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The Best Autumn Leaves and Fall Foliage Tours in America

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Temperature Changes Change Leaf Color

Autumn foliage tours begin in America in September and last as late as November. New England and Colorado become cooler before the remainder of the country that offers special Autumn Leaves Tours, so they are first to enjoy the increased tourist trade.

As summer temperatures begin to drop, chlorophyll production that keeps leaves green, also drops. Other chemicals are present in the deciduous trees' leaf systems and without the masking chlorophyll, these chemicals reveal other colors in the leaves - a continuum of yellows to deep reds. If evergreens and firs begin to change colors, it is a signal of some sort of problem. One notable exception is the most famous Golden Spruce of the Pacific Northwest.

Other weather conditions can result in early leaf color changes among deciduous trees. One particular summer in Ohio in the late 1980s was cooler than average over the entire course of the season and our leaves in Central Ohio were in full fall colors during the third week of August! People stood around, looking at them.

Drivers pulled off the roads to see them. The change in timing of the colors brought out crowds of appreciative onlookers. In October, some kids dressed as trees with autumn leaves for their Halloween and Harvest parties.


United States National Forests

America maintains many more National Forests than is realized by our citizenry and guests. These large forest are some of the best places to begin a tour of fall foliage. Some of these national forests are within national parks, scenic highways, and adjacent destinations, with few suggestions for enjoying these places in th autumn listed below.

New England Foliage Tours

Train Trips Through the Leaves of Autumn Country

Twenty or forty years ago, travelers could book an overnight train through the Northeast United States and enjoy a day or two of autumn colors. Today, with higher speeds and fewer trains running, we no longer have those "overnighters."

The Mount Washington train listed above is your best choice for a train trip through trees whose leaves are changing. One Southern Ohio train runs a very short line through autumn colors and doubles as a Christmas Express (rides are only about 30 minutes long on either).

Thunderhead Mountain at Cades Cove.

Thunderhead Mountain at Cades Cove.

Southern Fall Leaf Watching

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cades Cove Loop Road. This scenic drive is on the Tennessee side of the national park. Be prepared for an eleven-mile one-way, one-lane paved road that includes several historic sites where you may stop and visit. The loop begins 7.3 mi from the Townsend entrance to the park and there is an orientation kiosk at the beginning. Wednesdays and Saturdays are reserved from Sunrise to 10:00 AM for walkers and cyclists only. Otherwise, vehicles my enjoy the route from Sunrise to Sunset all year. Fall colors and a variety of wildlife are to be seen each autumn.

Great Smoky Mountains

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

William B. Bankhead National Forest

William B. Bankhead National Forest

  • Blue Ridge Parkway - This scenic highway is also a park that travels across 469 miles in North Carolina and Virginia. The speed limit is 45 mph and access is free to the public, but a nominal charge is made for camping.
  • Bankhead National Forest, first Wilderness Area declared in Alabama (1975) - This forest contains old-growth hardwoods that include oaks, maples, beeches, and black gum trees in and around long-leafed pines. The region is beautiful, populated with streams, bluffs, and gorges. A 500-year-old tulip tree is a big tourist attraction, along with many forms of wildlife. Walking and riding trails are numerous and archeological areas are interesting.

Sipsey Wilderness Trailheads Map

Bankhead National Forest

Bankhead National Forest

Autumn Leaves in California

California residents feared the closing of many of their state parks, because of fiscal problems experienced by the state government. However, many of these places have remained opened, with a few changes. Some staff have been laid off and in some of the more remote parks, visitors must take in their own trash bags and toilet paper, making sure to remove their own trash as they leave.

Many of these parks contain deciduous trees and are still good for Autumn Leaf Watching. A few suggestions are listed below.

Palomar Mountain Attractions

Visit Palomar During Autumn Leaves Celebrations

  • Polamar Observatory - Caltech Astronomy
    Open year round, daily except December 24 & 25. Visiting hours are from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm while we are on Standard Time and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm while we are on Daylight Savings Time.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 23, 2012:

Thanks for your visit and the heads up! - And It's good to see you back on HP.

