The Best Places To See Fall Foliage...Outside Of New England

Clean air, panoramic views of bursting bright colors and miles of forests – the New England states are not the only ones boasting awe-inspiring fall foliage. Chances are you already live a short road trip away from spots with phenomenal mixtures of yellow, red, orange and green. The various dazzling hues peak between September and October all across the country. Adventurers and fans of outdoor activities can't wait to put their hiking boots on and set up a tent for an unforgettable camping experience among purple dogwoods and maroon leaves.

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Start from Front Royal and drive all of the 105 miles on the Skyline Drive, north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. This is one of the best road trips you can go on in the U.S. There are many picnic areas along the route. Many prefer the Elkwallow and South River because of the opportunities to "meet"  raptors and many animals. Enjoy the scenic heart of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and participate in the 26th annual Fall Foliage Bike Festival, scheduled for Oct. 14, 2016.

Adirondacks, New York

The Adirondack Region boasts one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country. The range bursts into different shades of reds, orange, yellow and green. Marcy Dam in Adirondacks is a popular hiking and camping destination sitting at 2,362 feet, just 3.5 miles from the highest point in New York—Mount Marcy. For a thrilling adventure, you can take a hot air balloon ride. Thanks to the stunning golden colors that contrast against the glistening blue waters, New York's Finger Lakes region is considered one of the country's best spots for leaf-peeping. There are other exciting ways to see the fall foliage there, including whitewater rafting, biking, and even wine tours by boat.

Eastern Sierras, California

The "natural landscape in the Eastern Sierra, where rugged granite canyons are carved by rushing streams and framed by an azure sky, offers a spellbinding contrast of colors during autumn golden, crimson and orange aspen and cottonwoods," according to The Outside of California. You'll see stunning alpine lakes, pouring waterfalls, and gorgeous mountain peaks. They vary from approximately 5,000 to 10,000 feet.

Denali National Park, Alaska

If you thought Alaska was all ice and snow, you need to see Denali in the short-but-sweet season of fall. Although it has an earlier fall season than most other parks, it's foliage display is at least as spectacular as parks in the lower 48—if not more so. When visiting, be mindful of the moose and caribou preparing for winter and be sure to set aside at least a week if you hope to see a good deal of the six million acre park. During the fall season all private vehicles may drive up to 30 miles into the park.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva, a small city in Wisconsin, is one of the most astonishing places to see dramatic and long lasting fall colors. Enjoy the gorgeous natural displays on cruises on the lake, from an off the beaten path cabin or even golfing. Witnessing the blazing red, bright shining yellow and burning orange hues that burst in this Midwestern town between September and November is a real treat.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

This popular national park is perhaps the most underrated when it comes to fall foliage. Take the park's scenic railroad or hike and bike some of the parks more than 120 miles of well-maintained trails. Visit in late October, not just to see the leaves, but to catch a glimpse of one of their many waterfalls, historic canals or eagles, as they nest in the park.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Seeing the scenic region of the Columbia River Gorge is an incredible experience year-round, especially because of the mighty waterfalls. Fall's combination of bright colors makes the views even more inspiring with evergreens, oaks and cottonwoods along the river. Some of the best hikes in the area are Eagle Creek Trail, Hamilton Mountain (if you want to see a lot of waterfalls), Kilckitat Trail for spawning salmon and dusty fall colors, and the Cape Horn Loop, if you want to see a forest of big-leaf maples.

Appalachian Trail, Tennessee and North Carolina

Rather than tackling the entire 2,200 miles of this National Scenic Trail, you can opt for a small but spectacular section within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited in the country. Drive to the parking area at Newfound Gap and take the Appalachian Trail to Indian Gap. The 3.4-mile roundtrip will give you a taste of this historic route and allow you to see beautiful fall foliage. The park is world famous for its diversity of plant and wildlife. The best time to see the changing leaves  is typically from mid-October to early November.

Aspen Snowmass, Colorado

The aspen trees there are  changing from green to gold and orange between mid-September and early October, making for a mountain valley that is bright and colorful. This is the best time to see astonishing fall foliage while hiking, biking, golfing, or even fishing. Hike to the iconic Maroon Bells, surrounded by pristine National Forest lands, for some of the best pictures of the splendor of fall leaves you can get on camera. Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek and Crater Lake are other popular leaf-viewing spots.

Sherman Peak, Bear River Range, Idaho

At 9,682 feet, Sherman Peak is the highest mountain in this region and therefore provides the best and most breathtaking views of fall colors in the area. It is surrounded by forests, which means that the blazing fall colors are out in full force. The peak can be accessed via the Bear River Range Highline Trail from the parking area near the trailhead off Eightmile Creek Road. In total, it's a 3.5-mile hike to the summit. This is a relatively easy hike.

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The Upper Peninsula is an underrated adventure destination. This natural beauty in northern Michigan has 1,700 miles of shoreline on three Great Lakes, and that's just the beginning of its outdoor offerings. About 90 percent of its area is covered in forest. The UP also has expansive mountains, lakes, streams, waterfalls, beaches,  and islands nearby. Join a Fall Color Tour for more breathtaking vistas, country roads and walks on the lakeshore. Don't forget Michigan's Gold Coast for more awe-inspiring vistas of fall colors. Go on a ride along Grand Traverse Bay where maple and oak leaves contrast the green pine and spruce trees.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

The true peak occurs usually between the last week of October and the first week of November. "Entire hillsides are in bright intense color everywhere you look. [There are] very few green trees, very few bare trees – just millions of trees in bright display, according to Ozark recreation Directories. In the Ozarks you will see green even in True Peak because there are thousands of pine trees sprinkled in with the hardwoods. In some spots the Forest Service planted entire ridges and hillsides in pine.

Blackwater Canyon Trail, West Virginia

While the total length of this path is 10.2 miles, four parking lots along the trail let you choose the distance you'll hike and the scenery you'll see. Depending on the section you choose, you might pass under the Big Run Archway—a landmark built by Italian stonemasons in the 1880s—or the 35-foot Douglas Falls.

Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas

Lost Maples, just about two hours away from San Antonio, is known all over the country for its fall color, even though the scenery is beautiful all the time. You'll see an abundance of wild flowers and steep canyon walls. Go hiking steep and rugged trails, fishing in the Sabinal River or Can Creek, primitive camping and bird watching. You can even hunt for geocaches.

Eagle and Symphony Lakes in Chugach State Park, Alaska

The South Fork Valley Trail will take you on a 9.6-mile roundtrip adventure with outstanding views of surrounding peaks. With just 1,700 feet of elevation gain, this is an easy hike that ends at Eagle and Symphony Lakes—excellent spots for catching wild rainbow trout and Alaska northern pike. Chugach State Park, which has 495,000 acres of land, is one of the most spectacular state parks in the U.S. There are many recreational opportunities to suit the most adventurous visitors –horseback riding, boating, off-road tours, hiking. Don't miss the Crow Pass trail to the Raven, one of the most scenic day hikes in the U.S.