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8 Must-See Fall Foliage Spots in the Midwest
Embrace crisp autumn air and beautiful fall colors in these idyllic locales.
Peep postcard-worthy displays in charming towns across the Midwest.(Getty Images)
It may be mid-October, but it's not too late to soak up every last auburn, red and dusty orange-colored leaf this season. Unlike New England, many of the Midwest's most beautiful parks, forests and scenic roads experience radiant fall colors well into November. So, pack all of your coziest scarves, your camera and some cider, and head to these breathtaking spots for some picturesque autumn hues.
Located on the shores of Lake Superior and surrounded by lush parks and small islands, Marquette is about as postcard-perfect as you can get, especially in the fall. Soak up the peak colors with a bike ride along the Iron Horse Heritage Trail, which weaves through downtown Marquette, passes through some of the county's historic mining landmarks and is flanked by beautiful trees. For views of the city, the rolling hills and the crystal blue lake, hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. The hike to the peak takes just 20 minutes and the 360-degree views of Marquette's white steeples against the fall foliage make it one of the best spots in town for photos.
You wouldn't expect to find some of Ohio's most beautiful foliage in an urban sprawl like Cleveland. But not only do the trees that flank some of the area's newest neighborhoods turn luscious shades of red, yellow and orange, but just 20 minutes south of downtown sits Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre preserve. The large park features changing leaves, the Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which offers ghost tours in the fall. Bike or run along the 20-mile Towpath Trail or if you'd prefer to stay cozy in your car, drive along the road that weaves through the valley.
Looking for fall color that lasts well into November? Head to Lake Geneva, which has long been regaled for having some of the state's most dramatic foliage displays. What makes the lake so gorgeous isn't just its abundance of trees, but also the striking mansions that sit beside them. Many of Chicago's elite built vast estates on the lake starting in the 1800s, and even hired the nation's best landscapers to create Gatsby-esque yards. To soak in the colors, rent a bike and cycle along the paths around the lake, take a romantic stroll or charter a helicopter to enjoy the foliage from above. For a scenic ride, drive along Rustic Road 12.
Thirty-one covered bridges and a charming small town makes Parke County one of the nation's most beautiful places to visit in fall. Situated in the Wabash River Valley, just an hour outside of Indianapolis, Parke County offers more covered bridges than a train set. To visit them all, pick up a brochure or stop by the visitors center in Rockville, Indiana, to chart your course. Though driving is the best way to visit each beautiful bridge, you can also rent bikes to burn calories while you leaf peep. Plan your visit in October to partake in the annual Covered Bridge Festival.
North Shore of Lake Superior
A visit to Minnesota's North Shore is almost like traveling to Iceland with over 154 miles of cascading waterfalls, mountains peppered with changing leaves and Lake Superior's crystal-blue waters, along with quaint towns featuring distinctive personalities. Soak up the crisp air and take a hike up the Superior Hiking Trail. The trail spans more than 300 miles, but the most beautiful views come on the Cascade River Trail, which ends with views of the rushing river, many waterfalls and thousands of ever-changing maple trees. The North Shore Scenic Drive also boasts miles of stunning views and plentiful stops along the way to enjoy more waterfalls and adorable towns.
Home to the largest state park in the state, Brown County has long been a favorite foliage spot for hikers, backpackers and picnic lovers. The best way to see the collection of brightly hued trees is with a drive through Brown County State Park. The traffic can be backed up, especially during the peak season, so if you want to stretch your legs with a hike along one of the park's picturesque trails. After a hike, enjoy a locally crafted spirit at Bear Wallow Distillery, which doesn't just offer great rye whiskey samples, but also beautiful views of the thick forest to soak in while you sip.
North Dakota probably isn't the first state that comes to mind when you think of gorgeous foliage. However, one visit to the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway will quickly change your mind. Boasting over 63 miles of scenic views from Lisbon to Lake Ashtabula, North Dakota, the route showcases breathtaking valleys thick with birch trees decorated in bright yellow leaves. To enjoy the area's rich pioneer history, visit Sheyenne State Forest or Little Yellowstone Park, both of which come with plenty of folklore to enchant (and even haunt) you. And for an offbeat stop, check out the small Standing Rock State Historic Site.
Though technically located between the Midwest and the South, Arkansas offers plenty of allures to entice foliage enthusiasts. Home to one of the most haunted hotels in America, the Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs has long been a favorite for ghost hunters and fall lovers, alike. Beyond the hotel, the town is comprised of steep streets, quaint shops, local bistros and the ancient healing waters of Eureka Springs. To take to the waters, visit the Palace Hotel and Bath House, where you can rejuvenate in bubbly mineral springs. For a scenic hike, head to Hobbes State Park - Conservation Area and hit the Historic Van Winkle Trail, which weaves past beautiful trees.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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