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17 Places to See Autumn Leaves Before They Fall

Oct. 15, 2018
8 min read
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Fall foliage-philes, take note. While we're just a few weeks into the season of cider donuts and painted gourds, the leaves are already turning at a rapid rate. In the forests of the Northeast, for example, the foliage is already reaching its peak. So if you have any plans of snapping gorgeous photos of the blazing trees, you'll have to act fast.

Based on a 2018 fall foliage prediction map, we've compiled an official guide on how you can best chase the autumnal leafage. Grab your favorite pumpkin spice-flavored treat, a light jacket and get ready to hit the road.

Week 1

Travelers looking for some kaleidoscopic leaves well, right now (Oct. 15 to Oct. 21) can head to central New York, northern Utah, Wyoming, sections of Vermont, New Hampshire — especially the White Mountains — and Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, where leaves have partially turned. Below, three of our favorite destinations to experience fall this week:

Utah Snowbasin in Ogden Valley, Utah

Head to Utah's Snowbasin Resort: a popular place to experience the Ogden Valley's brilliant, early-turning foliage. The resort also offer gondola rides up the Needles, for an uninterrupted aerial view.

Storm King in New Windsor, New York

"Master of None" fans and contemporary art enthusiasts should do their leaf-peeping while exploring the Storm King Arts Center — an outdoor sculpture garden with one of the largest collections of its kind in the country. The works are especially striking when set against the backdrop of central New York's tree-laden landscape.

Salem, Massachusetts

SALEM, MA – OCTOBER 17, 1978: Aerials of Chestnut Street and the Samuel McIntire Historic District of Federal mansions during peak autumn foliage in Salem, Massachusetts on October 17, 1978. The residential neighborhood is named to honor local architect Samuel McIntire, who designed many Federal style houses in the early 19th Century. Critics have called Chestnut Street the prettiest street in America. (Photo by Nathan Benn/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathan Benn/Corbis via Getty Images)

Let's get witchy. While Salem is not a sprawling forest covered in technicolored trees, the old village is firing on all cylinders when it comes to fall feelings. The site of the original witch trials and home to other "spooky" and family-friendly events, it's an attractive destination for both autumn trees, Halloween frights and early American history.

Week 2

As leaves in New England and elsewhere in the Northeast pass their peak, start looking more south to Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington State for bright, autumnal hues during the week of Oct. 22. The foliage will also be peaking in destinations like Maine and Michigan, according to the fall foliage prediction map.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardeners, Pennsylvania

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The short, steep hike to Pole Steeple Overlook is a satisfying little trek that provides a stunning view of Pine Grove Furnace State Park that will satisfy any traveler seeking both the colors of fall as well as a little sweat.

Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, Washington

Located in Seattle, the Washington Park Arboretum is a popular wedding location and the stone-lined pathways make this the perfect place to stroll with a warm cup of cocoa (or a pumpkin spice latte, if you're into that) while you take in the scenery.

Delaware Outdoor Trail in Lewes, Delaware

This outdoor trail provides a little bit more than just autumn eye-candy. Here, alongside the path, travelers can taste test different wines, beers and snacks while strolling along the water. You can also kayak if the occasional cold splash doesn't bother you.

Week 3

The week of Oct. 29, a massive band of trees across the nation are reaching their peak. This may be one of the best weeks to see fall foliage in the US. Our picks? A national park in Utah and West Virginia, and an iconic monument in South Dakota.

Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah

It's fall along the Watchman Trail — another hike that falls on the challenging side of the spectrum. But the mix of autumn leaves and red desert rock formations may make this one of the most colorful places to experience autumn.

Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway and Shenandoah National Park in West Virginia

Start blasting "Country Roads" and roll the windows down. The drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect way to sit down and relax while also taking in all of the fall scenery (assuming your in the passenger seat, of course). This might be the one time when getting stuck in traffic is a good thing, too.

Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota

What could frame the faces of our founding fathers better than a flurry of autumn leaves? Good question. While the park has quite a lot of evergreens, decent foliage can still be spotted throughout the park.

Week 4

During the first week of November, the southern half of the country's changing trees are approaching peak foliage. Consider a visit then to Nevada, Charleston and Tallulah Falls in Georgia.

Fallen Leaf in Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Though people always associate New England with leaf peeping, the Lake Tahoe area is a rather popular spot for foliage viewing, too. Fallen Leaf may be the single most impressive destination here, not least because of its fitting name. The sight of the leaves reflecting off the lake is a can't-miss, and a surefire Instagram win.

Charleston, South Carolina

Traditional housing in Charleston, South Carolina.
Traditional housing in Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston is a lovely southern city on the coast of South Carolina. Similar to Salem, Charleston is filled with family-friendly fall experiences while also providing plenty of foliage in its parks and tree-lined streets. Travelers can warm up on a cool night with a world-class plate of Lowcountry fare and a Patio Pounder.

Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, Georgia

In the Tallulah Gorge State Park, travelers will find ample foliage viewing opportunities, as well as a 1,000-foot gorge, waterfalls, 20 miles of hiking trails and a former Victorian resort town to wander for some of that classic southern charm.

Week 5

Look to Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas during the week of Nov. 12, when the trees in these southern states erupt with color.

Big Cypress Tree State Park in Greenfield, Tennessee

Named after an ancient, bald cypress tree that was struck down by lightning in 1976, Big Cypress Tree State Park has plenty of trees still standing for visitors to enjoy in autumn. The walking trail boasts a particularly scenic view of the foliage in the park and provides a .38-mile-long Tree Identification Trail, for visitors who have a scientific interest in the forest's flora.

Savannah, Georgia

Dubbed one of the country's "most haunted cities," Savannah is a great destination for travelers who wish Halloween wasn't over. Expect lots of quintessential southern hospitality, lovely tree-lined streets and Gothic-looking Spanish moss — but with a balmy, warm climate.

The Great River Road in Ozark, Arkansas

Set alongside the Mississippi River, The Great River Road stretches through 10 states. We specifically recommend the Arkansas chunk of highway because it intersects serendipitously with the fall foliage map. Running atop Crowley’s Ridge, the road passes through the St. Francis National Forest and will provide any spectator with a view of not only fall foliage, but also the largest river in the US.

Week 6

By Nov. 19, foliage in most of the country has passed its peak. But for last-minute travelers searching for those lingering leaves, there are a few destinations down south that, though historically not known for their flamboyant foliage, have a bit of color this late in the season.

Interstate 75 from Tampa to Lake City in Florida

Perhaps not known for having seasons (because they really don't), Florida has a few drives that deliver decent foliage views. Cutting through the "hillier" region of the state, you can take in the Florida autumn showing from the passenger seat as you travel between Tampa and Lake City.

Chemin-A-Haut State Park in Bastrop, Louisiana

In Louisiana, one of the best places to see flashes of autumn is Chemin-a-Haut's Bayou Bartholomew: a scenic waterway flanked by cypress trees. Some visitors have even hailed it a "photographer's paradise."

Featured image by picture alliance via Getty Image