Colorful leaves add even more visual interest to these incredible locales.
More than a quarter of Americans traveling between Labor Day and Thanksgiving seek out fall foliage, according to a 2017 AAA survey. While driving gives you the freedom to explore, spending the weekend stuck behind a line of vehicles on the best-known routes is a major nuisance. Instead, travel midweek or to an off-the-beaten-path destination. No matter which of these 30 special spots you choose, you're bound to find gorgeous autumn scenery.
Molly Stark Byway: Vermont
With roughly 75 percent forest cover, weekly fall festivals and more maple trees than any other state in the country, Vermont could easily be considered America's harvest capital. Many rural routes show off Vermont's rainbow of leaves, but the Molly Stark Byway is a traveler favorite. It links historic Bennington to artsy Brattleboro and passes by multiple postcard-worthy towns, quaint museums, crafts boutiques and hiking trails – all while offering 100-mile views from Hogback Mountain.
Kyoto Botanical Garden: Kyoto, Japan
Japan is renowned for its simply designed gardens, which use natural materials such as sand and stone to accentuate the beauty of their plants. In early November, locals head outdoors for momijigari (or "red leaf hunting" in Japanese). Visitors can spot stunning fall foliage in temple gardens and around Kyoto's hills. Travelers especially love admiring the changing leaves on the hydrangea shrubs and cherry and maple trees, among other plant varieties, at the Kyoto Botanical Garden.
Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway: Arkansas
The vineyards, lakes and changing leaves of northwestern Arkansas are best appreciated along the 35-mile Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway. This picturesque thoroughfare winds through the Boston Mountain range and across several waterways, including the Buffalo National River. From late September to early November, hikers and motorcyclists flock to the area to trek the Ozark Highlands Trail, which winds through sweet gum, hickory, sassafras, maple and oak groves in the Ozark National Forest.
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park: Buckhorn, Kentucky
The 1,200-acre Buckhorn Lake is the centerpiece of this eastern Kentucky park. In autumn, the redbuds, dogwoods and other tree species that cover the rolling hills around the lake begin to turn shades of orange. With patience, you might see elk or eagles or catch some largemouth bass or channel catfish. Other available park activities include hiking, mini-golf, boating and bicycling. For accommodations, consider staying at the on-site lodge. This wood and sandstone structure has 36 rooms, several of which boast lake-facing balconies or patios.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Located just north of Michigan across the U.S.-Canada border, Sault Ste. Marie is a good base for visiting three of northern Ontario's provincial parks: Pancake Bay, Batchawana Bay and Lake Superior. Each features deciduous forests, lakes, rivers and granite rock formations. To see some of the country's most colorful leaves, take a ride on the narrated Agawa Canyon Tour Train between mid-September and the first week of October.
Washington Crossing Historic Park: Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania
From mid- to late October, history buffs can appreciate the changing leaves at Washington Crossing Historic Park – where Gen. George Washington crossed the Delaware River to get from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in 1776. On a clear day, leaf peepers should check out the 125-foot-tall Bowman's Hill Tower. Situated less than 3 miles south of New Hope, this attraction offers top-notch views of Bucks County and its 28,300 trees. In autumn, the park hosts a colonial encampment and market event where period-inspired items are sold.
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness: Winkelman, Arizona
One of America's last areas to experience changing leaves each fall is the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. Peak foliage viewing takes place from late November to mid-December, giving hikers breathtaking vistas as they traverse unmarked trails, one of which stretches more than 12 miles long. Along the way, hikers and photographers may see ringtail cats, javelinas (which look like wild pigs), coatis (tree-climbing mammals related to raccoons), bighorn sheep and various birds, as well as Saguaro cactuses surrounded by colorful sycamore, ash, cottonwood and willow trees.
Hamilton County, Indiana
Indiana's Conner Prairie interactive history park has a tethered balloon ride for all ages that takes fall foliage viewing to the next level. The popular experience – one of many park activities commemorating the historic 1859 launch of the "Jupiter" hot air balloon – lifts visitors 350 feet above the ground. Enjoy views of woodlands, the White River, Hamilton County's historic prairie and the Indianapolis skyline. Conner Prairie operates 10- to 15-minute balloon rides through late October.
Emerald Necklace Trail: Boston
Leaf peepers love Boston in the fall. The city has lots of activities for visitors, and it scores highly on Treepedia's Green View Index (a ranking of cities with ample tree canopy coverage). Local bike shop and tour operator UrbanAdventours runs a half-day, environmentally friendly guided bike excursion of the Emerald Necklace, a historic system of parks designed by American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Stops on this fall outing – which is best experienced between mid-October and early November – include tree-shaded Commonwealth Avenue, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, the Charles River Esplanade and Jamaica Pond.
