To fully appreciate the wonder of Alaska's vast, pristine and rugged wilderness, plan a road trip to the Interior and Southcentral regions of the state. While many travelers opt to visit by cruise ship, independently driving these scenic routes and byways is the best way to experience the northern territory. On a drive to remember, you can marvel at the dramatic scenery and extraordinary beauty of the Last Frontier, explore more remote areas and meet with passionate residents to learn more about local customs and cultures. Plan to spend a week traveling from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska, and arrange side trips by boat or plane for another unique perspective of the state's spellbinding natural scenery. Read on to start plotting your road trip.
Start in Fairbanks, Alaska
Known as the Golden Heart of Alaska, and located about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks is considered the gateway to the Interior and Far North and is the ideal base camp to begin your Alaskan adventure. In town, visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North, with its contemporary Alaskan art, history, wildlife and artifacts. The Riverboat Discovery, a paddlewheel cruise along a tributary of the Yukon River, is also a worthwhile tour operated by a local family that's worked on these rivers since 1898. Highlights include a visit to see the champion sled dogs and kennels of the late four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher and a visit to the Chena Indian Village to learn about the ancient Athabascan Indian culture.
Fairbanks is also one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights during aurora season, from Aug. 21 to April 21. If the skies are clear, you may catch a nightly light show that you'll never forget. From Fairbanks, head to Denali National Park (by car or train), travel to the Arctic Circle or visit Chena Hot Springs, with its healing mineral waters and numerous outdoor activities.
Tack on a Side Trip
The six-hour Alaska Marine Highway ferry ride across Prince William Sound allows you to travel by boat with your car from Valdez to Whittier, Alaska, while enjoying coastline views surrounded by mountains, glaciers and marine wildlife.
Meanwhile, the half-day Major Marine Tours catamaran cruise, departing from Seward, Alaska, sails through the beautiful fjords. Typically shrouded in a light mist, the focus of the cruise is on wildlife viewing. Watch as majestic humpback whales surface and plunge into the chilly waters fed by glaciers in the Harding Icefield. Listen closely, and you might even hear their mesmerizing sounds. On the expedition, you can also enjoy a chorus of seals serenading visitors along the jagged rocks in Resurrection Bay, watch sea otters playfully romping in the water or listen quietly to the eerie cracking of blue glaciers as they calve into icebergs.
Drive from Fairbanks to Chitina and McCarthy
Most of the highest summits in North America are in full view as you travel along the Richardson Highway and the Saint Elias Mountains, the world's highest coastal mountain range. With snow-capped peaks and dramatic colors intermingled with the glistening and surreal icy blue glow of the glaciers, you'll want to stop at every scenic overlook. There are also many viewing points of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System on this route.
From the small fishing town of Chitina, famous for its access to the Copper River, take a shuttle (rental cars are not allowed on this unpaved road) to the remote town of McCarthy. Better yet, for a jaw-dropping 35-minute aerial view, book a small plane with Wrangell Mountain Air for a true adventure. This thrilling ride through the peaks and valleys of the Saint Elias Mountains and over rivers and the Kennicott and Root glaciers will be one of the highlights of your trip. You might even see Dall sheep, bear and moose from high above.
Plan to stay two evenings at nearby Kennicott Glacier Lodge. Located in an old mining town that is now a National Historic Landmark, Kennicott became a ghost town in 1938 when the mill was suddenly closed and abandoned. While in town, cross a glacier hike off your bucket list with a moderate half-day or more strenuous full-day outing with St. Elias Alpine Guides and hike the massive Root Glacier to gaze at its impressive icefall. Then, take the Kennicott Mine Tour to learn the fascinating backstory of this former copper mining town. In the evenings, relax on the front porch of the lodge before dinner, overlooking the mountains and glacier, followed by a hearty feast served family-style and prepared by the lodge's talented culinary staff.
Stay in Girdwood, Alaska
Alyeska Resort, a luxury property and one of the state's premier lodges, is also the largest ski resort in Alaska. Located in the quaint town of Girdwood and just an hour's drive from Anchorage, Alyeska Resort offers an ideal place to hang your hat at the end of the day. Make a reservation here for at least one evening after your catamaran cruise in Seward and en route to Anchorage. And for a memorable dining experience, ride the tram to the top of Mount Alyeska and dine at Seven Glaciers restaurant, an AAA Four Diamond restaurant. In the morning, take the road less traveled and hike Winner Creek Trail. Hidden behind the tram, the trail through the forest to Winner Creek Gorge is worth exploring; from there, you'll discover a different kind of tram, a hand-operated version to continue onto the trailhead on the other side of the gorge.
