We're hopping in cars, mounting bikes and clambering aboard tour busses. One way or another, this is the season for "leaf-peeping." Luckily, New England doesn't have a monopoly on this impressive annual show, so, hit the road to check out a dozen of the best across the U.S.!
Come to see the spectacular foliage of Maine's largest lake, Moosehead. Feeling adventurous? Start by white-water rafting at The Forks, then to Jackman, deep in the North Woods. At the Attean Overlook, there's a fabulous view of the Moose River Valley. Spend the night in Greenville and you'll drive beneath spectacular tree canopies on unpaved logging roads.
Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, doesn't take a back-seat to either lakes or foliage, for that matter. Travel to St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and paddlewheel your way amid hardwood forests and high bluffs. The Twin Cities, as well, offer unique views of the urban jungle.
A dazzling palette of fall colors is found in New York, in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park. Start in Lake Placid and travel northeast along the cliffs of the Au Sable River to view sugar maples and yellow birches. Don't miss Lake Placid's Flaming Leaf Festival on October 9, and, if possible, overnight at the very special Lake Placid Lodge.
The Appalachian Fall Foliage Tour in Ohio has become a serious contender for honors as one of the very best spots for leaf-spotting. This particular tour wins big on scenery and things to do, too. The 56-mile drive travels from Marietta and ends in Glouster, covering some of the same route as the Ohio River Scenic Byway.
Not surprisingly, the Golden State, California, erupts in color, especially along the Feather River Scenic Byway. The tour begins in the Sacramento Valley and travels through the Sierra Nevadas, ending in the Great Basin. Along the way you'll encounter traces of railroad and gold mine memorabilia, along with forests, desert terrain and waterfalls.
The very first scenic drive in the U.S. to receive National Historic Landmark status, the Columbia River Highway in Oregon was built in 1913 to emphasize the natural beauty of the area. It winds up 900-foot cliffs where one overlooks the river and valley below. Visitors will come upon vividly-colored wildflowers and dramatic gorges interspersed with the fiery colors of fall.
New England is synonymous with fall foliage, and my bet is that Vermont's Route 100, with its heart-stopping array of autumnal colors nestled in storybook villages on rambling hillsides, is one of the reasons. The drive starts at the Canadian border and travels south, cutting through mountains and descending into valleys with ubiquitous white church steeples jutting above gold, bronze and red trees.
There's more to Arizona than the foliage of its glorious golden aspens. For a somewhat more colorful display, head to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum outside of Phoenix whose spectacular show of yellow-leaved sycamores to fiery-red pistachio trees will last right through the holidays.
Weave your way on the Peter Norbeck Byway through the Black Hills of South Dakota, passing granite cliffs and going over spiral bridges. Here you can visit the monumental Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but this Byway doesn't stop there. A few miles down the pike is the gargantuan sculptural project that will be the largest in the world, that of Chief Crazy Horse. This route is popular during autumn when these structures are highlighted by a festive fall backdrop.
Since 1934, drivers have enjoyed Connecticut's Merritt Parkway Route 15 for its lush greenery in the summer and breathtaking colors during the fall. Drive up this historic highway, named a National Scenic Byway, and discover the area's charming farm towns, rich culture and exciting metropolitan centers. Begin in Greenwich and take the Round Hill Road exit to the Audubon Center. Explore the 295-acre sanctuary with seven miles of trails to enjoy the flora and fauna. Back on the Merritt, take exit 35 and stop by the Bartlett Arboretum, the perfect spot for fall foliage, featuring 91 acres of trails, award-winning trees, gardens and greenhouses.
During autumn, Colorado's landscape turns into a tapestry of hues. One of the best places to see this transformation is from the world's largest flat-top mountain. You reach it by taking the 63-mile Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, passing lakes, fields of wildflowers, narrow canyons and dense forests.
A leaf-gazing delight is the Hayward Lakes region of Wisconsin, very popular because one can choose from six self-guided color tours highlighting the important spots for fall foliage. Throughout the tours are interesting stops but the real headliner is the transformation of maples, oaks, sumacs, tamaracks and aspens that cover the region.
Endless opportunities abound for driving, hiking, rafting and picnicking among the rich colors of fall. Happy trails!