How to Plan a Fall Foliage Trip

Tips to Help You Choose the Right Leaf-Peeping Destination

Crisp air, comfy sweaters, and pumpkin-flavored everything. There are plenty of reasons to love fall, yet none quite compare to the incredible spectacle mother nature provides at this time of year. Autumn’s singular scenery gives you a great excuse to go on vacation–but if you really want to see the best foliage that fall has to offer, you’ll need to plan your trip wisely. The tips below will help you get the most out of your autumnal USA holiday.

Consider Less-Known Destinations

Fall Foliage Central Park New York City – Bow Bridge November 2014 by: Anthony Quintano (CC)

New England boasts a well-deserved reputation for some of the most spectacular fall displays in the world. However, its famed foliage means this corner of the country gets very busy from September to November, with flights and accommodations booked up well in advance. Explosions of color can be found across the width and breadth of America, so if you want to avoid the crowds, consider steering clear of the northeast. North Carolina, California, and Colorado make great alternatives to the Yankee states, among others. Even New Mexico, an area generally associated with great swathes of desert, puts on a beautiful autumn show. The Land of Enchantment’s Enchanted Circle Drive is considered one of the Southwest’s premier fall foliage trips.

Time It Wisely

Untitled by tpsdave (CC)
Untitled by: tpsdave (CC)

The leaves of your hometown may have already transitioned to vibrant orange hues, but that doesn’t mean it will be the case all over the country. It’s important to bear in mind that fall begins in the north and spreads slowly south, and also that higher elevations tend to peak before lower ones. While September might be a great time for a fall foliage trip in Minnesota, you may want to wait until November to plan your holiday in Georgia. You can find several prediction maps on the Internet, which use weather forecasts and historical data to judge when the colors will be at their most vivid across the country. Try the maps provided by the Travel Channel or to help choose your dates.

Get Active

Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours by Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau (CC)
Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours by Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau (CC)

Leaf peeping is lots of fun, but you’ll want to plan some other activities to keep things interesting on your fall foliage trip. The gorgeous scenery can serve as a great backdrop for hiking, biking, kayaking, and much more. Look into the activities available at your holiday destination in advance and begin to plan how you might spend your days. Vacations are a great opportunity to try something new, so consider testing your skills at archery, golf, or clay pigeon shooting. Those traveling with kids might want to swing by a zipline center, such as Navitat Canopy Adventures or Alpine Adventures Outdoor Recreation, where you and your little ones can get up close to the colorful leaves.

Less sporty fall aficionados may find cities to be a more suitable holiday destination, where you can intersperse photographing parks with visits to museums, galleries, and stores. Cities with easy access to the great outdoors, such as Portland, Maine, Burlington, Vermont, and Seattle, Washington, make ideal bases for more varied autumnal getaways. Even New York City’s parks burst into an impressive array of colors this time of year.

Fall in Love with Fall

Fall Mountain, WV USA by Jarek Tuszynski (CC)
Fall Mountain, WV USA by: Jarek Tuszynski (CC)

There are few better ways to experience fall than to visit somewhere new and take in the natural beauty of this glorious season. By carefully considering where and when you want to go and what you want to do on your fall foliage trip, you can craft an itinerary that guarantees crunchy leaves, crisp weather, and stunning autumn scenery are the mainstays of your travels.