Danette Watt from Illinois on October 23, 2012:

I haven't been active on HP lately due to work and other obligations but your beautiful photo caught my attention. Wonderful hub and definitely deserves HOD acclaim! I did see a typo on the blurb so you might want to double check it. If you're a perfectionist like me you'll want to fix it.

Again, congrats on the beautiful hub!

Kristine Manley from Atlanta, GA on October 22, 2012:

Patty, thank you for sharing this. The pictures are fabulous! I love the Fall.

Ron White from USA on October 18, 2012:

Excellent Hub. Fal is the most beautiful season of the year. We are blessed to be in New England when it comes.

Janelle from Houston on October 18, 2012:

As I live in the alleghenys I am very fortunate that we get such beautiful views. Fall is lovely. I would love to see Salem, MA in the fall.

Audrey Howitt from California on October 18, 2012:

Patty these are just beautiful--what a great hub! This is one of the trips I would like to make someday--to see the colors change--we just don't get much of that in the bay area

CareyV on October 18, 2012:

Fall is a beautiful season!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 18, 2012:

One friend goes to New England about every year in October and loves the colors! I hope you are able to return nd enjoy the sights soon.

Yvonne Spence from UK on October 18, 2012:

We once visited New England in early September, but were too early to see the best of the fall. It was still beautiful and one day I plan to return later and see it in all its glory, though your description of California in the fall also sounds appealing. Congrats on HOTD!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 17, 2012:

Jashuajayde - UP may not be as popular with travelers as the other sites, but some publicity may make it so! I'll have a look at those sites you mention and see what I can do.

Thanks for all the other Hubbers' suggestions as well - New England states like Vermont and New Hampshire; Wisconsin, New York.

Joshuajayde on October 17, 2012:

It's a shame that Michigan didn't make the cut in this article.

For the record, you should really check out the fall colors in the Upper Peninsula - I grew up there, and it's just fantastic when Autumn moves in. I would particularly recommend the Porcupine Mountains if you want something that will take you on a journey for the entire day, or maybe even a few days. Or, for those with less time who may be passing through, the view from the Cut River bridge is breathtaking - and that's right on a major highway, with the option of exploring the area.

mrpip on October 17, 2012:

St. Johnsbury Vermont is a great place to take in the beautiful colors of fall.

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on October 16, 2012:

Hi Patty! As a New Englander who experiences these beautiful changes in nature each year, I can appreciate this Hub article! I own a timeshare in Mount Washington Valley/White Mountains Region of New Hampshire. Since it is about 4 hours from where I live, I am lucky to be able to visit from time to time. I am looking forward to my next photo opportunity.

I am also hoping to be able to visit these other places someday. Congratulations on the Hub of the Day and I am so happy that you are now part of the Welcome Wagon Team. Never stop doing what you do. A lot of people look up to you...Including me. Thank you.

Voting and sharing. Kind regards,


whonunuwho from United States on October 16, 2012:

Such beautiful pictures, all give the feelings brought on by this, my favorite time of year. Thank you for sharing such a well timed and received work, Patty.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 16, 2012:

Beautiful, I can only see this on the calendar. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on October 16, 2012:

I would add Devil's Lake, Wyalusing State Park as well as Rib Mountain for a tour in Wisconsin, although just about anywhere in the lower two-thirds of the state provides excellent colors. Funny how I've never thought of a train ride, the perfect compliment, thanks Patty. There used to be a train that rode right into Devil's Lake state park, I've believe in the roaring 20's, and riders could stay in a Victorian style hotel on the lake.


Stephanie Henkel from USA on October 16, 2012:

Congratulations on your well-deserved Hub of the Day! This is a beautiful hub with an overwhelming amount of useful information. It is definitely a travel guide of must-see places! In the past, I visited some of these places and also lived for years in the Finger Lakes region of New York -- you've certainly picked some wonderful places to feature! Great hub, voted up and shared!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 16, 2012:

Thanks a bunch for your new comments!

