Stratton Mountain Resort
During cold weather, Vermont’s Stratton Mountain is a premier New England snow skiing destination. But before ski season starts, the resort spends a few weeks as a fall foliage mecca, attracting people from throughout the region to see the stunning sights of autumn in the mountains.
“We run our gondola daily during fall foliage,” said Myra Foster, the resort’s senior marketing and communications manager. “It’s an enclosed gondola, and it soars to the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak. The views stretch out across four states and four mountain ranges. You see the Berkshires, the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains.”
The gondola ride to the top of the mountain normally takes 15 to 18 minutes, but operators slow it down during the fall to allow visitors to get their fill of the area’s amazing color. Once groups reach the summit, 3,875 feet above sea level, they can enjoy several scenic overlooks, take a short hike back down the mountain or climb even further up to the top of a historic mountain tower.
“There’s a short hike, about a mile and a half round trip, to a historic fire tower that was manned until the 1980s,” Foster said. “The forest rangers would stand up there trying to spot fires in the Green Mountains. There are several winding steps up into the glass-encased tower. When you get to the top, it’s 360 degrees of breathtaking fall color.”
Back at the base camp, visitors can enjoy the resort’s shops and restaurants. Over Columbus Day weekend, during the peak of foliage season, the resort holds a harvest, chili cook-off and brew fest that features live music, street performers and other activities.
New River Train
Huntington, West Virginia
For most of the year, the CSX railroad from Huntington through southern West Virginia carries commercial freight and Amtrak passenger traffic. But for four days each fall, groups can take a ride on the railroad for an extraordinary fall color experience when the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society presents the New River Train excursion.
“This is a 300-mile round trip from Huntington to Hinton and back,” said Chris Lockwood, trip chairman and group sales manager. “You traverse the entire 65 miles of the New River Gorge. There are two waterfalls, one tunnel and several other special things to see. Most of what you see is only visible by train.”
The train runs on Saturday and Sunday during the last two weekends of October, which is typically peak foliage season in the gorge. In addition to the pristine natural areas, riders see downtown Charleston and the state Capitol, Kanawha Falls, Hawks Nest Dam and Bridge, the New River Gorge Bridge, Sandstone Falls and numerous historic artifacts and towns from the area’s coal-mining past.
Once the train reaches Hinton, it stops for three hours, and passengers disembark for a meal and free time at the Railroad Days Festival.
“The festival has arts and crafts, food, entertainment, horse-and-carriage rides and several other rides,” said Lockwood.
After leaving Hinton, the train returns to Huntington the same way it came. First-class tickets include breakfast and dinner. The entire ride lasts approximately 12 hours.