Finish Your Trip in Anchorage
End your road trip in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. With many hotels, museums and restaurants, Anchorage makes it a cinch to ease back into your routine. It's also a great home base for daytrips, such as the Spencer Whistle Glacier Stop on the Alaska Railroad, just two hours north and reachable only by train. Don't leave without visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn the significant historical and cultural imprint of Alaska's indigenous people.
Plot When to Take Your Trip Wisely
The best time to visit Alaska is late spring and summer, when the temperatures are warm and the midnight sun shines for nearly all hours of the day. With the short window, it's wise to make travel arrangements far in advance. Labor Day weekend signals the end of the season, especially in the remote areas, when tour and wilderness guides depart for warmer climates and hotels, restaurants and other attractions close. When the sounds of the migrating geese are heard overhead and the clear cool night skies are filled with dancing northern lights, it's a sure sign that fall, and very quickly, winter, are just around the corner, ushering in a very different travel experience.
50 Small Towns Across America With Gorgeous Fall Foliage
Discover where to get your foliage fix across the country.
When the air becomes brisk, picturesque small towns draped in amber, yellow and orange tones tempt us to hit the trails, savor leisurely wine tastings and delight in leaf-peeping in classic and lesser-known destinations. Whether you want to soak in colorful vineyards or fresh alpine scenery, slip away to a cozy inn with a crackling fireplace or embrace seasonal delights such as picking pumpkins and sampling apple cider from an orchard, U.S. News pinpointed 50 places to savor the season's colors and experiences. If you're ready to plan a foliage-filled escape, read on for scenery-packed getaway ideas.Stowe, Vermont
Stowe draws leaf-viewers and thrill-seekers alike to its foliage-filled town each September and October. In autumn, sugar maples are layered with deep crimson and yellow hues, while poplar, elm, birch and hickory trees cast intense golden shades. For optimal viewing, take a scenic drive along Stowe Hollow, weaving past Ben & Jerry's Factory and Cold Hollow Cider Mill for a taste of quintessential Vermont. Afterward, enjoy "The Sound of Music"-inspired scenery with a stay at the Trapp Family Lodge or cap off the day with a brewery tour or wine tasting.Ellijay, Georgia
In this under-the-radar town dubbed the Apple Capitol of Georgia, you'll have easy access to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, along with apple orchards and pumpkin patches. At Hillcrest Orchards, you can partake in the annual Apple Pickin' Jubilee from Sept. 9 to Oct. 29. The area is fringed by oak, poplar and hemlock forests and offers easy access to the Appalachian Trail, making it ideal for hiking and biking as you soak in the bounty of colors in October and November. After painting the town, retreat to Falling Waters Mountain Lodge or, for a more rustic experience, bunk down at Mulberry Gap, a mountain retreat with wooden cabins, camping spots and bathhouses.Nashville, Indiana
Nashville, a charming colony tucked away in Indiana's Brown County, bursts with crimson, yellow, orange and green hues draping oak, dogwood, birch, sugar maple, red maple, sassafras and poplar trees from late September through early November. For peak leaf-peeping, plan a trip in mid- to late October, and head to the Brown County State Park to spot the changing colors in all their glory. Best of all, outdoorsy types can attend free programs at the park, such as a Fall Colors Hike and Fall Wreath Making, and throughout October, you can take a Back Roads of Brown County Studio Tour, where you'll get a chance to mix and mingle with artists and check out their work on display.Bethel, Maine
Travelers craving brilliant autumn colors and archetypal New England scenery should make their way to Bethel in western Maine, says Everett Potter, a columnist for USA Today and author of "Everett Potter's Travel Report." Bethel is situated near the Sunday River ski resort, along with a variety of charming bed-and-breakfasts, he adds. Typically, in the first couple weeks of October, Bethel's trees burst with yellow, orange and scarlet shades. Set close to the White Mountains, Bethel is near Grafton Notch State Park, which boasts scenic spots such as the Spruce Meadow Picnic Area and Mother Walker Falls along state Route 26 as well as ample hiking trails and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Swing by the Good Food Store to grab picnic supplies.Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
This picturesque former mining town in the western Poconos attracts leaf seekers and history buffs to its lovely trails and historic landmarks. It's been dubbed the Switzerland of America due to its charming mountain setting, says Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of BudgetTravel.com. He adds that the area's rich coal mining and railroad development heritage can be seen across the town, with eight National Historic Landmarks in the district, including St. Mark's Episcopal Church. The showstopper is the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a 16-mile former railroad trail that winds past eye-catching green and amber shades along the gorge. What's more, the area boasts plenty of affordable lodging options for under $150 per night, Firpo-Cappiello says.Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
