It’s Not Too Late for Leaf Peeping

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Once autumn’s crunch is well underfoot, it’s hard not to hit the road to find the most vibrant fall tones as forests and national parks nationwide explode in a kaleidoscope of earthy, fiery shades. But some of the country’s most famed fall foliage destinations like Aspen, Colorado, Vermont’s Green Mountain Byway, even the Berkshires have already seen the fire fizzle out by mid-to-late October. Leaf peepers need never fear: there are still plenty of hotspots for prime foliage viewing all the way into November.

Late October

The cooler clime of the Finger Lakes may have seen fall foliage season come and go, but New Yorkers are likely to still find those coveted orange hues in the Adirondacks. The long leaf peeping season in this mountainous northern region of the Empire State is punctuated by a variety of unique fall festivals honoring everything from historic battles to the world’s biggest cream cheese factory.

West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon
West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, Flickr © Coconino National Forest

On the other side of the country, you’ll find an entirely different kind of fall color. While most tourists flock to the temperate, deciduous forests on the East Coast for their leaf peeping purposes, you can beat the crowds by heading for Sedona, Arizona. Take a picturesque road trip through Oak Creek Canyon or down Dry Creek Road for red leaves and red rocks. For a closer view, hike the easy and popular West Fork Oak Creek Trail.

Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks, Flickr © Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is especially unique for not having one peak season but two. The “false peak” between October 14 and 20 sees an eruption of intense color in a few small groups of trees, giving viewers the widest range of visible tones, while the “true peak” sets all the trees aglow from October 26 to November 5.

Napa Valley from Silverado Trail
Napa Valley from Silverado Trail, Flickr © James Daisa

For the ultimate fall holiday, celebrate the turning of the leaves and the harvest at one of Napa Valley’s internationally renowned wineries. The Silverado Trail is particularly favored for warm days, cool nights, and high-quality vino pouring freely at some of the world’s best crush parties.

Early November

One of two major ranges in the Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains stretch through North Carolina and Tennessee. On the Tennessee side of the trail, Franklin and Gatlinburg make particularly good stopping points, while the best basecamp in North Carolina is funky and fun-filled Asheville.

Linville Falls , Blue Ridge Parkway
Linville Falls , Blue Ridge Parkway, Flickr © Zach Frailey

Further up the Appalachian Trail, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway boasts a similar timeline for autumnal coloring. The nearby Skyline Drive grants equally impressive views over the Shenandoah Valley. For a strenuous all-day hike, conquer Old Rag Mountain, or if you’re feeling less adventurous, tramp up the simple, family-friendly Humpback Rocks.

Autumn in Bradbury Mountain
Autumn in Bradbury Mountain, Flickr © Paul VanDerWerf

You might be surprised to find strong fall foliage much farther north than the mid-Atlantic as we move ever closer to the holidays, but that’s just what you’ll get in Portland, Maine. The gateway to a cluster of state parks, including Bradbury Mountain and Wolfe’s Neck Woods, typically peaks between October 15 and 25, but the color won’t die out until early November. Rent a car and hop around the region to blaze through corn mazes, pick crisp apples, or kayak off the coast.