This week, we’re looking at some of the best places across the United States to take photos of beautiful fall foliage.
The scenic changes in New York began in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains in late August and will spread “out and down across the hills and valleys of the State, ending on Long Island and in New York City in early November.”
If you want to go upstate, then the Adirondack Region is where you want to go. It “boasts one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country."
The Sugar Maple, which is the state tree of New York, is one of the types of fall foliage you’ll see in the region. One of the many groves of Sugar Maples, called a sugar bush, is situated in Lake Placid at Uihlein Field on Bear Cub Lane. As the name indicates, these leaves are tapped for the sap that eventually ends up on pancakes in homes around the world.
While you’re there, the Adirondacks also offers other activities, from wine tasting and apple picking to Halloween fright nights and corn mazes.
The official website for the Adirondacks has listed the best times and locations for peak foliage in the region, but as it says, “These are just projections based on previous years of observations.”
If you prefer to stick with New York City, Time Out Magazine’s top recommendation is Fort Tryon Park.
The park features “48 American elms, many of which predate the park, and more than 550 varieties of plants, trees, and shrubs.” There are three gardens to visit, the Alpine, the Heather and the Cabrini Woods Nature Sanctuary. You’ll find three acres of perennials, trees and shrubs in the Heather Garden. Regularly voted one of NY’s best gardens, you’ll experience incredible views from its location 200 feet above the Hudson River.
For West Coast fall colors, Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California is a stunning 53,000 acres – twice the size of San Francisco! The park is the site of Rockefeller Forest, the "largest expanse of ancient redwoods left on the planet." Of the acreage, 17,000 is taken up by this forest.
Beyond the redwoods, the park contains Douglas-fir, California laurel, madrone and tanoak in the forested areas, while “big-leaf maples, willows and black cottonwoods grow along the stream banks.” This PDF brochure provides further information on the park’s history, trees, plants, geology, wildlife and recreational activities.
The park is named for Alexander von Humboldt, the legendary Prussian cartographer and explorer. As well as parks, mountains, lakes, rivers, academic institutions and asteroids, Humboldt has the distinction of having more species named after him than any other human being.
In the Sierra Nevada mountains is Yosemite National Park. It offers visitors “deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias” and waterfalls.
If you want to know the rich colors that your camera can capture during a visit, the official park website has a handy guide on what colors the leaves change to in the park’s tree species.
The website also suggests the best locations in Yosemite for great colors, such as Glacier Point, where you can see yellows and oranges from quaking aspen.
If you venture south, you have a choice of 47 parks in the South Carolina State Parks system. Table Rock State Park is home to its mountain, serving as a backdrop to the 3,000 acre park.
During your leaf peeping trek, you can also go on the park’s hiking trails that take you past streams and waterfalls, and during normal times, there’s Music on the Mountain, a monthly bluegrass jam at the Table Rock Lodge, currently on hold due to the pandemic.
For an idea of the best times to visit, you can view last year’s Fall Color Report. Mid-November was the period when the “peak of fall color” had arrived.
As a side note, if you also happen to pass through Charleston, I can personally recommend a visit to the beautiful White Point Garden in Charleston’s historic district. The waterfront park, which features oak trees, looks exquisite on a sunny day, especially with its views of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter. In the center of the park is a beautiful gazebo.
Coming in at #4 on USA Today’s Best Destinations for Fall Foliage is the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The color changes always begin sometime in mid-to-late August, rich green making way over the following weeks to yellows, oranges and reds.
Peak foliage is said to usually occur in the mountains from the end of September through to the second week of October, though the official website is at pains to point out “No one can predict when foliage will peak and that is part of the wonder of this season.” You can always check live webcams ahead of your trip.
Taking the #1 spot in USA Today’s list is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The Upper Peninsula boasts a staggering 7 million acres of tree coverage, where you can see the “hardwood forests explode in reds, oranges, yellows, purples, browns and greens,” peaking by mid-October.
The official website suggests ten fall color routes, encompassing almost 1,500 miles. And if you want to keep track of the changes, visit the Fall Colors Report, updated weekly.
Enjoy your leaf peeping adventures!