A convenient hour drive northwest of the District of Columbia, Harpers Ferry is an ideal place for foliage chasers, outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs. When you're not taking in the mosaic of yellow, green and orange leaves (typically peaking around the end of October and the first week of November) in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, you can check out Civil War battlefields, enjoy leisurely riverside strolls or even tag along on a ghost tour. A number of outdoor pursuits await thrill-seekers, from hiking to rafting to zip lining. After working up an appetite, you'll find plenty of dining venues, along with inns and retailers throughout this beautiful mountain town.Middlesboro, Kentucky
As the leaves change colors across the Bluegrass State, a bounty of enchanting hiking areas and biking spots beckon foliage enthusiasts. In Middlesboro, you'll be close to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and ample opportunity to catch sight of exuberant birch, sugar maple and beech trees. Plus, you'll find thinner crowds than the popular Great Smoky Mountains National Park and abundant kid-friendly diversions, from camping to elk-viewing. Even better for penny-wise visitors, it's easy to plan an affordable trip with lodging options like Cumberland Manor Bed and Breakfast offering rates for $109 per night. If you're looking to splurge, stay at the trendy 21C Museum Hotel in nearby Lexington, Kentucky.Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, New York
With the Adirondack Mountains gleaming in the backdrop, Lake Placid offers an idyllic escape for embracing a kaleidoscope of yellow, purple, scarlet and auburn in fall. Visit the Olympic Trail scenic byway to take in oaks, silver maples and birch trees. Aside from foliage-viewing, you can enjoy kayaking, hiking, rock climbing and paddleboarding along Mirror Lake, among other outdoor escapades, during your visit. And throughout the Adirondacks, discover a variety of seasonal festivals, including the Flaming Leaves Festival in October, which features blues music, lawn games and barbecue, and the Lake Placid Brewfest at the Lake Placid Olympic Center, which boasts live entertainment and local craft beer.Hood River, Oregon
Hood River, Oregon
Set in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge, Hood River offers verdant forests and striking scenery year-round, but in fall, the area is awash with color. You can explore the 35-mile Fruit Loop to pluck apples, blueberries, pears and peaches from local stands or take part in exciting seasonal events, like the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest in mid-October, with musical acts, arts and crafts and local beer. For an eye-catching display of bright gold and crimson shades cascading across Mount Hood's aspen and maple trees, arrive in mid-October.Telluride, Colorado
In fall, Telluride shows off with golden flecks draping the dramatic San Juan Mountains. On a foliage-filled drive along the San Juan Skyway in late September or early October, keep your eyes peeled for captivating aspen groves. You can also take in the high-altitude scenery from the 42-mile Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad or, if you're feeling daring, from a zip line near Durango. Alternatively, hit the Ridge Trail or Telluride Trail to surround yourself in gilded aspens. Afterward, stroll through the lively Town Park before making your way to one of the area's charming hotels, such as The Hotel Telluride or the Mountain Lodge at Telluride.Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan
Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan
Perched along the northern edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this off-the-beaten-track area features a dramatic coastline, scenic hiking trails, lush forests and glistening Lake Superior in the distance. Visit in late September or early October to admire the area's captivating trails and hardwood forests blanketed in crimson, green, orange and yellow hues. Head to Keweenaw National Historical Park to admire sandstone cliffs and picturesque overlooks or drive along U.S. Route 41 to Copper Harbor for spectacular foliage and Lake Superior views. After admiring the kaleidoscope of color, savor a pint at Keweenaw Brewing Company and retreat to Fitzgerald's Hotel & Restaurant in nearby Eagle River for jaw-dropping lake views paired with award-winning Southern-inspired cuisine.Woodstock, Vermont
Imagine cozying up at a quaint bed-and-breakfast, strolling along leaf-laden bridges and hiking along carriage roads. In fall, this charming Vermont town draws visitors with its rich colors and ample seasonal diversions, from Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park to the Woodstock Farmers Market, which offers artisan cheese and maple syrup. With the Green Mountains as your backdrop and amber- and orange-layered trees in the distance, Woodstock is a quintessential New England escape. When you're not appreciating your outdoor surroundings, head to The Red Rooster for a meal to remember. At the end of the day, retreat to the Woodstock Inn & Resort to warm up around a wood-burning fireplace.Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Fish Creek, Wisconsin
(Danita Delimont/Getty Images)
