Internet Travel Monitor - Industry News

August 30, 2017

Fall Foliage Pilgrimage: Where, When and How to Leaf Peep This Year
Shorter days and dropping temperatures herald the start of fall, a season known for its colorful leaves, crisp air and pumpkin spice. One of the most anticipated travel seasons of the year, fall brings comfortable temps, shoulder season savings and brag-worthy photos, no filter needed.

The seasonal changing of colors can start in early September and continue through October with peak colors emerging at any time and varying from year to year. The change in leaf color is due to falling temperatures and the decreasing daylight, which trigger trees to prepare for winter. Read on for your guide to planning a leaf peeping pilgrimage, complete with tips for best viewing and our suggestions for where to get an eyeful of this transformation throughout the season.

Leaf peeping tips

  • Location, location, location. Your chances of seeing fantastic fall foliage depend on weather conditions and tree species. Fall foliage is most abundant in the eastern United States and southern Canada. Depending on where you live, you may not need to travel far to see fall foliage. See our destination recommendations below.

  • Timing is everything. It’s impossible to know exactly when fall foliage will appear as it can change year to year. However, the colorful leaves are most visible from mid-September to late October. Leaves change color based on a variety of factors, including light level, temperature and soil conditions, and different varieties of trees change at different times. Red maples are among the first to change, especially those along roadsides and in wet areas. The timing of leaf color changing and intensity of autumn colors changes year to year as well. The brightest color changes occur when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. It’s best to plan travel for as many days as possible and to have a flexible itinerary to increase your chances for timing your travel to coincide with peak color viewing.

  • Check activity. Leaf color changing activity is updated by the United States Forest Service’s National Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-354-4595 and tracked via web cam footage. Vermont’s tourism bureau has a foliage forecaster, which sends weekly emails during the fall.

  • Rent a car. Since it can be tricky to predict exactly where the leaves will be changing during your trip, renting a car makes it easy to traverse parks and locales to leaf peep. Some of the most majestic fall foliage is located in North America’s national parks, which are best accessed via scenic drives from area airports to the parks.
Best places for early September foliage

Aspen, Colorado

Leaf peepers have to act fast in Aspen, CO, as the start and end of the changing of leaves from green to yellow, orange and red typically lasts just a week. It’s difficult to predict when the leaves will change, but, once they arrive, it’s easy to get Instagram-worthy pics. Stroll through downtown Aspen, kayak the Roaring Fork and Colorado River, hike Snowmass and ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain — there are leaf peeping options for everyone.

Laurentians, Quebec, Canada

North of Montreal, the 13,670-mile Laurentians region is populated with thousands of maple trees and pine trees that change colors as the days grow shorter from mid-September to mid-October. Part of the great Canadian Shield, the Laurentians are a forested wonderland in the shadow of the Laurentian Mountains. It’s roughly a 3-hour drive from Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport and Montréal Trudeau International Airport, but it’s so worth the drive to see the splendor of fall.

Best places for late September foliage

Glacier National Park, Montana

Just 24 miles from Glacier Park International Airport, Glacier National Park, is a convenient spot for leaf peepers to see fall’s fantastic colors from multiple vantage points (the park, located in northwest Montana along the Rocky Mountains, is also 150 miles from Great Falls International Airport). The leaves begin to change on the west side of the park in mid-September and on the east side of the park at the end of September into the beginning of October. The colorful display continues through mid-October when the larch trees turn golden. Park-goers get some of the best views by driving along Highway 2 in the southern part of the park. While checking out the fall foliage, visitors should be on the lookout for the wildlife that will be actively preparing for the approaching winter. Visitors should note most park services are open through September, but services like lodging and concessions close toward the end of September.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is a perennially popular draw thanks to its 100,000 acres of peaceful parkland filled with mountains, meadows, alpine lakes and bucolic valleys. Jackson Hole Airport is located at the base of the Teton Range and is entirely within Grand Teton National Park. The park is awash in crimson and gold each autumn, and, whether driving, hiking or hot air ballooning, park-goers can get views of fall foliage from multiple angles. A visit to the park isn’t complete without riding the 100-passenger Jackson Hole Aerial Tram, which whisks travelers from Teton Village to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain in 12 minutes.

