“Think ‘fall foliage’ and everyone flips the atlas to New England,” says Betsa Marsh, President Elect of the Society of American Travel Writers in our September print issue. But choices abound for viewing autumn’s woodland fireworks in hometowns across the country. “Huge swatches of the Midwest blaze with crimson maples, amber hickories, and purple oaks,” Marsh notes.
Western states also offer spectacular leaf viewing. Peak color, of course, varies by location. Wherever you go, map out your getaway by contacting the U.S. Forest Service Fall Color Hotline (1-800-354-4595, www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors/), or search online for state-specific fall color reports, train rides (traintraveling.com), and other popular activities. Here are 7 of our favorite leaf-viewing destinations. Tell us yours!
1. New Mexico (newmexico.org). Quaking aspens turn a brilliant gold in the mountains, but the season is brief. To catch the best show, stay flexible about travel plans, and head for the region in peak color during your visit. Peak color is in September.
2. Minnesota (exploreminnesota.com). Bright red and orange maples mix with lemon yellow Tamaracks (one of few evergreens that turns color) in the North Shore region of Lake Superior. Peak color is September to mid-October.
3. Vermont (vermontvacation.com). Vermont, of course, is the Big Kahuna of leaf watching. Scarlet red maples and warm orange sugar maples mix with splashes of sunny yellow aspens and bronze oaks, first in the Green Mountains and then into the Champlain and Connecticut River Valleys. Peak color is mid-September to mid-October.
4. Ohio (discoverohio.com, 1-800-282-5393). Buckeye trees (which provide the state’s nickname) and maples flaunt yellows and reds, white ash trees show deep red and purple, and green ashes trees turn vibrant yellow throughout the state for five to six weeks. Peak color is mid-September through October.
5. West Virginia (wvcommerce.org, 1-800-225-5982). Hemlocks provide a dark-green counterpoint to blazing sumacs and maples along The Highland Scenic Byway that runs through the Monongahela National Forest. Peak color is late September through October.
6. California (parks.ca.gov). For one, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (530-335-2777) is home to bright yellow Big Leaf maples and White Alders, orange-to-brown Black Oaks, and vivid red Pacific Dogwoods. Peak color is mid-October through November.
7. Alabama (alabama.travel, 800-252-2262). The Circle of Colors driving tour begins near Birmingham and features yellow poplars, scarlet dogwoods, orange maples, and golden hickories in a dozen locations. Peak color is late October through early November.