Fall foliage fans are eagerly checking leaf-peeping maps right about now. As leaves begin to burst into spectacular colors before succumbing to the cycle of life, millions of people will be descending upon roads, trails, and bike paths across New England and elsewhere in the Northeast to witness one of nature’s most beautiful evolutions. Let them have their fun; Mother Nature doesn’t focus her autumn efforts on just one region of the country, and neither should you. If you’d rather check out underrated but great places to leaf-peep in the United States, read on.
- Sonoma County, California. Northern California is an ideal area to catch the changing of the season. You’ll find quite a few spots in Sonoma to explore the great outdoors, including Jack London State Historic Park and its 1,400 acres of trails and scenic vistas; Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve’s 805 acres of woodlands; and Austin Creek State Recreation Area, which borders on Armstrong Redwoods and offers back-country camping and hiking. If you’re not into roughing it, you can kick back and enjoy the area’s main claim to fame: Wine.
- Oregon. Practically the entire state of Oregon explodes in leaf-peeping glory every autumn. Whether you’re hiking the Deschutes River Trail; biking the McKenzie River Trail or the Redmond Trail in the Wallowa Mountains; or driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, you’ll find views that will take your breath away.
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Before the Rockies don their annual winter whites, they sport a golden hue, thanks to the aspen trees that carpet the region. Rocky Mountain National Park features over 900 different plants, creating an even wider array of colors during leaf-peeping season. While you’re soaking in the scenery, keep an ear out for the bugle call of male elks trying to attract female cows; early fall is rutting season for the 3,200-plus elk residing in RMNP.
- The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. A multi-week extravaganza, leaf-peeping season in the Great Smoky Mountains features changing shades of green, gold, red, and yellow that roll slowly down the mountains from peak to base. Step back in time with a trip down the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, or hoof it along five other suggested hiking paths, including the Appalachian Trail, the Alum Cave Trail to Inspiration Point, and Sutton Ridge Overlook.
- Texas. Yes, Texas. From Lost Maples State Park in Vanderpool (northwest of San Antonio) to Caprock Canyon State Park in Quitaque (northeast of Lubbock), from Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Salt Flat (east of El Paso) to Big Thicket National Preserve (northeast of Houston), there are prime vantage points to view fall foliage all across the Lone Star State.
To find underrated but great places to leaf-peep throughout the United States, click here. To get 5% cash back on reservations and rebates on travel services, check out Travel Plus. Where’s your favorite fall foliage destination? Leave us a reply to let us know.