By Jennifer McKee
Now’s prime time for fall foliage viewing! Check out this list of favorite locations we’ve recently explored or have otherwise come to our attention. If you can’t visit these destinations, an elevated point in your locale or your closest state park may prove just as beauteous. It’s time to get out into the Great Outdoors!
The Adirondacks, New York
With a varying landscape of mountains, valleys and lakes, opportunities for spotting vibrant foliage abounds in The Adirondacks. Covering more than six million acres, its mountains are home to the largest protected natural area in the continental U.S. Inspiring views include those at Tupper Lake, Rattlesnake Mountain and Wilmington Notch.
About 90 miles north of Atlanta and home to Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak, Blairsville combines the charm of Main Street U.S.A. with natural beauty. Vogel State Park, the state’s second oldest, was established in 1931 and sits at the base of Blood Mountain, the highest summit on Georgia’s portion of the Appalachian Trail; it’s surrounded by the Chattahoochie National Forest. Stay in one of its 34 cottages for the ultimate socially-distanced getaway.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Considered the ultimate fall foliage-viewing drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It’s broken down into six distinct regions to help you plan your drive, hike or cycle tour. Please note that the average speed is 45 miles per hour, as the parkway was designed for leisurely travel. But there are so many things to see and do along the way (such as caverns, museums and gemstone mines) you’ll want to take your time.
Nicknamed “The Scenic City,” Chattanooga is known for its breathtaking natural surroundings. That’s particularly apt during the fall, when dazzling colors draw visitors to its mountains, lakes and parks. There’s also a number of ways to see these colors: on foot, by boat, train, air, bike, scooter, Segway and Swincar, an electric all-terrain vehicle.
As America’s first outdoor vacation destination, established in 1609, Greater Williamsburg offers a myriad of activities against which the fall foliage is a stunning backdrop. It’s home to the Colonial National Historical Park, which recently completed a 41.7 million expansion project, and was where the first English Thanksgiving took place in America. Enjoy nature’s beauty as you contemplate the nation’s history.
Named the “best small town for adventure” by USA Today, Marquette pleases with a wealth of natural attractions and its welcoming nature. Climb Sugarloaf Mountain for a stunning panorama of Lake Superior—it’s the perfect place to get a bird’s-eye view of the fall color scene. Another unforgettable spot is Presque Isle Park, where you can take a jaunt around the two-mile scenic roadway accessible by car, bike and foot—at its end, you can walk the shoreline.
Missouri’s Ozark Mountains
Set deep into Missouri’s Ozark Mountains is a wilderness lodge like no other: Big Cedar Lodge, with its nature-inspired accommodations and immersive wildlife attractions. Those who love the links will find the new Tiger Woods-designed Payne’s Valley, the legend’s first public-access course in the U.S. It’s all a hop, skip and a jump away from Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, made for the season with its fall-centric activities.
Known as “Fall’s Color Capital,” Stowe’s trees burst in red, yellow and orange hues. The city claimed the No. 1 spot on TripAdvisor’s “Top 10 Foliage Destinations in the U.S.” The resort town is nestled beside Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, and has an extensive trail system. Those who want to take a leisurely drive should head down the Green Mountain Byway for views of open meadows, farmlands and forests.
Get Adventurous with Amtrak
Want to leave the planning to someone else? Amtrak has got you covered.
“Seeing fall foliage from a train allows you to get up close and personal with brilliant colors,” says Doug Duvall, AVP Communications, Amtrak. “Whether it’s taking the California Zephyr to see golden aspen trees in the Colorado Rockies or the Vermonter to view the famous new England foliage, taking the train allows you to sit back and enjoy fall colors with unabridged views across America.”
Amtrak has identified four key routes for travelers looking to get the most out of fall foliage-viewing season:
Capitol Limited, Washington D.C. to Chicago
Passing through Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago, this route follows the historic B&O railroad line through the Potomac Valley and past the Allegheny Mountains. Look for vivid orange and red hues that make the countryside burst with color.
Coast Starlight, Los Angeles to Seattle
The West Coast may not first to come to mind when thinking about fall leaves, but this journey will change your mind. Get gorgeous Pacific Coast views before turning inland towards Mount Shasta, the Cascade Range and the Willamette Valley, imbued with a full spectrum of harvest colors. The sightlines are fantastic from the window-facing seats.
California Zephyr, Chicago to San Francisco
This grand cross-country adventure treats riders to a bounty of fall foliage. The Colorado Rockies glisten in gold and yellow shades thanks to the abundance of golden aspen trees. The journey courses through the plains of Nebraska to Denver, across the Rockies to Salt Lake City and then through Reno and Sacramento on the way to San Francisco.
The Vermonter, Washington D. C. to St. Albans, Vermont
The Vermonter showcases New England’s famous foliage. Its begins in D.C., travels up through New York City, then through Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire before making its way into Vermont. 100 covered bridges dot the countryside along the way, as do iconic colonial churches; you’ll get incomparable views from the wide train windows.