Like other areas along Lake Michigan, Fish Creek's bayside village is awash in beautiful fall colors in early autumn. Book a stay at The White Gull Inn, a bed-and-breakfast dating back to 1896 with distinct traditions (think: a Door County boil), candlelit dinners and easy access to natural wonders stretching across Door County's 75-mile-long peninsula. During your visit, check out charming lighthouses like Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, sample fresh produce at local farmers markets or even attend a harvest-season festival before making your way to Peninsula State Park to hit scenic trails to catch a glimpse of the white ash, red pine, cedar, beech and maple trees among rolling hills and serene meadows.Hanover, New Hampshire
Hanover, New Hampshire
While New Hampshire offers a plenty of pretty hamlets and some of the country's best leaf-peeping spots, Hanover stands apart with its rolling hills, lively downtown shops and cafes and Dartmouth students, Potter says. Arrive in October to admire the intense shades of orange and crimson, then meander through downtown, where you'll find quaint shops like Left Bank Books and plenty of crowd-pleasing dining institutions, from Murphy's on the Green to Lou's Restaurant and Bakery. While in town, stay at the Trumbull House Bed & Breakfast (near Dartmouth College), renowned for its well-maintained grounds and paths that connect to the Appalachian Trail.Petersham, Massachusetts
A lesser-visited village in central Massachusetts, Petersham is a favorite spot among foliage chasers with its hardwood trees and lush forest bursting with yellow, scarlet and orange hues at the end of September, Potter says. Surrounded by the sprawling Quabbin Reservoir, Petersham offers an idyllic and easy escape just 70 miles from Boston, he adds. Visitors will find plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, fishing and other recreational pursuits. Head to Harvard Forest, the Swift River Reservation or North Common Meadow for excellent nature-viewing along scenic trails. If you're planning to spend the night, retreat to Clamber Hill Inn & Restaurant, a quaint inn with spacious suites appointed with working fireplaces.Tiverton, Rhode Island
Tiverton, Rhode Island
A stone's throw from Rhode Island's historic Little Compton community lies Tiverton Four Corners, a New England village characterized by small-town charm and bucolic landscapes, Potter explains. The area is sought-after in summer, but in autumn, when the temperatures dip and fall color arrives on the Sakonnet peninsula, Tiverton's wildlife preserves and nature trails beckon. For autumn hues, hit the trails in Weetamoo Woods in late October. After taking in the purple, golden and crimson tones cloaking the area's black cherry, hickory, sassafras, scarlet oak and red maple trees, stroll past the eclectic art galleries, artisanal shops and Victorian buildings downtown before continuing to explore other historic attractions and small towns along the Rhode Island coast.Bennington, Vermont
(Hill Street Studios/Getty Images)
As the seasons change in Bennington, this college town tucked beneath the Green Mountains comes alive with vibrant colors and fall festivals. History buffs can check out storied sites in the area, including the Bennington Battle Monument and Bennington Old Village, a National Historic District, Firpo-Cappiello says. The area also appeases the collegiate crowd with modern restaurants, excellent breweries and affordable lodging options. Firpo-Cappiello highlights Lil' Britain Fish & Chips Shop as a top dining institution and Madison Brewing Pub as a top pick for craft beers. The area even hosts the Bennington Hopfest each year, he adds. For prime viewing, head to the Green Mountain National Forest, where you can spot brilliant colors and enchanting landscapes.Washington, Connecticut
Autumn colors peak in late September through October across Connecticut – with maples, oaks, birches and dogwoods covering the landscape in a spectrum of color. Litchfield, Washington and Kent in northwest Connecticut are particularly idyllic in fall, with their churches and storied buildings layered in jeweled tones, Potter says. One of the best ways to experience nature in its full glory is taking a 100-mile loop through the Litchfield Hills from Torrington along state Route 8. Another scenic 46-mile loop from New Milford to Mount Tom State Park winds past historic covered bridges and picturesque hiking trails. If you're looking to splurge, escape to the Mayflower Grace Inn & Spa in Washington, which is framed by a 3,000-acre nature reserve.Milford, Pennsylvania
Milford, a once-glamorous resort town in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains about 85 miles west of New York City, is in the midst of a revival, Firpo-Cappiello says. A celebrity playground in the mid-19th century, "New York’s summer holiday set rediscovered it in recent years and restored Milford – and the Hotel Fauchere – to its former glory, going so far as to replace the asphalt sidewalks with bluestone slabs quarried nearby and install old-world street lamps," he explains. Today, the area brims with antique shops and Victorian structures. Arrive in early to mid-October for the best foliage-viewing, with more than 100 tree and plant species across the Poconos, plus seasonal festivities like walking tours.Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's Door County is famed for its glorious state parks and superior vistas along Lake Michigan. Sister Bay, with its captivating fall colors coinciding with striking water views, is especially appealing in autumn, Potter says. Arrive in October to savor fresh apple cider from an orchard, sample the produce at weekly farmers markets, bike along the picturesque trails or check out the annual fall fest from Oct. 13-15. Afterward, soak up your surroundings by kayak or paddleboat. Another idyllic way to take in the scenery is on a drive along Door County Coastal Byway, which winds along state Route 42, weaving past evergreens at Newport State Park and wraps up in Sturgeon Bay.Homer, Alaska
