VACATION IDEAS: FALL FOLIAGE
12 Best Places to See Fall Colors
It's that time of year again. We're deep in the heart of leaf-peeping season and the leaves, they are a-changin'. Whether you're a fall foliage fanatic or just in the mood for a scenic drive—or train ride—through the fabulous fall scenery, you won't want to miss these great seasonal spots.
One of our favorite places to write about is Door County, a bucolic peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay not only known for its lakes, art, and cherries, but also as a fall foliage viewing destination. Be sure to check the Fall Color Report for the latest leaf-peeping updates. Embrace changing seasons with any number of available outdoor activities ranging from cruises on the lake, horse-drawn wagon rides around town, to even a scenic airplane ride over the area, or stick to golfing, sailing, fishing, horseback riding, sightseeing, and hunting for that perfect antique souvenir to bring back home. The best part about visiting Door County this time of year: all the roadside stands and farmers' markets selling fresh, hot apple cider among other farm fresh produce and wines from local vineyards.
Located about an hour and 45 minutes outside of San Antonio near the town of Vanderpool is Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of best spots for fall foliage in all of the Lone Star State. Spend some time admiring the colors of nature during a fall hike, camping trip, bird watching adventure or treat yourself to a fall picnic in the park. In this part of the country, the leaves tend to change color closer to early-to-mid-November, so there's still plenty of time to get in on the action—check the Fall Foliage Report, updated weekly from October thru November, just in case. Keep an eye out for vibrant red, orange, and golden colored leaves near Daingerfield, Martin Creek, Lake Bob Sandlin, and Martin Dies Jr. State Park in East Texas, known for its oaks, elms, and sweetgums. You'll also find golden and bright yellow cottonwoods throughout Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon State Park, as well as rusty-colored leaves that contrast with a swampy, Spanish moss-covered Caddo Lake State Park.
In the greater Portland and Columbia River area, fall foliage is served up with a side of waterfalls, majestic gardens, dramatic river gorges, and no shortage of local wineries. Take a drive down the scenic Columbia River Highway for views of 900-foot tall cliffs and steep flowing waterfalls overlooking the vast valley. Fall colors can be seen throughout the vineyards of Willamette Valley, where grape vines light up in a variety of reds and yellows. Visit the Portland Japanese Garden, located in Portland's west hills above the Rose Garden in Washington Park, for the ultimate color contrast between deep green colors and fall foliage highlights. Hiking enthusiasts can also mak the 1.2-mile, 600-foot ascent to Multnomah Falls for stunning views of the valley below.
This has been an interesting year for Yosemite; its fires finally put out only to be shut down on its 123rd birthday because of the current situation in D.C. Normally, this would be a wonderful place to celebrate fall within the popular National Park, an ideal time of year to visit without having to worry too much about crowds and high hotel prices. Definitely put this on your list of places to visit when the government gets its act together and re-opens our National Parks—until then, please check this website for park updates. As of right now, Yosemite National Park is closed for recreational purposes, however you are allowed to drive through the park as long as you tell the Park Ranger your final destination. Luckily, for California visitors, there are other ways to catch a glimpse of those gorgeous fall colors: Mono County, in California's Eastern Sierra region, is known for its colorful mix of evergreens, big-leaf maples, Pacific dogwoods, black oaks, and other trees that usually reach their peak colors in mid-to-late October.
Editor's Note: Unfortunately, while this article was being written, parts of South Dakota and Wyoming were hit by Winter Storm Atlas, an early-season blizzard that covered much of the state in more than 30 inches of snow. Normally, this is a wonderful time of year to take a fall road trip through the Badlands and Black Hills region in South Dakota's southwestern corner, so definitely keep these tips in mind for future trips. Each year the area is draped in color, from the yellow Aspens, elm, ash, and oak trees, to the bright reds of the sumac and maple trees. It's easy to work these scenic drives in as a way of traveling between sites and cities—one of the most scenic, Iron Mountain Road, is a 17-mile road that winds its way through the Black Hills between Mount Rushmore (currently closed due to the shutdown) and Custer State Park, both of which are definitely worth visiting in their own rite. Drive the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, another twisting mountain road that features six rock tunnels and views of the area's mighty Aspens. Hiking and biking enthusiasts can enjoy the 109-mile long Mickelson Trail that runs through the Black Hills with 15 trailheads to choose from. The Spearfish Canyon State & National Forest Service Scenic Byway is also worth a look, as it offers beautiful forest views and all the colors of its spruce, aspen, pine, oak, and birch trees as it winds its way along the Canyon's limestone cliffs.