Amsterdam Forest: Amsterdam
Nearly 21 percent of Amsterdam is shaded by greenery, and canals and harbors cover roughly 25 percent of the city's surface. One of the top places to admire the contrasting colors of fall leaves is Amsterdam Forest (or "Amsterdamse Bos" in Dutch), a man-made park with both forest and water. It is easy to reach by public transportation, and visitors can take in their surroundings while walking, biking, horseback riding or canoeing on the park's canals to Grote Vijver Lake.
Vogel State Park: Blairsville, Georgia
Vogel State Park is one of Georgia's top parks to see fall foliage in October. To reach the park, travelers can drive through the Chattahoochee National Forest on Wolf Pen Gap Road. Once inside, families with young children can walk the easy Trahlyta Lake Trail to the small Trahlyta Falls waterfall. Experienced hikers will enjoy the 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail, which boasts a high vantage point with spectacular views of the vivid Blue Ridge Mountains.
(Courtesy of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites)
New River Gorge National River: Glen Jean, West Virginia
New River Gorge National River kicks off fall in late September with its Hidden History Weekend, an annual event that explores Appalachian and Native American traditions. It's also a prime spot for adventure activities. Visitors ages 15 and older can join Adventures on the Gorge for lodge- or tent-based whitewater rafting trips, while those 12 and up can admire the region's fall foliage from the resort's zip lines. Leaf peeping is best enjoyed in late October from the New River Gorge Bridge or the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.
Mullerthal Trail: Mullerthal Region, Luxembourg
For Luxembourg's most impressive fall foliage, take the 70-mile Mullerthal Trail through the country's "Little Switzerland" area. Stay in the historic town of Echternach and hike to the ruins of Heringen fort, Schiessentümpel waterfall and Mëllerdall Nature and Geopark. Although some hardwoods are logged, about 40,000 fruit trees and other tree varieties show off their colors in late October and early November.
(Courtesy of © Alfonso Salgueiro www.alsalphotography.com-LFT)
Kawuneeche Valley: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Seeing Rocky Mountain National Park's golden leaves is a fall ritual for Colorado natives. One popular route begins north of Grand Lake in the scenic Kawuneeche Valley, which sits in the western part of the park. Visitors can hike through golden willow and aspen groves as they look for elk, moose and – with a little patience – trout.
Mount Royal Park: Montreal
According to Treepedia, Montreal offers more than 25 percent canopy coverage when viewed from above. To appreciate the city's lush setting, go to its highest point: Mount Royal Park. Enter from Pine Avenue and Peel Street (or "Avenue des Pins" and "Rue Peel" in French) to catch a glimpse of the park's bright red, orange and yellow maple, oak and pine trees.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
A less-crowded neighbor to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park sits only a few miles north of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of northwestern Wyoming's top ski destinations. In addition to its towering evergreens, snow-capped mountains and beautiful lakes, the park boasts aspen, willow and cottonwood trees that turn lovely shades of yellow and red from early September to mid-October. You may also spot herds of elk before hunting season begins in mid-October. For the best leaf peeping, the National Park Service recommends visiting in the third week of September.
Chateau Country, Delaware
Late October to early November is peak leaf-peeping season in Chateau Country, an elegant mansion-filled area situated a few miles northwest of Wilmington. One must-see property here is the 175-room Winterthur mansion, which now houses a decorative arts museum. Nearly 1,000 acres envelop this former home of Henry Francis du Pont. Of the plants he introduced, the hickory, beech, linden viburnun, witch hazel, dogwood and quince varieties are especially breathtaking in autumn. The Hagley Museum and Gardens is equally impressive thanks to its restored gunpowder mills and 235 beautiful riverfront acres.
(Courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library)
Ojców National Park: Suloszowa, Poland
Poland's smallest national park sits about 10 miles northwest of Kraków in the small village of Suloszowa. Though known for its limestone rock formations, deep gorges and unusual sandstone arches like Krakow's Gate (which is part of an old trade route), Ojców National Park also boasts oak and sycamore trees that begin turning vibrant shades of rust and red in September. Hike up to designated lookout points for views of the colorful forest around Ojców Castle.
Down East Sunrise Trail: Maine
Maine's four scenic byways are surrounded by gorgeous gold, orange and red hues during the first two weeks of October. To avoid getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, seek out lesser-known public lands like the Down East Sunrise Trail. This 85-mile stretch of converted railroad track in Washington and Hancock counties is a popular place to go hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Kashmir Valley, India
Northern India's Kashmir region is known for its houseboats, apple orchards and stunning mountain vistas – especially from mid-September to mid-November, when everything is golden. Hikers will find leaves, shrubs and grasses in every shade of yellow and orange. Travelers should also check out the Shalimar Bagh Mughal garden in the city of Srinagar. Here, visitors can admire the red and gold leaves of the chinar, a rare cousin of the maple tree that's indigenous to the area.
