09/03/2014 02:10 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2014

America's Best Towns for Fall Colors (PHOTOS)

"Since I was a child my family has made an almost weekly trip to have lunch in Skaneateles," says Rachel Dickinson, based in the nearby New York State town of Ithaca and author of Falconer on the Edge. "If you're lucky, you can get a table at the Sherwood Inn, where you look out on the small park with the white gazebo that fronts the lake."

As the weather turns crisp and the days gradually shorten, nature takes its cue to bring on the color -- and the leaf-peepers come out in force. Like Dickinson, many head to Skaneateles, one of the best towns for experiencing fall colors, according to Travel + Leisure readers who voted in the America's Favorite Towns survey.

The top-scoring towns represent the full color spectrum, from the blazing scarlet, orange, and deep purples of New England's hardwoods to the golden carpet of aspens covering the Rocky Mountains.

"Autumn leaves are nature's stained glass," says professional photographer Michael Clemmer, whose images have appeared in National Geographic Society publications, and calendars around the world. "They can be beautiful in moody muted light or when brightly lighted from behind."

If you want to photograph autumn in all of its deciduous glory, he cautions: "Don't shoot in the middle of the day unless it's cloudy because the bright sun washes out color. Morning and evening light are best."

Clemmer's No. 1 rule? "Don't let taking photos keep you from enjoying the scenery." Check out these favorite fall-foliage towns, from Colorado to Vermont, and then get out there to see the colors for yourself.

America's Best Towns for Fall Colors

--Deb Hopewell

See All of America's Best Towns for Fall Colors

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