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When warm, sunny days and crisp, cool nights set in, it means only one thing for much of the US: that one of Mother Nature’s greatest shows isn’t too far away. Brilliant colors in each leaf are like one final curtain call before disappearing to the forest floor, and it’s an inspirational and humbling experience to watch. Here are 5 quintessential leaf-peeping destinations, including where to stay.

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Windows down and a deep blue sky make the passage along the Blue Ridge Parkway a beautiful autumn escape. America’s favorite drive is nearly 470 miles of scenic roadway stretching from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  Visitors from all over the Southeast flock to the region.
STAY: Asheville makes for a great parkway starting point. Try the new Kimpton Hotel Arras, which towers over the city and offers stellar views and close proximity to nearby craft breweries.

Vail, CO

Golden yellow aspen trees bring life to the Rockies just ahead of the first snow. This is a quiet time at the resorts; summer crowds are gone and skiers have yet to invade. Time it perfectly (not so easy to do, actually) and you could be there for the first snow which may come as early as mid-October.
STAY: Tivoli Lodge boasts an Alpine vibe, mountain and village views and an intimate feel at half the cost of nearby competitors.

Traverse City, MI

Just shy of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Traverse City is an underrated gem. Follow the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail to sample aromatic whites or hike along Grand Traverse Bay and the fall colors only enhance the charm in late September and October. Traverse City is a weekend trip away from Chicago or Detroit, and an excellent stopover if driving the famed Lake Michigan Circle Tour in autumn.
STAY: Looking for charm and romance? Look no further than Aberdeen Stone Cottage Bed & Breakfast, featuring Scottish-themed rooms in a quiet, residential part of the city.


Expect crowds if you visit the Granite State for fall colors; the first two weekends in October are the busiest of the year. Find expansive views of red and yellow from the peaks of the Green Mountains. A gondola at Killington Resort takes guests to the state’s second highest peak. Leaves typically start changing mid September and last until the end of October.
STAY: It’s hard not to love the Hotel Vermont, an independent downtown hotel close to everything that features lovely views of Lake Champlain.

Yosemite, CA

Yosemite, California

West Coast leaf lovers get a late October start at Yosemite National Park with the color show lasting through November. Yellow dominates the scene here, but pops of red and orange are visible.  The colors vary greatly from valley floor to mountain points and autumn is a much less crowded time to visit the park.
STAY: Stay in a luxury tent, airstream trailer or modern cabin at AutoCamp, a hip glamping option a stone’s throw from the park.

Not sure when to time your trip? The U.S. Forest Service, in addition to many state tourism offices, has a fall color hotline (1-800-354-4595) and website.

Tagged: California, Seasonal, Tips & advice

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