Autumn is an especially arresting time of year in Homer. You'll find pockets of incredible color amid the pines, Potter says. Tutka Bay Lodge is an ideal home base and offers "possibly the best food in all of Alaska," Potter says. Chef Kirsten Dixon attended the acclaimed Cordon Bleu in Paris and the lodge dishes out sea-to-table inspired culinary creations (think: seafood paella with local mussels, halibut and scallops and truffle gnocchi and Alaska sockeye salmon with herb beurre blanc). Outdoor pursuits in Homer can include everything from kayaking to hiking along Tutka Bay Lodge's trails. And with Homer's location along the Kenai Peninsula – framed by mountains, glaciers and forests – the views are nothing if not enchanting.Whitefish, Montana
Flanked by the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park, Whitefish boasts a coveted location for catching the golden aspen, maples and larch trees sprinkled across the area from mid-September through early October. A scenic hike through Glacier National Park is the perfect way to experience the yellow flecks of color. Autumn also marks an ideal time for wildlife-spotting, but make sure to check the national park website for up-to-date advisories and alerts. For a change of scenery, canoe or kayak around Whitefish Lake. When you're ready to turn in for the evening, head to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, which offers a rustic setting, spectacular mountain views and a variety of room options, including suites appointed with crackling fireplaces.Fredericksburg, Texas
In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is aglow with gold, green, auburn and scarlet shades come autumn. Peruse the local boutiques lining Main Street, before attending seasonal festivals such as the 37th Annual Oktoberfest from Oct. 6-8 or the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest on Oct. 28. For prime gold, red, green and copper maple leaf-viewing, visit Lost Maples State Natural Area, about an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Fredericksburg. After soaking in the scenery, splurge for a memorable meal at Hilltop Café, then kick back at one of the area's many affordable historic inns and bed-and-breakfasts, like the Austin Street Retreat, which offers cottages starting at $185 during the week.Calistoga, California
Autumn in California wine country translates to vibrant foliage with crimson reds and crisp golden hues lining the Silverado Trail, a backroad and winery-filled alternative to California Route 29, the main highway to Napa Valley. Enjoy wine tasting at famous vineyards in Napa, before slipping away to Calistoga Ranch, a 157-acre retreat framed by ancient oak trees and hilly paths, known for its acclaimed spa and wellness facilities and high-end amenities, from soaking pools peering over moss-covered oaks to complimentary yoga and Pilates classes. For spectacular vistas, make your way to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where you can enjoy scenic trails weaving past dramatic redwoods, maples and black oaks.Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico
In late September and October, Taos draws nature lovers and foliage enthusiasts to Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, an 83-mile loop that snakes through verdant, aspen- and pine-lined forests and valleys. You'll find captivating yellow, orange and purple shades blanketing red cottonwoods and aspens across the loop. For a prime viewing spot, hike the 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak – the tallest point in New Mexico – for a bird's-eye view. Cap off your day at Hacienda del Sol for beautiful backdrop with Taos Mountains in the distance. And don't skip checking out downtown Taos, which offers a smattering of galleries, shops, museums and adobe buildings set beneath the imposing Sangre de Cristo Mountains.Darby, Montana
Fall colors are on full display in early October in Big Sky Country, with the fiery crimson, yellow and orange shades cast from maple, aspen and larch trees in sharp juxtaposition to jade evergreens. In southwestern Montana, beneath the Bitterroot Mountains, you'll find the Triple Creek Ranch, a beautiful luxury retreat, Potter says. Stretching across 600 acres, the ranch offers activities such as horseback riding, whitewater rafting and guided fly-fishing expeditions, along with cozy log cabins offering coveted amenities, such as wood-burning fireplaces and wrap-around decks with hot tubs below picturesque pines. You can even enjoy a scenic hike to Boulder Falls in the Bitterroot National Forest with a picnic lunch prepared by one of the ranch's chefs.Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is best known for its thrills and chills come October, when "Hocus Pocus" fans make their way to the area to celebrate its mystery, magic and witchcraft. But in autumn, the town's bright fall colors are just as spellbinding as its infamous past. Brush up on the legendary witch trials, before delighting in seasonal events and Haunted Happenings throughout October (think: a themed costume ball and after-dark graveyard walking tour). By day, catch sight of the changing orange and cranberry-colored leaves blanketing Salem Common and Salem Willows; at night, tag along a haunted history tour before retreating to the historic Hawthorne Hotel.Bristol, Rhode Island
