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Shades of Fall

September 28, 2011

Who doesn't love a road trip in the summer? Families piling into cars with inflatable floats shaped like donuts and crocodiles. Playing Eye Spy or finding different states on license plates as you go. Each hour, the growing anticipation builds over when you're going to get your first glimpse of the ocean or Cinderella's castle.

The best part has to be the warm, summer nights. After long days splashing in pools or seeing the sights, everyone cuddles up to watch the fireworks - bursting light shows with all their glittery, sparkly colors and magical shapes.

Unfortunately, the summer travel season is over. As the cool, crisp weather slowly takes over, tourists have headed back to work and school, hanging their heads a bit and resuming their normal schedules.

To avoid losing the magic of summer, there's something you can do to combine the best of a road trip with the best of fireworks: Explore the shades of fall.

As autumn emerges, bright green leaves give way to crimson, gold, tangerine and russet, and hikers, bikers and road trippers embrace the new season with as much fervor as they did summer.There are a variety of places one can go to witness these breathtaking vistas that enhance their locations and turn even the most familiar twists and turns on paths and roadways into new, surprising scenes.And if you can't get away to see one of the following autumn shows this year, take a moment to glimpse the scenery in your own neighborhood hotspots. You won't be sorry you took the time to enjoy these temporary, yet wondrous, shades of fall. THE EARLY SHOW (the first few weeks in October):

  • Colorado. In the Northwest corner of the state, Glenwood Springs sits nestled where two rivers converge and snow-capped peaks stand tall as a backdrop. Colorful leaves enhance the already beautiful scene and provide a dramatic early to mid-October. The mountain setting of Maroon Bells is also a perfect stage for when the aspens begin changing color. The San Isabel National Forest is said to hold the best aspen viewing in North America where in the shadow of Mt. Elbert (Colorado's tallest), some of the largest aspen stands reside.
Fall colors light up Acadia National Park. Photo: National Park Service
  • Maine. Called a must-see for fall foliage, Maine is well-known for striking colors that pile up in equally colorful - and fun - leaf piles. Coastal locations provide the perfect mirrored reflection of a rainbow of autumn shades. Not inspired to make the trip yet? See the leaves at Acadia National Park on this webcam.
  • Massachusetts. The Mohawk Trail is one of the most heavily accessed footpaths for trade and travel, so it's also one of the oldest U.S. scenic routes - with prime sites for viewing fall's best. State foresters and tourist offices provide weekly fall foliage reports and exploring tips during the season. Other places to enjoy a Massachusetts autumn are Walden Pond State Reservation where leaves colors are reflected in the water, Mount Auburn Cemetery where 5,000 trees spread across 175 acres and Bash-Bish Falls State Park where roads wind between crimson clouds of sugar maples, white birches and dark evergreens.
  • michigan upper penninsula - exploring the north
    Deep crimson and ruby meet hints of evergreen and cantelope in Michigan's Upper Penninsula. Photo: Exploring the North
    Michigan/Wisconsin. Enjoy golden aspens, tamarack and northern hardwoods in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Drive along the Black River near Bessemer, Mich., which is now a National Scenic Byway. Both Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests offer amazing autumn splendor. Take a cruise along routes near the Lake Michigan shoreline, Kettle Moraine State Forest and Great River Road or visit The North Woods to witness golden colors blossom in Wisconsin.
  • Montana. One of the best places to see fall foliage in Montana is Glacier National Park with 1,600 square miles with elevations ranging from 3,150 to 10,466 feet. Hike the Going-to-the-Sun Road/Sun Point Nature Trail for premier views of Saint Mary Lake with rugged mountain peaks in the background. To catch a glimpse of some of the best views, see the scenery from one of these six National Park Service webcams.
  • fall in the white mountains - white mountains attractions association
    The Upper Ammonoosuc Falls of the White Mountains in autumn. Photo: White Mountain Attractions Association
    New Hampshire. Blue sky, waterfalls, mountains with snowy peaks and bursting color amidst an evergreen backdrop. Welcome to the White Mountains. The state also has 14 scenic drives covering nearly 1,000 miles and more than 50 covered bridges, not to mention part of the Appalachian Trail. The best time to see the fall in New Hampshire is during the first two weeks of October. For a view of the scenery at the highest peak on the East Coast - Mount Washington - check out this webcam.
  • New York/Pennsylvania. The Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania and the Allegany State Park in New York, along with the Chautauqua-Allegheny region (western New York and Pennsylvania), offer eye-catching enchantments for leaf-viewers who want to see o aks, cherries, yellow poplars, ashes and maples show off. For a cruise, try New York's 29-mile Longhouse Scenic Byway with views of Kinzua Dam and Allegheny reservoir.
  • Quebec, Canada. Mont-Tremblant National Park is just north of Montreal. Along with Quebec's provincial tree - the yellow birch - this region provides color from sugar maples and American beech. Fall viewing peaks in mid-October.
  • Vermont. Color bursts begin in mid-September in Vermont's higher elevations and end in late October in the state's lower elevations, but mid-October is when the prime fall show emerges. One of the premier spots for seeing color is Lake Champlain where the water reflects the scenery, multiplying the view. Maple, beech and birch trees highlight the show in Vermont's Green Mountains. For a preview of the view of Lake Champlain from Burlington, Vt., try this webcam.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway - News and Observer
    The array of autumn hues on Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo: News & Observer
    Virginia/North Carolina. For stunning, long-range vistas that include the Appalachian mountains, a cruise down "America's Favorite Drive," otherwise known as Blue Ridge Parkway, is for you. Dogwood and blackgum turn dark ruby in late September, followed by yellow poplars and hickories, and then the red maples steal the show while sassafras adds orange to the flames. Spruce, fir, white pine and hemlock provide the stable, hunter green frame to give the whole view depth.

