Best places for leaf peeping
It’s time for the big fall showcase: the colorful changing of the leaves.
Some travelers plan autumn vacations explicitly around leaf-peeping, whereas others arrange shorter road trips to visit the most scenic highways in their regions.
The leaves generally start changing colors late September to mid-October, but many factors contribute to the timing and it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly. Higher elevations tend to change earlier, and the weather (wind, temperatures) also plays into the formula.
Whether you’re looking to book tickets or looking for inspiration for a day trip, here are some of the nation’s best locations for leaf-peeping.
1. Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park:
Head out on the scenic Skyline Drive into the park to see trees up and down the hills and valley. The change in elevation may mean a colorful mix-up of trees in different phases of the transformation. The varying elevations also mean a wider time window to visit the park. So if your schedule requires a little more flexibility and you’re looking for a lengthy scenic road with show-stopping colors, this national park is easily a top pick.
2. The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts:
Leaf-viewing is so popular on Route 2 that you can expect scenic road traffic jams. There’s a reason so many people flock to this New England destination, though. The Berkshire mountains seem to glow like a warm-colored rainbow in October.
If the traffic gets to you, pause for a break in one of the many scenic pull-offs and have a picnic. A must-pack for any road trip is a mini cooler in the back seat of your car. Fill it with cold beverages and healthy snacks, so you don’t find yourself in the middle of the mountains with a grumbling stomach.
A small, 16-quart cooler won’t take up too much space and sacrifice your comfort, but it can preserve perishables to make your road trip more enjoyable. We love the Coleman 16-quart Personal Wheeled Blue Cooler for $17.26 from Walmart.com.
3. The Ozarks
The Ozarks, with diverse topography packed with trees, are one of the best places to peep leaves. Take Arkansas’ first designated scenic byway, Scenic 7, into the forest-filled hills for a natural getaway, Mother Nature’s own personal fireworks display.
4. Rocky Mountains
Visit the Colorado mountains and take in the brilliant transformation of the Aspen. Late September is usually best and timing is everything – these spectacular colors only last about a week. There are plenty of scenic routes and by-ways to take including peak-to-peak scenic and historic byway, Guanella pass, and of course, Rocky Mountain National Park.