Skyline Drive: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
This scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains gives drivers an up-close look at Virginia's lush fall foliage from late September to early November. Whether looking east to the Virginia Piedmont or west to the Shenandoah Valley, Skyline Drive motorists will find golden hickory trees and red maple, sumac and oak trees with vivid orange leaves. It's a busy road, but be sure to pull over at designated overlooks like Stony Man to admire the beautiful display of colors.
White Mountain Trail: Livermore, New Hampshire
When Franconia, New Hampshire, resident Robert Frost talked about the road less traveled, he may have been looking for an alternate route away from the leaf peepers crowding Kancamagus Highway. That alternative is Livermore's 100-mile White Mountain Trail in Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch state parks. This scenic byway weaves past waterfalls and across seven covered bridges, leading to 32 outlooks with jaw-dropping views of the Presidential Range's multihued foliage.
Plitvice Lakes National Park: Plitvicka Jezera, Croatia
The stunning gray and white travertine rock formations in Plitvice Lakes National Park may have inspired Walt Disney World's Pandora – The World of Avatar, but fall visitors' jaws will drop for an entirely different reason: the changing leaves of the park's dense underbrush. Choose the self-guided tour of the Lower Lakes section, where wooden boardwalks traverse streams and lakes. Each body of water reflects the surrounding trees' foliage against its deep blue water.
Horses & Hounds Scenic Byway: Maryland
It's easy to appreciate autumn in Baltimore, where even young children will enjoy a brief road trip. The 70-mile Horses & Hounds Scenic Byway, which connects Hunt Valley to Baltimore County's Towson area, commemorates central Maryland's horse and hunting history. Families can pause at Cockeysville's agricultural resource center and farm, the Shawan Downs steeplechase track and the many small inns that sit close to the byway. Don't miss Gunpowder Falls State Park and the 22-acre Ladew Topiary Gardens, two very different places to check out fall foliage and collect leaves for scrapbooking.
Bishop Creek Canyon, California
While California is not at the top of most foliage seekers' lists, photographers flock to Bishop Creek Canyon in fall to see the colorful leaves of willow and aspen trees. Around the autumnal equinox, red, yellow and orange tones appear at the top of the canyon, creeping down the rock walls toward the creek bed as winter approaches. Experienced campers can set up tripods in 12 campgrounds maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. All offer bear boxes for food storage and are located no more than 20 miles away from the canyon.
Arrowtown, New Zealand
This region less than 13 miles northeast of Queenstown is notable for its multicolored fall foliage. The leaves on most local cottonwood trees turn yellow between March and May (New Zealand's autumn season), but visitors can also see deep golds and reds on Arrowtown's hillsides and riverbank. Travelers should schedule their trips for the last week of April to attend the Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival, which has celebrated the harvest season with food and entertainment for more than 30 years.
Salmon River Trail, Mount Hood National Forest: Sandy, Oregon
With towering firs, footpaths blanketed in leaves and a fast-flowing river filled with spawning salmon, the Salmon River Trail exudes peak Pacific Northwest appeal from mid- to late October. The 14-mile path through Mount Hood National Forest can be cut into short increments for a pleasant day hike. Popular sections include those that lead to the trail's rocky headlands, which sit above waterfalls surrounded by colorful ground plants. History buffs should also check out the Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark that was built in the 1930s.
Peninsula State Park: Fish Creek, Wisconsin
The peninsula that juts out into Green Bay in central Wisconsin is home to Peninsula State Park, a well-maintained park with walking and bike trails, picnic areas, boat ramps and more. During the third week of October – the park's peak fall foliage period – head to the high bluffs to gaze at Peninsula Park White Cedar Forest's vibrant deciduous trees. Fall colors can also be viewed from the park's 19th-century lighthouse or during a bonfire intermission at the Peninsula Players Theatre.
Andean-Patagonian Forests: Chile and Argentina
This ribbon of subantarctic forests that covers the steep slopes of the Andes mountains in Chilean and Argentine Patagonia features vivid autumn colors from March to May. These months comprise the fall season in Chile and Argentina, but they are still warm enough for outdoor pursuits like mountain biking, kayaking and horseback riding. While exploring the forests, stop to snap pictures of the yellow, orange and red leaves of the lenga and ñire trees. They can be seen from Neuquén to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and offer a stark contrast to the area's white rocks and blue lakes.
Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario
Best known for its powerful cascades that drop up to 681,750 gallons of water per second, Niagara Falls sits in the midst of lush parks and forests, making it a great destination for foliage seekers. Horseshoe Falls, the widest cataract, is protected by Ontario's Niagara Parks government agency, while the American and Bridal Veil falls are part of New York's Niagara Falls State Park. More than 70 species of trees, many of which showcase an array of colors from mid- to late October, are located on both sides of the falls.