The great change from summer to winter is underway. Early morning air reminds us of winter’s chill, the days are growing shorter, and best of all, the trees are beginning their dramatic transformation as they weather the winter months, dormant and bare.
Adventure is always out there, regardless of the season, and fall brings with it a special season to enjoy it. Shoulder seasons are best for those who want to immerse themselves in nature without the competition of busy summers. Cooler days and a lower sun is the only price to pay, easily remedied by a down jacket, a hot drink, and a warm fire to return to.
Fall foliage is the main attraction here, and the country’s best can be found in places like Colorado, where ore-veins of aspen cut through evergreen, and the Northeast and East Coast, where rolling Appalachia transforms from green to kaleidoscopic shades of vermilion and ocher.
Find yourself a trail in any of these towns—themselves a retreat to please when your day is through—and you won’t be disappointed.
Colorado’s western slope is carved by endless miles of rugged mountain passes and alpine gorges. There’s a retreat for everyone. Silverton is perhaps its most stunning in the fall. The terrain sets it apart. Set at the confluence of the Animas River and Mineral Creek, the town sits in a broader valley than others in the San Juan Mountains. Aspen is everywhere, just like the rest of western Colorado, but the slopes in Silverton are broad and even, adding a sense of expansiveness in a mountain range that feels, for the most part, tightly enclosed. Time it right, and the autumnal slopes are an amphitheater of gold in late September and early October.
The town itself is a throwback to the West of old, its frontier-style strip a perfect complement for an attitude wary of outsiders. If you like boutiques, go to Telluride. If you like off-road vehicles, go to Silverton. You’ll find your espresso and beer served with a side-eye.
Like Colorado, Utah boasts a fall turn that features aspen, which are frequently found in the West. But for fall foliage, Utah sets itself apart with bigtooth maples. When they turn a bright red in the autumn, there’s no better place to see them than in the Wasatch, and Park City, situated on its eastern flank, is the place to begin. The home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the town is a tourist destination orders of magnitude apart from Silverton, Colorado. Once in the canyons, the fall color will leave you in awe.
Nothing west of the Rockies can approach the fall displays in the East Coast, beautiful though they may be. Asheville, North Carolina, at the doorstep to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and the region’s elevation and broadleaf forests endow it with one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country. Starting as early as the first two weeks of September, gradual swings in temperature provoke the color change to slowly creep down the mountains as cooler temperatures reach lower elevations, and the color peaks in October. Plus, Asheville celebrates its fall color with festivals for monarch migration, which also occurs here in abundance. The Blue Ridge Parkway is here too—the most visited attraction in the National Park Service.
Ground zero for fall’s color explosion, the states of Vermont and New Hampshire have so many destinations for leaf-peeping, as it’s known here, that we’re hard-pressed to recommend the region categorically. But beauty is in abundance on Highway 7, which spans Vermont’s western border, passing Manchester on its northern route to Middlebury. Manchester is a bookish retreat in the southern Green Mountains with close access to Woodford, Lake Shaftsbury, and Natural Bridges state parks. When you’re done with the woods, head north to Middlebury and its college-town breweries and foodie hotspots, or continue on to other enclaves in the Northeast, like Stowe, with its resort gondola, or the White Mountains. In the Northeast, you really can’t go wrong.