Autumn is near and people are getting ready for an explosion of color that will light up the country. However, if you talk to a “leaf peeper,” (someone who travels to see the changing colors of fall foliage) you’ll learn that sight is only one part of the story. The crunch of leaves underfoot, the perfume of an apple orchard or the comforting smell of a wood fire are all parts of a true autumnal trip.
To really immerse yourself in leaf-peeping you have to stand among the trees and there’s no better way to get there than Alaska Airlines. Join us to experience some of the nation’s greatest sights with our top seven destinations for leaf-peepin’ this fall.
Leaf peepin’ in Glacier National Park
The gateway to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies delivers stunning views of mountain peaks and lakes showered in oranges, reds and golds against a backdrop of evergreens. With two mountain ranges, 25 glaciers, more than 130 named lakes and 200 waterfalls, you are bound to feel at peace among the changing leaves in this million-acre park. The most recognizable peak in the Two Medicine area is Sinopah Mountain, perfect for photography and stunning sunrises. You’ll also enjoy the impressive towering face of Chief Mountain and exceptionally clear waters of Lake McDonald. The west side of the park changes color in mid-September and the east changes color in late September or early October. Expect to see more wildlife, but prepare for fewer concessions and the potential for road closures.
Changing leaves in Boston
Take in the splendor of New England with leaf-peeping season. Bostonians call fall the most enjoyable season and for good reason – historic and picturesque locations paint the city with bold, vibrant colors. The best displays of fall colors in the state are located in western Massachusetts where your drive will weave through regions with endless autumn colors. Closer to Boston, take in the iconic and breathtaking beauty of Walden Pond.
Awe-inspiring fall foliage in Philadelphia
Travel back in time with a visit to Philadelphia, where history collides with vibrant fall colors. It’s truly awe-inspiring to stand among the cobblestones on Elfreth’s Alley, enjoy a calming walk in the Morris Arboretum, and take in the history behind the birthplace of America. Stroll along Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway for richly cultured locations immersed in a canopy of autumn colors. Outside of Philadelphia, the options are endless in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties. You can spend a day off the beaten path in the outdoors surrounded by historic parks, magnificent vistas and lush forests. Cap off your day with a visit to Chaddsford Winery for a drink (or two). Typically the fall foliage in Pennsylvania is best viewed in late October or early November.
Autumn colors in the Pacific Northwest
The seven wonders of Oregon are even more beautiful in the fall. Watch the fall foliage transform the coastline, forests and mountains with autumn colors. Just outside of Portland, travel on the Historic Columbia River Highway through the Columbia River Gorge to take in the golden and bronze hues among the magnificent waterfalls. Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Shepherd’s Dell, Oneonta Gorge and Horsetail Falls will deliver breathtaking views, great hikes and memorable moments. After a day in the Gorge, travel to Willamette Valley where 250 wineries offer a classic view of the fall harvest and you can celebrate with Oregon’s popular pinot noir.
Off the beaten path: fall colors in Colorado
Watch the Colorado Rockies transform as the state’s signature tree, the aspen, pops with bright colors. Timing in Colorado is everything as the color change only lasts a week, but you’ll appreciate the shades of green turning to bright gold across the mountain peaks and scenic byways. Spend a day in Rocky Mountain National Park where 416 miles of wilderness offer up breathtaking hikes, unforgettable views and amazing wildlife. Travel along the back roads to really explore the state of Colorado, including amazing spots like Estes Park, Glenwood Canyon (do the hike at Hanging Lake), Green Mountain Falls, Ouray to Telluride and Crested Butte to Kebler Pass. Somewhere along the journey you might find yourself on Independence Pass, where you’ll truly feel on top of the world and be surrounded by spectacular views. The fall season draws people to Maroon Bells for a view they’ll never forget.
Drink in the fall foliage views
Looking for a laid-back leaf peeping journey? Look no further than wine country, where you’ll immerse your taste buds and senses. A visit to Sonoma and Napa County will let you drink in the views -literally! Admire the changing colors awash in reds, golds and yellows, pack a lunch and pair your visit with a chardonnay to heighten your senses. This time of year is grape harvest season so you’ll be in wine heaven on your journey. The most striking colors come from the vineyards, between September and November. Drive along highway 12, 101 or 121 to take in the changing vines.
Explore changing leaves in Denali
Just about anywhere in Alaska is beautiful to experience, but a trip to Fairbanks puts you within reach of Denali. The fall foliage really pops against a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks. If Denali is on your list (which it should be), you’ll be in treat with many photo opportunities along the way. Denali National Park and Preserve covers an area of 6 million acres, so remember that the colors may change quite a bit throughout the vast park. As fall approaches, summer traffic to the park winds down and the park returns to its year-round inhabitants – the wildlife. This is a spectacular time to spot the amazing creatures that call Denali home. Best time of fall to visit? Late August to early September for the high interior, and mid-late September for the south-central regions.
Where’s your favorite leaf-peeping destination?