The Best Autumn Leaves and Fall Foliage Tours In America

Updated on May 24, 2016
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park, Maine | Source

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.

Source

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.

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).

Source
Fodor's New England, 29th Edition (Full-color Travel Guide)
Fodor's New England, 29th Edition (Full-color Travel Guide)

Ideas and suggestions for Autumn Leaves viewing in the Whole of New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

 
Thunderhead Mountain at Cades Cove.
Thunderhead Mountain at Cades Cove. | Source

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

A
Townsend TN:
Townsend, TN 37882, USA

get directions

Entrance to the Great Smokies National Park

Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway | Source

Blue Ridge Parkway

A
Blue Ridge Parkway:
Blue Ridge Parkway, 2551 Mountain View Road, Vinton, VA 24179, USA

get directions

William B. Bankhead National Forest
William B. Bankhead National Forest | Source
  • 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 | Source

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

A
Palomar Mountain State Park:
Palomar Mountain State Park, Cleveland National Forest, California 92060, USA

get directions

B
Palomar Mountain Observatory - Cleveland National Forest:
Palomar Mountain, Cleveland National Forest, California 92060, USA

get directions

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Patty Inglish MS

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      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

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

      • Danette Watt profile image

        Danette Watt 

        6 years ago from Illinois

        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 profile image

        Donna Kristine 

        6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

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

      • rwhite10 profile image

        Ron White 

        6 years ago from USA

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

      • everythingdazzles profile image

        Janelle 

        6 years ago from Houston

        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.

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        6 years ago from California

        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

      • profile image

        CareyV 

        6 years ago

        Fall is a beautiful season!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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.

      • Melovy profile image

        Yvonne Spence 

        6 years ago from UK

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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.

      • profile image

        Joshuajayde 

        6 years ago

        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 profile image

        mrpip 

        6 years ago

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

      • J.S.Matthew profile image

        JS Matthew 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        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,

        JSMatthew~

      • whonunuwho profile image

        whonunuwho 

        6 years ago from United States

        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 profile image

        prasetio30 

        6 years ago from malang-indonesia

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

      • Ben Zoltak profile image

        Ben Zoltak 

        6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

        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.

        Ben

      • Stephanie Henkel profile image

        Stephanie Henkel 

        6 years ago from USA

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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 profile image

        Marcy Goodfleisch 

        6 years ago from Planet Earth

        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 profile image

        Crystal Tatum 

        6 years ago from Georgia

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

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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.

      • profile image

        CareyV 

        6 years ago

        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 profile image

        CZCZCZ 

        6 years ago from Oregon

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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.

      • kathleen1630 profile image

        Kathleen 

        6 years ago from Philippines

        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 W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        6 years ago from Houston, Texas

        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!

      • coffeegginmyrice profile image

        Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

        6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

        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!

        Congratulations!!!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        6 years ago from the short journey

        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.

      • profile image

        ignugent17 

        6 years ago

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

      • Victoria Lynn profile image

        Victoria Lynn 

        6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

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

      • Happyboomernurse profile image

        Gail Sobotkin 

        6 years ago from South Carolina

        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.

      • Cyndi10 profile image

        Cynthia B Turner 

        6 years ago from Georgia

        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.

      • suzettenaples profile image

        Suzette Walker 

        6 years ago from Taos, NM

        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!

      • Askme profile image

        Pritchard 

        6 years ago

        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!

      • alifeofdesign profile image

        Graham Gifford 

        6 years ago from New Hamphire

        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.

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        6 years ago from New York

        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.

      • DeborahNeyens profile image

        Deborah Neyens 

        6 years ago from Iowa

        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 profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        6 years ago from Germany

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

      • vespawoolf profile image

        vespawoolf 

        6 years ago from Peru, South America

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

      • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

        Ms. Immortal 

        6 years ago from NJ

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

      • moonlake profile image

        moonlake 

        6 years ago from America

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

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        6 years ago from sunny Florida

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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!

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        6 years ago

        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.

      • doodlebugs profile image

        doodlebugs 

        6 years ago from Southwest

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

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

      • nmdonders profile image

        Nira Perkins 

        6 years ago

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

      • unknown spy profile image

        Not Found 

        6 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

        Oh sooo beautiful!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

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

      • tammyswallow profile image

        Tammy 

        6 years ago from North Carolina

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

      • cclitgirl profile image

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        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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