(Editor’s note: The lovely fall foliage above was painted by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) and shows the Saco River in Maine, a state Janet recommends below as being one of the great places to visit in autumn.)
At first I thought it was my imagination or a trick of the light.
As early as mid-August, I noticed some red hues beginning to show amidst the dark green leaves in maple trees near our home. As I said, I thought I was imagining things since the leaves don’t typically change around here until late September/early October.
Then our friends went camping in the U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) last weekend and reported that whole trees, not just random leaves, are already changing a full three weeks early.
People in Pennsylvania and New York are also noticing this trend, which seems to have been set off by an unusually cool summer in the Midwest and Northeast. With that in mind, we thought we better hurry up and show you some of our favorite places to view fall foliage in the U.S. before all the leaves drop from the trees!
Fall Foliage: Northeast
You better hurry up — leaves are already turning in parts of Maine. Driving up the Maine coastline, you’ll not only see fantastic color, but quaint seaside towns. Don’t forget to stop and order lobster rolls while you’re there. See more suggestions for your Maine trip here.
Travel and Leisure magazine calls Vermont the “mecca” for serous leaf viewers in the Eastern U.S. Why? One-lane highways and covered bridges wind through valleys and mountains splashed with an autumn rainbow of colors. If you’re lucky, you can attend one of the state’s numerous fall foliage festivals beginning in September.
New York State is not only home to the Big Apple but also the Adirondacks, the largest wilderness region in the Eastern U.S. According to visitadirondacks.com, the six-million acre park offers one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country due to the varied altitude of the terrain.
See more New England driving trips here.
Fall Foliage: Southeast and Mid-Atlantic
Autumn in New England is beautiful, but folks in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. can proudly boast about their color palette too.
The 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway connect The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina (and Tennessee) to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The three places to visit offer campers, bikers, and drivers an annual color explosion.
Stanley Abbott’s incredible parkway was built during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and features stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, valleys, and forests.
If you’ve got some extra time, you could take a leisurely trip through all three, beginning in the Smokey Mountains, where the leaves usually start turning in early October, and end in Shenandoah National Park, where the leaves change a tad later.
Fall Foliage: Midwest
Lake Michigan’s Northeastern shore or “Gold Coast” is simply breathtaking in the fall. Named one of the top fall foliage trips by Travel and Leisure magazine, the 100 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline take you through quaint fishing villages, lookout points, and Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park.
The leaves in northern Wisconsin usually start changing in mid to late September so if you’re in the area, start planning your trip! One way is to begin in Madison or Milwaukee and drive out to Spring Green, where you can see Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Taliesin and then continue to Mineral Point.
Just as Michigan has a gorgeous lake shore drive, so does Minnesota. The North shore of Lake Superior is particularly lovely as the steel blue of the lake contrasts with the bright fall colors. To get more information about visiting this region, click here.
Fall Foliage: West of the Mississippi
Although the western part of the United States isn’t as well known for fall colors, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of places to see autumn’s majesty.
Northern New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle is an 83-mile loop through mountains, valleys, mesa, and national forest. While you’re there, stop by the city of Taos, where there’s plenty to do and see. In a typical year, the “leaf peak” is early to mid October. For the current leaf report, click here.
Visit the Mammoth Lake area in California’s Eastern Sierra Mountain Range to see the vibrant contrast between bright blue sky, granite gray mountains, golden aspens and green pine. It’s a camper’s paradise though you can drive through the area as well.
If you’re going to be in Seattle, you might as well meander north for a 350 mile loop around the Olympic Peninsula, where you’ll see everything from elk to quaint Victorian homes. Here’s an online guide to Olympic National Park to help you plan your journey.
Although fall means an end to summer, I have to admit I’m excited to see the spectacular rainbow of colors coming soon. When you have fall pictures, post them on our Bombay Outdoors Facebook page and visit our Bombay Outdoors Instagram page for all our Fan Foto Favorites!