We all know about the Aspen trees in Colorado and the scenic drives on the eastern seaboard through Maine and Vermont, but nearly the entire United States experiences intense fall foliage and there are unexplored opportunities across the country. You can get away from the crowds and enjoy nature at its most colorful.
The Catskills, New York
This area is bursting with history as well as vibrant fall colors. There are trails to hike, mountains to climb and rivers that cut through the dense forest. Located about 2 hours outside of New York, you can easily fly to New York and then drive to this slice of wilderness.
Expect to see orangey and yellow tones mixed in with some spots of brilliant red. A few of the lookout points even inspired 19th century romantic painters to create picturesque sweeping vistas.
Peak Foliage: First 2 weeks of October
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Sitting on a plateau in central Missouri, the Lake of Ozarks is a large reservoir system that’s a popular spot for spring breakers and family summer vacations. The Lake of the Ozarks quiets down during the fall but the surrounding hills are full of bright beautiful colors, making it a great site-seeing spot.
Roam the hills in the surrounding area or boat from spot to spot across the lake. The Ozarks also provides a unique viewing opportunity because of its Midwestern location. The climate in Missouri accommodates a large swath of plant species and this makes for 2 peak viewing seasons. The first is smaller but comprised of the more brilliant red and yellow hues. The first peak is a good time for camping or walking trails because not everything will have changed, but those that have will be brilliant. The second peak is when all the trees have turned and there is little to no green. Colors range from bright orange to rust. The second peak is a good time for driving through trails or boating on the lake.
Peak Foliage: Second week of October OR the last few days of October into the first few days of November.
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
This area is known for its arts, music and outdoor scene. The Berkshires are a cultural hub and a popular location year-round for its camps and preforming arts. This region also encompasses 6 distinct ecoregions with their own unique habitats.
Drive through the region and make stops in the small towns or stay in a quaint cabin or the historical Blantyre, which bills itself as a “luxury country house hotel.” The mansion was built in the early 1900s by a wealthy family as a summer home. Today it, and other places in the region, make for colorful fall stops.
Peak Foliage: First 2 weeks of October
Chief Mountain, Montana
Chief Mountain is not your typical mountain. Towering over everything around it, this mountain doesn’t the classic mountain shape. Instead, it looks like a block of purply white rock dropped from the sky. It also provides a dramatic backdrop for fall foliage.
The mountain itself doesn’t have any trees growing on it but it is surrounded by scrubby trees and flat plains. The unique mixture of low-lying foliage and the large, blocky mountain makes for a one-of-a-kind fall foliage experience. It’s not Colorado’s mountains and foliage, and for Chief Mountain, that’s a good thing.
Peak Foliage: Second and third week of October
Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills are most famous for being home to Mt. Rushmore. They have a lot more to offer than just some president’s heads though. Strange rock formations, pine covered peaks and roaming buffalo are a few of the sites in this isolated mountain range.
You’ll see the full gamete of fall colors thanks to the oak and ash trees that blanket the region. Drive through the badlands or hike through the hills and mountains. As a bonus, the area isn’t as crowded in the fall because it isn’t a traditional fall destination– even though it should be.
Peak Foliage: First week of October