The temperature is starting to drop in the US, which means deciduous trees all over the country are getting ready to transform into a red, gold, yellow and orange extravaganza. Here’s our pick of the best places across the United States, from Tennessee to Vermont, to see the best fall foliage as we herald the new change in seasons.
1. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
The 17,000 acres that make up the Lake of Ozarks State Park delight visitors with a range of lakeside hiking, cycling, horse riding, walking and camping activities, and come October, the park turns into a photographer’s dream too. As the summer crowds of this popular Missouri holiday getaway start to disappear, the summer green foliage transforms into a fiery fall display. Admire the leaves from a walking trail, or better still, take to the water in a yacht and enjoy the tranquility from the lake. You can also enjoy the fall foliage from one of the many wineries in the region, or pop by the nearby Mark Twain cave complex.
Best time to go: Late October, when the leaves are putting on their best display of vibrant golds and reds.
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2. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee
Straddling the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, it’s no surprise that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of North America’s most visited, thanks to the lavish fall display that transforms the park into spectacular hues of purple, red, gold, orange and scarlet. Known for its diversity of plants and wildlife, and with more than 800 miles of walking tracks and winding, scenic roads, you’ll have a great vantage point of the fall colours whether you decide to walk or drive through the park. For something extra special, try to catch a sunset or sunrise; the warm light gives a magical golden glow to the autumnal colours.
Best time to go: Between the first week of October and the first week of November is when the fall foliage is at its best here.
3. Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
You can’t really go wrong in New England for beautiful fall colours, but the drive along the Green Mountain Byway in Vermont puts on one of the most stunning displays in the region. You’ll find lovely beech, maple and birch trees along this scenic road, which takes you all the way to the quaint town of Stowe – another top pick for autumnal beauty (see below). So it’s a two-for-one with this gorgeous drive for great fall viewing.
Best time to go: The first week of October is when this fall display is most impressive.
Most popular airport: Burlington International Airport
4. Stowe, Vermont
While Stowe might be famous for its ski resort, visitors flock here during the fall months too, thanks to the gorgeous display of colour that takes over the quaint town. Brilliantly coloured leaves adorn the trees making it the perfect place to simply stroll around and take it all in.
If you want a truly spectacular view of the fall colours though, get up early and take to the skies a hot air balloon for a stunning bird’s-eye view of the magic carpet of colour. It can get a bit chilly here and the days can be brisk, so don’t forget to pack your coat.
Best time to go: Early September through to mid-October.
Most popular airport: Burlington International Airport
5. Aspen, Colorado
When a town is named after a type of tree, you’d hope that tree would have a decent fall display. Luckily, aspen trees turn a brilliant yellow during the fall months, so the town of Aspen in Colorado turns into a shimmering, golden wonderland come September. Couple this with sparkling blue skies and days full of sunshine, and you’ve got one of the best destinations for fall foliage.
Better still, the busy ski season (and the resulting hordes of people) is still months away, so you’ll be able to enjoy the golden display without the Aspen winter crowds. Embark on one of the many outdoor activities on offer (there are plenty of hiking trails) or simply walk around town and take in the beauty.
Best time to go: The last two weeks of September are when the leaves are at their shimmering, golden best.
Most popular airport: Denver International Airport
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6. Brooklyn, New York
Proof that you don’t need to go on a huge drive into the countryside to enjoy gorgeous fall foliage, New York’s Brooklyn rewards those who venture across the bridge with its fall display at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. The park covers 52 acres, which are filled with themed gardens, pavilions and exotic blooms, not to mention stunning fall colours.
Of course, if you’re in New York in the fall, you can’t not visit Central Park in all its changing-seasons glory, the earthy colours creating a stark contrast against the surrounding skyscrapers. For big city fall beauty, New York certainly delivers.
Best time to go: The last two weeks of October are prime fall foliage viewing in New York.
Most popular airport: John F Kennedy International Airport
7. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The Columbia River Gorge might be home to more than 50 waterfalls, but it’s the stunning fall colours that make this gorge –straddled between Oregon and Washington – especially beautiful. Pack your activewear and enjoy the autumnal colours on a hike, kayak trip or bike ride through the 80 mile gorge, or simply wander through with your camera for an epic backdrop colour framing the cascading waterfalls; pine, maple, Oregon Ash and fir trees, just to name a few, will be ablaze in bronze and orange hues, a delightful contrast to the blue of the waterfalls.
Best time to go: October and November.
Most popular airport: Portland International Airport
8. Bar Harbor, Maine
Back in New England, Bar Harbor, located on Mount Desert Island, Maine, combines beautiful fall foliage with salty seaside air, given its proximity to the coast. Visitors flock here, and for good reason; the kaleidoscope of colour that makes up its fall foliage is easily some of the best in the country. Bursts of oranges and reds explode from the surrounding greens, reflecting on the water, so don’t forget to pack your camera for an epic reflection shot!
Plus, Bar Harbor’s close proximity to Acadia National Park means there’s a plethora of activities on offer in addition to leaf peeping, including whale watching, bird watching, kayaking and hiking.
Best time to go: Last three weeks of October.
Popular airport: Bangor International Airport
9.The Connecticut Wine Trail
Fall beauty combined with a locally produced glass of wine? We’ll cheers to that. Wind through some of the most picturesque towns in Connecticut, stopping off at local vineyards to sample their produce, all while enjoying the gorgeous fall colours decorating the region.
The trail is made up of 24 local wineries, each with a cellar door where you can taste their wine. You can find out more about the Connecticut Wine Trail on their website.
Best time to go: September through to November.
Popular airport: Bradley International Airport
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