By Lindsay Seventko, American Forests
Fall is finally here! To celebrate, here are the best fall foliage views from across the country. Whether you’re looking to experience a remote vista or an urban forest that brings the rainbow of autumn colors to your city’s center, here are the forests best experienced during fall’s beautiful transformation.
Blue Ridge Parkway — North Carolina to Virginia
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an iconic drive any time of year, but during mid- to late-October is the ideal time to visit, with vista after breathtaking vista of mountainsides and valleys flush in a canvas of bright red, orange and yellow foliage. Instead of picking a single destination on the parkway, aim to drive a large section at a time. The varied terrain and elevation will show you a variety of predominant colors and forest composition.
Kebler Pass — Colorado
Kebler Pass is a rough mountain road at an elevation of 10,000 feet, making it a uniquely remote way to experience Colorado. Traversing this high in elevation offers breathtaking looks at the quaking yellow aspen, nearby rugged mountaintops and diverse high elevation wildlife. Make sure you plan your trip in the beginning of the season — at high elevation, leaves change colors quickly and the road will be completely closed once winter hits.
Note: Kebler Pass is currently closed until October 14, 2016.
Mohawk Trail — Massachusetts
New England is famous for picturesque fall colors, and the best way to take in plenty of seasonal scenery at once is on the historic Mohawk Trail route. Once a Native American footpath, the road is now a scenic route that winds among quaint, historic Massachusetts towns up to overlooks of the Berkshire Mountains, driving over tumbling streams and under crimson foliage. The tallest tree in New England can be found along the trail (at an undisclosed location for protective reasons), but the forests are dotted with stands of old-growth maples, birch, pine, beech and ash.
Stowe — Vermont
This small town in Vermont is a popular skiing and snowboarding destination, but one of the best times to visit is months earlier to witness the breathtaking fall foliage. With beautiful hiking nearby, artisanal shops, local galleries, farm-to-table food and local microbreweries, the town is a great place to explore for a day trip or weekend getaway in autumn.
Lundy Lake — California
Fall foliage in southern California? Yes, it exists! At the tip of the Sierras, Lundy Lake in lined with seasonal forests that turn into brilliant shades of yellow and red in the height of autumn. The lake offers plenty of trails to explore the area by foot, as well as campgrounds and marinas to explore, fish and relax.
Lost Maples State Natural Area — Texas
More than 2,000 acres of Apache and Comanche Native American territory are preserved along the Sabinal River in Texas. Home to huge, rare stands of Uvalde bigtooth maple, the area turns into breathtaking swatches of crimson during the last two weeks of October and the first two weeks of November. The varied terrain of limestone canyons, grasslands and forest provides a wealth of wildlife to view from bats to coyotes, and is a bird watcher’s paradise.
Lake of the Clouds Overlook — Michigan
An extensive boardwalk area leads the way to this breathtaking overlook, making it easily and safely accessible from the road, but a network of trails winds around four lakes and waterfalls to the overlook point to satisfy the ambitious hiker. Up to 388 species of birds can be spotted in the area, including the hermit thrush and bald eagle. The mountainous area is also home to the largest old-growth hardwood stands west of the Adirondacks in New York, which turn into brilliant, massive arrays of fall foliage in the autumn months.
Boston Public Garden — Massachusetts
There’s no need to venture out into the backcountry to find beautiful fall foliage — many urban forests display breathtaking autumn transformations right within the heart of the city. For example, Boston’s public garden, the first public botanical garden in the United States, transforms during fall into rich swaths of vibrant autumn color, from the towering treetops to the ornamental bushes. Walk on leaf-carpeted pathways, and over Impressionist style bridges, and appreciate the extraordinary fall colors right in the heart of an urban center.
Multnomah Falls — Oregon
Watch Multnomah Falls drop out of the mountainside and fall 611 feet to the pool below from a beautifully designed overlook bridge. According to legend, the waterfall was created to win the heart of a princess who wanted a private bathing pool, and it’s easy to see why that location was chosen. Giant towering trees surround the falls and provide a rich canopy of color during the fall months. Uniquely fed by an underground spring, the falls don’t dry up in late summer and early autumn, like many other falls in the area. Trails crisscross the steep mountainside up to the top of the falls and beyond, offering a challenging hike through the array of fall foliage.
Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway — Georgia
Winding through the Chattahoochee National Forest, this scenic byway offers endless vistas of mountainsides and valleys painted in fall colors. Access to the Appalachian Trail, beautiful waterfalls and plentiful trout fishing streams offer perfect places to stop and take in the autumnal colors on foot.