobby can try the grueling ride up Independence Pass. A scenic drive along Maroon Creek Road is perfect for comfort seeking leaf-peepers. Those seeking an adrenaline rush while they view can kayak the Roaring Fork and Colorado River or team up with the local paragliding operator to fly high above the trees.
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/Tennessee
Leaf season extends to several weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains as the varying elevations greatly influence the autumnal color change. Higher up, you’ll often see the leaves turn in mid-September, with yellow birch, American beech and mountain maple putting on a show. Meanwhile, the displays visible from the Clingmans Dome Road and Blue Ridge Parkway are often delayed until October. At this time, you’ll see sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweet gum and red maple in all their glory.
Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
Stunning panoramic vistas can only be improved by shades of orange and red. At least this is true in the Ozark Mountains. Rent a secluded cabin and hike to waterfalls fringed by these stunning leaves for a true wilderness escape. If you feel like an adventure, hop on a mountain bike and wind through the curving, tree-lined roads. Or get up close in personal, zipping through the treetops on the Ozark Mountain Ziplines in Eureka Springs.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The largest National Scenic Area in America is a firm favorite during the autumn. The many waterfalls and dramatic gorge views make the Columbia River Gorge a delight at any time of year. Scenic highlights include the view from Crown Point and the pretty Multnomah, Bridal Veil and Latourell Falls. Combine it with the Mount Hood Scenic Byway for 146 miles of superb landscapes brimming with fall color.
Best in late September through to October, Leavenworth’s fall colors are even brighter after a long dry summer. Visit Lake Wenatchee in the Cascade Mountains between Stevens Pass and downtown Leavenworth. Its long waterfront offers plenty of space to find a spot for yourself and photograph the reflections of the trees in the water. Turnwater Canyon is another recommended location; the steep sides of the canyon frame the view to spectacular effect. The annual Autumn Leaf Festival and Parade is scheduled for the weekend of 29-30 September this year.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Though much of Acadia’s forest is evergreen, there are sufficient deciduous trees to ensure that this compact national park is worth an autumn visit. Bold reds and striking oranges make for a photogenic sight. Time your trip for midweek in September or October to avoid the worst of the traffic and maximize your chances of seeing a beautiful show from the trees. Check out some of the many hiking trails; the ones that follow the coastline will yield stunning views of both orange trees and blue ocean.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
Even amid stiff New England competition, the colors on display in the White Mountain National Forest take some beating. Drive the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) known locally as “the Kank”. Its 34 miles provide a breathtaking spectacle and you’ll want to savor every last mile, so don’t plan on rushing. Plan a lunch picnic at Sabbaday Falls, between Lincoln and Conway, where water cascades over rock strata into the almost circular pool beneath.