THE LATE SHOW (the last few weeks in October/early November):

  • Arkansas/Alabama/Mississippi. Can't get away until late October or early November? Try the Ouachita National Forest, particularly the Little Missouri Falls recreation area near Glenwood, Ark. The Wall Doxey State Park in Holly Springs National Forest is a popular Mississippi destination because it's centered on a spring lake. Joe Wheeler State Park and Monte Sano State Park are the centers of fall's best shows in Alabama.
  • sonoma
    The buttery shades of fall leaves in Sonoma County. Photo: Travel & Leisure
    California. In Sonoma County, leaves start turning early to mid-October and go into late November. Then, the countryside and vineyards are awash in ruby, butter and bullion. This is also wine harvest season, so it's a great vacation destination.
  • Georgia. During the last two weeks of October, the Chattahoochee National Forest explodes with color. Try the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center's observation deck that offers great views. The Russell-Brasstown Byway is a scenic route that also offers natural attractions, including cascading waterfalls and rocky cliffs.
  • Missouri. The forested Ozark Mountains highlight Mark Twain National Forest, where oaks, sweet gum and sugar maples blaze higher elevations, while sycamore, Ozark witch hazel, element and other hardwoods accent the lower elevations. Mid-October begins the season with peak season happening the last week of October and into early November.
  • Tennessee. More than 400 species of deciduous trees are responsible for the patchwork of chocolates, oranges, lemons and cherries that appear early to mid-October in elevations above 4,000 feet and mid-October to early November in mid and lower elevations. Try the forest ridges and more than 800 trail miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that cross into North Carolina. Cataloochee, on the eastern side of the park, is much less crowded because it's away from the more traveled routes. If you're looking for a place to stay close to the mountains that offers color explosions, Sevierville, Tenn., is a place to try. For a preview of what you can see at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, view this webcam.
  • Mount Rainier
    Gold pops in front of ruby and tangerine at Mt. Rainier. Photo: SightsInSeattle.com
    Washington/Oregon. Mt. Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park are two prime places to enjoy fall's best in Washington. Rugged, intense splendor shines in jagged peaks, deep valleys and cascading waterfalls. Prime time is typically late October. In Oregon, big-leaf maples, cottonwoods and Oregon ash enhance the Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland. Don't miss peak season - late October through early November.

What's your favorite spot to see fall's vivid variety of hues? We'd love to add it to our list!

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