Foliage Tours: The Best Cheap Sightseeing Deal
While kids may bemoan the transition of summer freedoms into regimented school schedules, there are some big reasons for everyone to welcome the fall with open arms: The football season comes back into full swing; TV shows return from their summer hibernations; and above all else, all the fireworks! And we’re not referring to the boom bang Independence Day kind of displays—they had their day. We’re talking a more arboreal phenomenon.
That’s right, we’re talking foliage.
This is the time of year when the summer’s greens give way to organic bursts of yellow, reds, and oranges. And the best part about it? It’s all free. You don’t need a tour guide, you don’t need any expensive supplies. Just a pair of eyes. Dollar-for-dollar, venturing out to see the passing of the season is one of the best sightseeing investments you can make.
Autumn is Everywhere
As the days grow shorter, trees begin to shed their energy-producing green chlorophyll. Over the course of this de-greening, all the leftover chemicals in the leaves come into view, resulting in the displays we’ve come to associate with the season. As this annual transition is dependent on external natural stimuli, it doesn’t occur in every region simultaneously. For example, autumn colors in Alaska tend to start bursting out as early as August. So, while the lower 48 are still sweltering in the dog day weather, our friends up in the last frontier are already enjoying their multi-hued vistas.
Can’t swing a trip up to Alaska this year? No worries. Just stay patient and the autumn colors will come to you. By late September, parts of New England and mountainous western regions have already started to showcase their seasonal colors. Most states will begin to turn by October with the southernmost low altitude holdouts transitioning by November.
To help draw in foliage tourism dollars, many states have created online regional guides. For example, Maine’s government has set-up an official foliage-watch page with a week-by-week breakdown of what areas within the state are best for seeing what types of colors. Or here’s a breakdown of Vermont’s color change by region and date. When planning your foliage tour, a trip to Google should be your first stop.
While the forests of the northeast can—with justification—boast some of the best foliage viewing, nearly all of the continental U.S. will offer something for leaf lovers. The fall can be found alive and kicking over the near entirety of the US—from the mountains of Georgia to the deserts of New Mexico and right into the heart of Texas.
To Walk or To Drive
Once you’ve got your when and where, your best bet is to venture out into the forested wilderness. For example, a well-timed nature hike is bound to offer up some brilliant natural displays. If you know what time of year and region you are going to hit, then nearly any forest hike will offer up some photo-worthy vistas.
If going for a hike isn’t your thing, there’s also the traditional scenic drive. There’s a bevy of information detailing the best scenic routes in your region. For example, the state of Utah has a site describing all their best “scenic byways.” Most national parks are good first choices for pristine viewing trips.
It’s also a chance to make an overnight romantic stay at any number of bed and breakfasts across the region, with many offering special foliage packages.
There are many ways to take in all the beauty this season has to offer. And since it is everywhere, you don’t need to spend much to see it, but will have enough memories and inspiration to last throughout the year.