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Leaf-Peeping Outside New England

Mention to anyone that you are leaving on leaf-peeping pilgrimage and they are bound to assume you are heading to one place and one place only: New England.

While the reputation of fantastic foliage in the Northeast has spread far-and-wide (and deservedly so), there are plenty of other places in the country to get your fix of fall color.

The following are some of the other fine locations to leer at leaves in the USA:

East: Pennsylvania & Virginia

Pennsylvania is home to a diverse population of tree varieties. Each autumn, they turn nearly every conceivable shade of yellow, orange, red and even purple.

Hot spots include Loyalsock Canyon, Pine Creek Gorge, Allegheny National Forest and Rothrock State Forest.

The Keystone State is also home to a rich tradition of foliage-focused festivals, with Sullivan County’s Fall Flaming Foliage Festival (the name really says it all, doesn’t it?) being one of the best. In addition to showing off the local colors, this event features a chainsaw carving contest and an assortment of autumn revelry.

Virginia is also definitely for leaf lovers, as you will find a vibrant palette of color splashed all over the state. Nowhere impresses quite like Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains, as this park is home to Skyline Drive, which is one of the most scenic drives in the country.

Skyline Drive meanders its way across mountaintops for more than 100 miles and is home to 75 scenic overlooks, all perfect for leaf-peeping picnics.

South: Tennessee & Arkansas

Tennessee’s autumn action is most lively inside the Volunteer State’s section of the Great Smoky Mountains. You will find shades of orange and yellow splashed all around Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.

In the southeast part of the state, Chattanooga is also a great base to take in the spectacle as the city is surrounded by mountains known for scenic overlooks and is a base for fall foliage river cruises.

Arkansas’ area of the Ozark Mountains is definitely an under-the-radar place for leaf-peeping. Home to a wide range of trees (think black gums and hickories for starters), the colors are brilliant and the crowds are thin.

Midwest & North: Wisconsin & Michigan

Wisconsin’s Upper Mississippi River Valley and Hayward Lakes Area are both fall color hotspots as the hardwood trees in these regions turn colors ranging from golden yellow to deep purple.

Things are just as vibrant next door in Michigan as the seasonal show starts in the Upper Peninsula before working its way south through the state. Perhaps nowhere flexes as much fall muscle as Northern Michigan: Both the Old Mission Peninsula and Huron-Manistee National Forest are renowned for their flashes of autumn brilliance.

West: Colorado & California

It’s not all rocky grey mountain tops in the Rockies, as the aspen trees that cover Colorado swap their shade in spectacular fashion.  At Kebler Pass you will find one of the country’s largest groves of aspen, sporting a golden shade of yellow.

California isn’t all beaches and year-round green palm trees, you know, as the interior of California changes color with the best of them. The wide variance of altitude in the Golden State leads to an especially long leaf-peeping season with the stretch of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County and the backcountry of Plumas County both being lovely spots to leaf-peep. 

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