Bristol, Rhode Island
An enticing alternative to popular Newport, Rhode Island, Bristol's laid-back sailing town charms visitors with a sea of ochre, golden and crimson shades draping its Colonial and Federal architecture. For optimal foliage-viewing, take a leisurely bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path. Plan to visit in October for crisp autumn air and peak leaf-peeping across the state. After marveling at the scenery, check into Point Pleasant Inn near Narragansett Bay for picturesque surroundings and an ideal jumping-off point for exploring nearby must-see attractions for nature-lovers, including Blithewold Gardens and Colt State Park.Bethlehem, New Hampshire
Bethlehem, New Hampshire
With the White Mountains in the backdrop and a mix of Victorian- and Colonial-era homes, Bethlehem charms its visitors, especially in autumn as the air turns crisp and the outdoors beckon. Drive along Kancamagus Highway in mid-September or early October for picturesque landscapes showcasing bursts of yellow and scarlet. Bike, hike or camp in the White Mountain National Forest to take in the striking natural display or enjoy a self-guided hike at The Rocks Estate, before learning about the area's maple sugaring tradition with the New Hampshire Maple Experience. As for accommodations, the area offers a variety of inns and lodges, including Bear Mountain Lodge and The Wayside Inn.Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport lures nature lovers in the summertime with its serene beaches, craggy shoreline and rustic lobster shacks, but arrive in mid- to late October to catch sight of red, green and auburn treetops and embrace pleasant temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Explore the shops lining Dock Square before admiring the changing colors and curling up by a wood-burning fireplace at The White Barn Inn & Spa. When hunger strikes, make your way to Toroso, Nunan's Lobster Hut or the Clam Shack for a tasty meal, then grab a keepsake or two from Daytrip Society or Minka to round out your visit.Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Whether you want to brush up on colonial history or take back a pint from craft brew institutions such as Redhook and Smuttynose, Portsmouth lures fall visitors with foliage-filled landscapes and stunning coastal scenery. For some of the best views, drive along the photogenic Coastal Byway, or make your way to the famed Strawbery Banke Museum, where storied structures and Victorian-style homes draped in autumn foliage await exploration. Wrap up the day with a delectable craft brew and bite to eat at Earth Eagle Brewings. Then, make your way to the Ale House Inn, a brewery-turned-inn with a boutique feel and budget-friendly nightly rates from $129.Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lake Geneva has long lured Chicagoans seeking a serene weekend escape from the city hustle with its picturesque hiking trails, golf courses and wineries, but from September through November you can take in vivid amber, yellow and jade hues draping the area's storybook mansions. Take a leisurely drive on Snake Road to catch the dizzying colors in all their glory, or make your way along the Geneva Lake Shore Path. You can even take in the scenery from the water with Lake Geneva Cruise Line, which offers boat expeditions through early November. Make SevenOaks Country Inn your home base to curl up at a stone fireplace and enjoy complimentary breakfast.Lower Waterford, Vermont
Lower Waterford, Vermont
It's no secret that the Green Mountain State is saturated with brilliant crimson, gold and green leaves in fall, and in Lower Waterford, you can embrace the brilliant array of colors with the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the backdrop. From mid-September to mid-October, the area's trails pop with color. Some of the best ways to experience the foliage is cycling the Kingdom Trail bike system or gliding in a kayak along the Lazy River. You can even take in the scenery from an 80-passenger aerial tramway to Cannon Mountain. At the end of the day, slip away Rabbit Hill Inn for superlative views of the White Mountains and Connecticut River and access to pristine trails.Breckenridge, Colorado
In mid-September, Breckenridge is ablaze with golden aspens. In the former mining town's historic district, Victorian buildings rub shoulders with log cabins, shops and eateries. Fuel up with a sweet treat at Daylight Donuts on North Main Street, then explore the area's striking yellow-flecked landscapes along the Peaks Trail, off state Highway 9, which connects Breckenridge and nearby Frisco, and yields glorious mountain and foliage vistas. Another way to take in the high-altitude scenery: driving or biking along Boreas Pass Road. And if you're a beer fan, you won't want to miss reveling in the annual Breckenridge Oktoberfest from Sept. 8-10.Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Filled with striking architecture, treasured historical sites and captivating scenery, Bretton Woods offers an ideal fall escape for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Visit the famous cog railway or take in the scenery at Crawford Notch State Park (off of U.S. Route 302), which offers a bounty of scenic hiking trails, including the 2.6-mile Bemis Brook Trail to the Arethusa Falls, along with wildlife-viewing locations and unparalleled mountain views. Whether you want to soak in the scenery from high above on a canopy tour over the White Mountains or take in your surroundings on flowing fairways at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, the arresting scenery is sure to draw you in.Holmes County, Ohio
