"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn," wrote Elizabeth Lawrence, the late gardener and author. As Ms. Lawrence recommends, a few hours or days to feast one's eyes on the beauty of the yellows, golds and reds of fall are just what is needed before preparing for the shorter, darker, colder days of winter. There are many excellent areas throughout the United States and Canada to experience autumn's majesty.
Everyone has their favorite place to experience fall, but New England sets a high standard. Mountains and valleys covered with maples, oaks, aspens, beech and birch trees---just to name a few---create a colorful mosaic. New England also offers historic country inns, picturesque small towns, antique shops, farm stands, corn mazes and recreational activities including hiking, bicycling, canoeing and kayaking. All of the states---from Connecticut north to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, northeast to Maine and west to New Hampshire and Vermont---offer great vacation opportunities during the autumn. The colorful foliage season usually begins in mid-September and, depending on the place, lasts through the middle of October. The New England states recommend a variety of scenic drives covering over 900 miles.
Ohio and Michigan
Midwesterners can feast their eyes on the foliage of Ohio and Michigan. Ohio is home to over 125 hardwood species, resulting in colorful panoramas during the autumn foliage. Autumn usually comes to northern Ohio in the first half of October, and to the southern part of the state in the second half. The Ohio countryside offers the bounty of the harvest season at roadside stands. Recreational activities include zip-lining in Hocking Hills, Holmes County, home of the world's largest Amish community. The upper peninsula of Michigan is home to Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest waterfalls west of the Mississippi, in addition to spectacular autumn foliage. The Lower Peninsula's hiking trail along the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore presents a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.
Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. The landscape displays the colors of maple trees, scarlet oaks, spruce, fir, sweet gums, and hickories to name just a few, as well as numerous wildflowers. The colors usually last through early November. The towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Tennessee and Cherokee in North Carolina offer tourist amenities. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville, North Carolina, is the location of Biltmore, originally a Vanderbilt estate, with a 250-room mansion to tour and over 8,000 acres of forests, farmlands and waterways.
Aspen was not named for the tree arbitrarily. The Rocky Mountain autumn is not as colorful as many other areas of the country, but the golden aspens provide a wonderful vista against surrounding evergreen trees. But be forewarned: the aspen's golden glow lasts for only about a week, usually beginning after the middle of September, so it is tricky to time a trip to enjoy the view.
Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, in the middle of the country offers the autumn foliage of dogwoods, oak, hickory and other forest species, usually during the second half of October. There are hiking paths around the lake and boating opportunities.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The Cascade Mountains running through Oregon and Washington states are covered with fir trees, pines, maples, cottonwood and --- what else --- Oregon ash. Hiking to a variety of waterfalls is a favorite pastime in the area. The highest is the 620-foot Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland.
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