Kootenay Rockies, British Columbia, Canada

Located in southeastern British Columbia, the Kootenay Rockies afford leaf peepers picture-perfect fall foliage. A short drive from Canadian Rockies International Airport, the region known for its glacier-capped mountains, rivers and alpine lakes, is an increasingly popular spot for seeing autumn leaves change. Head to this scenic spot, nestled along the Rocky Mountains, to admire fall’s hues via a multi-day hike along the Rockwall Trail, a soak in natural hot springs or a drive along the Hot Springs Circle Route, a route along the Columbia River and past hoodoos (tall, thin rock formations caused by natural erosion).

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

With 7 million acres of tree coverage, the hardwood forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula turn fiery red, gold and orange between mid-September and mid-October. Keweenaw Peninsula, technically an island separated from the rest of the Upper Peninsula by the Portage Canal, is one of the most picturesque places to leaf peep because of its abundance of sugar maples, birch and oak trees all aglow. Drive along the 9.5-mile Brockway Mountain Drive, which affords bird’s eye views of Lake Superior, flanked each autumn by colorful fall foliage. Houghton County Memorial Airport is just 7 miles from Keweenaw National Park, making it an easy journey for hopeful leaf peepers.

Best places for early October foliage

Prince Edward Island, Canada

From mid-September to mid-October, Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colors. The island’s Charlottetown Airport is located in central PEI, making it easy to access the open road post-flight. Take a drive along one of the island’s many heritage roads — narrow, red clay lanes that twist and turn through lush landscape and “tunnels” of trees that arch over unpaved roads. Stop for a hike or just enjoy the scene of orange sugar maple, ruby red cherry, and sumac trees as well as electric yellow poplar, birch and beech trees.

Stowe, Vermont

There are plenty of places to leaf peep in Vermont as forests cover 3 quarters of the state, and Vermont boasts the highest percentage of maple trees in the U.S. The color change starts in northern Vermont near the Canadian border and at higher elevations in early September and progresses south and into the valleys from late September to the end of October. The fullest color can be found from late-September in the north to mid-October in the south. The first 2 weekends of October are the state’s busiest of the year, according to Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, so early trip planning is advised as accommodations fill up quickly. One of the best places for leaf peeping is Stowe, VT. Known for its ski resorts, Stowe is approximately 50 miles and just under 90 minutes by car from Burlington International Airport. Driving along Smugglers Notch mountain pass affords picture-perfect panoramas. Plus, the area includes points of interest like the Alpine Slide at Stowe Mountain Resort and Bingham Falls.

Best places for late October foliage

Niagara, Ontario, Canada

Seeing Niagara Falls is a bucket list item for many travelers. Whether viewed from the Canadian or American sides, the majesty of the falls is impressive, particularly in October when the leaves are typically at their peak. It’s a quick 1-hour drive from Toronto Pearson International Airport and just over a 30-minute drive from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. After an exhilarating tour of the 13-story falls and Niagara Falls State Park via cruise or hike, take time to enjoy the charming town’s colorful fall foliage. Toast a trip well planned at one of the area’s 85 wineries.

Oakland, Maryland

The tiny town of Oakland, MD, in west-central Maryland is arguably one of the best destinations for leaf peeping in the mid-Atlantic and beyond. It’s worth the 160-mile drive from Washington Dulles International Airport or 175-mile drive from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport along the state’s scenic byways. Here, the changing fall foliage is celebrated during the Autumn Glory Festival, which celebrates its 50th year Oct. 11-15, 2017. The free, 5-day fall festival includes parades, concerts, art exhibits, and arts and crafts.

Copyright 2017 Momondo Group Ltd. All rights reserved. From By Lauren Mack.
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