Whether you get to experience four seasons where you live or not, people always love to travel to see the leaves change. Of course, New England is well-known for gorgeous autumns. Who could ignore the brilliant yellow of the aspens changing in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado? While there are many places you can go to see the fall foliage, we are going to share five of our favorite towns known for their fall colors.
It's fitting we start this list with a location in New England since it's a destination for so many people seeking the fall colors. Williamstown, Massachusetts, is one of several beautiful communities in the Berkshires. If you aren't familiar, the Berkshires refers to a highland region in Massachusetts and is a rural getaway for many in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. What strikes locals and visitors alike about the fall colors in this region is the incredible range of hues. Dark crimsons, bright oranges, and sunny yellows are accentuated against the deep greens of evergreen trees and the trees yet to change colors.
If you're looking for a place to start exploring the mountains and forests near Williamstown, Mount Greylock (especially the Stony Ledge Trail) is a wonderful destination. Alternatively, if you are trying to cover more ground or aren't able to hike, there a few scenic driving tours in the Berkshires you shouldn't miss.
When to Go: Late September through October.
Hood River, Oregon
Staying in Hood River, Oregon, a small town of about 7,000 people, places you right in the Columbia River Gorge and just a stone's throw away from the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Columbia River cuts through the landscape dividing Oregon and Washington and is fed by many incredible waterfalls. Between the firs, cottonwoods, maple, ash, and pines, all the spectacular fall colors are present in this already breathtaking canyon.
There are so many ways to explore the fall foliage. Bikers can enjoy the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. Hikers lace up their boots and take on the Multnomah Falls Trail to soak in both the fall colors and the stunning waterfall. Kayakers can make their way down the Columbia River. It just depends which outdoor activities you enjoy the most!
When to Go: Mid-September to mid-October
When a town is even named after a tree, it's got to be a fantastic place to see fall foliage, right? Aspen, Colorado, is known as a luxurious ski resort town — the most prestigious one in the whole state. But when it's not ski season, things are a lot more mellow, and it's the ideal place to see the aspens change. In this area of the Rocky Mountains, there aren't many other deciduous trees beside the aspens. Also, the aspen groves that speckle the rugged mountainsides are covered in evergreens. That makes their bright gold color stand out even more among the pines. If you're lucky, a trip to Aspen may also mean you can hear elk bugling in the evenings. Since late September and early October are when elk enter mating season, their majestic calls can be heard echoing out into the dusk.
The Maroon Bells — the most photographed mountain peaks in the U.S. — are the perfect place in Aspen to see the fall colors. When you travel here, a glacial lake reflects these craggy peaks. While the mountains tower above the treeline, the aspen trees below the treeline turn a stunning yellow. You can get to the Maroon Bells by bus. People on non-motorized vehicles such as bikes, skateboards, and rollerblades can travel the road for no cost. If the trek is your favorite part of the trip, check out even more walking and hiking trails in the state.
When to Go: The last two weeks of September
Taos, New Mexico
While Colorado may be the place to see aspens, those who seek something genuinely unique travel to Taos, New Mexico. There, you can see aspen trees that turn dark orange. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a popular 83-mile loop that takes leaf peepers on a spectacular tour of these beautiful trees. While you may think of New Mexico as mostly desert, the Rocky Mountains do drop down into New Mexico. With these mountains come evergreens and of course, the magical aspens in the Taos area.
The Enchanted Circle makes its way around Wheeler Peak, a mountain towering at 13,159 feet. So aside from traveling the byway, there is plenty of hiking and exploring to do. Along with soaking in the incredible fall colors, visitors can take in the vibrant art and music culture of Taos, as well as historical landmarks like the iconic church, San Franciso de Asis.
When to Go: Late September to early October
When it comes to the best places in the nation to see fall foliage, we'd be remiss not to mention a town in the Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg is at the top of the list of Smoky Mountain towns to visit because of its great location at the entrance to Great Smoky National Park. Over a hundred native tree types grow in the Smoky Mountains, including sugar maples, hickories, sweetgums, scarlet oaks, and red maples. So when the leaves start to change, it makes for quite a spectacular show. Gatlinburg is nestled right in the Smoky Mountains, so you could simply meander through the shops on Gatlinburg Parkway and still see plenty of fall colors.
But if you want to get out there into the woods, there are many trails in the National Park. Plenty of the trails lead to some stunning waterfalls, as well. An ever-popular thing to do is stay at the Leconte Lodge at the top of Mt. Leconte. People flock here for a rustic experience. The rooms always sell out, even though the lodge doesn't even have electricity!
When to Go: Mid-October to early November