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The 10 Best Fall Foliage Trips In The U.S.

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You don't have to travel far to take in the phenomenon of fall foliage. All across the U.S., from New England to the Pacific Northwest, deciduous trees put on their dazzling display of color. In fact, leaf viewing is one of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to experience America's awe-inspiring natural beauty. Check out our picks for the 10 best destinations for fall foliage, or get out there and discover your own.

By Jayme Moye

ASPEN, COLORADO
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Norton/Shutterstock When a world-famous town is named after a tree, you know it's an extraordinary specimen. Aspen leaves turn a rich yellow hue in the fall, and literally shimmer in the breeze when the sun hits them. The gold tones of aspens in autumn make for a picture-perfect contrast with the evergreens and craggy mountain peaks. While the ritzy ski resort town of Aspen is the place to see and be seen in the winter, it mellows during the autumn months. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Aspen Guide
THE CATSKILLS, NEW YORK
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colin D. Young/Shutterstock The 6,000 square miles in southeastern New York known as the Catskills are home to six major river systems, 35 mountain peaks over 3,500 feet, and the famed Woodstock festival. A year-round destination, the Catskills are at their most vibrant in the fall when yellows, oranges, and reds electrify the thickly wooded hillsides. Locals and visitors alike savor the fall harvest, when many of the region's historic villages host festivals and craft fairs alongside the bountiful farmers' markets and pick-your-own orchards. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Catskills Guide
THE BERKSHIRES, MASSACHUSETTS
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Hoffman/Dreamstime.com The essential escape for urbanites in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, the Berkshires provide world-class foliage viewing alongside notable art and culture. Narrow winding roads connect mountain hamlets set against a forested backdrop of crimso, yellow, and every hue in between, making for the most beautiful gallery hopping or antiquing trip of your life. Or, spend the weekend at one of the region's storied spas, soaking in the sweeping autumn views. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Berkshires Guide
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OREGON
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bill Perry/Shutterstock Cut into the Cascade Mountains forming a natural border between southern Washington and northern Oregon, the 80-mile Columbia River Gorge is already a sublime sight. Come fall, when the firs, cottonwoods, big-leaf maples, Oregon ash, and twisted pines start to show their colors, it's absolutely breathtaking. Visitors can choose to take in the golden and bronze hues while driving along the Columbia River, hiking a variety of trails, or rafting or kayaking down the river. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Columbia Gorge Guide
GREEN MOUNTAIN BYWAY, VERMONT
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Howardliuphoto/Dreamstime.com The maple, birch and, beech trees lining this 11-mile route bisecting Vermont put on one of the most dazzling displays of color in New England. The drive from quaint Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, to Stowe, one of the most famous ski resorts in the east, passes through two state forests and three state parks. In Stowe, the ski area gondola offers a bird's-eye view of the forested slopes and easy access to hiking. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Vermont Guide
ENCHANTED CIRCLE SCENIC BYWAY, NEW MEXICO
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) The dazzling 83-mile loop starting and ending in Taos has become a fall foliage pilgrimage for aspen aficionados. Here, the aspens turn not only yellow, but also dark orange. The route encircles 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's highest point, and the mesas and mountain vistas offer a unique southwestern perspective on autumn color. While aspens steal the show, there are also purple cinquefoil and cottonwoods in fiery shades ranging from bright red to yellow. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's New Mexico Guide
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, NORTH CAROLINA & TENNESSEE
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. for good reason. There are more than 100 species of native trees, including scarlet oaks, maples, sweetgums, and hickories, which put on a jaw-dropping autumn display of gold, orange, crimson, and purple. With 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails, you could spend days exploring these stunning forests. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Great Smoky Mountains Guide
UPPER PENINSULA, MICHIGAN
Photo Credit: Courtesy of John McCormick/Shutterstock Michigan's state forest system is the largest in the eastern U.S., encompassing nearly 4 million acres. Take your pick from one (or more) of the Upper Peninsula's 20+ forested state parks. Ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarack are the stars of this densely forested peninsula sandwiched between three Great Lakes. The tranquil waters, ranging in color from azure to navy, visually enhance (and reflect back) the trees' already brilliant fall colors. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Michigan Guide
LAKE OF THE OZARKS, MISSOURI
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gary L. Brewer/Shutterstock Central Missouri's popular summertime lake getaway becomes even better in the fall when the crowds disperse and the temperatures pleasantly drop into the 60s. The surrounding Ozark Hills are at their most scenic come fall, when the forests ignite in shades of scarlet, gold, mahogany, and russet. Experience the color explosion while hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding at Missouri's largest state park. Or take in the fall foliage on a yacht, at the wineries, during a round at one of the lake's championship golf courses, or on a 25-mile scenic drive. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Missouri Guide
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Krishna.Wu/Shutterstock For the ruggedly self-sufficient, Glacier National Park is a dream fall foliage destination. By the end of September, all the park's concessions have closed for the season, guests have gone home, and you pretty much have the entire park to yourself. This is one of the best places to see larch trees—a deciduous conifer that turns bright gold in the fall before losing its needles. Yellow larch intermingled with evergreens set against the backdrop of the massive snow-covered peaks of the Continental Divide make for perhaps the most dramatic autumn scene in the US. Plus, wildlife abounds, with elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears all making their preparations for winter. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Glacier National Park Guide