Fall, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways!
Cooler temperatures allow us to give our fans a rest and leave the windows open for days on end, grocery stores are chock full of earthy-flavored everything (plus, sweets season is upon us!), and the word “pumpkin” becomes temporarily embedded in our day-to-day vocabulary.
Perhaps the best part? The phenomenon that is autumn foliage.
If you’ve ever been hypnotized by the changing hues on your favorite trees, you know what we’re talking about. But how and why does it happen?
Every tree has its own story, but generally the leaves will shift colors because of changes in the duration of daylight and temperature, which causes leaves to stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll (that’s what gives leaves their vibrant green hue) breaks down, and we’re left with all those glorious yellows, oranges, and reds.
In the spirit of autumnal excitement, here are some of the prettiest destinations you can visit to fully embrace the gorgeous natural wonders the fall season has to offer.
When you think of fall foliage in the U.S., you most likely think of the northern or eastern states, which are lucky enough to boast true, full seasons and colder weather. However, Arkansas is home to a southern forest that bursts with autumnal life. The Ozark National Forest offers more than 1 million acres of sublime views, with October being the best time of the season to witness the fall hues that pour over the mountains, valleys, and springs.
From September through November (with October--again--being the peak time), Shenandoah National Park is adorned with red, yellow, and orange leaves. If you’re the active type, this park has many trails for walking, jogging, or running.
If you’re just here for the foliage, Skyline Drive offers 105 miles of accessibility with 70 overlooks so you can stop and gaze at the gorgeous colors that blanket the Shenandoah Valley. Once you’ve experienced a full morning or afternoon of sightseeing, you can dine at the park and still admire the foliage that’s all around.
Colorado is known for its robust greens and herculean mountains. But Colorado also has a softness when fall arrives and the colors change. Stroll along one of the many trails Aspen has to offer and make your way to Cathedral Lake, which is painted with gold leaves and boasts an awe inspiring view of the mountains and waterfalls that make up the high alpine valley. Additional trails include Smuggler Mountain Overlook, Crater Lake, East of Aspen Trail, and Aspen Mountain.
The Great Smoky Mountains put on quite a show, especially in the fall. What’s shocking is that this was a secret for a long, long time. Most people looking for fall foliage flocked to the east, but this subrange of the Appalachian Mountains has more than 100 native trees, all brimming with an array of autumnal colors.
The Pine Creek Gorge is known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, so you know the views are more than just “good.” The 47-mile canyon offers dozens of parks and trails that are jam-packed with trees and their wondrous hues. Leonard Harrison State Park is the perfect place to start, offering breathtaking views and the mile-long Turkey Path, which is dotted with calming waterfalls.
If you find yourself on the opposite side of Leonard Harrison and on the west rim, make sure to explore Colton Point State Park, which has its own waterfalls, trails, and fall foliage to brag about.
We’re taking you to the west coast for a glimpse at some beautiful (and unexpected) fall foliage. Deemed one of the most stunning hikes in the Northern Cascades, Maple Pass presents a gorgeous display of fall colors to go with its stellar mountain and lake views.
Perhaps saving the best for last, we do travel east: Upstate is notorious for its surplus of gorgeous trees, riddled with fall colors. This park is no different. The Taughannock Falls State Park is a 750-acre state park located in Ulysses. Walking along the trails, we can assure you--you’re going to be overwhelmed by dazzling fall trees and waterfalls.