Everyone can agree, autumn is an absolutely stunning time of year. The skies seem to clear, the air gets crisp, and trees put on quite the show, dazzling with leaves of gold, amber, and crimson. Taking a stroll with a cup of cider and enjoying the art of nature is always at the top of our must experience list this time of year. While fall is always gorgeous, certain destinations have better climates and geographies to create unbelievable panoramics of autumnal beauty. From New England to the Rocky Mountains, here are five stunning places to see fall foliage.
The small town of Stowe, Vermont is best known for its winter ski season. But a month before snow hits the slopes, a light fog rolls through the hills as the trees change color. What makes Stowe so gorgeous is to see the historic buildings contrasting the changing leaves.
When visiting, enjoy delicious farm-to-table dining, horseback riding, kayaking on the river, and hiking through the hundreds of miles of trails. For a real treat, visit Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge, founded by the von Trapp family, who rose to fame after their story became the basis for The Sound of Music. The Lodge even has its own on-site brewery! If you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate stay, the Topnotch Resort is a great choice, offering heated indoor pools, private tennis lessons, and delicious dining.
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Not only are the Rocky Mountains considered to be a pinnacle of the American West, but they also put on a stunning (and long-lasting) show in autumn. Because the mountains have such a vast difference in elevation, leaf-peepers can arrive as early as late August, when the Aspen trees in the mountain’s high country start to change. Throughout September and October, the lower parts of the mountains begin their seasonal metamorphosis.
On top of the beauty of the trees, there is also a burst of life in the mountains. Animals begin preparing for winter; gathering food, making dens, and finding mates. Most notable is the fall elk migration, where elks wander down from the mountaintops in search of partners. Many visitors like to fly into Denver and then rent a car for an epic mountain road trip.
Adirondacks, New York
In the Adirondacks, small towns lie hidden within a sea of sprawling forests. It’s a destination so special and gorgeous that the Winter Olympics took place there twice, in 1932 and 1980. In fact, many will remember the 1980 Olympics as being where the “Miracle on Ice” took place. Nowadays, visitors can still explore Lake Placid’s Olympic Sites, which are loaded with fun outdoor activities, like hiking and biking in warmer months, and skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating in the winter. They even have a Winter Olympics museum filled with artifacts and memorabilia from Olympics past.
During autumn, the region is known for glowing in hues of deep red and brilliant oranges. In fact, the Adirondacks even has a Foliage Meter to let visitors know when leaves are peaking in color. If you’re looking to make a weekend out of it, stay at the High Peaks Resort, where you can rent kayaks and paddleboats, and dine at their gorgeous outdoor restaurant The Deck, famous for their Sunday brunches. Open throughout autumn, The Deck is warmed by heaters and lets you dine surrounded by the beauty of fall (also, the restaurant’s maple syrup is locally harvested and crafted, so be sure to order the waffles!)
The Grand Tetons
Looking for something so incredibly beautiful, you’d think you were standing in the middle of a Thomas Kinkade painting? Then a visit to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park needs to be on your list. It’s regarded by many as being one of America’s most stunning national parks, filled with jagged mountaintops and rolling meadows.
In autumn, bison and Pronghorn sheep gather in large groups to begin their southward migration; the park’s aspen, cottonwood, and willow trees turn colors of amber and tangerine; the days get shorter, allowing for spectacular stargazing in the evening; and bears are out hunting for food to sustain their winter hibernation (Did you know that during autumn, bears consume almost 20,000 calories a day!) The Tetons are truly a place like no other and will set anyone’s wild heart free.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
For anyone getting a late start on their plans, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is a great option. Because of its southerly location, leaf colors generally don’t peak until the first week of November!
The park is famous for its rambling waterfalls, forested rivers, and historical importance, but it’s probably even more famous for being one of the most popular road trip excursions for leaf-peepers around the world. The region glows not only with colorful trees, but also fantastic fall activities, like pumpkin patches, roadside cider stands, corn mazes, apple orchards, and more. If you’re looking for a full-blown fall experience, the Shenandoah Valley is the place to go.