Right now, we still have a lot of green in our trees, but they are beginning to become more colorful. I hope to take some more Ohio leaf pictures this weekend. Should be fun.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on October 16, 2012:

What a beautiful and spectacular hub! I grew up in Ohio, and we looked forward to the brilliant colors every fall - each year it seemed the leaves were more vivid than we'd seen before. It was like seeing them for the first time all over again.

Congratulations on the HOTD - so deserved!

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on October 16, 2012:

Wonderfully informative and entertaining, with great pictures and links. Congrats on being selected as Hub of the Day!!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 16, 2012:

Thanks for more comments! -- I'm hearing a lot about a move to Floridian not being a favorite thing. I'd better visit a couple more times before I decide on Pensacola - but I love the color of that water! I bet Oregon is lovely with color as well, CZCZCZ.

Maine must be most beautiful - I have never traveled there, but a friend goes on vacation in Maine and loves the fall colors as you do, CareyV.

CareyV on October 16, 2012:

I grew up in Maine and the fall is my absolute favorite season there. I have moved to Florida... not my favorite place and I certainly miss this time of year up north the most. I cannot wait to get up north, smell the fall air and view the gorgeous foliage!

CZCZCZ from Oregon on October 16, 2012:

I love the fall season and watching the leaves changing colors as we transition into Winter. Enjoyed reading this, the tours sound interesting.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 16, 2012:

Thank you all for such a nice surprise of a waterfall of comments today to go along with our fall foliage. I enjoyed all of your thoughts and your remembrances of autumn colors and fall experiences and appreciate all of your kind comments.

I do wish we had an operating train system throughout Ohio for foliage tours, but I did find an excursion train in South Central Ohio that runs a 1-hour tour and hope to experience the trip soon.

I'd no idea that Utah has fall foliage tours in the south! They must be incredible. The Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains are sights I'd like to see again; it's been a few years and it would be terrific to have the option of posting photos of these places in comments, wouldn't it?

Toronto and the rest of Ontario is autumn must be spectacular! That's another trip I must take.

Thanks to all of you again for posting wonderful and enjoyable comments! I'd not been expecting a HOTD, but writing this one was like taking a vacation among the autumn colors.

Kathleen from Philippines on October 16, 2012:

Fall and winter is like a dream to me. But fall is my favorite of all. How I wish we have 4 seasons in our country.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 16, 2012:

Hi Patty,

Beautiful hub and so timely also regarding Fall foliage tours in America. Having grown up in Wisconsin as a child, I can attest that the colors up there are stupendous during this time of year. My husband and I have enjoyed the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the Fall & I even wrote a hub about it. It was our first year anniversary trip many years ago but still vivid in our memories. Many parts of our country are worth visiting at this time of year. Up votes and sharing!

Marites Mabugat-Simbajon from Toronto, Ontario on October 16, 2012:

I'm from Toronto Ontario and even going north here is beautiful. What more with the beautiful parks in America! I like the Mt. Washington Cog Railway...seems really fun! This hub is useful, beautiful and interesting.Sharing this hub. Fall is my favourite season!


RTalloni on October 16, 2012:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this on fall foliage tours! Our Blue Ridge/Smokies season is shaping up beautifully because of stellar weather. On top of color popping out on green trees I have some late season flowers blooming. This is one of those times I wish I could post a photo in the comments to show you our deep burgundy dogwood leaves with hydrangea and dahlias in bloom at the same time.

ignugent17 on October 16, 2012:

Very beautiful! Congratulations hub of the day. :-)

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on October 16, 2012:

Nice hub! I enjoyed the photos especially. The fall can be so beautiful. Congrats on Hub of the Day. It's very timely! :-)

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 16, 2012:

Congratulations on earning HOTD for this visually stunning, beautifully organized and well researched hub.

I see lots of places to add to my future travel wish list.

Voted up across the board except for funny. Also shared.

