Come autumn, all eyes turn toward New England for its explosion of fall color. But for a more original perspective, you’ll want to turn your leaf-peeping eyes to some of America’s other gorgeous fall destinations that also serve up spectacular palettes of color. Here are some of our favorite spots across the US to take in fall’s brilliant color show.
Let’s start on the East Coast, but farther south. Maryland sports solid colors, especially in the western panhandle of the state. Since Garrett County boasts the state’s highest elevation, it’s one of the first places in the Mid-Atlantic where leaves start doing their fall thing. Aside from being dazed by nature, visitors can also attend the Autumn Glory Festival in Oakland. It celebrates the season with activities ranging from fiddle and quilt competitions to a monster-sized parade.
The Kettle Moraine region of Wisconsin, created by colliding glaciers, dates back to the Ice Age. Today, it’s one of the coolest places to explore fall colors in the Midwest. The Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive traverses six Wisconsin counties and displays a riot of color thanks to cascades of maple, aspen and oak leaves. South of the Wisconsin border, the Illinois River National Scenic Byway encompasses prime leaf viewing. The drive includes a National Wildlife Refuge, a ride on a boat drawn by mules and the Starved Rock State Park in Utica. Fall colors at Starved Rock are set amidst sandstone canyons, waterfalls and abundant flora. During leaf season, free guided hikes focus on the changing hues.
Moving south to the country’s midsection, the Ozark Mountains are at their scenic height come autumn. Prime spots for checking out the splendor are Lake of the Ozarks State Park in Missouri (yes, technically still the Midwest) and the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop in Arkansas. The latter traverses small towns, tree-covered canyons and stunning mountain passes.
You’ll find some of the best fall foliage in the Southwest along New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. Located in the northern part of the state, it’s an 83-mile loop starting in Taos. The route takes in Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point, measuring in at 13,161 feet. Aside from the gold and orange aspen leaves and the red and gold cottonwood leaves, sharp-eyed peepers may even spot a bit of wildlife. Be on the lookout for elk, eagles and even bears. Oh, my.
No, we’re not dreamin’. California also provides brilliant golden views during autumn. The Eastern Sierra is rife with blazing colors in the fall. Need to narrow down the focus? Photographers will go nuts shooting the colorful trees and mountain peaks reflected in the pristine waters of Little Lakes Valley located in Rock Creek Canyon.
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