Historic architecture, an enchanting downtown and an abundance of trees make Stowe, Vt., one of New England’s most favored autumn travel destinations.
“Fall is such a quintessential New England season because it’s when all of the green turns to magnificent golds, oranges, reds and even purples,” said Jasmine McLeane, marketing director for the Stowe Area Association. “Stowe is such an iconic New England town, which makes us great for leaf-peepers. We have an 18th-century village with clapboard houses and buildings. It gives you a sense of what it was like here 150 years ago.”
Visitors to downtown Stowe can enjoy the area’s 70 shops and 45 restaurants, along with the foliage surrounding downtown. A five-mile recreational path winds its way through the village, giving travelers the option to simply meander and take in the scenery.
Many groups spending time in Stowe include a journey to the top of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak.
“Stowe Mountain Resort has a gondola sky ride open in the fall,” McLeane said. “You can ride to the top of the mountain and have lunch — there’s a nice restaurant there with beautiful views. It’s a fun way to get out and see the color without hiking on the mountain.”
Several scenic drives around town also offer great foliage-viewing opportunities. As colors change at different times at the various elevations in the area, travelers should check with the Stowe Area Association to find the routes that are showing the best color during their visits.
— www.gostowe.com —
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited sites in the national park system, and fall may be its most extraordinary time.
“The best thing about the Smokies is that there’s fall color for six to eight weeks,” said Jim Davis, public relations coordinator for the Gatlinburg Department of Tourism. “The elevation change is incredible. Color starts changing at the upper elevations in mid-September, and over the course of the next six weeks, it moves down.
“We have 50 different species of deciduous trees, which is why there is so much color.”
Beginning in September, the tourism department posts a leaf report that suggests the best places in the area to see fall color. Mount Le Conte is a favorite hiking destination, and the road to Clingmans Dome offers a great scenic drive for leaf peepers.
One favorite group activity in the park is a guided hayride in Cades Cove, one of the park’s most beautiful areas.
“Cades Cove is gorgeous in October,” Davis said. “There are a lot of flowers and goldenrods, and the blueberry and blackberry shrubs burst into color. The wildlife is getting ready for winter, so you can see hundreds of wild animals — turkeys, deer and a few bears, if you’re lucky.”
Outside of the park, groups can get great views of the mountains and downtown Gatlinburg on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift or the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.
— www.gatlinburg.com —
Columbia River Gorge, Ore.
Waterfalls, evergreens and a host of changing leaves make Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge one of the best fall-foliage destinations in the Northwest.
“What’s cool about the gorge is that it has a lot of beautiful, bright fall foliage, but there are also evergreens,” said Annie Bailey, communications and public relations coordinator for the Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs Department. “That makes the reds, yellows and oranges really pop against the green.
“The gorge is also known for its high concentration of waterfalls, and it’s really nice to see the fall colors with the blue water.”
Groups can take a day or two to explore waterfalls, scenic overlooks and other favorite sites along the Columbia River Highway. Highlights include Crown Point, Vista House and Multnomah Falls, a two-tiered waterfall spanned by a pedestrian bridge.
Visitors can hike up paths behind the falls to an observation point where they can see the breadth of the valley, as well as Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood.
Mount Hood National Forest has plenty of fall color as well. Groups can take a driving tour on the forest’s Infinite Loop or have a more old-fashioned experience on the Mount Hood Railway.
“It’s an awesome old-school railroad train with observation pods built into it,” Bailey said. “It’s a fun way to see the foliage because you pass right through it. It’s looking right at what people want to see most.”
A group of local artists also offers a fall-foliage studio tour, which takes participants into artists’ workshops to see their best fall-inspired work.
— www.mthoodterritory.com —