Holmes County, Ohio
Homes County, set in Ohio's Amish Country, erupts with golden and amber hues cast off of oaks, maples and buckeyes come autumn. Take in the changing landscape at Mohican Valley, where you can hike, bike, camp and boat, or check out the Holmes County Park District. Another way to take in the brilliant colors: Cruise along the area's scenic backroads. Breaks form leaf-peeping can include filling up on seasonal pastries, pies and other goods. As for lodging, there are a variety of nearby inns and cottages, including Acorns at White Oak Inn and Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek.Cornish, New Hampshire
Cornish, New Hampshire
Rising over the Connecticut River, Cornish explodes with color in autumn. Tucked along state Route 12A, Cornish charms visitors with its pastoral landscapes, storied sties and postcard-worthy covered bridges. The main draw is the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge – America's longest covered wooden bridge. Other notable bridges include the Dingleton Hill Covered Bridge and the Blacksmith Shop Covered Bridge. The birthplace of author J.D. Salinger, Cornish also attracts lit fans and artists to its gracious gardens and studios. Round out your tour with a trip to Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, where you can check out nature trails and admire more than 100 works from the legendary sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.Alexandria Bay, New York
Alexandria Bay, New York
Situated along the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands region, Alexandria Bay offers an ideal jumping-off point for leaf-peeping along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Sprawling more than 2,600 acres, Wellesley Island State Park brims with hiking trails and a wildlife sanctuary that's worth exploring. For optimal leaf-viewing, arrive in September. Stay at one of the charming bed-and-breakfasts in town, like the Captain Visger House, a Victorian home-turned-inn with complimentary breakfast and rooms for under $200 per night.Snowmass Village, Colorado
Snowmass Village, Colorado
(Adam Goldberg Photography/Getty Images)
This storybook Colorado setting has all the trappings of a memorable ski getaway, but before frosty temperatures arrive in early December, plan an autumn getaway, when the temperatures are mild and aspens give the area a golden glow. The Maroon Bells peaks with cheery gold aspens against an emerald landscape, provide a striking photo-op for leaf-chasers, with the postcard-worthy Crater Lake Trail offering an easy way to take in the scenery on foot. Even better, you can usually find reduced lodging rates at hotels in the area starting in mid-September, before the peak ski-season rush.Blue Hill, Maine
Blue Hill, Maine
Blue Hill – a tiny coastal village perched between Blue Hill Mountain and Blue Hill Harbor – is awash with bright colors in fall, typically peaking in the first two weeks in October. If you're itching to embrace the great outdoors, hike to the nearby Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park or explore around Deer Isle. Back in town, you'll find a vibrant art scene with airy galleries beside charming local shops (Blue Hill Books and Rackliffe Pottery are always crowd-pleasers). When you're ready to turn in for the night, check into the Blue Hill Inn for gracious and affordable accommodations, with nightly rates starting at under $200.Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
A lesser-known mountain town, Blowing Rock offers an enviable home base for outdoor exploration along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cruise along the parkway to Linn Cove Viaduct for prime vistas of Grandfather Mountain. Afterward, drive along Rock Road to explore the Blowing Rock, a millennia-old rock formation rising 4,000 feet over the Johns River Gorge. When you need a break, enjoy a leisurely picnic at one of the area's wineries or take a respite in Moses Cone Memorial Park. As for accommodations, you'll have your pick from a variety of cost-effective inns and lodges, including the Azalea Garden Inn and the Alpine Village Inn.Sandwich, Massachusetts
Located along the elbow of Cape Cod, Sandwich is a historic town with bucolic landscapes and quintessential New England charm. Take in striking views on a scenic drive along state Route 6A, weaving past captain's cottages and lush parks. Stop at the Murkwood Conservation Area and Maple Swamp, where maples, hickories, pines and oaks dot the landscape and, on a clear day, you can take in views of the Vineyard Sound, Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay. If you're looking for more recreational activity, bike along the scenic 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail. Back in Sandwich, retreat to the Belfry Inn & Bistro, which boasts period furniture, cozy fireplaces and an acclaimed restaurant.Middlebury, Vermont
