Colorful leaves add even more visual interest to these incredible locales.
More than a quarter of Americans traveling between Labor Day and Thanksgiving seek out fall foliage, according to a 2017 AAA survey. While driving gives you the freedom to explore, spending the weekend stuck behind a line of vehicles on the best-known routes is a major nuisance. Instead, travel midweek or to an off-the-beaten-path destination. No matter which of these 30 special spots you choose, you’re bound to find gorgeous autumn scenery.
Molly Stark Byway: Vermont
With roughly 75 percent forest cover, weekly fall festivals and more maple trees than any other state in the country, Vermont could easily be considered America’s harvest capital. Many rural routes show off Vermont’s rainbow of leaves, but the Molly Stark Byway is a traveler favorite. It links historic Bennington to artsy Brattleboro and passes by multiple postcard-worthy towns, quaint museums, crafts boutiques and hiking trails – all while offering 100-mile views from Hogback Mountain.
Kyoto Botanical Garden: Kyoto, Japan
Japan is renowned for its simply designed gardens, which use natural materials such as sand and stone to accentuate the beauty of their plants. In early November, locals head outdoors for momijigari (or “red leaf hunting” in Japanese). Visitors can spot stunning fall foliage in temple gardens and around Kyoto’s hills. Travelers especially love admiring the changing leaves on the hydrangea shrubs and cherry and maple trees, among other plant varieties, at the Kyoto Botanical Garden.
Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway: Arkansas
The vineyards, lakes and changing leaves of northwestern Arkansas are best appreciated along the 35-mile Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway. This picturesque thoroughfare winds through the Boston Mountain range and across several waterways, including the Buffalo National River. From late September to early November, hikers and motorcyclists flock to the area to trek the Ozark Highlands Trail, which winds through sweet gum, hickory, sassafras, maple and oak groves in the Ozark National Forest.
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park: Buckhorn, Kentucky
The 1,200-acre Buckhorn Lake is the centerpiece of this eastern Kentucky park. In autumn, the redbuds, dogwoods and other tree species that cover the rolling hills around the lake begin to turn shades of orange. With patience, you might see elk or eagles or catch some largemouth bass or channel catfish. Other available park activities include hiking, mini-golf, boating and bicycling. For accommodations, consider staying at the on-site lodge. This wood and sandstone structure has 36 rooms, several of which boast lake-facing balconies or patios.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Located just north of Michigan across the U.S.-Canada border, Sault Ste. Marie is a good base for visiting three of northern Ontario’s provincial parks: Pancake Bay, Batchawana Bay and Lake Superior. Each features deciduous forests, lakes, rivers and granite rock formations. To see some of the country’s most colorful leaves, take a ride on the narrated Agawa Canyon Tour Train between mid-September and the first week of October.
Washington Crossing Historic Park: Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania
From mid- to late October, history buffs can appreciate the changing leaves at Washington Crossing Historic Park – where Gen. George Washington crossed the Delaware River to get from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in 1776. On a clear day, leaf peepers should check out the 125-foot-tall Bowman’s Hill Tower. Situated less than 3 miles south of New Hope, this attraction offers top-notch views of Bucks County and its 28,300 trees. In autumn, the park hosts a colonial encampment and market event where period-inspired items are sold.
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness: Winkelman, Arizona
One of America’s last areas to experience changing leaves each fall is the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. Peak foliage viewing takes place from late November to mid-December, giving hikers breathtaking vistas as they traverse unmarked trails, one of which stretches more than 12 miles long. Along the way, hikers and photographers may see ringtail cats, javelinas (which look like wild pigs), coatis (tree-climbing mammals related to raccoons), bighorn sheep and various birds, as well as Saguaro cactuses surrounded by colorful sycamore, ash, cottonwood and willow trees.
Hamilton County, Indiana
Indiana’s Conner Prairie interactive history park has a tethered balloon ride for all ages that takes fall foliage viewing to the next level. The popular experience – one of many park activities commemorating the historic 1859 launch of the “Jupiter” hot air balloon – lifts visitors 350 feet above the ground. Enjoy views of woodlands, the White River, Hamilton County’s historic prairie and the Indianapolis skyline. Conner Prairie operates 10- to 15-minute balloon rides through late October.
Emerald Necklace Trail: Boston
Leaf peepers love Boston in the fall. The city has lots of activities for visitors, and it scores highly on Treepedia’s Green View Index (a ranking of cities with ample tree canopy coverage). Local bike shop and tour operator UrbanAdventours runs a half-day, environmentally friendly guided bike excursion of the Emerald Necklace, a historic system of parks designed by American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Stops on this fall outing – which is best experienced between mid-October and early November – include tree-shaded Commonwealth Avenue, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, the Charles River Esplanade and Jamaica Pond.
Amsterdam Forest: Amsterdam
Nearly 21 percent of Amsterdam is shaded by greenery, and canals and harbors cover roughly 25 percent of the city’s surface. One of the top places to admire the contrasting colors of fall leaves is Amsterdam Forest (or “Amsterdamse Bos” in Dutch), a man-made park with both forest and water. It is easy to reach by public transportation, and visitors can take in their surroundings while walking, biking, horseback riding or canoeing on the park’s canals to Grote Vijver Lake.