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on October 16, 2012:

Fall scenes can take your breath away. Growing up in Virginia with the Blue Ridge Mountains close by, you can capture some of the most beautiful scenes, especially when it's early morning and that mist hangs in the air with the sunrise filtering through the leaves. It can be magical! Wonderful hub and great pictures to illustrate your words. Vote up.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on October 16, 2012:

Patty: Beautiful, beautiful article. This is so well presented and explained. I love the photos and maps. You make it very easy for the reader to get information about these national parks and autumn foliage areas. Autumn is a beautiful time of the year and I have missed it in Florida. I'm up here in Ohio now and I am enjoying the fall. I hope I miss the snow, though. Congratulations on being HOTD! This is well deserved!

Rebecca O'Reilly from California on October 16, 2012:

Beautiful Hub! Did you know Southern Utah actually has fall foliage tours? They claim to have as many as the East coast.

Voted up and beautiful!

Graham Gifford from New Hamphire on October 16, 2012:

Although the leaves aren't their most colorful this year (our lack of rain, for one, contributed) they are still quite beautiful. Living in New Hampshire we see many leaf-peepers traveling our back roads and mountainsides. I just recently took my first train ride through part of the state and the views were amazing.

Mary Craig from New York on October 16, 2012:

The beauty of the leaves is just something you have to see. You've done a great job listing some beautiful trips Patty. We sometimes forget how lucky we are to have four lovely seasons each with it's own beauty and so many different places to experience it.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on October 16, 2012:

This is a great guide to fall color, Patty. I was in Acadia in early September one year. The leaves were just starting to change. I would love to go back someday at the peak of the color.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on October 16, 2012:

Awesome photos! Beautiful nature as autumn is always be. Congrats on the hub of the day. Thanks for sharing.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on October 16, 2012:

I loved this hub when I first read it. Congrats on HOTD!

Ms. Immortal from NJ on October 16, 2012:

Thank you for a beautiful hub, kind of like a mini vacation for me.

moonlake from America on October 16, 2012:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day. Enjoyed your hub. We have beautiful fall foliage here too. Many people come for Colorama.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 16, 2012:

Thank you, Patty, for sharing this with us. Fall's changes make it one of my favorite times of the year.

The changing of the leaves is breathtaking each time I witness it. Sometimes we drive up to North Georgia or North Carolina to see them. Living in Florida we miss the displays you have spoken of here.

Thanks for walking me back down memory lane.

Great job.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 16, 2012:

Thanks for the new comments - fall is a beautiful season, especially when you view the landscapes in your area that feature changing colors!

Thanks for the Hub of the Day, HP!

Claudia Mitchell on August 26, 2012:

Fall - my favorite season of all. This is a beautiful hub full of promises of what is coming right around the corner. Thanks for this.

Nolen Hart from Southwest on August 26, 2012:

Nice hub Patty. I got the chance to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. It was a dazzling show of colors.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 25, 2012:

Thanks for your kind comment! The sight and smell of autumn leaves is a celebration every year!

Nira Perkins on August 25, 2012:

What a great idea for a trip, it would be so gorgeous. This is a really nice article, well written, and nice looking.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 25, 2012:

Oh sooo beautiful!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 25, 2012:

Yes, I think a 4-day weekend would be a good visit to these places and feel like an entire month of relaxation in the vibrant colors and crisp air.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 25, 2012:

I agree, and the sight of fall foliage is enough to keep one going. Your photos will be wonderful!

Tammy from North Carolina on August 25, 2012:

Gorgeous photos. I would love to go to Maine in the fall. That looks like a great mini vacation. Gorgeous hub!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 25, 2012:

As soon as I saw the title for this, I just KNEW the Blue Ridge Parkway would be listed in this hub. Oh my goodness - "breathtaking" is such an understatement for the beauty of color! I live about 10 miles from the first on-ramp for it and I already have a photography trip planned to take pictures of the changing foliage.

I didn't know Colorado and New England started their color season first - I grew up in Colorado and their color season is spectacular. It's a personal requirement that I live in an area that is majestically inspiring - even if I don't make much money. Ha! Being close to nature and fabulous views just makes life worth living. Thanks for sharing this!!

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