(John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Middlebury erupts into a mosaic of maroon, orange and beryl as the leaves change from mid-September to mid-October. Soak in your surroundings and warm up with a delectable drink from Lincoln Peak Vineyard, Drop-In Brewing Company or Otter Creek Brewing Company. For more scenery, make your way to the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail off state Route 125, and when you need a break from exploring the great outdoors, check out the bright paintings and ceramics on display at the airy Edgewater Gallery. As for lodging, there are a variety of charming inns in the area, including the Swift House Inn and Inn on the Green.Lenox, Massachusetts
A foliage getaway in western Massachusetts can include antiquing, checking out eclectic galleries and getting pampered at a renowned spa before traversing picturesque roads decked in yellow scarlet and evergreen shades. Unwind at the luxurious Blantyre for high-caliber service and well-appointed accommodations (including some appointed with working fireplaces) before checking out the area's bucolic landscapes and leaf-chasing at Kennedy Park or Mount Greylock State Reservation. If you would rather explore the area from behind two handlebars, pick up a bike from the Arcadian Shop, which rents out footwear, kayaking, paddleboarding gear and bikes, among other items for savoring the outdoors.Oakland, Maryland
A tucked-away oasis in Maryland, Swallow Falls State Park, with its cascading 53-foot waterfall and scenic gorges bursts with color come autumn. Jade, crimson, gold and orange tones gleam from the native white pine and eastern hemlock trees fringing the park's Youghiogheny River. Plus, October ushers in a variety of seasonal events across Oakland, from spooky hayrides and ghost tours for Halloween to the Autumn Glory Festival from Oct. 11-15, a four-day event celebrating the area's lovely scenery with antique shows, parades, concerts and other activities.Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado
Framed by Roosevelt National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is an outdoor lover's paradise. Take your pick from dozens of trails that pop with golden pine and aspen groves come October. Meander on the 3.5-mile Lumpy Ridge Loop along Gem Lake for stunning vistas from the Estes Park Lookout. From there, you can behold a sea of golden aspens. You can also take in striking vantage points of the Mummy Range and the Fall River Valley from the Deer Mountain Trailhead along North Deer Mountain Trail, about a 6-mile round-trip loop. Along Estes Park's main thoroughfare, Elkhorn Avenue, keep you eyes peeled for elk and mule deer.Camden, Maine
An under-the-radar coastal town along Penobscot Bay, Camden tempts leaf-peepers with its green, crimson and golden hues blanketing birch, chestnut and elm trees on the scenic U.S. Route 1 drive from Rockport to Camden. For more captivating views, climb to Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park or embark on a schooner boat tour. Aside from Camden's stunning natural coastal beauty, quaint inns and charming shops abound. Stroll through town to hunt for a souvenir the Goose River Exchange, which is chockablock with vintage antiques, postcards and posters. When hunger strikes, make your way to Natalie's Restaurant for a memorable meal or savor a well-crafted cocktail at the Camden Harbour Inn.Skaneateles, New York
Skaneateles, New York
In New York's Finger Lakes region, as the temperatures shift in late September through mid-October, the leaves turn deep orange, yellow and crimson hues. Admire nature's dazzling show with a hike in Ripley Hill Nature Preserve in nearby Spafford or on a beautiful hike in Clift Park. For another perspective, enjoy a mirage of colors reflecting from the water on a scenic cruise in Skaneateles Lake. After leaf-peeping, bunk down at Mirbeau Inn & Spa or Arbor House Inn, lovely and well-appointed lodging options in the area.Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine
Idyllic seaside scenery and well-maintained hiking trails go hand in hand in Bar Harbor, a charming New England village on Mount Desert Island. With easy access to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor's tucked-away resort town appeals to leaf-peepers looking for jaw-dropping angles at Cadillac Mountain and prime vantage points along Acadia's rugged carriage roads. Mountain bike or hike through Acadia's carriage trails to get your autumn color fix in mid-October, before refueling back in Bar Harbor, which brims with galleries, gift shops and quaint inns. Back in Bar Harbor, retreat to the Bar Harbor Inn & Spa, where you'll be greeted with sophisticated surroundings and luxurious touches (think: private decks facing the ocean and mud wraps at the on-site spa).Abingdon, Virginia
Thanks to its location neighboring the Tennessee border, Abingdon offers easy access to foliage-filled roads and trails, along with ample opportunities to embrace the exuberant spectrum of yellow, orange, green and scarlet colors illuminating the staggering Blue Ridge Mountains. Leaf peepers can catch sight of the shifting colors along the Crooked Road, a railroad-turned-park that hosts a variety of music festivals and bridges Damascus and Abingdon in mid-October. Hike or bike along the Appalachian or Virginia Creeper trails, or take in the scenery with a glass of wine in hand at the Abingdon Vineyard & Winery, then retreat to The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, which offers spacious guest rooms, along with complimentary evening wine, a large front porch a fire pit.Read More
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