• Best Places to See Fall Foliage

  • by Austin Quinn

Bright reds. Dazzling crimsons. Brilliant yellows and extraordinary oranges. With every fall, autumn leaves grace the countryside, presenting a collection of colors both breathtaking in their beauty and fascinating as natural phenomena. For exceptional seasonal scenery, check out a few of the states Budget Travel picked for the best dramatic drives or scenic train rides this fall.

Vermont – As one of the most well-known spots in the United States for fantastic fall foliage, Vermont earns its place thanks to the spectacular scenery of the Lake Champlain Islands, the areas around Burlington, and the stunning Green Mountains. Over the last three weekends of October, the state will experience peak colors, with subtle changes brightening and enhancing the display. In fact, there are more than 20 routes throughout the state ranging from 30 to 210 miles – for the intrepid leaf-lover. In addition to picturesque spots, these routes may also feature historical points of interest, local cultural attractions, and apple orchards.

Colorado – A haven of natural beauty, Colorado‘s Estes Park features fall foliage intertwined with wildlife and a variety of activities. Outdoor adventurers adore fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking in the nearby Estes Valley, while supernatural thrill-seekers love the Ghost & History Tours at the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s famous novel The Shining. Fall also brings the best time of year to take the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, a gorgeous mountain-cropped drive. Other popular routes for a road trip include the gravel-paved Kebler Pass, the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, and a wealth of other byways and highways known for their golden Aspens.

South Dakota – Brimming with color, each year South Dakota shines from the yellow ash and oak trees to the crimson red maple and sumac trees. Convenient for travelers, many charming roads wind between frequented cities, making sightseeing a breeze. Iron Mountain Road twists through the Black Hills, winding between the granite-veiled grove known as Custer State Park and the famous Mount Rushmore. Take a detour towards the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway – named one of the top 10 Most Outstanding Byways in America – and traverse its six separate rock tunnels. Quaint photo stops provide perfect locations for a picnic but make sure to guard your lunch against the herd of 1,300 bison roaming throughout the area.

Oregon – Leave it to Portland to host some of the greatest fall foliage spots in the country. Complemented by waterfalls, steep cliffs, gorgeous gorges, and vast valleys, the Columbia River Highway offers a wonderful sightseeing experience. Offering a history as vibrant and colorful as the autumn leaves surrounding it, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery traveled this route on their way to the Pacific Ocean, while Oregon Trail Pioneers traversed through the Columbia River Gorge in the 1800s. Preserved by several museums along the route, the area’s rich history serves as an attraction worthy of the spectacular views themselves.

Texas – Located just two hours from San Antonio, close to the town of Vanderpool, the Lost Maples State Natural Area features bird-watching, camping, backpacking, picnicking, swimming, fishing, and hiking in abundance. During early or mid-November, the state’s maples tend to change color, making Thanksgiving an ideal time to visit this park. Meanwhile in East Texas, at the fork of the Neches and Angelina rivers lies the Martin Dies Jr. State Park, a sanctum of biodiversity. Offering plenty of campsites next to the B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir, the state park remains one of the best paddling locations in Texas thanks to the large lake, both rivers, and guided canoe and kayak trips.